Point of View Columns

Stop the Madness – Stop the Blindness

During all of the turmoil and controversy swirling around the Trump presidency like the last tsunami on Earth, it would not be expected that a quote from Malcolm X would be in order. But sometimes the greatest value is in the unexpected. Consider that Malcolm X wrote:

 “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

 He could have been addressing the preternaturally mute Republican majority in the Senate. Or he could have been referring to the abnormally silent Republican minority in the House of Representatives.

Or, his voice from the grave could have been directed toward the right wing evangelicals who have found a way to ignore or explain away the vicissitudes that are Trump. And they have sought to do this by creating a false narrative that Trump is God’s imperfect vessel destined to good and holy things just like Moses and Paul and David. And one must note that this must be one of the few times that the words “good”, “holy” and “Trump” are found in the same sentence.

In recent American political history the right wing of the right wing has sought to claim the high ground when it comes to patriotism. Conservative Republicans have sought to wrap themselves in the American flag in an effort to create the binary perspective that if the conservatives are patriots then liberals and progressives cannot be patriots. For too long and too often conservatives have been able to coopt the label of “patriot” even when engaged in distinctly unpatriotic acts related to racism, sexism and dismantling to the social service safety net which provides some measure of shelter and comfort in what should be a compassionate society but too often is not.

But one has to inquire as to what has become of these so-called patriots when they see this miserable excuse for a president demean and degrade the office that he holds, in the process treating his oath of office as nothing more than a mouthful of syllables, verbs and nouns that mean nothing more to him than a five dollar tip to the doorman. And what kind of patriot watches their president commit crimes (asking China to investigate Democratic presidential candidates), admit to crimes (asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic candidates) and try to commit a crime by attempting to have the G-7 Summit at his Doral hotel property in an effort obtain a cash windfall for yet another one of his failing investments.

If the Republicans were truly patriots, they would heed the words of Malcolm X – “…….wrong is wrong no matter who does it or says it.” If the Republicans were truly patriots they would treat Trump like they would have treated Barack Obama if he engaged in the exact type of despicable behavior which has now become virtually a daily trademark of the Trump administration. If the Republicans were truly patriots they would stop trying to imitate pretzels as they twist and contort themselves and the truth in an effort to make us not believe our eyes and ears.

Consider the times in which we live when Utah Senator Mitt Romney is considered a brave man for hiding behind his fake Pierre Delecto Twitter account as he tosses a few modest puffballs of criticism at Trump. Consider the times in which we live when the President of the United States can consign an ally in the battle against ISIS – in this case the Kurds in Syria – to death and destruction at the hands of Turkey without even consulting with Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Director of National Intelligence.

Because the Democrats have taken the laboring oar in bringing this mad dog of a president to heel, the timid and frightened Republicans cower in the shadows, afraid of the political Frankenstein that they helped to create and have certainly enabled. The Republicans shake in their boots at the thought that they might be the target of a tweet launched by those tiny hands that they fear so much and instead of standing up to Trump, like trained sheep they bleat “partisanship” every time the Democrats discover/uncover yet another obscenity in Trump’s record-setting abuse of power.

Malcolm X was a great man for many reasons. One of them was that he endeavored to speak the truth even when it was uncomfortable. And it is because he endeavored to speak the truth Malcolm X is remembered and will be remembered.

Certainly it is difficult to believe that the blind and spineless Republican Enablers of Trump will be remembered as anything other than cowards and traitors to their own core beliefs and to this country – not patriots.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Election of 2016 – America in Wonderland

As Election Day 2016 looms on the horizon, it is quite clear that when historians and political scientists reflect on this stranger than strange campaign, this question will be asked. How could the country that elected Barack Obama president in consecutive elections even consider electing as president a proto-fascist P.T. Barnum impersonator and charlatan named Trump less than four years later? The answer will not be comforting.

There is no doubt that there was a yawning ideological canyon separating Barack Obama from John McCain and Mitt Romney. There is also no doubt that all three of these men comported themselves within the bounds of what passes for decency in the political universe of 21st century America. And finally, there is no doubt that the basic skill set of any of these three men to serve as President of the United States was never a real campaign issue.

But now, when faced the prospect of Donald Trump being the next President, millions of Americans are comfortable with his misogyny, able to ignore his racism and willing to rationalize his stunning record of disgrace, fraud, deception and disregard for the basic principles of decency. It is a matter of public record that Trump has lied about his unsavory business practices and generally uses lies as a defense even when there are videotapes, audiotapes and living human beings who set forth a reality that he simply denies.

It is now clear that as election lurches to what will be the political demise of Donald Trump there is a far larger issue than Trump that will remain when his political carcass is hosed down the drain of the public arena. The larger problem is that there will still be millions of Americans who are still prepared to believe the racist canard that Barack Obama (1) was not born in the United States and (2) is therefore an illegitimate President and (3) he is a Muslim and (4) is the anti-Christ.

The larger problem is that there will still be millions of voting Americans who seriously believe that walling off this country is a useful 21st century solution. There are millions of American who think that dismantling the Affordable Care Act (eliminating the health care coverage for over 20 million Americans) and the Dodd-Frank Act protocols (thereby removing the controls that preventing the cataclysmic collapse of the American financial system) are good ideas.

At some point after Donald Trump slithers back to the his own warped universe, there will need to be a serious discussion regarding how so many Americans became separated from reality and decency, in the process forgetting the responsibilities that come with their rights as citizens. It is clear that to the extent a Trump presidency has even been discussed in 2016 there needs to be a national civics awakening – with rights come responsibilities. Presidential elections are not a time to carelessly cast votes without regard or consideration of the consequences.

Fortunately, Donald Trump will not win. Unfortunately, the fact that he even has come this close means that we have a lot of work to do if the best aspects of this republic and its democracy are to be preserved and improved upon.

Standard
Point of View Columns

A Return to Asylum Politics

Donald Trump’s recent and brief embrace of the truth – stating that he now believes that President Obama was born in the United States cannot begin to drain the swamp of hatred, bigotry and racism that he created by leading the birther movement for almost half a decade. But Trump is counting on the contagious amnesia that seems to affect much of the American public. So this would be a good time to take a quick time trip to 2009 when this column on the birther movement was originally published and to remember how vile and transparently racist the birther movement has always been.

Asylum Politics
As we observe the political landscape it is clear that what passes for reasonable discourse must have been birthed in some unknown asylum. A useful term, “birthed”, in that the continuing madness of the so-called “birther” movement continues its presence on the national stage like an embarrassing gate crasher who does not have the grace, or good sense, to finally go away.

For those who have been living in the Carlsbad Caverns for the last 18 month, the “birther” movement is founded on the basic concept that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and since he is not a natural born citizen, the Constitution dictates that he cannot be President of the United States. It is this Constitutional precept that keeps Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arianna Huffington, Sting, Henry Kissinger and Pope Benedict from ever being candidates for the presidency, while any of the Jonas Brothers, Britney Spears, Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton are all pre-qualified for the White House.

Article 2 of the United States Constitution is clear on this point… Without an amendment to that hallowed document, one has to have been born within the 50 states to ever be elected President of the United States.

History reveals that Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party candidate for President in 1964. He was born in Arizona, the 48th state admitted to the Union. However, it was not a state when he was born in 1909. Indeed, Arizona was not admitted to the Union until 1912. So, obviously, Barry Goldwater was not born in the United States. Yet, amazingly, there was never an issue raised during his ill-fated candidacy or campaign. It appears that there is a “grandfather” clause in the Constitution that was written in invisible ink. But there’s more.

George Romney, another Republican Party icon and the father of current Republican luminary Mitt Romney, was born in the (now controversial) Mormon colonies in Mexico in 1907. While he moved to Utah as a child, it is clear that he was not born in the United States of America. And clearly, there is another invisible ink exception for the children of Mormon missionaries because at no time was his Mexican birthplace a major issue during his presidential candidacy in 1968. He ultimately lost to Richard Nixon, but his birthplace was not the pivot point, it was his political vision and perspective.

And now we fast forward to the present day. Since he announced his candidacy for President in 2007, Barack Obama has been beset by opponents whose basic opposition to his candidacy, and his very existence, is born of the dumbfounded and bizarre notion that he is defying the Laws of Nature. No one named Barack Hussein Obama could ever be President of the United States. No black man (even one with a white mother and white grandparents) could ever sully the seal of the presidency by actually getting elected.

And so we find the seeds of the so-called “birther movement” being sown. In trying to find some way, some mechanism, some means of stopping this violation of all that is holy and sacred in America, some genius with a double digit I.Q. came upon the idea that since Obama’s father was Kenyan and not an American citizen, he might not be a “native-born” American, and therefore he would be ineligible to be President of the United States.

A few details got in the way of this brilliant bit of strategy however. First, Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961, one year after it became a state. Second, there is a certified birth certificate on file in Honolulu, attesting to his birth in August 1961 in Honolulu. And then, there are not one, but two, Honolulu newspapers, which featured announcements of the birth of one Barack Hussein Obama.  And last, but not least, Barack Obama’s mother was a natural born American citizen, Kansas being her birthplace. One would think that all of these rather compelling facts would sound the death knell for this misbegotten bit of race-based strategy.

Think again. The “birthers” have continued their contemptuous campaign for more than two years (!!!!!). Claims have been raised that the referenced birth certificate was forged (the Republican governor of Hawaii debunked this particular urban myth). Some Einstein has posited the theory that, when he was born in Kenya, Obama’s parents managed to call (??), e-mail (???), and teletransport (!!!!) the birth announcement to the referenced Honolulu newspapers.

All of this would be sadly laughable were it not for the fact that this chimera of a wisp of a thought of a theory has been the subject of several lawsuits and has been seriously discussed on the floor of the United States Congress. It would be nothing more than a rejected “Saturday Night Live” skit except that 11 Members of Congress felt it was necessary to bring this issue to the floor of the House of Representatives. It would all be sadly laughable except that the proponents of this strategy are elected representatives of the American people not refugee clowns from the Ringling Brothers Circus.

The reality is that this campaign is a head fake, a feint. It is part of a much more insidious strategy that entails eroding the legitimacy of the Obama presidency in the United States and abroad. If a discussion about the legitimacy of an Obama presidency continues, at least 20% of the American population will give it credence. That is 60 million people. That is more than the total population of Italy, South Africa, South Korea, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia or Australia. Imagine if the entire population of Italy or Australia or South Korea believed that the head of state of their country was illegitimate and you start to get the idea. There is a real danger in the United States, a subtle, barely noticeable virus that could present itself as a real danger to the body politic.

To make matters worse, true and certified geniuses like Glen Beck and Lou Dobbs and those madcap, merrymaking Members of Congress, have taken to giving legitimacy to this madness. And that is a problem which we ignore at our own peril. Madness sometimes disguises more malicious motives – like corroding the legitimacy of the presidency. And that is simply treasonous.

And it seems to me, that sometimes it is necessary to fight madness with madness. If the diverse forces in the public realm wish to persist in promulgating this dastardly and vicious strategy of impugning the citizenship of the President then perhaps they should be charged with treason. The basis of the charge being an intent to diminish and defame the President of the United States and thereby impeding his ability to govern at home and represent this country abroad.

While this charge of treason has as much chance of succeeding as the denial of President Obama’s natural born American citizenship, it might give some of the “birthers” pause and make them think about what the hell they are doing to this country. And that new experience might be worth all of the madness after all.

What was true in 2009 is certainly true now.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Trump and Cruz – Beware of the Head Fake

In most sports the head fake is an important weapon, both on offense and defense. The intent of the head fake is to get the opponent to go in a direction different from that which is planned. The head fake is meant to trick, fool and bamboozle the opponent. And, the more that we hear about members of the Republican establishment uniting to derail the Trump candidacy, the more we should beware the dreaded head fake.

So much, too much, has been written about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. It is quite clear that he can be profane, insulting, bombastic and boorish in the extreme. He may be the most unpresidential presidential candidate since………Michele Bachman, and that’s saying a lot. Many leaders of the Republican Party find the idea of a Trump presidency so repulsive that they are supporting Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as viable alternatives to Trumpageddon.

With Donald Trump so much is so wrong, be it is his endorsement of torture, his willingness to insult everyone and everything, or his mythic policy proposals – from building walls with Mexican money to winning trade wars with China and Japan. As a result, the prospect of Trump as the Republican standard bearer strikes many Republican leaders as the beginning of the last days and times of the G.O.P. And according this same Republican establishment, the antidote to this noxious prospect is Ted Cruz or maybe Marco Rubio.

For those who care about what happens to this country, this Cruz-Rubio alternative to Donald Trump is the ultimate right wing head fake. If the rationale for the Cruz-Rubio antidote for the virulent form of Trumpitis that is sweeping this country is that either one of them is better than Donald Trump, the American people are being forced to pick their poison.

Far too much has been written and said about the odious Mr. Trump, but that does not make Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio gifts from heaven. Consider that both of them are irrationally committed to the total dismantling of the Affordable Care Act “on day one” of their presidency. The fact that almost 20 million Americans will lose health care coverage on that dreaded “day one” has not inspired either of them to propose and alternative for what will take place on “day one”.

Consider that Ted Cruz has called for the carpet bombing of various parts of the Middle East “until sand turns to glass”. He has held to this position despite the opinion of various military experts that such a strategy would result in untold civilian deaths and the virtually eternal enmity of the survivors, thereby confirming the rhetoric of jihadists throughout the region who reference the United States as “The Great Satan”.

Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio adhere to an antediluvian Neanderthal view of the right of women to choose their healthcare provider (e.g. the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood) and the right of women to freely exercise their Constitutional right to access abortion services. The administration of President Cruz or President Rubio would take this country back to a time before the Roe v. Wade decision of 1972 when women had to exercise their right to choose in back alleys.

Their positions on immigration reform can be distilled in a few words – when to deport and how to deport. The fact that close to 12 million human beings might be subject to policies that are sickeningly close to fascism do not seem to faze either of these children of immigrants.

Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service without telling anyone how taxes will be collected in the United States of Cruz. Both Cruz and Rubio do not believe in the science that supports the existence of climate change on this planet, which means that President Cruz or President Rubio would have a good chance of dooming the children of this country to inhabiting and environmentally damned planet.

The point is that the entire Republican presidential campaign cycle has revealed the party to still be the Party of No. The Republican platform that is hammered together in Cleveland will once again demean the humanity of immigrants, place the gun on an altar, demean the rights of women and worship a fossil fuel philosophy when it comes to climate change.

So when Mitt Romney or John McCain or Lindsey Graham tells the American people that Cruz or Rubio are palatable alternatives on the Republican menu as opposed to the option of a Trump entrée, we should remember that any of these choices will make America sick to its stomach.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Requiem for Sanity

As you are reading this, close to 50 percent of likely Republican voters believe that either Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson should be President of the United States. Although both men have proudly owned up to statements that alternately boggle the mind or chill the blood, there are walking, talking and voting Americans who think that it would be a great idea for either of these men to be the 45th President of the United States.

Those who follow politics and enjoy the push and pull of democracy in action have had a special treat in watching the Teapublican Clown Candidate Bus careen and lurch over the airwaves and across the country. At first it seemed that there would be a virtual rerun of the 2012 campaign which, in 2011 offered up such implausible candidacies that could have produced a President Newt Gingrich, a President Herman Cain, a President Michelle Bachman or a President Rick Perry as they took their turn as the leading candidate.

But in 2011 and 2012, there was always the candidacy of Mitt Romney looming in the background like a mountain that could never be climbed by the likes of Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin. And while Mr. Romney was never a shining beacon of progressive thought, he assumed the role of the only adult in the room which translated into the inevitability of his becoming the candidate of the Republican Party.

This time it is different. Donald Trump exploded onto the Teapublican arena and immediately started playing the role of Donald and the Fifteen Dwarfs. Sucking all of the media oxygen out of the campaign, “inevitable adults” like John Kasich and Jeb Bush began suffering from asphyxiation and the other candidates scrambled for the few dangling oxygen masks of credibility as they tried to stay alive. Carly Fiorina found one, as did Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz…..and then there was Ben Carson.

Defying the logic that said that his campaign was DOA as soon as he started to sprinkle his Bible-laced homilies with regular references to slavery and Nazism, the Good Doctor has become a leading candidate in the Teapublican Cage Match. In many polls he is THE leading candidate, and so it appears that this  mental and moral tiny person has undergone a growth spurt.

But what does it say about the Teapublican Party when 49% of its likely voters actually support either a man who utters mean spirited comments clad in the velvet cloak made of faux genteel rhetoric or a man who believes that insults and bluster and a wall of gigantic proportions constitute a campaign platform? What does it say about this country that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are taken so seriously that both of them could beat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate, if recent polls are to be believed?

This country faces enormous domestic challenges – an ancient and decrepit infrastructure, health care concerns with a rapidly aging population, mass incarceration and then there is the issue of lingering and pandemic income and racial inequality. The international challenges faced by the United States are countless as well – ISIS, immigration, climate change, global terrorism and a world economy that seems to be riding a permanent roller coaster.

Who are these Americans who believe that Donald Trump or Ben Carson are the right persons to lead this country through this minefield of problems, crises and potential disasters? After to listening to Dr. Carson opine that his reading the Bible leads him to the conclusion that Joseph had the pyramids built to store grain, for what public office could he be remotely qualified?

Similarly, after hearing Donald Trump set forth his Middle East strategy that seems to come straight out of a Special Ops video game, what form of reality puts him the Oval Office with authority to wage war, putting American lives in harm’s way? Yet here are both of them posing as leading candidates to hold the fate of the planet in their hands.

A sane country would not be in this position. Sadly, it is time for a Requiem for Sanity in America to be held.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Obama in Africa and Unfinished Business

When President Obama visited Africa he took the opportunity of being in Africa to speak to the truths about Africa. He correctly stated that the African continent is overflowing with potential for progress and growth. He also correctly stated that until Africa confronts its challenges with respect to women, governance and human rights that it will never reach that potential. In other words, there is unfinished business in Africa.

When he spoke before the leadership of the African Union, President Obama said things that it would have been difficult for an African leader to say. As President of the United States he is cloaked with the power and prestige of his office. As the son of an African, as the grandson of Africans, as the brother of African brothers and sisters, Barack Hussein Obama has family ties that remove the possibility of him being considered a disinterested outsider lecturing the “natives”.

It is difficult to imagine President Mitt Romney giving Barack Obama’s speech in front of the African Union. It is virtually impossible to envision President John McCain, or President Donald Trump or President Scott Walker at the podium delivering that message. For that matter, it is difficult to envision President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders standing in that place – it had to be Obama.

And President Obama told the truth about the role and status of women in Africa – it must change. He said that the African traditions that oppress women and mutilate the genitals of girls and bind women with the chains of ignorance are bad traditions. He told the truth when he said that Africa will never, can never, reach anywhere near its true potential while half of its population is entrapped in the rickety cages of “tradition”.

President Obama was faithful to the truth when he pointed out that in a democracy there can be no “presidents for life”. He told the leaders of the fifty four countries on the continent that the peaceful transfer of power ensures peace just as holding on to power indefinitely ensures that there will never be peace. And, just as importantly, the peaceful transfer of power guarantees that the energy and genius of the youth of Africa will be encouraged to stay in Africa rather than taking their talents elsewhere.

President Obama also took the occasion to point out that respect for the human rights and dignity of all persons is necessary, otherwise no one will have their human rights and dignity respected. Marginalizing or imprisoning or murdering someone because they are from a different country or a different tribe, or because they love a man instead of a woman or a woman instead of a man are practices that keep Africa mired in the past. And marginalizing, imprisoning or murdering in the name of tradition can only mean that the tradition is wrong – as President Obama put it, “it is a bad tradition”.

What was so interesting about his address is that President Obama ultimately spoke in terms of unfinished business in Africa. But he alluded to the fact that there is also unfinished business in the United States. He could have pointed out that while American women have made major strides during the past fifty years, women still earn less than men and women are the majority population of the poor in this country.

He could have said that while this country has been governed by a democracy for over two hundred years, and at this very moment there are cadres of lawyers and activists all over this country who celebrated the demolition of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. He could have mentioned that voter suppression has now become a political tactic and that thanks to the Citizens United and McCullough Supreme Court decisions, obscene amounts of money flood and pollute the political process like never before.

President Obama could have mentioned that while there have been major advances in respecting the rights of individuals in this country, there are still states that fly the Confederate flag and there are legislatures considering bills that will somehow outlaw same sex marriage and constrain a woman’s right to choose.

He could have said all of those things. There is unfinished business in Africa. And there is also unfinished business in these United States.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Free Range Congress – On the Loose

Ever since the results of the 2014 midterm elections were finalized, it has been clear that this country would be witness to a different kind of Congress – a Congress that would be unique for all the wrong reasons. Clearly closing down the government, the random blocking presidential appointments and threatening the international credit rating of the United States was just a warmup. The Free Range Congress is now on the loose.

After the 2010 midterm elections, we witnessed the ascent of the Tea Party which, in record time assumed virtual control of the Republican Party in Congress creating the nightmare for most Americans now known as the Teapublican Party. The Teapublican Congress spent two years opposing anything and everything proposed by President Obama, reserving special vitriolic ammunition for anything and everything that might serve to credit the Obama Administration.

It must be understood that the Teapublican Congress was motivated by a single ideological goal – to ensure that President Obama served only one term. It was an ideological goal that sacrificed common sense and logic. It was an ideological goal that provided the justification for causing the United States to default on its national debt. It also justified the shutting down of the federal government.

President Obama’s victory over the newly-minted Teapublican Mitt Romney by six percentage points seemed to stem the Teapublican tide, and clearly hell hath no fury like an unsatisfied zealot. Armed with a new goal, seemingly the eradication of the Obama Administration from history, the Teapublican Congress voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) over fifty times. This feat was accomplished while the infrastructure of the United States continues to crumble in real time and while American children lag behind most of the developed world in terms of educational achievement.

But the 2014 midterm elections brought forth a new phenomenon to Washington – the Free Range Congress. This country is now governed by Congress with a Teapublican majority in both houses and by failing or refusing to read the Constitution, the Free Range Congress seems to operate under the assumption that it now controls the United States.

The sketchy and pathetic and transparently partisan ploy of inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to criticize President Obama in Congress was just an opening ploy on the part of the Free Range Congress. That boorish act was followed by the mindless and constitutionally dubious letter to Iran signed by 47 senators obviously in the thrall of the Teapublican catechism.

The Free Range Congress is now warmed up and has presented a budget that will repeal the Affordable Care Act (of course), damning over 12 million Americans to the living purgatory of not having health insurance. The Free Range budget also guts Medicare and Medicaid (naturally) and provides tax breaks and windfalls for millionaires and billionaires (could it be any other way?). The Free Range Congress may prove to be a greater danger to this country than its Teapublican terrorist predecessor.

The Teapublican terrorists sought to hold this country hostage. The Free Range Congress does not seem to care that ignoring the infrastructure, despoiling the environment and extinguishing the hopes of millions of Americans is a recipe for a disaster that does not have to happen.

Most Americans would be shocked and appalled by the actual details of the budget put forward by the Free Range Congress. But then, most Americans do not bother with the details of anything.

Let us hope that this time it will be different.

Standard