Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 3, 2011

The G.O.Tea Party seems to be running a contest for “America’s Dumbest” in searching for a candidate to run against Barack Obama. Now Mike Huckabee has stumbled into the lead by falsely claiming that President Obama was raised by his Kenyan father in……..Kenya! We should not, however, take our eyes off Africa as the winds of change seem to be on the verge of heading south from Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. We should, however, avert our eyes from the Charlie Sheen debacle.

America’s Dumbest!

In a radio interview earlier this week, Mike Huckabee claimed that President Obama had a different view of the world because “he was raised in Kenya by his Kenyan father and grandfather”.

He went on to claim that this was where he obtained his anti-imperialist views (presumably a bad thing on the Planet Huckabee) and also where he learned to sympathize with the Mau Maus.

Perhaps Governor Huckabee was mangling the Gospel according to Dinesh D ‘Souza who has also opined that President Obama was channeling the philosophy of his anti-colonialist father.

The facts are that Barack Obama never lived in Kenya, that he was born in Hawaii that he spent a few years of his early childhood in Indonesia and “grew up” in the United States. Clearly Mike Huckabee won’t let facts get in the way of a good lie.

Of course this is all part of a damnable effort to demonize and delegitimize Barack Obama. It is important to people like Mike Huckabee to turn President Obama into the “other” so that useful debates regarding ability, quality of thought and vision never enter take place.

It would appear that people like Huckabee and other neo-birthers feel that they will come up short if the political discourse addresses ability, quality of thought and vision instead of fairy tales.

Eyes on Africa

Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim is a name that we should all know. Mo Ibrahim is a billionaire who made his fortune bringing cell phone systems to Africa.

He has now established a multimillion dollar “Ibrahim Prize” to reward African leaders who actually lead and engage in good governance. In an excellent article in the New Yorker magazine – http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/03/07/110307fa_fact_auletta – Ken Auletta profiles Mr. Ibrahim and his dream of a progressive Africa led by progressive leaders.

This may not be just a dream. Remember that in last week’s “Weekend Edition” I mentioned some of dynasties and oligarchies that were standing in the way of progress in Africa – Teodoro Obiang – Equatorial Guinea – 32 years, Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe – 24 years, Yoweri Museveni – 25 years, the Bongo family – Gabon – 43 years.

As of this writing these African oligarchies persist. But events move rapidly as Hosni Mubarak can attest. Keep an eye on Mo Ibrahim and his movement.

Sick Transit Charlie Sheen

During the past week we have been inundated with Charlie Sheen screeds, rants and ravings. Clearly there is no news or entertainment value in viewing to what is an increasingly sad meltdown.

It is also sad that there is a voyeuristic aspect to the news and entertainment industries that makes people want to watch self destruction in real time.

Richie Havens once wrote, “Hey, c’mon, you’ve got something better to do.”

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Topless and Bottomless

It would be wise to simply abandon all sense of outrage and disgust while observing the mosh pit that passes for political discourse in America in 2010. Clearly the sky is the limit when it comes to outrageous and bizarre statements that are fobbed off the American public as facts. Consider:
• President Obama was not born in the United States
• President Obama is a Muslim
• The initial health care proposals included “death panels” for senior citizens
• The B.P. oil spill was an act of God

All of these statements of “fact”, and many more are part of the talking points of many Republican candidates running for governor, senator and Congress. That these “facts” are patently untrue has not moved the leadership of the Republican Party to distance itself from the members of their party responsible for these statements, much less correct them.

There is not the least bit of challenge or suggestion that accuracy might be useful that has emanated from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele or Representative John Boehner or Representative Eric Cantor or Senator John McCain all known as leaders of the Republican Party.

The silence of the elephants is astounding as it is absurd as Republican candidates call for the dismantling of the Departments of Education and Energy (Angle – Nevada), question the constitutionality of unemployment insurance (Miller – Alaska), publicly refer to homosexuality as an “identity disorder (O’Donnell – Delaware) and question to viability and rationale for the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Paul – Kentucky). When it comes to outrageous comments and points of view, the right wing of the right wing is topless. But it is also bottomless.

We have now learned that Rich Iott, the Republican Party candidate for Congress in Toledo, Ohio, regularly attends Nazi reenactment activities, in some instances wearing an
SS uniform, presumably to enhance the authenticity of the moment. The fact that he is part of a society that conducts historical reenactments of a German SS division did bother Representative Cantor enough to express his distaste – being one the few Jewish members of the G.O.Tea Party Congressman Cantor’s response was somewhat predictable. Although neither Congressman Cantor nor any other Republican seemed to have any problem with Confederate heritage celebrations in Virginia – I guess it depends on which end of the whip one stands.

And so we see that the right wing of the right wing is not only topless, it is bottomless. And through some strange hypnotic force that renders logic, common sense and intelligence inert, the right wing of the right wing is calling the shots for the entire Republican Party. There are more sightings of unicorns and griffins than there are of Republicans who believe that there is a limit to the amount of hate and ignorance that is being injected into the American political blood stream.

Whether it’s Dinesh D’Souza recreating an imaginary communion between President Obama and his father in a cemetery to Rush Limbaugh hoping that the President of the United States “fails”, no member of the G.O.Tea Party feels compelled to say that enough is enough.

Meanwhile, as this topless/bottomless maelstrom ravages the intellectual countryside of this nation, the Democrats remain mute and muted. The silence of the donkeys is remarkable given the vehemence and intensity of the attacks perpetrated by the right wing of the right wing. I am amazed at poll results that show Tea Party adherents exceeding Republicans in their interest in voting in the upcoming elections while Democrats lag far behind both. What could the progressives and moderates be thinking?

Could dissatisfaction with the less than perfect presidency of Barack Obama be reason enough to sit by and let Sharron Engle and Linda McMahon and Sarah Palin become the voice of the future? Could the fact that the Democrats have not been able to fully revive the economy that was truly moribund at the end of the Bush Administration be reason enough to return to the policies that damn near cratered the economy in the first place?

Isn’t the prospect of birthers and witches and know-nothings and Nazi reenactment enthusiasts and Confederate heritage aficionados enough motivation to simply walk to the polls and say “enough is enough”?

Thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of earlier this year, millions of anonymous corporate dollars from the Koch brothers and the Scaifes and the Chinese are flowing into the coffers of G.O.Tea Party candidates as you read this column.

Fortunately, it is still a nation of one vote per person, but money doesn’t talk, it shouts in stentorian tones, and it seems to be drowning out the voices of reason and sanity across this country.

There are barely three weeks before the midterm elections. The members of the right wing of the right wing and their Tea Party cohorts are sharpening their pitchforks and fueling their torches in anticipation of a raucous victory celebration on the evening of November 2nd.

Right now, there is still time to create an unhappy ending to the G.O.Tea Party dream, which would be America’s nightmare if it comes true.