Point of View Columns

The Congressional Black Caucus – MIA

Begun as the Democratic Select Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in February of 1971 with twelve members. At the time, it was the only voice of black elected officials with a national platform. The CBC, as it came to be known, was a voice of opposition to the Nixon presidency and supported what became the successful liberation movement in South Africa. Now that the CBC has 49 members, one should expect that it would be a strong in mighty voice in the face of the storm that is the Trump Administration. But that is clearly not the case. The CBC is MIA – Missing in Action.

Over the years, the CBC has spoken out on a number of issues that affected black America. Every American President since 1971 has met with the CBC and on many occasions, listened to the CBC. And, although most CBC members did not initially support the candidacy of the man who became the first black President of the United States, it continued to elicit the perspective that it was important, influential and relevant.

And now, when this unofficial of voice of Black America needs to stand up to President Trump and his minions, the CBC is curiously muted, and many times it seems that it has joined the ranks of the Silent Minority. And this is not a matter of opinion. Recent news proves that this is a fact.

Consider that just three weeks ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a CBC member from Florida along with the widow of a slain black serviceman were called a liars by not only the Liar-In-Chief, President Trump, but also by his Chief of Staff, John Kelly. And after it was absolutely proven that Trump and Kelly had lied about Representative Wilson, Mr. Kelly went on to lie about her public record and insulted her in a most base and common manner.

If the CBC took a position on this outrageous incident, if the CBC called out Donald Tinyhands and his minion Kelly, it must have been hidden on the back page of a shopping mall handout. If the CBC took to the steps of the United States Congress to denounce the President for treating Congresswoman Wilson like the field hand he thinks she is, they must have done it in the dead of night when no one was watching. Obviously, the CBC was MIA.

And it gets worse. Earlier this week, Mr. Kelly reiterated his lies about Congresswoman Wilson and virtually pledged never to apologize to her. And then………..Kelly claimed that the Civil War came about because of a failure to compromise. He stated that there were men and women of “good faith on both sides” and that Robert E. Lee, was a heroic figure even though he led a rebellion that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were fighting for the United States of America. And in the face of these horrific and demonic lies and distortion of history the CBC has been silent. Once again the CBC is MIA.

The notion that the enslavement of black Americans could be the subject of compromise is a vile notion. It is the dehumanization of black lives that permits someone like John Kelly to say something like that. To suggest that there are people of “good faith” on the side of slavery is to offer a view of the speaker’s mind that does not believe that black people are as human as white people. And to suggest that Robert E. Lee was a hero is more unpatriotic and insulting to the stated ideals of this country than all of the kneeling NFL players put together.

And yet, the CBC is MIA. And what is so ironic is that when the CBC consisted of only twelve members it was more vocal than now, when the CBC consists of forty nine members. That is more than a tenth of the entire   House of Representatives, almost a third of the Democratic members of Congress and close to double the number of the Freedom Caucus, aka Tea Party. Nevertheless, with that kind of clout, the CBC remains the Silent Minority even as black Americans suffer insults and true degradation by reason of the policies of the Trump Administration.

Why is the CBC not standing on the steps of the U.S. Congress every day denouncing the Trump Administration as it attempts to shred the social safety net? Why is the CBC not speaking out on the floor of Congress at every opportunity, reading into the Congressional Record the litany of terrible deeds that are defining the Trump Administration?

Ironically, the CBC was more vocal about criticizing what President Obama wasn’t doing for the black community than it is in attacking President Trump for what he doing to black people. A most curious double standard indeed.

To put it most simply, why is the CBC MIA silent or muted at just that moment in history when it is needed the most? Unless and until the CBC finds its voice, it will be judged very harshly by history – and that would be a shame.

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Point of View Columns

Black Lives Don’t Matter

The recent revelation by Richard Nixon’s domestic policy advisor that primary motivation behind the so-called War on Drugs was to destabilize the national black community should have ignited a firestorm of outrage. The truth is that the outrage has been muted in the black community and the white community has been mute. Given how successful the War on Drugs has been in accomplishing its mission in destabilizing black lives, the deathly silence at its revelation raises the legitimate question, do black lives really matter in these United States of America?

Since the inception of the “Black Lives Matter” movement a constant question has hovered regarding its necessity. After all, don’t “all lives matter”? And that ought to be true that “all lives matter”, but clearly that is not the case.

Imagine if the revelation of the racist origins of the War on Drugs indicated a focus on the Irish community, or the Italian community or the Jewish community. Imagine that the results of this racist policy were the destabilization, degradation and incarceration of millions of members of the targeted ethnic group. It is fair to imagine that there would be one hell of a firestorm of justifiable outrage accompanied by clarion calls to eliminate all vestiges of this “war” as a reasonable first step – followed by enormous remediation strategies including reparations for the victims.
Putting aside imagination, the revelations of the Nixon policies targeted black Americans has elicited barely a yawn. It has been a 24 hour story at best.

There have been no calls for Congressional investigation and virtual silence from the Congressional Black Caucus.
CNN, MSNBC and BET have dedicated a few moments of air time to this horror of historic proportions and then gone back to the mind numbing coverage of the Republican Clown Show that is disguised as a presidential campaign. Indeed, none of the remaining five presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican have taken note of this governmental atrocity.

It seems as if all Americans have become anesthetized when it comes to tragedies in the black community. Whether it is police violence, infant mortality, mass incarceration, gang violence or truncated life expectancy there is no shock value left regarding these tragedies and so many more.

And perhaps the final and sad explanation is that black lives really do not matter in this country. And that final and sad explanation is supported by the fact that the story of the Nixon race strategy, a strategy that comes uncomfortably close to community genocide, is not surprising given past American history and current American reality. And clearly the institutional disaster visited upon the national black community is not enough to elicit protest, demonstration and demands for true justice.

Where are the black ministers thundering from the pulpits, calling out this injustice and demanding justice? When is the next NAACP march, when is the next Black Lives Matter demonstration, when is the issue even going to be raised during the seemingly infinite number of presidential debates?

The answers are nowhere, never and never. The reality of black lives really not mattering in this country is a suffocating and sad reality in the United States of America.

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Point of View Columns

Richard Nixon – Worse Than We Thought

Of the forty-four men who have been President of the United States, there have been many who have been outright hostile to the interests and well-being of Americans of African descent. But Richard M. Nixon, although known for his consideration of the policy of the “benign neglect” of black people, has not been considered to be one of the worst presidents on the issue of race. Now it is clear that we need to rethink our thinking.

It is, of course, all a matter of perspective. After all, we must consider Nixon in comparison to some of the other 43 presidents. After all, eight of the first ten presidents owned slaves and Rutherford B. Hayes stood by and let the Ku Klux Klan ravage black people in the South. And it should not be forgotten that Woodrow Wilson not only segregated the federal civil service but he also hosted the world premiere of the incredibly racist film, “Birth of a Nation”.

But now a voice from the grave of John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s Domestic Policy Advisor gives us a very clear picture of how vile and villainous the Nixon Administration was on the issue of race. In a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum that is now published in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, Ehrlichman is quoted as saying that black people were seen as enemies of the Nixon White House. He goes on to say:

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

In this quote, Ehrlichman sounds like an advisor to the Third Reich instead of the President of the United States. As a result of this mindset, the Nixon Administration began the so-called War on Drugs, which has been termed by many, a War on Black America. As Professor Michelle Alexander has pointed out in “The New Jim Crow”, the War on Drugs and the commitment to racially biased massed incarceration has eviscerated black communities in this country for over forty years. Trillions of dollars have been wasted and millions of lives have been ruined in the name of a policy that was born out of racial hatred and bigotry.

The sad part of this miserable story is that Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush propagated and even doubled down on this dark plot to demean and diminish black America. And when black critics of the Obama Administration get ready to hurl more epithets against the first black President of the United States, they should pause and remember that he is the first and only President of the United States to initiate the process of decriminalizing federal drug laws while seriously attempting to end the scourge of mass incarceration – a Nixonian legacy that has outlived its authors as it continues to torment black men and women to this day.

The takeaway of this miserable story is not simply that the War on Drugs was born of malicious racial policies. The real takeaway is that five presidents, the United States Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party continued and propagated this awful “War”. And even after the casualties black Americans and their families and their communities piled up in cities across this nation the entire governmental apparatus of this country supported it.

We are now witness to fresh thinking finally beginning to take hold as the “War” threatens to bankrupt states and cities financially. But even now, it seems that we are decades away from the stench of Nixon’s War on Black America being cleansed from this country.

And is not Watergate or Cointelpro or “Enemies Lists” that are the worst part of the stained and battered legacy, it is the systematic and systemic War on Black America that is the worst part of the legacy of Richard Milhous Nixon.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 24, 2013

It appears that we are still at a point in human history where respecting people regardless of their gender preference is news and that is why the Boy Scouts made the news. Meanwhile the Teapublicans, ever creative in their efforts to torment President Obama have a new toy – the fake scandal machine. And all the while, supporters of the president are as silent as lambs.

Boy Scouts and History

This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will accept openly gay young men into their ranks as members. While this clear act of humanity and civility should not have to be news, it clearly still needs to be news.

First, it should be noted that the Boy Scouts of America have decided to slowly enter the twenty first century as it will not allow openly gay men to be scoutmasters. And, from the howls and squawks from the righteously bigoted, one would have thought that the BSA had endorsed polygamous bestiality or some other awful practice.

At some point the bigoted right and the righteously bigoted will come to the realization that respecting other people does not diminish their own humanity or endanger their own values. But clearly, they are not there yet.

The Teapublicans New Toy

In the brave new world of the Teapublican terrorists who are occupying Congress and holding this country hostage to their distinctly un-American ideology, blindly and wildly attacking the President of the United States is a useful way for the government of the United States to spend its time. And so we watch the Teapublicans lurch from birther “investigations” to Benghazi “cover ups” to an imaginary IRS “scandal”.

Given the arrogant mendacity of the Bush-Cheney years, one would think that the supporters of that besmirched administration would be a bit hesitant is using the word “scandal”. But, if nothing else, the Teapublicans are brash, arrogant and without shame.

We have actually heard some Teapublicans calling for a special prosecutor to “investigate” all of these “scandals”. Presumably the Teapublicans think that a special prosecutor can do a better job of obstructing the Obama administration then they have been able to do with their record number of filibusters and their very sad record of meaningless protest votes (see the 37 times that the Teapublicans have futilely voted to repeal Obamacare).

I fully expect that if the special prosecutor tactic does not work the Teapublicans will turn to their old standby – torches and pitchforks.

Silence of the Lambs

As the recent Teapublican attacks on Barack Obama have seeped into the mainstream media, like sewage sometimes seeps into the water supply, there has been remarkable silence on the part of representatives of his strongest constituency. The silence of these lambs is a mystery indeed.

Every member of the Congressional Black Caucus represents a district that voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It does not require a great deal of insight to conclude that the voters in these districts cannot be pleased with the unremitting barrage of fact-deficient charges that are leveled against the president on almost a daily basis.

Yet, it is a rare sight to see one or members of the CBC step up to a microphone and take on their Teapublican colleagues and call them out for what they are – neo-terrorists who are holding the country hostage while they seek to nullify the results not one, but two national elections.

The silence of these lambs is all the more curious because it is hard discern the political risk that the CBC members are taking by coming to the defense of President Obama.

I am certain that the members of the CBC do not think of themselves as lambs, but as Bob Marley once said, “If the cap fit, let them wear it”.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Time to Take Off the Gloves

We know the movie genre. The good natured hero endures endless taunts and jibes from the loons and goons at the bar. He remains impassive, even oblivious as the insults rain down. The more intrepid tormentors may toss an ashtray or splash a drink in his face….and then it happens……….the hero has had enough and he takes on all comers, beating into submission those who don’t beat a hasty retreat.

During the past two and a half years Barack Obama has been the object of a constant deluge of scorn, disrespect and outrageous rhetoric. He has been labeled a communist, a socialist, a fascist and the anti-Christ. There have been outrageous (and potentially dangerous) allusions to “the blood of tyrants (guess who?) watering the tree of liberty” and even his citizenship has been questioned.

Through it all President Obama has maintained his seemingly eternal cool. He did deliver a pretty humorous backhand to Donald Trump, but even attacks on his wife and his two daughters have barely gotten a rise out of him. But something must have clicked during the past few weeks because he is now on the offensive.

While touring the country President Obama derided Rodeo Rick Perry as the governor of a state that is “on fire while he refuses to believe in global warming”. Ouch!

He appeared at the annual Congressional Black Caucus dinner and exhorted the crowd to “stop whining” and to “put on their marching shoes”. One can imagine Travis Smiley and Cornel West wincing as President Obama assumed the mantle of leadership that has not always been so evident.

He has asked crowds to look at the current roster of Republican presidential candidates. And he commiserated with Republicans who have such an array of poor choices. He also took time to criticize the debate crowds who cheered the prospect of uninsured Americans dying and who booed a gay American soldier who was serving in Iraq.

On that last item, it should be noted that on three separate occasions the nine Republican presidential candidates have had an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, intelligence and an adult mentality. At recent debates the crowd cheered when Rodeo Rick Perry bragged about having presided over 243 (now 244) executions in the state of Texas. Where was the Republican who might caution against celebrating the death of another human being? Not one of the Noble Nine uttered a word.

On another occasion Congressman Ron Paul was asked whether he believed that an uninsured American should be allowed to die in the emergency room. Before he could answer G.O.Tea Party zealots loudly cheered the notion. Neither Congressman Paul nor any of the other candidates would say a word about compassion and the need for a civilized society to find a way to take care of men, women and children in distress.

And last week, a U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq asked a question regarding gays in the military via video conference during another G.O.Tea Party crazyfest. He was roundly booed by the audience and not a single member of the Noble Nine – all of whom proclaim to be patriotic Americans – would take the audience to task for dishonoring a man who was risking his life in the belief that he was protecting the rights and liberties of the braying mob. No profiles in courage in that bunch.

And so it seems that President Obama is not going to play rope-a-dope anymore. It might seem presidential to be above the fray, but the fray is too loud and too much a part of the daily national and international discourse. When the Noble Nine continue to repeat untruths it is important for supporters of the president to speak up. But it is also well past the time for the president himself to speak up.

It is clear that the entire timetable for presidential politics has changed. No sitting president can employ a Rose Garden strategy, staying in the White House and making a few speeches in the months just before the election. The Republicans have been running against Barack Obama since January 21, 2009 – the goal has been to make him a one-term president regardless of anything he might have achieved.

This mindless negativity has impaired the federal government and the United States at every turn. The debt ceiling debacle is just one example, the recent near disaster regarding the funding of the Federal Emergency Management Administration is yet another. The G.O.Tea Party has adopted a destructive strategy that includes blaming all consequent suffering on Barack Obama.

It has been time to take the gloves off for a long time. Now that Barack Obama has done so, things should get interesting.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 5, 2011

The dogs days of July have morphed into the lupine days of August – the wolves are out and no one is safe. Sarah Palin cries crocodile tears about being labeled a terrorist, but she IS a terrorist. Critics claim that Obama “surrendered” to the Tea Party loons in the immortal budget/deficit battle that will rage for years, but who’s got his back? And meanwhile, in case no one noticed, the economy of the planet is plunging like Icarus who dared to come to close to the sun…….whither Daedalus?

Sarah…You ARE a Terrorist

At some point during the autopsy of the godawful debt ceiling battle it was reported that, during a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats someone referred to the Tea Party kamikazes as “terrorists”. This created an artificial hue and cry from the right wing of the right wing wailing and bellowing that their patriotic bona fides were being impugned.

In keeping with the strict rules of the theater of the absurd, Sarah Palin popped up and claimed that Tea Party advocates and their running hounds in the Congress were simply patriotic Americans who were advocating the benefits of fiscal probity. And then, just to be sure that we understood how ridiculous she is, the former governor of Alaska stated that if the Tea Party advocates were domestic terrorists President Obama would be “palling around with us like he palled around with Bill Ayres”.

As it turns out Sarah Palin and the Tea Party maniacs employed classic terrorist tactics in holding the entire economy of the planet hostage while making outrageous demands to reduce the size of government and cut vital social services, all the while refusing to even consider increasing revenues by any means. Osama bin Laden must be laughing from his watery grave.

In his most virulent dreams bin Laden could never have imagined collapsing the entire American economy. Knocking down a few buildings and blowing up a few airplanes is child’s play compared to the damage that Sarah and the Tea Partiers have in mind for this country. Al Qaeda killed thousands, the bullet heads in Congress and their supporters threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions, if not billions throughout the world.

Clearly Sarah Palin is counting on the collective amnesia of the American public. But we should remember that it was Sarah “Lock and Load” Palin’s website that put rifle cross-hairs on the congressional district represented by Gabrielle Giffords who was, in turn, shot in the head. The fact that yet another gun-toting loon committed the deed does not absolve Sarah Palin of responsibility for creating an atmosphere and fomenting violent emotions where something like this can happen.

And finally, her snide remark about Bill Ayres requires some kind of response. Sarah Palin is either too young or too dumb to realize that during the 1960’s progressive activists were being shot and killed by National Guard troops in places like Kent State and South Carolina State Universities as well as being beaten and jailed by Chicago police during the Democratic Party convention.

Radical philosophies were freely debated and espoused but rarely was there any violence that remotely resembled “terrorism”. What we do know is today Bill Ayres is Executive Director of World Hunger Year – http://www.whyhunger.org – dedicating his life to feeding the hungry while Sarah Palin continues to stir the boiling cauldron of hate and irresponsibility.

So you see Sarah Palin, it is YOU who is the terrorist.

Who’s Got Obama’s Back?

The retrospective regarding the role of President Obama in the recent debt ceiling fiasco has been immediate and not very kind to the president. While some commentators have correctly pointed out that negotiating with terrorists disguised as members of Congress and the Senate is an almost impossible task and he got the best deal possible under the circumstances.

Others have pointed out that Barack Obama seemed to allow himself to be bullied by the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of the moment never threatening retribution but always being amenable to compromise. Once he made it clear that he would do anything to avoid the nation’s credit default he became impossibly vulnerable.
By taking the 14th Amendment option off the table in negotiations with the Republicans President Obama gave up the one weapon that he might have used, at least as a threat. His reason for doing so is that White House lawyers did not think that it was a viable tactic.

The argument could go on but the question still arises – where was support for Barack Obama during the negotiations? Where were the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and Nancy Pelosi? Where were Al Gore and Bill Clinton and the National Conference of Mayors? The NAACP and the National Urban League were having their annual conventions during this recent madness, where were the resolutions supporting the president and demands for him to use the 14th Amendment hammer?

As I wrote earlier this week, Barack Obama was like a guy in a chair fight where everybody had a chair but him. Not a great place to be.

Let’s hope that going forward we will see the same support that got Barack Obama into office resurface in order to keep him in office.

The Crash of ’11?

On August 4, 2011 the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted by over 500 points continuing a decline that has taken place over the past month. Analysts connect this indication of economic turmoil to market distress in Europe as well as the budget dysfunction in Washington. And this has happened without a default by the United States.

The G.O.Tea Party is masterful in denying reality. This would be the same party whose most vocal members claimed that a default would not adversely affect the American economy. I am guessing that they also believe in the Easter Bunny.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

President Obama Did Not “Surrender”

As this column is being written the Danse macabre called the debt ceiling negotiations continue like some bizarre video loop of the 1990’s movie “Groundhog Day”. Every day it is the same intransigence. Every day brings hopelessness dimming the light of future days. Every day witnesses the triumph of greed over compassion. Every day witnesses the triumph of hate over common sense.

Please reread that last sentence………anyone who thinks that the G.O.Tea Party frothing intransigence and obstinate frenzy is about the debt ceiling and the budget deficit isn’t paying attention or is just fooling themselves. The Republican playbook calls for eviscerating and amputating every vestige of power and discretion that Barack Obama might exercise as President of the United States. The reelection of Barack Obama is viewed by the right wing of the right wing as being unthinkable and against the very laws of nature. It is something to be avoided at all costs.

We have now seen that those “costs” include the debasement and possible unhinging of the American economy. The fact that the unthinkable fiscal default of the United States government has almost occurred is due to the kamikaze-like belief of the G.O.Tea Party that it would be better to let this country crash, burn and die rather than let Barack Obama lead it.

Amidst the smoking embers of near catastrophe we can smell a whiff of brimstone from racist fires. The brutal invective and color-tinged vitriol directed at President Obama during the first two and a half years of his presidency have not been seen since the administration of Abraham Lincoln and that was in the midst of the Civil War.

There is old saying that goes like this, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” The G.O.Tea Party has taken a spin on this bit of bamboozelry to tell the American people that the debt ceiling crisis has been caused by a lack of leadership on the part of President Obama.

The fact is that the Republicans have refused to negotiate on any aspect of the debt ceiling /budget debate and remain welded to the anchor of their no new tax pledge that threatens to us all. The fact is that the right wing of the right wing has abandoned any pretense of seeking to work with Barack Obama and is prepared to place the collateral damage of their fanaticism on his doorstep.

Mean statements and harsh words are part of the political process. But the racial radar begins beeping when Senator Mitch McConnell talks about “breaking” Barack Obama. And then there is Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado stating that negotiating with President Obama is like “touching a tar baby”. On the Planet America, if these aren’t fighting words they are cause to start searching the crowd for nooses and pitchforks.

Critics from the left wing of the left wing contend that President Obama has “surrendered” to the G.O.Tea Party. My Dartmouth College classmate Robert Reich contends that Barack Obama should have “done more” to articulate the crass and brazen greed of the Republicans as they protect the greedy and continue to fleece the needy. I assume that Dr. Reich means that President Obama should spend even more time trying to convince the American people who vote for “American Idol” in greater numbers than they vote in presidential elections.

During the past few weeks President Obama was like the guy in a chair fight where everybody had a chair but him. The sounds of silence emanating from Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus and organized labor have been deafening. There have been some murmurs from AARP and Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher and John Stewart have weighed in on occasion.

But any support for the president has been drowned out by the 24/7 drumbeat from the right wing of the right wing and its personal television network, Fox News. The television commercials funded by the Koch brothers and organizations affiliated with Karl Rove have skewed and corkscrewed the mentality of the American public until no sense and nonsense make sense.

Too many people who stand to be victimized by the G.O.Tea Party agenda do not vote. Too many people who disbelieve the idiotic notion that “shared sacrifice” means that sacrifice is shared between the middle class and the poor do not vote. Too many people who instinctively understand that President Obama is being played like a cheap banjo stay silent – public officials and private citizens alike.

To suggest that Barack Obama has “surrendered” is to ignore the facts. Under the circumstances he will be fortunate to get out of the debt ceiling debacle with a decent portion of his epidermis intact. And we can see already that November 6, 2012 will be a real bad day for the progressive community if it doesn’t wake up from the hypnotic spell cast by the G.O.Tea Party.

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