Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war in Vietnam, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted to pieces in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evaporated and Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated when supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed with the police. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster and dysfunction.

And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 25, 2014

Cliven Bundy has gone way past his allotted fifteen minutes of fame. The gun-toting, fake patriot thief has now revealed himself to a racist of the most virulent sort. But who is surprised. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is proving itself to be fully intent on rolling back any and every measure that might reverse the effects of American institutional racism – all in the name of liberty. And finally, Donald Trump wants to buy the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise and Buffalo better watch out.

Cliven Bundy – Race Man

One would think that the American people would have enough of Cliven Bundy by now. His proclamations of patriotism and liberty mask the very simple fact that he is a thief – stealing federal property for his personal gain and refusing to pay for it.

Nevertheless the Fox News right wing echo chamber has championed Cliven Bundy as a cross between Nathan Hale and Cincinnatus, the legendary Roman citizen soldier. Of course, Mr. Bundy is nothing like a hero unless thievery is your idea of heroism.

But now Cliven Bundy has been opined that “Negroes might be better off as slaves” and Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul and all of his erstwhile supporters have been falling over themselves to get away from this toxic racist.

It would appear that Cliven Bundy’s real mistake in the view of the right wing of the right wing is that he didn’t read the memo which would have instructed him to use terms like “inner city males” and “entitlement class” instead of “Negroes”.

Instead of using the racist dog whistle he used a bugle. Bad Bundy!

Mean in Michigan

Recently a referendum passed in the State of Michigan which prevents state colleges and universities from referencing race in any aspect of affirmative action admissions practices. The Supreme Court has affirmed this measure. And clearly, under the leadership of its Chief Justice John Roberts, it is clearly intent on rolling back, eliminating or eviscerating almost any and every measure designed to reverse the malignant effects of centuries of institutionalized racism in this country.

The notion that the “will of the people” should rule even where it will result in injustice is a bizarre notion that could have disastrous consequences if applied to its extreme. It is a good bet that if various civil rights measures were put to a referendum vote today in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina or any of the states of the Confederacy, black people would be relegated to the back of the bus…………again.

And in the view of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas cabal that would be just fine.

The Buffalos Should be Nervous

The Buffalo Bills NFL franchise is for sale and the ultimate weirdly bewigged self-promoter, Donald Trump, has announced that he might be prepared to pay the stated $875 million purchase price by himself.

A note to the people of Buffalo – they might want to remember that this is the same Donald Trump who has danced with the truth so many times that he should consider another career –choreography.

And if Donald Trump buys the Buffalo Bills they should not be surprised if one day they read in the paper that the team has been renamed the Los Angeles Trumps.

Stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Living in the Land of No

The constant, consistent and persistent efforts to obstruct, erode and diminish every aspect of the Obama Administration are as regular as the heartbeat of a malignant creature. Ever since his inauguration in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with a seemingly seamless wall of opposition by the right wing of the right wing, and sometimes by members of his own party. The recent debacle concerning his appointment of Debo Adegbile to the lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is a sad case in point.

Debo Adegbile is an outstanding attorney whose many accomplishments include leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, one of the premier historical forces for good and justice in this country. A graduate of New York University Law School and currently senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, one would think that his confirmation by the same United States Senate where he works would be merely a procedural matter. And one would be thinking wrong because in these days and times we live in The Land of No – certainly when it comes to All Things Obama.

In an act that reeks of hypocrisy, bigotry and double standards, the Teapublican rightward wing in the Senate opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination by President Obama. The gossamer fig leaf for the general opposition by the Teapublicans is that Mr. Adegbile participated as an attorney in the successful appeal to prevent Mumia Abu-Jamal from receiving the death penalty.

One can begin with the fact that the Constitution and the United States Supreme Court have clearly established that all citizens of this country have a right to a fair trial and counsel. It is also axiomatic that attorneys who ensure that every person receives representation in a criminal case are not to be characterized by the crimes for which that person is charged.

If a doctor treats a murderer for an illness, that doctor is not criticized. If a priest, minister, rabbi or imam counsels a rapist in prison, that person is not reviled. Until the matter of Mr. Adegbile, no attorney has been criticized for representing a defendant in need of counsel, no matter how reprehensible the crime charged.

Yet the Teapublican wing of the Senate, along with some Democrats who clearly live in fear of the right wing, opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination and to date it languishes in the procedural limbo of the Senate where many nominations and much legislation go to die. That this opposition is false and transparently hypocritical is absolutely clear when one examines the background of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts.

As an attorney, Chief Justice Roberts did pro bono legal work for death row inmates, including a serial killer. During his nomination to be Chief Justice this legal work was never raised as a point of criticism or a reason for opposition to his nomination. And it has certainly never been raised since he has been on the Supreme Court. And it never will be raised by the Teapublicans because who who an attorney defends should not be an issue.

That is, unless the issue of an attorney’s clients can be used to block a nomination by President Obama.

It is shameful that the shameless oppositional strategy of the Teapublicans continues 24/7 and will not abate until the day that Barack Obama leaves the presidency. In the meantime not only does his Administration suffer, the American people suffer as well.

Point of View Columns

The Stopped Clock Theory Rides Again!

The affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is as important for what it is not as for what it is. It is certainly a momentous decision as it grudgingly moves the United States into the 21st century when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius absolutely upheld one of the cornerstone accomplishments of the Obama Administration and this decision will reverberate through this country. But it is also important to understand what the decision is not.

First of all, it is not a courageous episode in the career of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Roberts is the very real architect behind the Citizens United decision which has so seriously damaged democracy in this country. He may be a lot of things, but don’t get ready to put his story in the updated edition of “Profiles in Courage”.

Conservatives and the right wing of the right wing may be gathering feathers and boiling tar for Justice Roberts, but all that he did was what he said he was going to do. He interpreted the Constitution of the United States as it was written and did not try to engage in contortions to get it to support his own political point of view.

There is no logical or constitutional support for ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That the right wing cabal of AlitoScaliaThomas, joined this time by Justice Kennedy, sought to overturn this historic legislation is a testament to their blind partisanship and once more reveals the poverty of their jurisprudence.

Justice Roberts did lead the support of the Affordable Care Act and he should be applauded for doing his job. But, by ruling that the Act is supported by the right of the government to tax and not by the commerce clause of the constitution, he has thrown into question over a century of American judicial decisions who have determined that the power of the federal government to address national needs can be based upon that very same commerce clause.

Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare and many other federal programs have been ruled constitutional by reason of the commerce clause. We now have to wonder if battles that have been fought and won so long ago will return to fields of combat because of the poison pill that Justice Roberts inserted into his decision.

The recent Supreme Court decision also did not settle the issue of health care in the United States for all time. While it is true that many initiatives articulated in the Affordable Care Act will continue to move forward – insuring coverage for persons with pre-existing illnesses and allowing parents to continue coverage for their children until the age of 26 are items that come immediately to mind – there should be no doubt that the right wing of the right wing will not go away quietly on this one.

Consider that the Supreme Court decision permits states to opt out of this national program. And, by opting out, they guarantee that millions of Americans, mostly working poor, will either be uninsured or underinsured when it comes to health care. Why the Teapublicans feel that it is so important to institutionalize misery for Americans in the name of patriotism is one of the great mysteries of the 21st century.

Indeed, the battle lines have been drawn for November 6th, and it is clear that electing Mitt Romney will signal the beginning of a titanic battle with no less than the health and welfare of the American people at stake. And, make no mistake about it; the reelection of Barack Obama will not end this battle, as the Teapublicans have stated that their mission is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act no matter how many millions of American lives are saved.

As Election Day grows closer with every sunrise, it would be useful to consider why it is that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is virtually a blood oath for the right wing of the right wing. If the concern is that there are aspect of the Act that should be improved or corrected, there is a legislative process that will permit such reform.

But Speaker of the House John Boehner has promised to pull up the Affordable Care Act “by its roots” and it would seem that the real fault of the Act is that it has originated with the Obama Administration. The most contentious element, the individual mandate, was originally proposed by the highly conservative Heritage Foundation. As the Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney endorsed the individual mandate as an important definition of individual responsibility.

But, because the name “Obama” is associated with the Affordable Care Act, the Teapublicans are willing to sacrifice the health and welfare of the American people.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 28, 2011

The first month of the new year has seen the renaissance of the Obama presidency, a massacre in Tucson and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Looks like 2011 is off to a flying start:

A Tale of Three Justices

Tradition holds that for the State of the Union address all of the members of Congress, the Cabinet (save one Secretary for security purposes) and the Justices of the United State Supreme Court are in attendance.

For the attendees it is not an optional event, it is part of the job. Attending doesn’t indicate political or philosophical support for the President; it is a matter of respect for the institution known as the government of the United States.

Somehow three Supreme Court justices didn’t get the memo. Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas did not attend -Justice Scalia having accepted a speaking engagement in Hawaii that conflicted with his being present in Washington on that day.

The fact that these three neo-con icons saw fit to disrespect the President and the institution that they represent should come as no surprise. They have routinely imposed their right wing political vision in the guise of judicial pronouncements.

The theft of the 2000 election by Justices Scalia and Thomas will go down as one of the great heists in history. The institutional damage to democracy in this country wrought by the three of them in the Citizens United decision is beyond calculation.

The absence of these Three Judicial Amigos was little noted but it should have been. Chief Justice John Roberts is no less a conservative than Scalia, Alito and Thomas, but at least he had the decency and respect to be present last Tuesday.

I guess they didn’t get the memo.

Along Comes Ms. Bachmann

At the beginning of this year’s Congress Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. For anyone familiar with Ms. Bachmann’s mindless ranting and raving this sounds like a punch line waiting for a joke. But its no joke, it is true.

This is a member of Congress who has called President Obama and his supporters Un-American and has publicly stated that the “Founding Fathers” were always against slavery. Of course, these would be the same Founding Fathers who were slave owners (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among many, many others).

She claimed that President Obama’s recent trip to Asia cost $200 million per day (a lie). And she is now conducting an ongoing seminar on constitutional law for members of Congress – one of her faculty members is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (can you say “conflict of interest” or “impropriety”?).

And, by the way, she is contemplating running for the presidency. I just don’t believe that Barack Obama could be that lucky.

Alternative Universe

Anyone watching the State of the Union address saw newly enthroned House Speaker John Boehner looking like a man who had swallowed a lemon and had a train to catch. I hope he doesn’t play poker because he doesn’t have a poker face.

He was clearly not pleased to have to listen to President Obama for almost an hour.
He also wasn’t listening.

The entire planet heard the President say “…..the United States is the greatest country in the world…” Then within 48 hours Speaker Boehner was quoted as saying that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in American “exceptionalism”.

Huh? We know that John Boehner is addicted to smoking cigarettes and that smoking is bad for your health. Obviously it is also bad for your hearing.

Have a great weekend!