Point of View Columns

A Return to Asylum Politics

Donald Trump’s recent and brief embrace of the truth – stating that he now believes that President Obama was born in the United States cannot begin to drain the swamp of hatred, bigotry and racism that he created by leading the birther movement for almost half a decade. But Trump is counting on the contagious amnesia that seems to affect much of the American public. So this would be a good time to take a quick time trip to 2009 when this column on the birther movement was originally published and to remember how vile and transparently racist the birther movement has always been.

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 the 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.

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, some genius with a double digit I.Q. came upon the idea that since Obama’s father was Kenyan and 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.  And last, but not least, Barack Obama’s mother was a natural born American citizen, Kansas being her birthplace. One would think that all of these rather compelling facts would sound the death knell for this misbegotten bit of race-based 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 (???), and 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 elected representatives of the American people not refugee clowns from the Ringling Brothers Circus.

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 and certified 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 which we ignore at our 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.

What was true in 2009 is certainly true now.

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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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Point of View Columns

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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Point of View Columns

Coincidence of Coincidence

President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address was an exercise in the normal and the paranormal. Normal in that since George Washington, every American president has addressed Congress at the beginning of the year to proclaim recent accomplishments and to articulate a vision for the future.

The paranormal aspect refers to the absolutely concrete nature of the opposition to President Obama. The opposition to this president and his very existence in the White House seems to transcend his policies and leads one to wonder what is the source and reason for this bitter disposition.

We all recollect that in January of 2009, within days of Barack Obama’s inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared his intention to make him a “one term president”. In that same timeframe, the fatuous and foul-mouthed radio fool Rush Limbaugh expressed his fervent wish that Barack Obama would “fail” as president clearly not caring that if the President of the United States “fails” the American people suffer.

It should be noted that these implacable statements of opposition were issued, along with many others, prior to President Obama doing anything more controversial than choosing a Cabinet and making his inaugural speech. He had just been elected with one of the largest pluralities in recent history. He really hadn’t had a chance to antagonize or disappoint anyone. Yet the opposition came to life fully matured and steeped in venom and disdain.

When Barack Obama was elected in November of 2008 this country’s economy was in free fall thanks to the profligate policies of the Bush Administration. These policies included two murderous wars that were financed with debt (the first time this had ever occurred in American history) as well as turning a blind eye to the misdeeds of the financial community.

By the time he was president, Barack Obama was faced with an economy that was now hurtling to a bottom that never appeared. Working with the TARP tools provided by Congress and the Bush Administration the free fall finally stopped and three years later we are actually seeing real growth in the economy. For this the Teapublicans call Barack Obama a “failed president”.

Soon after his inauguration General Motors and the entire American automobile industry teetered on the brink of virtual extinction. The country that gave birth to the automobile industry was about to witness its death within its own borders.
And that would have been the outcome but for the policies of the Obama Administration which rescued G.M. and Chrysler and provided Ford Motor Company with a healthy environment in which it could compete. Today General Motors is again the world’s largest automobile company and millions of American jobs and American families have been saved. For this the G.O.Tea Party calls Barack Obama a “failed president”.

During his entire presidency President Obama has been subject to unrelenting and incessant questions regarding his citizenship. These questions were never raised when he was admitted to the bar in the State of Illinois or when he was elected State Senator or United States Senator.

No other president or serious presidential candidate has ever been subject to this bizarre scrutiny even though several famous Republican candidates were actually born outside of the United States – Barry Goldwater, George Romney and John McCain all immediately come to mind.

The hunt for the proof that Barack Obama shouldn’t be president – that somehow the laws of the United States and of nature have been offended continues to this very day. As you read this column a court in the state of Georgia is demanding that President Obama appear personally to present his birth certificate otherwise he will not be on the ballot in November. This follows a similar attempt in Alabama within the past few weeks.

These threads of illogic, idiocy and extreme partisanship form a pattern that is familiar in the tapestry of American history. Can it really be a coincidence that the first black President of the United States is also the first president to be subject to these bizarre inquiries regarding his citizenship. Is it possible that a president who saved millions of jobs in a vital American industry could be a “failed” president?

How is it possible that the president who directed the elimination of Osama bin Laden and ended American military presence in Iraq be denied any credit or consideration? And how is it that the first American president to bring about fundamental change in the healthcare system in over a half a century is the target of such hate and vitriol?

The Teapublican Clown Cavalcade of Candidates has been united on one point – that Barack Obama should be replaced as president. Fair enough – that is the job of the opposition party. But the rationale for why he should be replaced is devoid of logic and purpose except for one thing – and it is that one thing that is the unfortunate elephant in the room.

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Point of View Columns

Dumb and Dumbest

These are serious times – the economy, the environment, threats of terrorism, the economy, unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy…….you get the point. If there was ever a time for men and women engaged in public service to be focused on the “service” part of their job it would be now.

It is, therefore, scary in a creepy kind of way, that perhaps as many as a dozen state legislatures are in the process of drafting or considering bills that would require presidential candidates to provide documentary proof of their citizenship prior to being on the ballot.

The genesis for this singularly stupid initiative is presumably strategy straight from the Bozo School of Public Policy at the University of Dim Bulb that contends Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States and that the American people should never be “tricked” again.

As you are reading this article the legislatures in Connecticut, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma are contemplating bills that have already been drafted and are ready for formal consideration. That would be Connecticut with an 8.6% unemployment rate. That would be Texas with an 8% unemployment rate. That would be Missouri with a 9.2% unemployment rate. Oklahoma is sitting fat and happy with a 6.6% unemployment rate.

Of course unemployment is just one issue that state legislatures might wish to examine. The national obesity crisis has reached pandemic proportions. The implementation of the new national health care program will require a great deal of focus for years to come. The energy crisis is at the door and the environmental crisis is already set to cloud the dawns of tomorrows that our children will inherit.

Various polling services have produced results indicating that one out of every four American voters does not believe that President Obama was born in the United States. When polling the Party of No, over 40% of Republican voters believe that he was born outside of America.

These numbers are stunning and numbing when you realize that absolute documentation and verification of this man’s birth in Hawaii in 1961 has been a matter of public record for years.

Political analysts have committed acts of amateur psychology in trying to understand how and why so many people have entered the twilight zone and stayed there. We have noted in prior columns that other Republican presidential candidates were born outside of the United States (George Romney was born in Mexico and Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona prior it to becoming a state and John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone) and there was never a sustained clamor regarding nativity.

Some are of the opinion that the election of an African American President of the United States offends the laws of nature for these “birthers”. A black man being president ranks right up there with rocks falling up and pigs flying – it is something that is not possible and cannot be accepted as fact –ever. Hence we have presumably sane men and women scurrying around in their state capitals trying to “make sure that this never happens again”.

It is also important to note that the “birther” movement is a distinctly partisan initiative. The G.O.Tea Party and its minions are the lone and lonely foot soldiers in this lost cause. And as they tilt at windmills that they imagine to be dragons citizens of this country are worried about their jobs, the economy, their safety and their children’s future.

Rather than demonstrating some semblance of common sense or even a half profile in courage, Republican leaders have stood by and let the dumbness run amok.

This foolishness may satisfy the right wing of the right wing, but “birther” legislation will not rebuild this economy or replenish the reservoirs of hope and confidence that are dangerously low. “Birther” legislation will not provide a single job or save a single business and it certainly will not help even one child learn how to read and be competitive in the global economy.

One might be tempted to just let the Republicans run around in these dumb, self-destructive circles, but these times demand sober discussion and serious debate on the issues of the day. And while the G.O.Tea Party continues to read the Constitution out loud and engage in pyrrhic battles in Congress, everybody suffers from the inertia that is the consequence of their self-indulgence.

“Dumb and Dumbest” is a movie that has not been made as yet. It is very clear who should be cast in the starring roles.

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