Point of View Columns

The Obamas – A Real Class Act

As the Obama Administration heads into the final lap of its eight year term, it is time for retrospectives to begin. And we can begin with the fact that, even after all the mudslinging and flaming arrows aimed at the President and Mrs. Obama; they have Stayed Strong and continue to Be Great. They have epitomized the concept of “grace under fire” – one more thing for which little credit is given to Barack and Michelle Obama.

Consider the First Lady’s remarks at the recent Jackson State University commencement ceremonies:

“When I hear words like dignity and excellence, I think about my husband … As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you. I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course …”

Much has been written about the substantive and institutional accomplishments of President Obama – the Affordable Healthcare Act and the introduction of a national health care system – the Dodd Frank Act and the initiation of the most ambitious reformation of the financial services system in almost ninety years and, of course, the salvation of the American economy in 2009. These items are historic and undeniable.

More subtle, and perhaps more important, has been the ability of President and Mrs. Obama exhibiting grace and class under the most intense pressure imaginable. Being called a “liar” from the floor of Congress or doubt being cast on the patriotism and Christianity of the President has been bad enough. Being called “shiftless” by the Sarah Palin, the Wicked Witch of the West must have been galling.

Being assailed on the “birther” issue by a carnival barker like Donald Trump might have been laughable for the first week or so, but after the first year the racist fumes of this noxious assault must have been revolting. But Barack and Michelle Obama stayed the course.

And for those who would say that in the 21st century the Obamas do not have any particular responsibility to establish respect for black America or represent black dignity in America I would suggest that they should take a closer look the next time they go shopping. Aunt Jemima is still on that pancake box, Uncle Ben is still on that box of rice and the Gold Dust Twins are still selling flour in the next aisle.

The sordid reality is that in the 21st century relics of black minstrelsy and slavery are still acceptable in the marketplace and so it should come as no shock that dignity and respect for black Americans are goals that have yet to be achieved. The First Family did not seek the responsibility of countering these charmless images, but just by being they have done so.

And so it is important that Barack and Michelle Obama have been able to maintain a stable marriage and raise two teenage daughters in the pressure cooker that is the American presidency, giving many white Americans (and some black Americans), a vision that they can only imagine. Given all the negative statistics regarding the pathologies attendant to black families, this First Family opens the door to the truth that stable and positive black families can and do exist in these days and times.

There will always be the black naysayers who want Barack Obama to “act more like a brother”. But history will show that what was important was that he and his wife acted like a man and woman with class and charm and dignity.

And that says a lot in these days and times.

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Point of View Columns

Dark Shadows

Within the next few days the Supreme Court of the United States will issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Very shortly we will come to understand if there are any limits to the conservative partisanship that has defined the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the right wing of SCOTUS. During the past decade the emboldened conservative cabal has stolen a presidential election and opened the floodgates through which corporate cash now flows into American politics. It now threatens to withhold healthcare from the American people.

The motives that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the Supreme Court are clearly partisan and reflective of a conservative philosophy that is so mean spirited that it would have to reach up to be low. The right wing of the right wing, through its black-robed accomplices has sworn to doom the Obama presidency to failure. The Affordable Health Care Act, passed in 2010, has already saved lives and preserved the health of millions of Americans. By eliminating this signal legislative achievement the motive is to drive a blow into the solar plexus of the Obama Administration.

But there’s more. During the past several years there has been an evolution – or devolution – of conservative philosophy. Staunch conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan wanted to limit the role of government. But the brand of conservatism that they espoused had some measure of mercy and compassion for those that were less fortunate.

Certainly Reagan and Goldwater opposed the expansion of the social services safety net. Today’s conservatives are seeking to shred it, watching the young, the elderly and the poor tumble into the oblivion of hopelessness while the wealthy watch impassively, if they even bother to watch.

It is a wonder that, of all the so-called developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one without a universal healthcare system. It is amazing that the self-titled greatest nation on earth has almost 20% of its population living without medical insurance while almost half of its population is underinsured. And it is cruel irony that the country that is possessed of the most advanced medical technology on the planet denies access to that technology to so many of its citizens.

That a reputedly civilized country could even argue about the entitlement of every citizen to healthcare is a condemnation of the sense of morality in this country. The fact that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito Gang of Four will attempt to wrap gossamer threads of bogus legal logic around the meanness of this neo-conservative philosophy is simply shameful.

No matter the decision of the Supreme Court we will still be subject to the whims of the right wing Gang of Four that will probably be on the bench for another two decades. That would be twenty more years of stealing elections, depriving Americans of basic human rights and degrading desecrating the political system.

The Gang of Four has proven itself to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Teapublican Party and even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the scimitar wielded by the Supreme Court this time, it will not be the last time.

When people seriously question the importance of choosing between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama they should think about what the next twenty years will be like if the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito wing is increased by two more right wing zealots. President Romney will certainly do the bidding of his Teapublican handlers and present as Supreme Court justices zealots who will salivate at the mere thought of limiting the reproductive rights of women, rolling back the civil rights laws and eviscerating any and every law that even hints at controlling corporate conduct.

We should always remember that the 2000 presidential election was stolen and that this theft was the handiwork of the right wing of the right wing, both on the Supreme Court and in hallways and corridors of power. We should always remember that the Citizens United decision has already warped and skewed the political process so that billionaires use the power of their cash to drown the voices of the electorate.

And we should always remember that it is the President of the United States who nominates Supreme Court justices. President Obama can point to Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as his nominees who currently sit on the Court. Mitt Romney can point to the RobertsScaliaThomasRoberts Gang of Four as his prototype for future justices.

We have already seen the cataclysmic damaged wreaked by this Gang of Four. The Affordable Health Care Act may survive this week, but the battle for its existence will continue. The battle for rights and justice in this country will also continue as long as the Gang of Four sits on the bench.

Remember November 6th!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 30, 2012

The very existence of the Affordable Health Care Act, known in Teapublican circles as “Obamacare”, is being argued before the United States Supreme Court. It appears that the G.O.Tea Party and its amen corner on the Court is ready to dismantle a system designed to enhance and save lives, with no alternative proposal. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney got all overheated and stuck in a Cold War time warp as he declared Russian the “number one global enemy of the United States”. And finally, as controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin continues some people are speaking words that need to be spoken – for too many young black men the enemy is young black men.

Going Through the Motions

The Supreme Court of the United States had a reputation of being a nonpartisan forum for the resolution of legal issues of import. Ever since 2000 when the Supreme Court was explicitly complicit in the theft of a presidential election, there has been no doubt that on many issues jurisprudence has been swept aside in the name of naked partisanship.

But even in this era of supercharged bipartisanship the Teapublican jihad against the Affordable Healthcare Act is difficult to understand. The legislation itself is based largely upon a comprehensive healthcare proposal originally drafted by the very conservative and very Republican Heritage Foundation. And it was a Republican governor, none other than Mitt Romney (who was for universal healthcare until he was against it), who implemented the first (and only) universal healthcare plan in the country in the state of Massachusetts.

What is also difficult to understand is that the opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act provides no alternative to solution. It is not as if 45 million uninsured Americans who will be covered by the current law will go away once they are stripped of the assurance of coverage that the law provides. And it is highly likely that without the mandate of law medical insurance companies will return to their practice of denying coverage for pre-existing illnesses and setting caps on benefits for Americans with catastrophic illnesses. And then what?

The fat and happy RobertsThomasAlitoScalia right wing of the right wing of the Supreme Court tosses out hypotheticals about mandatory funeral cost coverage and health club memberships as if this issue is some kind of moot court competition. And all the while they and their families have access to the best healthcare coverage on the planet. Meanwhile the game is already fixed and we know exactly how the RobertsThomasAlitoScalia gang will vote just as this gang (minus Roberts) knew that they were going to steal the 2000 presidential election.

The Teapublicans swear that their alternative to the Affordable Healthcare Act is not “let them die”. I wouldn’t bet my life (or yours) on it.

The Return of Dr. Strangelove

One of the great works of director Stanley Kubrick was “Dr. Strangelove” which featured a title character who was obsessed with the notion of going to war with the Soviet Union. In a Strangelovian reprise, Mitt Romney took time out from his trudging march towards the Teapublican nomination to refer to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical enemy” – shades of the “Evil Empire”.

It would be a good idea if someone reminded Mr. Romney that the year is 2012 and not 1962 and that Russia, while not always a cheek and jowl ally, is hardly the “enemy”. It is one more country with competing interests to those of the United States. If every country that has competing interests is an “enemy”, the United States under President Mitt Romney is going to be an isolated, friendless and seriously weakened nation.

The Plague of Black Death

The killing of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch vigilante highlights the precarious existence of young black men in these United States. Some commentators have focused on issues of racial profiling and the proliferation of weapons. And it is important that these concerns receive serious and continued attention.
It is, however, also important that a fact is recognized – young black men are killing young black men at genocidal rates in this country. The George Zimmermans and rogue police of this country can be clear and present dangers for young black men. Tragically, young black men are an even greater danger. It is a fact that must be acknowledged and addressed.

For every Trayvon Martin tragedy there are countless cases of nameless young men who are dying at the hands of their brothers. Fratricidal genocide must be addressed by any 21st century progressive agenda.

Have a great weekend!

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