Point of View Columns

Steely Logic

Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republican National Party, has had a seven month run as a rhetorical piñata for many progressive and moderate commentators. And, if the truth be told, he has deserved that status on many occasions. When you are the spokesperson for unspeakable logic and deplorable political conduct (usually an oxymoron), you deserve what you get.
The latest example – earlier this week Chairman Steele was on NPR and in listening to him intently, one realizes that he is all over the place in terms of his basic logic, as factually flawed as it might be. I wonder if his base strategy is to simply dazzle his audiences with his faulty, fluky and bizarro footwork and hope that no one notices his Dada no sense is sense approach to public discourse is worse than not being constructive, it is destructive.
He is opposed to government run healthcare but in favor of Medicare continuing. He thinks Medicare is poorly run but it should remain in place. And that ties in nicely with the underlying pseudotheory that Big Government is anathema to the American Way. A pseudotheory that neatly and conveniently ignores other Big Government programs like Social Security, Medicare, the United States Military, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Aviation Administration – all Big Government programs that we, as Americans, would not want to be without for a single day. But it appears that Mr. Steele and his Republican cohorts feel that if they say Big Government enough times they can bring this bogeyman to life and scare the wits out of their witless followers.
In the referenced interview, Steele goes on to say that he is opposed to Big Government coming into the sanctified space that exists between the doctor and the patient. And then he freely admits that many private insurers often interject themselves into the decisions that involve treatment and care. And he doesn’t like that at all. And he believes that (this is pretty unbelievable coming from the Anti Big Government Avenger) government should look into this matter and institute reforms.
Listening to Michael Steele reminds me of watching a football running back with a few basic moves and middling speed trying to elude tacklers by running back and forth across the field, sometimes even reversing his field. But never, ever crossing the line of scrimmage and moving the ball forward. Teams with this kind of running game never win and have a very short shelf life in terms of entertainment value.
The most successful demagogues have no fear of the truth, just a healthy aversion to it. Michael Steele states that his isn’t trying to scare anyone. And he doesn’t know anyone in the leadership of the Republican Party who is trying to scare the American people.
Which would be a noble statement were it not for the confirmed wobblehead Republican spokeswoman Sarah Palin denouncing non-existent “death panels” that are simply not a party of any health care proposals currently under consideration by the Congress. Steele and his colleagues are not trying to scare anyone and its o.k. for Republican Senator Grassley to dither about “not pulling the plug on grandma” and frighten and confuse that section of our population that is most susceptible to being frightened and confused.
The scary part is that because Steele uses proper grammar and syntax it sounds like he might know what he is talking about. The scarier part is that there are too many people who listen to him and follow his logic into the brick wall of nihilism that is at the end of his rhetorical road. And that is truly shameful.


Asylum Politics

As we observe the political landscape it is clear that what passes for reasonable discourse must have been birthed in some unknown asylum. A useful term, “birthed”, in that the continuing madness of the so-called “birther” movement continues its presence on the national stage like an embarrassing gate crasher who does not have the grace, or good sense, to finally go away.

          For those who have been living in Carlsbad Caverns for the last 18 month, the “birther” movement is founded on the basic concept that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and since he is not a natural born citizen, the Constitution dictates that he cannot be President of the United States. It is this Constitutional precept that keeps Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arianna Huffington, Sting, Henry Kissinger and Pope Benedict from ever being candidates for the Presidency, while any of the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton are all pre-qualified for the White House.

          The Article 2 of the United States Constitution is clear on this point… Without an amendment to that hallowed document, one has to have been born within the 50 states to ever be elected President of the United States.

          History reveals that Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party candidate for President in 1964. He was born in Arizona, the 48th state admitted to the Union. However, it was not a state when he was born in 1909. Indeed, Arizona was not admitted to the Union until 1912. So, obviously, Barry Goldwater was not born in the United States. Yet, amazingly, there was never an issue raised during his ill-fated candidacy or campaign. It appears that there is a “grandfather” clause in the Constitution that was written in invisible ink. But there’s more.

          George Romney, another Republican Party icon and the father of current Republican luminary Mitt Romney, was born in the (now controversial) Mormon colonies in Mexico in 1907. While he moved to Utah as a child, it is clear that he was not born in the United States of America. And clearly, there is another invisible ink exception for the children of Mormon missionaries because at no time was his Mexican birthplace a major issue during his presidential candidacy in 1968. He ultimately lost to Richard Nixon, but his birthplace was not the pivot point, it was his political vision and perspective.

          And now we fast forward to the present day. Since he announced his candidacy for President in 2007, Barack Obama has been beset by opponents whose basic opposition to his candidacy, and his very existence, is born of the dumbfounded and bizarre notion that he is defying the Laws of Nature. No one named Barack Hussein Obama could ever be President of the United States. No black man (even one with a white mother and white grandparents) could ever sully the seal of the presidency by actually getting elected.

          And so we find the seeds of the so-called “birther movement” being sown. In trying to find some way, some mechanism, some means of stopping this violation of all that is holy and sacred in America, so genius with a double digit I.Q. came upon the idea that since Obama’s father Kenyan and therefore not an American citizen, he might not be a “native-born” American, and therefore he would be ineligible to be President of the United States.

          A few details got in the way of this brilliant bit of strategy however. First, Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961, one year after it became a state. Second, there is a certified birth certificate on file in Honolulu, attesting to his birth in August 1961 in Honolulu. And then, there are not one, but two, Honolulu newspapers, which featured announcements of the birth of one Barack Hussein Obama. One would think that this would sound the death knell for this misbegotten bit of strategy.

          Think again. The “birthers” have continued their contemptuous campaign for more than two years (!!!!!). Claims have been raised that the referenced birth certificate was forged (the Republican governor of Hawaii debunked this particular urban myth). Some Einstein has posited the theory that, when he was born in Kenya, Obama’s parents managed to call (??), e-mail (???), teletransport (!!!!) the birth announcement to the referenced Honolulu newspapers.   

          All of this would be sadly laughable were it not for the fact that this chimera of a wisp of a thought of a theory has been the subject of several lawsuits and has been seriously discussed on the floor of the United States Congress. It would be nothing more than a rejected “Saturday Night Live” skit except that 11 Members of Congress felt it was necessary to bring this issue to the floor of the House of Representatives. It would all be sadly laughable except that the proponents of this strategy are not refugee clowns from Ringling Brothers.

          The reality is that this campaign is a head fake, a feint. It is part of a much more insidious strategy that entails eroding the legitimacy of the Obama presidency in the United States and abroad. If a discussion about the legitimacy of an Obama presidency continues, at least 20% of the American population will give it credence. That is 60 million people. That is more than the total population of Italy, South Africa, South Korea, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia or Australia. Imagine if the entire population of Italy or Australia or South Korea believed that the head of state of their country was illegitimate and you start to get the idea. There is a real danger in the United States, a subtle, barely noticeable virus that could present itself as a real danger to the body politic.

          To make matters worse, true geniuses like Glen Beck and Lou Dobbs and those madcap, merrymaking Members of Congress, have taken to giving legitimacy to this madness. And that is a problem that we ignore at its own peril. Madness sometimes disguises more malicious motives – like corroding the legitimacy of the presidency. And that is simply treasonous.

          And it seems to me, that sometimes it is necessary to fight madness with madness. If the diverse forces in the public realm wish to persist in promulgating this dastardly and vicious strategy of impugning the citizenship of the President then perhaps they should be charged with treason. The basis of the charge being an intent to diminish and defame the President of the United States and thereby impeding his ability to govern at home and represent this country abroad.

          While this charge of treason has as much chance of succeeding as the denial of President Obama’s natural born American citizenship, it might give some of the “birthers” pause and make them think about what the hell they are doing to this country. And that new experience might be worth all of the madness after all.

Wallace Ford is the Principal of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm and the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.