Point of View Columns

“Free Stuff” – An American Fairy Tale

The recent appearance by Mitt Romney at the NAACP convention was wrong on so many levels. In retrospect it seems that his sole reason for appearing was to demonstrate to his base that he was capable of strutting into an arena full of black people and telling them what they needed to hear – the Truth According to Mitt. That this was Magic Mitt’s Sister Souljah moment is pretty clear.

Any doubt about whether Mitt Romney was emulating Bill Clinton circa 1992 when then-candidate Clinton sought shore up his center and right flanks by publicly dissing the outspoken black entertainer were dispelled when Romney appeared at a fundraiser to gloat about the hostile reception that he received at the hands of black people. He actually told this private gathering of a distinctly lighter hue than he encountered in Houston that he told the NAACP membership “if they wanted a president who was giving out “free stuff” he wasn’t their man”.

Of course, he never actually said anything about “free stuff” at the convention itself (unless he said it under his breath), but safe in the more comfortable environs of tasseled loafers and St. John dresses, he found his courage to speak plainly and from the heart – at least that part of his heart that isn’t sequestered in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. And, emboldened by his surroundings, Magic Mitt revealed his thinking when it comes to matters of history, justice to say nothing of the role of government in creating a sane and fair society.

The insult uttered by Mitt Romney is truly off the charts. To begin with, the membership of the NAACP is largely educated and middle class and more likely to being paying more taxes on a percentage basis per capita than Mitt Romney and most of his Bain Capital alumni. For Magic Mitt to suggest that because they are black, the convention attendees were mostly interested in “free stuff” is outrageous. The mentality that gives rise to such a comment is born of the most racist and vicious stereotypes.

Moreover, Mitt Romney should be very careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The historical reality is that black Americans are the descendants of people who gave over two centuries of free labor through slavery which played a major role in building the economic infrastructure of this country. Black Americans are the descendants of people who were economically disenfranchised during the post-Civil War Reconstruction. Black Americans are still on the wrong side of every economic disparity table in this country from wages to cost of living.

Mitt Romney should be real careful when speaking to any black audience about “free stuff”. The life expectancy for black males is substantially lower than that of their white male counterparts. As a result, millions of black males in this country work for three decades and more, paying into the Social Security system only to die before receiving little if any of the benefits to which they are entitled. Their white male counterparts end of with the “free stuff”.

And what is “free stuff” anyway? Would “free stuff” include food stamps, public housing and medical care? In the Mitt World would “free stuff” include loans for higher education, Head Start and job training?

Or would “free stuff” include the trillions of dollars of tax cuts that billionaires and millionaires have received this country during the past decade? Would “free stuff” include laws that entitle the wealthy to legally shield their wealth from taxation in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland? Or, would “free stuff” include the historically gigantic subsidies and tax relief given to the energy and agricultural industries?

It would seem that Mitt Romney believes that services that the government provides to feed and housing and educating its citizens is not derived from some societal obligation. “Free stuff” is so insulting and derisive that it is clear that Magic Mitt’s perception of social services is at odds with the basic social contract that created and sustained a country that provided him with the environment and opportunity to become a wealthy man.

Like too many wealthy residents of the right wing of the right wing, Mr. Romney believes that he has amassed a great fortune solely by reason of his brilliant self and nothing more. And he obviously thinks that anyone who has not tasted from the cup of success is undeserving of that success and also undeserving of any assistance or support.

It is a mean, nasty and self-centered vision of self and the world that Mitt Romney articulated with his “free stuff” comment. It might have been off the cuff, but it was from the heart.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 15, 2012

There’s an old line that has been heard in bars since time immemorial – “It gets late early”. The presidential election is still five months away but too many Democrats seem to think that they can take their time supporting President Obama. Incredibly, the Ku Klux Klan has applied to adopt a highway in the state of Georgia and that just sounds like a punch line waiting to happen. And finally, in a typically self-serving moment, Mitt Romney contends that one of the qualifications for president should be experience in the running a business. Inquiring minds might want to ask what about other worthy occupations, like fireman, cowboy and astronaut?

It Gets Late Early

Ever since Barack Obama became president criticism and insults have been hurled at him on a daily basis. It is true that calumny comes with the territory, but being called a liar from the floor of the Congress while giving a speech or being interrupted by a reporter during the middle of a presentation is pretty unique stuff.

President Obama has soldiered on through racial slurs, doubts about his citizenship and demeaning comments about his wife and children. Too many Teapublicans lap this stuff up, salivating at the mere thought of the next Fox News broadcast. The more reasonable minority of Teapublicans (the definition of an oxymoron) claim that remarks are being taken out of context or that President Obama and his supporters are “thin skinned”.

In the midst of this rhetorical melee one wonders when the president’s supporters will find their collective voices and put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and join the battle. President Obama really shouldn’t have to respond in kind to these tidal waves of scurrilous attacks but there is nothing to stop leading Democrats and progressives from pitching in.

It seems that too many people feel that engaging in this kind of battle is demeaning and unnecessary. But the fact is that lies that are unanswered become the truth. As long as the right wing of the right wing continues to articulate the prevailing narrative regarding President Obama we run the risk of that narrative becoming reality for too many voters.

And, as the saying goes, it can get late early.

KKK Trashkeepers

Some stories are too stupid to be anything but the truth. Last week the Ku Klux Klan (yes, THAT Ku Klux Klan) made an application to the state of Georgia to adopt a highway in order to keep it clean.

One can presume that as its first step in keeping trash off the highway will remove themselves.

The World According to Mitt

Now that he is the presumptive Teapublican Party nominee Mitt Romney seems to be getting a little full of himself. At a recent speech he contended that he thought that a career in business should be a qualification for being president. This is a qualification which neatly fits his personal narrative (while all President Obama did after law school is try to rebuild communities and help people).

Why this country has fallen in love with the concept of businessmen as governmental leaders is a mystery. Dwight Eisenhower presided over one of the major economic growth periods in American history and he was certainly not a businessman. Bill Clinton presided over one of the major economic growth periods in American history and he was certainly not a businessman.

Aside from the snide, self serving convenience of Mitt Romney’s proposition, taken to its logical extreme it is absurd. In Mitt World the president should have had experience as a soldier, doctor, community leader, teacher and homemaker in order to be qualified.

Perhaps Mr. Romney should take a moment to explain how his experience at buying companies, stripping them to bare bones, firing their employees and then selling the parts at a huge profit qualifies him to be anything other than a miserable (although rich) human being.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

A Phenomenon But Not Phenomenal

The Herman Cain phenomenon seems to be skidding and slipping into a morass of terminal stupidity and eternal irrelevance. The fact is that even before his current running battle with sexual harassment allegations his campaign was coming apart at the seams as his “9-9-9” fake tax policy was evaporating upon examination.

The idea that Herman Cain is some kind of representative of the best that corporate America can offer for public service was always as flimsy as cheap gossamer bought from the local 99 cents store. When finally experiencing some pressure, Mr. Cain has shown himself to be by turns arrogant, petulant, and self-absorbed and totally tone deaf – and frankly, very weak. The fact that he could have been the chief executive officer of any kind of company is a condemnation of what passes for leadership in some parts of the business community of the United States.

Before the sexual harassment tsunami hit the Cain carnival attention was focused on the flimsiness of his policy proposals and the empty bucket of ideas that he carried around while pretending that he actually had something important to say. In some bizarre way these allegations of misconduct have helped Mr. Cain as they deflected attention away from the fact that he was quoting a Japanese cartoon character (“Pokémon”) during one of the G.O.Tea Party debates and his “9-9-9” tax proposal actual comes from the Sim City computer game.

Without the sexual harassment issues Mr. Cain might be taking time to explain how he could be a paid mouthpiece for the Koch brothers for half a decade while proclaiming to be an independent businessman. He might also have to take a few moments to once again explain how he could deride government service while having served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

While he was at it, Herman Cain might want to re-examine his claim that he is not a politician and that his political virginity makes him different from other presidential aspirants. Clearly his memory has failed him once more as he served as a senior political advisor to the Dole-Kemp presidential campaign. Further, the only reason he can form his lips to say that he is not a politician is because he lost his campaign for United States Senator in Georgia. It seems that Herman Cain is definitely a politician – it is just that he has been a failed and unelected politician.

Mr. Cain has worn his woeful ignorance of foreign affairs as a badge of honor. He dismisses the need to know about “insignificant” countries and has expressed concern about China becoming a nuclear power (someone needs to tell the pizza chieftain that he is about 45 years too late). Rather than retire with some semblance of honor and decency Mr. Cain continues to insult the intelligence of the American public – a herculean task these days that he seems to accomplish with preternatural ease.

The sexual harassment issues will make themselves known over time. Those who are prepared to dismiss them as “smears” should recall that the charges date back over a decade when Herman Cain was famous only for being a successful peddler of pizzas making it virtually impossible that these charges were politically motivated (a very necessary element for any kind of smear campaign).

Claims of “high tech lynching” are sad and offensive. Lynching has a very special and awful place in African American history. The men, women and children who were lynched over a period of century and a half in this country did not have the protective cloak of the Koch brothers and did not have the Fox News network as the their guardians. I would refer Mr. Cain and his defenders to the book “Without Sanctuary” to get an idea as to what true lynching was all about.
For someone who claims that racism is no longer an obstacle for black Americans,

Mr. Cain seems to have misplaced his big boy pants the first time he comes under serious attack. Rather than respond in some reasonable and rational fashion when the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, Herman Cain played the race card.
We can only surmise that Mr. Cain forgot that when he decided to run for president he was playing in the big leagues and all aspects of his life are fair game, whether it is fair or not. As far as sexual misconduct charges being directed against him because he is a “strong black conservative”, Herman Cain supporters should ask Gary Hart, John Edwards, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich whether a white skin served as useful armor when those particular slings and arrows start flying.

Just as the Sarah Palin star crashed burned and died, Mr. Cain’s time in the spotlight will come to an end as it becomes clear that the pizza emperor has no clothes and not much in the way of original thought either.

Point of View Columns

Ladies Choice?

In my novel, The Pride, I wrote a story from the perspective of four main characters, one of whom was a woman. I have been told by numerous female readers that my expression of a woman’s point of view was pretty accurate. But I must confess to not having the slightest idea as to how a woman would look at the current crop of G.O.Tea Party presidential candidates.

Assuming that following the tenets of the Party of No made sense – no new taxes, no “unnecessary” government services and no to a second term for Barack Obama – it would seem that a woman would have give a great deal of thought to supporting any of the current cast of characters.

Newt Gingrich is known as the “intellectual” of this bunch, presumably because he somehow managed to get a doctorate from a non-descript school in rural Georgia – a region not previously known as a hotbed of rigorous academic pursuit. In addition to running up a $250,000 tab at Tiffany’s while campaigning as a man of the people, Newt is carrying around some heavy baggage.

When his first wife was recovering from cancer surgery he thought that it was the perfect time to serve her with papers announcing their divorce. While excoriating President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Mr. Gingrich was – you guessed it – engaged in his own extramarital affair. He has excused his hypocrisy by stating that he was so “passionate” about America that his passions somehow led him astray. What a guy!

Herman Cain, in addition to trying to explain the impossible mathematics of his “9-9-9” faux tax plan, is now trying to explain how he was unaware of sexual harassment complaints against him until he was aware of sexual harassment complaints against him. At this point there are not enough facts to make any kind of judgment regarding these complaints, but it is difficult to understand how a senior corporate executive would not remember a sexual harassment complaint, even it was untrue – perhaps especially if it was untrue.

Channeling his inner George W. Bush, Mr. Cain has endeavored to “misremember” whether there were any such complaints, until he remembered such complaints, all in the same day. And then, being versatile enough to give a stunning imitation of Bill Clinton (remember his trying to explain the use of the word “is” during the deposition that led to his impeachment) the former pizza chieftain has tried to provide us with a useful distinction between a “settlement” of these sexual harassment complaints and an “agreement” whereby these complaints went away. What a guy!

Michele Bachmann and her husband ( who runs a clinic “curing” people of their homosexuality) turned foster parenting into a cottage industry. It is not clear whether Ms. Bachmann was padding her bank account or her resume, but having over twenty girls as foster children for relatively short periods of time is certainly a unique concept of motherhood.

As the only female candidate in the G.O.Tea Party presidential candidate cavalcade, Michele Bachmann has demonstrated an amazing capacity to be factually wrong on a consistent basis. Whether it is claiming that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation (an awful lie) or that President Obama’s trip to Asia last year cost taxpayers close to a quarter of a billion dollars (a stupid lie), Michele Bachmann has done little to demonstrate competency or base level intelligence. Of course, just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean she has to be smart – but that’s no reason to be wrong 24/7. What a gal!

Meanwhile, the of the Republican candidates are lassoed and branded by the social agenda of the right wing of the right wing. On the issue of the right of women to make choices with respect to reproductive health, all of the candidates echo the unrelenting chorus of the Party of No. Their consistent refrain is no – no to abortion – no to contraceptives – no to sex education.

The right of women to choose when it comes to issues of reproductive health and related issues is neither a new nor radical concept. The notion that eight male candidates (and one possibly deranged woman) would think that the G.O.Tea Party can impose their concept of right and wrong on every girl and woman in America should be unthinkable.

Nevertheless, we continue to witness legions of women supporting the Party of No when it comes to the reproductive rights of women. That would be the same party of no that is a staunch opponent of universal health care in this country – even though the primary beneficiaries of universal health care will be women and children.

The point of view of these women is difficult to understand. And I am certainly not prepared to have a female member of the G.O.Tea Party in my next novel just yet.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 11, 2011

The weekend begins with an earthquake in Japan and a tsunami in Hawaii. The week concludes with Libya in flames, passionate revelations by Newt Gingrich and increasing demands for a Donald Free March.

Fantasyland Foreign Policy

Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman took to the microphones last week and criticized President Obama for not involving the U.S. military in Libya. These scions of the Senate seem to feel that the United States should support the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi by committing troops, materiel and imposing a “no fly zone” over Libya.

Senator McCain flew a jet that was shot down over Vietnam and he spent 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war. While his courage in the face of adversity should not be questioned, I am not clear as to why that experience makes him an expert on military affairs. Senator Lieberman has no military experience although he has a tremendous amount of experience in betraying his political allies when it is convenient.

I don’t think that one has to be Sun Tzu or Metternich to recognize the dangers of easing onto the slippery slope of “limited” military engagement for unclear purposes. The lessons of Vietnam, Iraq and Pakistan are quite clear.

Additionally, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant in advising against this country stumbling into yet another quagmire.
The American military resources do not include magic wands.

There is also a whiff of politics in the air around Messrs McCain and Lieberman. During the past year hundreds of defenseless citizens have been killed by government forces in the Ivory Coast. During this same time frame there have been countless thousands of men, women and children slaughtered by soldiers in the Congo.

I can find no record of a call to action from the offices of the gentleman from Arizona or the gentleman from Connecticut. But now, Libyan liberation is the cause du jour and they perceive another opportunity to pillory President Obama.

I would also remind Senators McCain, Lieberman and others (like Senator John Kerry) that careless commitments of the military have resulted in disasters and too many men and women have already died, too much treasure has been needlessly wasted, because there was never a clear goal.

Let us hope that it doesn’t happen again in Libya.

The Passion of St. Newt

The G.O.Tea Party continues its race to the bottom with a gaggle of presidential candidates that can only help Barack Obama sleep better at night. The retreaded Newt Gingrich has made faux news by announcing that he will announce his candidacy for president sometime in May. I do not recall hearing a collective gasp of anticipation from the America public when he uttered these words.

Mr. Gingrich also stated that he has engaged in some moral indiscretions for which he is sorry. Presumably these indiscretions would include serving his wife with divorce papers while she was recovering from breast cancer surgery.

Another indiscretion would be the extramarital affair in which he was engaged while he was calling for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
If you are scoring at home that would be – infidelity, hypocrisy, and just plain meanness. That’s quite a trifecta for the Newt Who Would Be President.

And there’s more. Mr. Gingrich blamed his “passion” for working so hard for America for causing him to lose his moral compass. This is a new and refreshingly inane excuse for poor behavior.

I don’t think that this lead balloon will ever fly.

A Donald Free March

During the past week Donald Trump announced that he would make a decision about whether he would run for President of the United States at the conclusion of the season of his “Apprentice” program.

It is good to know that The Donald has his priorities in the right place.

It is now time to proclaim a Donald Free March. It is too much to ask that he go away. But we don’t have to listen to him, do we?

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

In Defense of Barack Obama

During the past week, President Obama has been excoriated for negotiating a tax bill compromise with Congressional Republicans. Progressives and liberals have rhetorically flayed him for consorting dancing with the devil.

And what is the mortal sin that President Obama has committed? Agreeing to a continued tax reduction that is not limited by income – therefore millionaires and billionaires, as is their custom, will devour the lion’s share of benefits intended by this tax reduction.

This negotiated compromise also continues unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who have been out of work for far too long and it will also include a payroll tax deduction that benefits just about everyone with a job.

Candidate Obama promised to eliminate the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy”. President Obama is aware that the results of the 2010 election were not so much a “refudiation” (apologies to Sarah Palin) of his policies as a reflection of American frustration with the economy.
The tax bill compromise is, in many ways, an incognito $900 billion stimulus package. If this second near-trillion dollar stimulus actually begins to revive the moribund American economy the words “hope” and “change” will no longer be banned.

And President Obama is also aware of something else: the average goldfish has a memory of 3-5 seconds. The memory of the American electorate is somewhat less.

If the economy does revive, the American people will start to retreat from the precipice of personal desperation where too many of us now reside. At that point no one will remember the tax bill compromise.

Let us remember that in less than two years the Obama Administration has fundamentally transformed the manner in which health care will be delivered in this country. As a result, the United States will finally be competitive with the rest of the industrialized world in this very critical area. It is critical not only with respect to the health of American citizens, but also with respect to the health of the American economy.

We also need to remember that the Obama Administration has instituted the first fundamental reforms of the financial services industry in over fifty years. This, of course, is the industry in which dysfunction and deceit served as the handmaidens to the disaster that has befallen this economy for the past three years. This reform has the potential to be nothing short of historic.

We also need to remember that it is due to the efforts of President Obama that the international prestige and influence of the United States has been positively transformed. While the problems of this planet seem to be intractablethe truth is that the United States is now seen more as a partner than an overlord, the World Cup and Olympic votes notwithstanding.

These accomplishments and so many more need to be remembered and recounted in order that the success of the Obama Administration can continue, and so that its errors and miscalculations can be revised without rancor.

The alternatives offered by Palin and Romney and Boehner and McCain and Pawlenty are worse than unpalatable, but the steady, corrosive, microcritiques of Barack Obama could make those alternatives a reality.

President Obama has clearly decided to pivot and comply with aspects of the Republican agenda in order to achieve the success of his presidency and its policies. When Bill Clinton did it in 1994 he was proclaimed a political genius for the ages. President Obama is using that playbook with slightly different terminology and there are too many who wish to brand him as a traitor to the cause.

Politics is rarely simple or simplistic despite the best efforts of some to reduce the facts and issues to the lowest common denominator. But it is true that winning is defining and losing can be death for the causes and issues that are important.

President Obama is intent on winning. Losing is not an option in these days and times. We will remember healthcare, financial reform, an improved environment and enhanced educational opportunities for our children.

If the “compromise” revives the economy, not even a bowlful of goldfish will remember.