Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 30, 2012

Tomorrow is the first day of the last month of the year and what a year it has been! In the “fiscal cliff” negotiations President Obama served notice to the Teapublicans that he really did win on November 6th. We also have to wonder what was on the menu for that private White House lunch featuring President Obama and Mitt Romney as the only diners. And finally the Teapublicans seem obsessed with destroying Susan Rice – and it seems that now the really dirty work has started.

President Obama Puts the Man in Mandate

Earlier this week President Obama made a move that will only serve to make the denizens of Angrywhitemenistan crazier than they already are. He sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Capitol Hill to meet with the Teapublican leadership to inform them of the Obama Administration’s “fiscal cliff proposal”

Some of the key elements – a $1.6 trillion tax increase which encompasses a rise in tax rates for every wealthy American, a five year multibillion dollar stimulus package that will focus on the infrastructure and job development and an end to the annual carnival of the Teapublican Congress tying up America by threatening not to raise the national debt ceiling.

There is a lot more in the Obama proposal and what is clear is that as an opening gambit the president is playing offense and drawing a line in the sand that is a lot closer to the hopes and aspirations of most Americans.

Needless to say John Boehner’s spray tan could not hide the sick pallor that surfaced on his face when he realized that President Obama realizes that he is the man with the mandate.

Dining with Mitt

During his victory speech on November 6th, President Obama promised to meet with the defeated Mitt Romney in the near future. Being a man of his word Mr. Romney was the only guest at a private White House luncheon with President Obama.

One can only wonder what was on the menu. A platter of sour grapes and baked filet of crow seems about right. Perhaps there was some alphabet vegetable soup so that Mr. Romney could just eat his own words and finish by swallowing his pride..

It is also possible that President Obama gave Mitt Romney a doggie bag so that his do would have something to eat while riding on the roof of the car on the way home.

The Passion of Susan Rice – cont’d

There is virtually no way that the Teapublicans can maintain their slippery grip on reality unless and until they decide that trying to destroy the career and reputation of Ambassador Susan Rice is a fool’s errand. But too date there are more fools lining up, including Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Senator Collins has now joined the Let’s Lynch Rice Mob by claiming that she could “never” support Ambassador Rice for the position of Secretary of State because she appeared on Sunday morning news shows. And, in a display of cunning and a revelation of possible motives, Senator Collins stated that she would be able to support Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State.

That slick dagger throw then opened up another spigot of stupidity as progressive commentators started to play right into the Teapublican hands by assuming that Ambassador Rice’s yet to be announced nomination for Secretary of State could be stopped by the Teapublicans. And that’s we started to hear the names of John Kerry and Al Gore as possible alternatives to succeed Hillary Clinton.

This is so shameful on so many counts – Ambassador Rice is a highly qualified and globally respected foreign policy professional who would be an immediate asset as Secretary of State. For any Democrats or progressives to kowtow to the Teapublicans and starting suggesting alternative candidates at State would only encourage right wing bloodlust.

Her most vocal Teapublican opponents supported the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State even after it was known that she had fumbled her 9/11 intelligence role, had lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and misled the American people regarding the non-existent connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Hypocritical is the mildest world to describe their position.

We can only encourage Ambassador Rice to stay strong and hope that President Obama will continue to support and defend her —- and nominate her to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Three Strikes and You’re Out!

As soon as Barack Obama was re-elected president (I just love the way that phrase rolls across the page) it took about two hours for new battle lines to be drawn. The fiscal “cliff” negotiations were anticipated since the January 1, 2013 was set in place over a year ago. The battle regarding U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is the outlier. In opposing her presumed nomination to become Secretary of State the Teapublicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham in particular, are seriously wrong on three counts – and three strikes and you’re out!

First, the Teapublicans who are lining up to form a human wall of opposition to Ambassador Rice’s presumed nomination are by and large hypocrites of the first order. Staunch pitchfork and torch bearers and like Senators McCain and Graham are claiming that Dr. Rice is not trustworthy or qualified.

Yet these same senators voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. That Dr. Rice as head of the National Security Council presided over the 9/11 fiasco, the greatest lapse in American intelligence since the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. That Dr. Rice also helped orchestrate a symphony of misstatements and mistruths – “mushroom clouds over the Middle East” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction” – that led to the calamitous and disastrous American military engagement in Iraq at a cost to this country of over a trillion dollars, over 4000 killed, over 40,000 injured and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

That Dr. Rice’s resume describes an untrustworthy and horrific record in security and foreign policy matters. Senators McCain and Graham voted to confirm her as Secretary of State without so much a muttering word of question or dissent. They are wrong for being hypocrites. Strike One.

On the other hand, Dr. Susan Rice seems to have trained her entire academic and professional life to become Secretary of States beginning with her being selected as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work in the State Department of the Clinton Administration is unquestionably excellent and her work as United States Ambassador to the United Nations has been a portrait of diplomatic skills at the highest level.

The Terrible Teapublican Twins McCain and Graham would like to nail the Benghazi tragedy onto Dr. Susan Rice’s record. In an effort to turn a tragedy into a scandal McCain and Graham would have us believe that the American Ambassador to the United Nations had some operational responsibility in Libya. The concept is so ridiculous it could only be a Teapublican talking point.

But McCain and Graham know the truth – former CIA Director David Petraeus told them. Essentially, Ambassador Rice was not permitted to make references to terrorist involvement in Benghazi in her initial statements because it would have compromised security and military initiatives that targeted those same terrorists. For pretending not to understand how the real world works and for trying to destroy the reputation of a lifelong public servant who has served this country well, McCain and Graham are wrong. Strike Two.

Finally, the Teapublican Twins seem to be hell-bent on ignoring the fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States and on 11.6.12 was reelected as President of the United States. The United States Constitution is very clear in giving the president the power to appoint Cabinet members. And while the Senate is designated to provide advice and consent to such appointments, in over 200 years a presidential cabinet appointment has rarely been blocked and then in cases of outright fraud or suspicion of serious misdeeds.

Nothing like that has even been alleged with respect to Ambassador Rice, even by McCain and Graham. What we are seeing is a Capitol Hill Teapublican Temper Tantrum – they cannot get over the fact that President Obama won and that they lost. Ambassador Rice’s nomination as Secretary of State, should it be forthcoming (I personally hope that she is nominated), simply offers the Teapublicans another opportunity to obstruct.

Over the past four years President Obama has selected an entire Cabinet, two Supreme Court justices, numerous ambassadors and countless other officials – exercising his judgment in each instance. The American people saw his judgment at work in real time and reelected him with over 330 electoral votes and by more than 3 million actual votes.

For not acknowledging political reality and dragging partisanship to a new low, McCain and Graham are wrong again. Strike Three…….and you’re out!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 23, 2012

Reality bites, so it is said. But reality has not seen fit to bite House Speaker John Boehner who didn’t get the memo telling him that Barack Obama won. Meanwhile, look out your window for flocks of pigs flying in the sky – Alabama Senator Saxbe Chambliss is backing off of Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge. Last but not least, will someone please explain how Teapublican zealots have determined that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has become the poster child for treason?

Reality Bites…..Again

Soon after 11.6.12, House Speaker John Boehner somewhat dolefully announced that Obamacare was now “the law of the land”. One would think that the reality of President Obama’s 332 electoral vote victory had begun to sink in. But when the Teapublican tail in the House started wagging the dog, Speaker Boehner seemed to backtrack.

More recently, Speaker Boehner has announced that, during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations Obamacare should “be on the table”. He said this despite the fact that the American people voted to return to office the man for whom Obamacare was named.

The Obama Administration has said that such a strategy is a non-starter which makes sense. Especially since Barack Obama won the election and will never run for election again.
We can only hope that Speaker Boehner regains his tenuous grip on reality. Otherwise he should join the other zealots writhing in denial and nominate himself for the position of Speaker of Angrywhitemenistan.

The Return of the Flying Pigs

It has been said that in November of 2008 meteorologists all over the country predicted that flocks of flying pigs would be swarming the skies if a black man was elected president. Obviously Barack Obama won but the flocks of flying pigs were nowhere to be seen.

Now the legend is being put to the test again. Saxbe Chambliss is a very conservative, white Republican senator from Georgia (serious redundancy in that description). He has been a card carrying member of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party long before there was an actual Tea Party.

Now it seems that Senator Chambliss has announced that he is no longer bound to Grover Norquist’s insane, inane and destructive no-tax pledge which has tied the fiscal affairs of this nation into Gordian knots. Senator Chambliss further announced, quite sensibly, that his commitment and allegiance to his country is more important than his pledge to Grover Norquist.

While no one wants to be outside when pigs go flying by, we can all hope that there are other Teapublicans who will follow Senator Chambliss’ honorable example – at least this one time.

The Passion of Susan Rice

At some point the clueless Teapublicans in Congress decided that one more way to attack President Obama would be to turn the Benghazi tragedy into scandal that could be wrapped in flimsy supposition at deposited at the steps of the White House. Even after disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus clearly stated that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice did not give the full story regarding terrorism in Benghazi because she was not given this information, Senator John McCain continues to howl at the moon.

While Senator McCain served his country in the misbegotten Vietnam War, it is not clear how graduating last in the class at the U.S. Naval Academy and being a prisoner of war for five years qualifies him as a foreign policy or military expert. It is also not clear how he is entitled to pick and choose facts that support his attacks on the Obama Administration as if he were presented with a menu from Wendy’s.

President Obama has given a forceful defense of Ambassador Rice and it appears that the full story of terrorism at Benghazi was not released in real time because the terrorists were being tracked in real time. Announcing awareness of the existence of the terrorists would be pretty damn stupid and even Senator McCain should understand that.

Too many Americans, Senator McCain included seem to believe that Jack Bauer, James Bond and Jason Bourne are real people and that their fantastic escapades are real – but they are not. And there is also no Spiderman, Batman or Superman.

Someone please tell Senator McCain…..but gently.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Time to End the Epithets

In the afterglow of 11.6.12 it is certain that many people on the progressive side of the political ledger think that in a very real way this country may start moving in the right direction. But before people start breaking their shoulders patting themselves on the back consider that there is a very fixable wrong that exists in public discourse in America. What follows may offend you, but not as much as Native Americans are offended every day.

Somehow, well into the second decade of the 21st century, most people in this country simply do not have a problem with sports teams adopting Native Americans as “mascots”. To be fair, during the past thirty years, most colleges and universities have stopped the practice – my alma mater Dartmouth College went from being “Indians” to “The Big Green” years ago and other schools, St. John’s and Stanford come to mind, have followed suit.

Nevertheless, the National Football League team in the nation’s capital is still called the “Redskins”. “Redskins” has always been, and will always be, a racial epithet. There is no sane person who would call a Native American a “Redskin” to his/her face without intending to be offensive and probably expecting an altercation to ensue.

Not to be left out of this sordid bit of Americananonsense, the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team still uses a cartoonish logo of Native Americans complete with a big nose and scarlet complexion. Not to be outdone, the Atlanta Major League Baseball team uses a tomahawk as a logo and promotes the “Tomahawk Chop” among its fans.

The history of the interaction between the United States and Native Americans is stained with blood, betrayal and genocide. There is nothing even remotely honorable about the experience of Native Americans in this country since the first Europeans arrived in North America – the illusory fable of Thanksgiving notwithstanding.

One would think that after stealing their land, perpetrating government-sponsored genocide and a strategic destruction of their culture that the citizens of the United States would refrain from gratuitous insults and mindless racist epithets. Instead, the opposite has been the case.

Imagine if you will that the National Basketball Association had a franchise in New Orleans called the “New Orleans Niggers”. The howls and protests from the NAACP and the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus would be heard from sea to shining sea. And their protests would be righteous and just.

Yet the Washington “Redskins” play in a city that is 78% black. If there has been any concerted protest or organized outrage from the black community in that city or this country it has been buried behind headlines about Rihanna, Drake and Allen West.

Imagine if you will that the Women’s National Basketball Association had a franchise in Cleveland called the “Cleveland Bitches”. The National Organization for Women and numerous women’s organizations would rise up in righteous protest. Yet there are no news reports of the women in Cleveland expressing any offense or outrage to the scarlet-hued Native American cartoon logo that symbolizes the baseball team of that city.

Once again, imagine if you will that the Major League Baseball had a team named the “Atlanta Faggots”. A multitude of gay men and women’s organizations including GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Against Defamation) would be leading marches, protests and boycotts nationwide – as well they should.

Imagine professional sports teams like the Cincinnati Wops and the Los Angeles Kikes and the Kansas City Micks and you can start to understand the daily insult that American sports perpetrates upon Native Americans. There is nothing hip, cool, trendy or traditional about ethnic slurs that needs to be perpetrated or propagated, and certainly not on the platform of professional sports.

It is, therefore, all the more troubling that Americans from whatever constituency cannot understand the pain and insult that is inflicted upon Native Americans every time Fox Sports and CBS Sports gives the scores of the latest “Redskins” game. How is it that advocates for justice and human rights give sports a pass when it comes to racism directed at Native Americans?

With the fiscal cliff looming and war in Gaza blazing, insults directed at people who have already been demeaned and humiliated may not be at the top of the national agenda. But that is the point – hypocrisy, ignorance and shameful insensitivity can never have a place in the national discourse and now is always the right time to make a change for the better.

Getting the NFL to require the Washington football team to change its name may seem like a small step only if you are not a Native American.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 16, 2012

In the aftermath of the election it turns out that Mitt Romney was elected president of Angrywhitemenistan – which used to be called the Confederate States of America. Meanwhile, it is becoming more and clearer that the Teapublican voter suppression strategy produced an unintended boomerang effect. And finally, Victoria’s Secret turns out to be shared by millions of insensitive Americans.

Hail to the Chief

The recent election returns have been counted. It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, Mitt Romney was elected president – of Angrywhitemenistan. The borders of this country seem to be defined by the former Confederate States of America and there are thousands of would-be citizens who still believe even after Romney’s defeat on 11.6.12.

Most of the states that voted for Mitt Romney are, with the exception of Florida, located in the former CSA. Most of these states have the worst schools, the least educated population, the least healthy citizens, the highest rates of obesity. The citizens of Angrywhitemenistan also receive the highest proportion of federal assistance services.

We now learn that petitions have already been submitted to the White House from eight states, all of which are former members of the CSA. One can only hope that if these dissatisfied citizens do not succeed with their secession strategy that they consider going into voluntary exile.

They should only take care not to let the door knob hit them on the way out.

Boomerang!

During the recent two years over a dozen Teapublican state governors and legislatures attempted to put together a voter suppression apparatus that was specifically intended to dissuade or prevent minority citizens from voting for Barack Obama. Incredibly, these Teapublicans were very transparent about their intent to suppress voter participation so that their presidential nominee would win.

The revelation of this ugly racist strategy inspired millions of minority – and white – voters to go to the polls. People who may not have voted were aroused to make sure that no one denied them the right to vote. So in trying to deny the rights of citizenship to the supporters of President Obama the Teapublicans managed to sink their own chances of winning.

Come On Victoria!

This past week Victoria’s Secret models sashayed down the runway in promoting the company’s December television special. Clearly someone got carried away and one of the scantily clad models paraded before the cameras wearing a Native American headdress.

This wrongful use of an important element of Native American culture prompted outrage and an apology. As well it should. But Victoria’s Secret is not alone.

How is it possible that in American professional sports ethnic slurs and racially demeaning images are still being used in 2012? Why is there still a football team called the Washington Redskins? How can racist cartoon images of Native Americans adorn the uniforms and logos of teams called the Indians and the Braves?

Too many Americans dismiss these concerns as a matter of being too racially correct. But imagine the uproar if there was a basketball team called the New York Niggers or the Chicago Wops. If a professional team had a logo of black slaves picking cotton or Jewish clerks counting money the outrage would be explosive and righteous.

So how is a team called the Redskins o.k.?

I’m just asking.

Have a great weekend!

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What Didn’t Happen on Election Day

For supporters of Barack Obama 11.6.12 was a good and great day. That Barack Obama was elected president for a second term was truly historic. He became on the 7th president in history to win two terms by more than 50% and the first since Franklin Roosevelt. November 6th was also the day that Mitt Romney lost giving Ann Romney much needed time to attend to her dressage horses. And Alan West lost meaning that he will probably be joining the cast of chuckleheads at Fox News real soon. But what didn’t happen on Election Day is also very important.

It is now almost a given that a defeated and chastened Republican Party will recognize that it is time for a new and more inclusive attitude. We have been led to believe that rising phoenix-like out of the ashes of defeat that the Republican Party, with leaders like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and Nicky Haley, will build a bigger tent while muzzling the Neanderthals and misogynists who seem to lurk in every Teapublican gathering.

What sounds like wishful thinking also ignores the history of the Republican Party over the past fifty years. Until 1960 the legacy of Lincoln and the presence of influential progressives combined with the vicious racism of Southern Democrats resulted in significant support of the Republican Party by black Americans. Indeed, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon pretty much split the black vote down the middle in their historic confrontation in 1960.

In 1964 Barry Goldwater secured the Republican nomination for president and part of his personal platform was opposition to the Civil Rights Act. In 1968 Richard Nixon was elected as the Republican nominee for president his success due in large part to his pursuit of a “Southern Strategy”. Put simply, this “strategy” entailed attracting disaffected southern white men who hated the notion of civil rights, minority rights, inclusion and racial and gender equality.

Since 1968 the Republicans have had a pretty good run winning every presidential election but one from 1968 to 1992. Over that time the Republican Party has turned black Republicans into a rare and exotic species and has become the haven for refined racism, the Radical Right, neoconservatives and evangelical zealots.

However, since 1992 the electoral scoreboard is a little more evenhanded. Democrats have four of the last six presidential elections and right now their prospects for 2016 are fuzzy at best. On 11.6.12 Barack Obama won 93% of the black vote, 55% of the female vote and 73% of the Latino vote. National demographics don’t paint a pretty picture for the Republicans going forward.

But one should never underestimate the passion of zealots. The right wing of the right wing has been embedding itself into American politics for almost fifty years. The sting of losing the White House – again – is softened by the fact that the Republican Party still controls the House of Representatives by a sizable margin and the Senate is still not filibuster proof. There are currently 29 Republican governors in the United States and the serpent that is the right wing of the right wing remains coiled around state legislatures from coast to coast.

And it should be noted that at the state and local level the right wing of the right wing is much more strident, virulent and radical than anything that we may have heard from the likes of Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. And at the state and local level of government we are seeing legislative initiatives that will continue to restrict the reproductive rights of women, the rights of immigrants and access to everything from healthcare to civil rights.

What didn’t happen on 11.6.12 is that the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party did not melt and disappear like the Wicked Witch of the West. A better analogy would be to liken the right wing of the right wing to Jason of “Halloween” movie fame who never seems to die.

On January 21, 2013 millions of Americans and millions more around the world will celebrate the second inauguration of Barack Obama. But it is more important than ever to realize and recognize that the right wing of the right wing may have lost the battle of 2012 but is more intent than ever on winning the war. The battle continues.

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Weekend Edition – November 9, 2012

To paraphrase R&B legend Billy Preston, the good guys win every once in a while and Barack Obama has been elected for a second term. The pleasure of seeing the continuation of the Obama legacy is countered by what seems to be a Teapublican death spiral. However, there are some lessons that the Republicans can learn from 11.6.12. Meanwhile Donald Trump and an assortment of Karnival Klowns simply refuse to let reality get in the way of a good rant. And finally, is it time for President Obama to make Africa a major agenda item during his second term?

Lessons to be Learned

While the supporters of Barack Obama start planning his second inauguration on January 21, 2013, the Teapublican Party leaders must be wondering what happened. Historically incumbent presidents with high unemployment rates don’t get reelected. Typically, presidential candidates with the most money almost always win. But Mitt Romney lost – and he lost in almost every state that he had to win in order to prevail on Election Day.

So what lessons can the Teapublicans learn while sorting through the ashes of defeat?

1. The Teapublican Party will almost certainly never win another national election by centering their focus on white men. The demographics are simply not there and there aren’t enough white men to provide victory except in the South.

2. Voter suppression is not such a hot idea. The blatant and transparently racist voter suppression tactics pursued by Teapublican governors and legislators throughout the country fired up minorities who were incensed by the notion that the government apparatus was being used to deny their right to vote. Right now David Axelrod is probably writing a thank you note to all the voter suppression advocates.

3. Treating women as stupid and compliant is not such a hot idea either. President Obama received 55% of the female vote and part of the reason had to be the Teapublican embrace of “forcible rape”, transvaginal wands, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and misogyny in general. The Teapublicans are learning, very slowly, that women are neither stupid nor compliant.

4. Money can buy a lot, but it is really hard to buy a national election. The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court of the United States opened the money spigots for the 2012 campaign and the Koch brothers, Shelden Adelsen and other right wing billionaires did their very best to simply drown the Obama campaign in dollars. The thing is that in 1992 buying a million television ads might have worked. But in 2012 people receive their information not only from television but also from the social media. Guess the Teapublicans never got the memo.

There are many other lessons to be learned but it will be interesting to see if the Teapublicans double down on their right wing trajectory and end up in a museum display case right next to the Whigs.

Voices in the Asylum

One of the more interesting aspects of President Obama’s victory has been the response of Mitt Romney and his supporters. Governor Romney was actually gracious, graceful and pitch perfect in his concession speech. Indeed, if that Mitt Romney had been campaigning the election results might have been closer. But that Mitt Romney could never have secured the Teapublican Party nomination.

Even after CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had declared Barack Obama as the winner on Tuesday evening, Karl Rove refused to accept the reality. He actually spent several hours awaiting some magical, mystical message from Ohio even after the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio confirmed the Obama victory and went home.

Sadly, Karl Rove reminded us of one of those legendary Japanese World War II soldiers who was left on a lonely Pacific Island continuing to fight a war that ended a long time ago.

Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant claiming that an Obama victory was a “travesty” and that it was time for a revolution. He then went on to call for a march on Washington.
As it turns out the only march on Washington coming up will be the thousands of Obama supporters coming for Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Time for Africa?

Africa has an expanding economy. Democracy is taking root and flourishing in many countries. While challenges continue on the continent, there is no doubt that the countries of Africa represent one of the greatest market opportunities remaining on the planet and it is a market in which American companies are not full participants.

This week in an appearance on CNN Rowland Martin proposed that President Obama move Africa up on his second term agenda beginning with personal visits as well as serious policy initiatives. The American economy needs new markets, new customers and new opportunities.
The Chinese, Indian and European companies have already figured this out, but the American brand is still preferred.

Making Africa a trade priority is a great leadership opportunity for President Obama in his second term.

Its been a great week – Have a great weekend!

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