Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 14, 2014

Clearly the one of the life missions of the Teapublican Chicken Hawks is to get the United States involved in another war – anywhere. There is no other reasonable explanation for the bellicose saber rattling that we are hearing from the right wing of the right wing. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton must have sipped some Teapublican Kool-Aid by going so far as to compare Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. And, not to be outdone, Teapublican Congressman Darrell Issa has proved by his behavior that there is no limit to rudeness, crudeness or barbaric conduct in the congressional right wing of the right wing.

The “Freedom Loving” People of Ukraine

To hear Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and their Teapublican colleagues tell it, the United States has some kind of moral imperative to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. This is the same John McCain who went to Syria and posed for photo ops with a known Al Qaeda operative, and the same Lindsay Graham who thought that it would be a good idea to put “boots on the ground” in Libya.

The facts are that the relationship between Russian and the Ukraine is complicated, to be charitable. And any policeman will tell you that intervening in a domestic dispute is dangerous business.

And we should be clear that the “freedom loving” peoples of Ukraine boast a robust anti-Semitic population segment and they are very vocal and very active. These same “freedom loving” people have no problems calling black soccer players “monkeys” and worse in their Ukraine stadiums.

And one has to wonder exactly who are what American troops would be fighting for in a worst case scenario?

Hillary’s Misstep

Virtually every political expert concedes the fact that Hillary Clinton will run for president. The problem with being the early prohibitive frontrunner is that such a candidate is forced to comment on anything and everything in order to establish bona fides on this issue or that one which may come in handy when the real campaign begins.

That may explain why Ms. Clinton felt compelled to say anything about the faux Crimean crisis (faux in terms of direct American interests). Endeavoring to demonstrate that no potential Democrat (or Republican) will be able to impugn her willingness to project “strength”, she compare Russian President Putin’s tactics in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s tactics in Austria and Czechoslovakia.

This was wrong on so many levels. We can begin with the fact that the relationship between Russian and Ukraine is complicated and similar to the German/Austrian/Czechoslovakian situation optically, but not substantively. But it is also wrong because to compare Putin to Hitler because the Russians lost 30 million people in a war with Hitler’s Germany and that particular comparison is grotesque insult that is stained with stunning insensitivity and ignorance of history.

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton might be a great president; her comments regarding Putin and Hitler are not part of that list.

Barbarians in the House

Less than two weeks ago at a House Oversight Committee meeting Chairman Darrell Issa decided that he had had enough of Congressman Elijah Cummings so he peremptorily adjourned the meeting and ordered that Congressman Cummings’ microphone be cut off. Just like that.

It should not come as news that yet another Teapublican, this time Congressman Issa, seems to have majored in rudeness and minored in crudeness in a previous life. Partisanship in Congress is approaching the levels of blood sport and it is clear that there is very little benefit to the American people coming from this.

There will be commentary about there being raucous and reckless and rude behavior on “both sides of the aisle” but it will be hard to find comparisons to Congressman Issa’s behavior or that of Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson on the progressive side of the aisle.

Clearly on the Planet Teapublican being right makes it alright.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

The Harder They Fall

Recent events in Ukraine have resulted in predictable, though bizarre, reaction in the United States. Suddenly people who couldn’t spell “Ukraine” if you spotted them a “k” and a “U” are clamoring for President Obama to take bold action. American politicians who couldn’t find Crimea on a map with the aid of Google maps now make the argument that American interests are at stake because of the invasion tactics employed by Russia.

The rest of the world must find the United States to be increasingly odd in its world view. Because it is the United States that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because it believed that its national interests called for such action. And, going back just a little further in time it was the United States that invaded Grenada and Panama for the same reasons of self-interest and continues to beleaguer the Republic of Cuba because its sociopolitical structure is not to the liking of a very loud and very vocal minority in this country.

Of course that is just relatively recent U.S. history. A further review of this country’s invasions and incursions include the occupation of Haiti and the annexation of Texas along with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran at the behest of oil interests. The point is, the United States is the historical invading pot that should have difficulty calling any other invading kettle black.

The reality of the Planet Earth is that countries take actions to protect and preserve what they perceive as their national interests. Russia has taken actions in the Ukraine that certainly have a plausible connection to that country’s perceived national interests however inconvenient that particular truth might be. And, as noted, the United States is one of the last countries on earth that should criticize another country that utilizes military action to protect and preserve those national interests.

But, never letting reality getting in the way of an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, the Teapublicans are now claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to invade Ukraine because of some undefined weakness that President Obama has shown. These same Teapublicans conveniently forget that President Putin also felt emboldened to invade Georgia when Republican President George W. Bush resided in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Putin doesn’t really care what the United States thinks when he acts on behalf of his country.

Nevertheless, we are being showered with by the Teapublican noise machine with the usual suspects, chicken hawk Senator Lindsay Graham, twice failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain and has been wannabe celebrity Sarah Palin claiming that President Obama is not demonstrating “leadership”. Their thought process must embrace the notion that the only leadership that counts is leading a country into war even as President Obama has been leading this country away from war and perilous military actions.

Another failed presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has contended that President Obama hasn’t shown “leadership” because he takes too long to think and consider various options and that he consults with his advisors to excess. He favorably compares Vladimir Putin as a “leader” because he makes up his mind quickly and acts.

One would think that after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq the one thing that the American people want, and the one thing that this country needs, is a leader who thinks about the consequences of acting before acting. If it were up to the Teapublican chicken hawks the United States would be mired in wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea right now. And if it were up to these same Teapublican chicken hawks more Americans would be killed and maimed, more of this country’s wealth would be squandered and the security of this planet would be all the worse for these actions.

History will show that by being a thoughtful and deliberative president, Barack Obama has been a good steward of the White House. Although it is doubtful that the Teapublicans who are determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.

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On the Eve of Infamy

With a twist of irony that could come straight from a Robert Ludlum novel, the President of the United States will address the nation on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, proposing that this country once more engage in military action even though there is no direct threat to the security of the United States. That Senator Barack Obama was elected because of his commitment to non-military solutions makes the irony even more tragic.

The reasons why “limited military action” in Syria has been proposed by the Obama Administration have been echoed literally around the world. But upon reflection and consideration they still sound like rehashed versions of stories that have been cobbled together to send this country down the path to war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And each time the American people are promised that it will be different this time.

The “difference” this time is that the military action will be “limited” and there will be no American “boots on the ground”. But with American bombers and planes flying over Syria and bombing that country is it impossible to imagine American planes being shot down (or just crashing by accident) and surviving American crews being paraded on Syrian television or simply executed? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

Does it require a leap of imagination to envision American naval vessels being attacked by Syrian missiles – or just a motor boat as in the case of the U.S.S. Cole? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

There are hundreds of American embassies and consulates (remember Benghazi) around the world. There are thousands of American corporate offices and facilities around the world. There are millions of Americans living and visiting outside of this country at any given moment. With the proposed attack on Syria they all become more inviting targets than they already are. If any of these targets are attacked then how “limited” will the military action be?

And on the eve of yet another anniversary of another day that will live in infamy in this country, is it hysterical overreaction to imagine that the bombing of Syria could inspire a Muslim jihadist or Syrian nationalist to engage in a counterattack that could mimic or surpass 9/11 in horror and death and destruction? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

For President Obama to advocate a unilateral military action by this country with no direct security threat to this country is sadly stunning and horrifically mind boggling. It is almost as if President Obama is channeling his inner Ronald Reagan or his Dick Cheney alter ego.

Taking failed foreign policy advice from the likes of John McCain and Lindsay Graham and John Boehner is not what President Obama was elected to do. Making this country a more dangerous place in which to live is certainly not what any president is elected to do. And yet the Obama Administration continues to pound the bloodstained drums of war.

The horrors of the chemical attacks in Syria are sickening and saddening. But the horrors committed by humanity do not justify the United States being the self-appointed Policeman of the Planet. This is especially true when evil doers know where this Policeman of the Planet resides.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League have not organized military action against the Assad regime in Syria. These facts alone make it clear that this is not a battle that the United States should take on unilaterally. What ever happened to multilateral action and strategic alliances?

We are now left with the hope that the United States Congress will listen to the overwhelming opposition to this unnecessary act of war and reject President Obama’s proposed attack on Syria. We will then have to hope that President Obama will then heed the will of Congress or else he will risk the twin consequences of entangling this country into another bloody morass and possible impeachment proceedings from Teapublicans who would love nothing more than to cripple the remainder of his presidency.

The only good thing about this entire crisis is that President Obama, by seeking Congressional approval for this misguided bit of strategy, is resetting the precedent whereby future presidents will not be so quick to unilaterally engage this country militarily without the support of Congress. That is thin gruel in light of the towering dangers that the Obama Administration is courting.

Let us hope that it is not too late for President Obama to change his course.

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None So Blind

The fact that John Boehner, John McCain and Lindsay Graham think that bombing Syria is a good thing should be all the warning that President Obama needs to know that his proposed military action is absolutely the wrong thing. Instead, in what seems like some improbable horror movie, President Obama continues to slip slide towards a bloody precipice that promises no reward but an outcome that will indelibly stain his legacy as president and while endangering Americans for years to come.

For anyone with an attention span greater than that of a goldfish, it is pretty simple to remember the young Senator Barack Obama voting against the entry of the United States into a war with Iraq. It was this principled – and intelligent – stance that served as one of the foundations of his successful candidacy for president. Indeed, it is not exaggerating to say that if Senator Obama had voted for the war in Iraq he never would have become President Obama.

We now watch the grotesque irony of President Obama going to Sweden (where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just four short years ago) to encourage Europeans to join the United States in a military attack on Syria. And just to twist the barb of irony a bit deeper, we should remember that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily because of he represented the promise of peace and a new direction in international relations.

We listen to the Obama Administration advocate this military disaster waiting to happen and have to wonder when did Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsay Graham and House Speaker John Boehner become foreign policy beacons for this country to follow.

John McCain was soundly rejected by the American people when he ran for president so why is his judgment and advice so meaningful to the Obama Administration?

Lindsay Graham will probably not be reelected in South Carolina, a state that hardly represents the mood of this country. And John Boehner is the leader of a Teapublican majority in Congress that represents less than half of the American people.

With his typical eloquence President Obama has presented the horrific images resulting from the chemical weapons attacks in Syria that were supposed to have been perpetrated by the Assad regime. This latest outrage is, we are told, the trigger for the United States to take military action – not to overthrow Assad – but presumably to punish him.

One has to wonder what was it about the other 80,000 plus deaths in Syria that did not warrant a military response? The use of chemical weapons is horrific but bullets and rocks leave their victims just as dead. And remember that over 250,000 people were killed in Rwanda over a thirty day period, most of the dead being victims of machetes.

The point, of course, if that this world is full of horrific incidents and violent outrages. As you are reading this column someone is probably being killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan and who knows where else. Should the United States take on the role of roving Global Marshal punishing evildoers wherever they might be?

Taking the Obama Administration’s proposition to its logical extreme there will always be a reason for the United States to violently intercede in this bellicose world. This notion is already the leading purveyor of weapons in this world. Will the United States also be the leading violent actor on the world stage?

Americans should also be careful to note that the United States has spent more than two decades bombing and killing the people in Arab and Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. This has built up resentment and a thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with the death and destruction of Americans. The fact that there are no American “boots on the ground” will mean little to the vengeful jihadists and nationalists who will perceive the proposed Syrian bombing campaign as one more example of The Great Satan at work.

The ultimate irony is that the Teapublicans, including Senator Rand Paul, seem to be the only opponents to this Syrian warfare who have found their voice. But one does not have to be an isolationist to realize that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans do not have the protective power of ancient moats. One does not have to be a Teapublican to understand that when American interests are not directly threatened bombs and missiles are not viable options.

There has been so much that has been good about the Obama Administration. It is truly sad to see this president sucked into the groupthink that has misguided this country into Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and now Syria.

And once the missiles have been launched, once the bombs have been dropped, the consequences will flow inexorably to the shores of this country.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 9, 2013

Sometimes it is useful to remember that elections do matter. Thinking about a Mitt Romney presidency provides some perspective. Meanwhile, in light of Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, we are already hearing the clarion call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics next year – and why do these call always come from the right? And finally, while we already knew that the Teapublican playbook calls for the dismantling of the federal government, the new playbook calls for making sure that the federal government just doesn’t work.

Elections Do Matter

In the 2012 presidential campaign over $1 billion was spent in order to persuade voters that there was a real difference between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Obviously the majority of voters chose Barack Obama to lead the country for another four years.

But, for those who continue to suggest that there was only a marginal difference between the two candidates (the ever loquacious Tavis Smiley and continuously quotable Cornel West come to mind) think about this: Right now the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to undo the horrific damage caused by the recent Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act.

This has required the Department of Justice to fight voting rights battles state by state, court by court. What do you think that an Attorney General appointed by President Mitt Romney would be doing?

Some more food for thought: The Department of Justice is reviewing the murder of Trayvon Martin for possible civil rights violations. That would be the U.S. Department of Justice headed by Attorney General Eric Holder who was appointed by President Barack Obama. What do you think that President Romney’s Department of Justice would be doing about the travesty of George Zimmerman’s acquittal last month?

In the weeks and months to come more examples of the difference between a thankfully mythical Romney presidency and the actual presidency of Barack Obama will be offered for your consideration.

We can be assured that Tavis Smiley and Cornel West will be to absorbed with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West to pay any attention.

The Revenge of the Nerds

In 1980 the United States boycotted the Olympics that were to be held in the Soviet Union because of a dispute regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In retaliation the Soviet Union led a boycott of the Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1984.

While this political posturing went forward, the hopes and dreams of thousands of Olympic athletes were obliterated. If they were American they simply could not compete in 1980 and had to compete in a flawed Olympics in 1984 if they were still around. Many other athletes from around the world were caught up in the boycott and there was absolutely no impact on Soviet policies in Afghanistan.

Now Senator Lindsay Graham and other wannabe tough guys in the Senate and House are calling for the United States to boycott the Winter Olympics that are to be held in Russia next year as retaliation for Edward Snowden being granted temporary asylum in that country.

Aside from the fact that boycotting the Olympics would be cutting off the nose of American athletes in order to spite the global face of the United States, logic tells us that such an action would have absolutely no impact on the current Snowden-asylum impasse. The only people that would be hurt would be American athletes many of whom have trained their entire lives for one shining Olympic moment in 2014.

Let us hope that saber rattling will not take the place of sane and sober foreign policy.

Traveling at the Speed of Mud

Approximately two weeks ago the Senate confirmed the head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau after only………., get this, seven years of delay and obstruction. Approximately three weeks ago the Senate confirmed the Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau after light speed deliberations of two years!

These delays are part and parcel of a Teapublican strategy to throw enough sand into the gears of the federal government until it simply stops working. On the Planet Teapublican this passes for sound public policy.

Loyal opposition is one thing. Destruction of the federal government itself does not border on treason, it is treason. The sooner it is said the better.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

 

 

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Weekend Edition – March 18, 2011

The weekend begins with breaking news as Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Haiti less than 48 hours before the election, accompanied by……Danny Glover (and what could Mr. Glover be thinking?). Meanwhile the critics of President Obama continue to unite over anything and everything that he might do. And what on earth could be the reason for hurling insults at Japan as it endures the combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster?

Finally, you are invited to visit the “Be My Guest” feature of Point of View to read a column by Professor Pamela Newkirk regarding her absolutely fascinating book “Between the Lines – The Power of African American Letters”. You will be doing yourself a great favor by taking the time to read it.

Really Danny Glover? Really?

The tragic aspects of Haitian history are well known. Haiti’s recent history has been marked by challenges of almost biblical proportions.

It is a testament to the good will of many Haitians, both in Haiti and in the diaspora, that elections will be held on March 20th that hold the promise of being free and fair. The presidential candidates, Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, have engaged in a vigorous contest right until the final day.

As the fragile tendrils of democracy and transparency try to take root in Haiti, it is incomprehensible that Danny Glover, the famous actor, activist and humanitarian, would take it upon himself to escort former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristede back to Port Au Prince today.

Both presidential candidates and President Obama have asked that Mr. Aristede delay his return until after the election for concern that his presence at this point could destabilize a very fragile democratic process.

Since Mr. Aristede has not participated in any part of the elections and is not supporting either candidate, there would seem to be reason enough for him to agree to wait in South Africa where he has lived in luxury for the past six years (the source of that luxury is another story for another time).

Instead, Danny Glover has seen fit to bring a torch to gasoline refinery. Given the tragedy and pain and suffering that the Haitian people have suffered historically and recently, it is just wrong for Mr. Glover to participate in this potentially destabilizing event. His prior relief work and support of reconstruction is laudable and it makes his current actions baffling.

If Mr. Aristede wishes to distract and disturb the electoral process he must ultimately answer to the Haitian people for any disruption that takes place on March 20th. But to whom will Mr. Glover answer as he jets back to the United States, not having to live with the consequences of his high profile escort of Mr. Aristede?

Hopefully the elections will be fair and free of the intervention of negative forces. But there is simply no reason to increase the degree of difficulty at this point in the history of Haiti.

Critics of Obama Unite!

Since he was inaugurated, President Obama has had to accept the reality that, for some people, whatever he chose to do would be considered wrong.

The latest example of this is related to the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. As encrusted oligarchies in Tunisia and Egypt tumbled President Obama was critiqued for the timing of his support for agents of change in these countries even though his measured support resulted in the desired regime change and accompanying good will throughout the region.

Libya has proven to be a very different situation as the entrenched dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has shown no inclination to leave and seems to be prepared to immolate his entire country.

In the face of this mindless strategy critics of the president have contended that he should show more “leadership” by establishing a “no-fly zone” and even providing supplies and troops to support the Libyan insurgents.

The commitment of troops and treasure cannot be the first response of this country as there are too many places on this earth with the same fact pattern – right now that would include Cote d’Ivoire, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. Would these critics – most recently David Gergen and Senator Lindsay Graham, among others – have President Obama send troops and jets and materiel all over the world to fight injustice and tyranny everywhere at the same time like some latter day Superman?

Fortunately the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a joint military effort in Libya and the wisdom of measured response has been demonstrated once more.

Mr. Gergen and Senator Graham seem to actually believe in Superman. Thankfully President Obama does not.

Insult to Injury

Since the triple tragedy in Japan the global response has been compassionate and tangible. Assistance has flowed to this island nation from all over the world.

But some knuckleheads are determined to show their stupidity by opening their raincoats of fame and flashing their miniscule intellects. Several celebrities including the noted blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the famous philosopher Fifty Cent have been quoted as stating that the people of Japan deserved the tragedies that they are suffering.

Some mish-mosh thought process linking Pearl Harbor to economic success to advocating environmental protection has resulted in this awful stew of hate and misinformation.

Of course Rush and Fitty just don’t care. But the rest of us should.

Have a great weekend!

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