Point of View Columns

Point of View-Weekend Edition -7.2.10

Some thoughts on the second day of the first month of the second half of 2010 – we are officially at the halfway mark for this year:
Item 1 – You go Sarah!
On June 29th, while giving a fundraising speech at California State University at Stanislaus, the ever popular Sarah Palin referred to former President Ronald Reagan in glowing terms. She called California “Reagan Country”. And then she waxed poetic about Reagan’s college career at Eureka College in California. Just a couple of slight details – Eureka College is in Illinois which is where Ronald Reagan was born. Ronald Reagan certainly became a prototypical Californian – Hollywood star, President of the Screen Actors Guild, corporate pitchman, governor of California and, of course, President of the United States. But he only came to California to pursue a film career several years after he graduated from Eureka College and had been a radio broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs…..in Illinois.
Why is this gaffe important or even worthy of note at all? Public speakers make very public errors all the time. The problem is that Sarah Palin presumes to lead and influence millions of Americans yet she engages in only a sloppy acquaintance with facts and reality. That is why she could erroneously “see Russia from her window” to burnish her faux foreign policy credentials. That is why she turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the shouted and placarded death threats against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
And in a country in which “where’s the beef?” passes for useful political discourse, it is alarming to watch what appears to be the intentional dumbing down of political messages being conveyed to the American people.
Not everyone’s rhetoric can soar to the heavens. Not every speech will cause men to weep and women to swoon. But I don’t think that it is too much to ask that Sarah Palin and anyone else who presumes to lead and influence, get their facts straight.

Item 2 – Clarence Thomas Rises?
Earlier this week the United States Supreme Court ruled that the right to own a gun was inalienable akin to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. As a result, the court ruled as invalid the gun control law in Chicago which, since 1982, has made it illegal for any resident to own an unlicensed firearm. This decision is troubling in several respects.
It should be clear that Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Franklin, etc. were not viscerally committed to the notion that every American citizen should have the right to own guns. Any reading of the historical accounts of the time regarding the right to bear arms clearly relates to a desire to prevent limitations on the various states from raising and organizing militias keeping in mind that it was these militias were the military midwives for the birth of the American nation. Further at the time of the adoption of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, this country was largely agrarian and bordered on the West with a frontier that was still largely a mystery to most Americans. To transpose the protection of the rights of the states to form militias to some mythical right to own a trunk full of AK-47’s and to carry .357 magnums in the belt of cargo pants while going to Wal-Mart is to pervert and distort history into some kind of convenient and very dangerous fable.
It should be noted that although Chicago has had very restrictive gun laws, violent crime has continued unabated. By the end of the 2009 school year 49 students had been killed in or near school. The number for the school year just ended is an unconsionable 30. That the failure of these gun control laws to prevent or eliminate violence does not mean that there should be more guns available to more people. Outlaws and those with criminal intent will find a way to get a gun, but making it easier to do so cannot possibly be an answer.
Finally, keep in mind that Justice Clarence Thomas has written very few decisions and is rarely heard to ask a question during court proceedings. So imagine the shock and surprise of all court observers when Justice Thomas, perhaps emboldened by the fact that the plaintiff who brought the suit against the City of Chicago is black, thought that this was a good time to introduce a specious racial angle to this gun control debate.
Justice Thomas, a son of the South, correctly pointed out that in times past, it was important for blacks in that region, and elsewhere, to have the right to bear arms in order to protect their homes and families against the depredations of southern white terrorists who maruaded under the names of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Magnolia and rogue police to name but a few. That was true during that time but this is 2010.
The violent, vengeful and horrific hate crimes perpetrated against blacks is fully documented and speaks to a time when the rule of law was not fully and properly enforced without regard to race. Civil rights bills and the grudging extinction of troglodyte thinking has changed the circumstances in the South and elsewhere. And, in no event does Justice Thomas’ ode to gun ownership in the name of oppressed black people ring true.
There should be a continued and rational debate on the control of firearms in this country. Myths and fantasies on either side of the argument only obscure and impede the path towards a useful solution.

Item 3 – Pity John Boehner
It has not been an easy week for Congressman John Boehner (R. Ohio) and he has my absolute sympathy. You would think that he would have trouble enough living with himself having voted against and led the opposition to student aid, health care reform and financial regulation. But the fates have not been kind.
Early this week, MSNBC host Joe McDonough (and former Congressional colleague of John Boehner) reported on the air that Congressman Boehner was not thought of as a “hard worker”. The report went on to say that he was usually out of his office by 5:00 headed to a bar or a dinner or a golf course. Then the “Colbert Report” derided his constant state of tan and wondered out loud about troubling rumors involving the Congressman and a tanning bed. And finally, for the coup de grace John Boehner compared the historical financial reform legislation as “trying to kill an ant with a nuclear weapon’>
Thankful for the early Fourth of July gift, President Obama seized upon Boehner’s “ant” comment and wondered how out of touch Congressman Boehner could be to compare the epic financial dislocation suffered by hundreds of millions of Americans to an……..“ant”.
Congressman Boehner responded by wondering why Barack Obama was picking on him instead of cleaning up the oil spill……and he said that his “ant” statement was taken out of context…….presumably he meant to refer to the 19th century instead of the 21st century.
Have a great weekend!


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