Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable, indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes written in italics in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, a Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another living breathing footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes?

The answer is a matter of race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing to the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak an egg.

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Point of View Columns

The New Supreme Court Justice is…………….

Since January 20, 2009, a significant segment of this country has lost its collective mind and tossed law and logic to the wind. Demented by his two national victories, Teapublicans have now decided that their beloved Constitution notwithstanding, Barack Obama’s presidency is valid for only three of the four years to which he was reelected. And a new tradition has been invented which requires a president to replace a departed Justice with a philosophical replica.

Before revealing the name of who the new Supreme Court Justice should be, a word about the Teapublican opposition to President Obama even nominating a replacement for Antonin Scalia. The Teapublicans have proven themselves to be masters of invention. Consider the claim that there is a tradition that justices should not be nominated during an election year. History indicates that fourteen Supreme Court justices were nominated in an election year.

The Hate Anything Obama crowd would have this country believe that there is simply not enough time for a Supreme Court nominee named by President Obama to be considered prior to the election. In point of fact, of the remaining eight members of the Court, the confirmation hearings of seven lasted sixty days or less. The outlier in this case is Clarence Thomas, and the less said about the Silent Justice the better…..and even his confirmation hearing lasted a little over ninety days.

And speaking of Clarence Thomas, the Teapublicans have also literally invented the bogus “historical tradition” that requires Justice Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court to be his ideological heir and his philosophical doppelganger. The nomination of Clarence Thomas proves that lie, as Justice Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall was an icon of the civil rights movement and lead counsel in the major court cases that resulted in seismic changes in the concepts of race and class in this country. In choosing Clarence Thomas, a known neo-conservative, President George H.W. Bush proved once and for all that this so–called tradition is simply not a tradition at all.

As it turned out, Clarence Thomas has been the exact polar opposite of Thurgood Marshall. He is the only justice who believes teenagers have no free speech rights at all. He is the only justice who believes that it is unconstitutional to require campaign funders to disclose their identity. And Clarence Thomas is the only justice who voted to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. So much for the Teapublican claim of the existence of an “historical tradition”.

And the final fiction offered by the Teapublicans and the out of the closet Obama-haters is that with the election nine months away, “the people should decide” who should be the next Supreme Court justice. Of course the Constitution clearly excludes the Supreme Court justices from the electoral process and there is no basis for making the November 2016 a “referendum on the Supreme Court”.

It is hoped that President Obama will nominate Attorney General Loretta Lynch to the Supreme Court. She would be the fifth woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice and her presence on the Court would mean that there would be an historic four women on the bench. She would be the first African American woman and the third African American to ever serve on the highest court in the land. And less than one year ago she was confirmed by a 56-43 vote in a Senate with a Republican majority.

It would be a delicious dish of irony served up by Chef Obama to watch the Teapublicans oppose the nomination of a person that was confirmed by a Republican Senate less than a year ago. It would be a pay-per-view spectacle to watch Teapublicans squirm and twist and contort as they explained why the historical confirmation of Loretta Lynch should be denied.

It is more than amazing to watch the convenient distortions of history and pathetically blatant misrepresentations of the Constitution being employed in the Teapublican effort to oppose President Obama one last time. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, President Obama should “welcome their hatred” and nominate Loretta Lynch.

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Point of View Columns

The Real Life of Antonin Scalia

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is understandably a matter of great moment in American history. There is no doubt that as one of the longest serving Supreme Court justices ever, he wielded immense influence on the direction of the Court and hence impacted on the critical and key issues of modern America. But Scalia’s influence was not neutral and his impact was certainly not benign. His legacy has been the subject of debate for years and with his demise it is fair and just to assess his entire body of work as a jurist.

Given his demi-godlike status on the right wing of the right wing, it should come as no surprise that the Scalia eulogies give him credit for everything but the rising of the sun. There is no reason to doubt that he was a dedicated family man and that he loved his wife and nine children and 28 grandchildren dearly. And there is no reason to doubt that those who knew him personally (including fellow Supreme Court justices with whom he profoundly disagreed) found him to be gregarious, gracious and full of personal grace.

However, Justice Scalia’s legacy cannot be assessed in terms of his gregarious, and gracious private persona. During his thirty years on the Supreme Court he wreaked havoc on the people of the United States. The real damage that he caused to this country is almost incomprehensible and that he was able to so publicly flaunt his misdeeds and calamitous accomplishments is a sad and meager inheritance that he has bequeathed to the people of this country.

Justice Scalia’s espoused “originalism”, essentially that the Constitution’s meaning should be fixed at the time of enactment, i.e. 1787. In other words, every word, clause and sentence written and ratified by a group comprised entirely of white men (many of whom were slave owners) and in the absence of any women or any persons who could be considered working class (or even middle class), should be taken literally – word for word. Even Pope Francis does not treat the Bible that literally, but Scalia’s fundamentalist approach became as widely held as that of the religious fundamentalists who believe that Adam and Eve actually walked with the dinosaurs.

Consider that in 1787 there was no internet, women could not vote, black Americans had no rights, there were 4 million people living in thirteen states and the average American life expectancy was 38 years. In 2015 there are over 300 million people living in this country with a life expectancy of 78 years.

In 2015 black American, women and descendants of immigrants from every country on this planet enjoy the rights of citizenship in spite of continued and sustained efforts to deny and restrict those rights. Social Security, free public school education, the election of senators by the direct vote of the people and Medicaid were inconceivable to even the most progressive of the framers of the Constitution. The electricity, automobiles and scores of life changing technological advances have resulted in a country that could not possibly have been considered by the bewigged white men in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 (with Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton being possible exceptions).

Indeed, the only reason that the Constitution has continued as the governing document for over two centuries is because it has been subject to interpretation. If, as Justice Scalia contends, genius was in that room in Philadelphia, then it was genius in providing the document with flexibility and empowering the elected representatives and jurists to interpret it that have ensured its survival, and therefore the survival of the United States itself.

And, by the way, Justice Scalia was more than willing to engage in a veritable orgy of interpretation when he participated in the theft of a presidential election in the Bush v. Gore case, even as his son worked as a partner in one of the law firms that represented George W. Bush.

As a result of this theft of a presidential election that Justice Scalia helped to engineer, President Bush destabilized the planet with misguided wars while presiding over the near collapse of the American and global economies. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the politically motivated theft of a presidential election, “originalism” notwithstanding.

In the cases of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission and McCullough v. the Federal Elections, employing incredibly tortured interpretation, Justice Scalia helped to legitimize corporate purchase of elections. These cases have empowered the millionaires and billionaires of this country to exert incredible influence over every election in every state, county, city and of course, throughout this nation. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the empowerment of the wealthy to have undue influence over the political and governmental processes, again, “originalism” notwithstanding.

There are dozens of other cases where the smudged Scalia thumbprint can be found, cases that have profoundly affected the people of America for the worse. The Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and McCullough cases are some of the more egregious examples of the harm caused by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia may rest in peace. Thanks to him, the people of America will not enjoy that blessing.

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Point of View Columns

Harvest of the Dragon Seeds

In Greek mythology the teeth of dragons, once planted, would grow into fully armed and fearsome soldiers. Upon reflection, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan planted the dragon seeds and we now see the bitter harvest for America in the personages of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio and yes, even Donald Trump.

As we sift through the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses and await the results of the New Hampshire (first in the nation) primary, we perceive a toxic blend of meanness and dog whistle rhetoric that beckons the hounds of misogyny, xenophobia, gun violence, homophobia and racism. And it is clear that this pack of mongrels is hunting for the heart and soul of America.

Ted Cruz proudly proclaims that he will “repeal every word of Obamacare”. Presumably he is okay with the fact that his proclamation will immediately eliminate healthcare coverage for over 18 million men, women and children. And if you ask him he will tell you that he is smart, so he should be smart enough to know that “every word of Obamacare” would mean sending people with pre-existing illness and chronic illness and catastrophic illness back into the Stone Age of healthcare coverage – that would be the Age before Obamacare. The harvest of the dragon seeds is a fearsome thing.

Ben Carson states that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” instead of any limitations to the Second Amendment. This is a statement that reeks of total disdain for human life and the pain that is suffered by survivors when those lives are lost to gun violence. Yet Dr. Carson did not disqualify himself from being a Teapublican presidential candidate. The harvest of the dragon seeds is a fearsome thing.

Marco Rubio has actually stated that as president he would sanction the resumption of the use of torture at Guantanamo in order to get ISIS captives to “tell us everything we need to know”. Aside from the fact that psychologists overwhelmingly state that torture is an ineffective interrogation tool, most reasonable people understand that torture is also an effective recruitment tool for ISIS. The harvest of the dragon seed is a fearsome thing.

And then there is Donald Trump, still the leading Teapublican presidential candidate. The Donald is the quintessential fruit of the dragon seed harvest. He is mean. He is vulgar. He wallows in his own ignorance. He clearly believes that insult and bombast are useful tools in business and in politics. And he is embraced by millions of Teapublican supporters who see him as the Savior who is going to Make America Great Again. Donald Trump is the most valued vintage fruit of the dragon seed harvest.

What is both interesting and sad is that according to most polls and polls of polls, these four candidates have garnered the support of over half of the Teapublican voters. It would take most people hours of mental contortions to understand the logic which results in the serious visualization of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump as President of the United States – delivering the State of the Union address, speaking at the United Nations, negotiating at the G7 summit or going to the funerals of the victims of the next Sandy Hook.

But it is important to understand that there are millions of American voters who can successfully visualize such scenarios and they are to be taken seriously. And the power of their passion must be taken seriously.

In America the harvest of the dragon seed is a fearsome thing.

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