Point of View Columns

The “Failure” of the Obama Administration

What do Donald Trump, Cornel West, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Tavis Smiley have in common? When it comes to any analysis or judgment about the Obama Administration they drift into a fact-free universe where they can criticize without consequence. It is certainly the right of these men to wander in a world of fantasy, but when they presume to lead and influence close to a third of a billion people they become downright dangerous.

In using the word “failure” or inferring it, Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley would have anyone who would listen believe that there has been little or nothing of value about the seven years of President Obama’s tenure. Trump, Cruz and Rubio, true to the Teapublican mantra over the past seven years, have played the role of truth deniers when it comes to the 44th president because that suits their political ambitions.

Professor West and Mr. Smiley approach President Obama in a slightly different and bizarrely nuanced fashion. By referring to him as a “lap dog”, damning him as not being a “revolutionary” and claiming that insofar as black people are concerned he has been a terrible president, these black men seem to find some noble purpose in demeaning and degrading the legacy of the first African American President of the United States, even though facts serve as sharp pins in their hot air balloons.

Here are some facts regarding the so-called “failure” of the Obama Administration:

• When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 we were witness to the not so slow motion collapse of the global financial universe. Major banks (Washington Mutual, for example) and major investment banking firms (Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, for example) virtually evaporated before our eyes. Shares of Citibank were selling for less than a dollar and the deaths of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford Motor Company were presumed to be imminent.

• In the first six months of 2009 Americans were losing their jobs at a monthly rate of 750,000 and the national unemployment rate was 9% and rising fast.

• Fully implementing the Troubled Asset Protection Program (TARP) the Obama Administration stabilized a financial services industry that was tottering from self-inflicted wounds. That financial services industry is now robust and achieving historic profits. There is no one on Wall Street who has been cashing fat bonus checks over the past seven years or the owner of shares in a major bank who honestly believes that the Obama Administration is a “failure”.

• Providing leadership that led to the passage of the $819 billion Stimulus Package, the Obama Administration literally rescued the American auto industry as well as the related industries resulting millions of jobs being saved.

• There have now been 70 consecutive months of private sector job growth creating 14 million jobs. The unemployment rate is now 5% and last year the automobile industry sold over 17 million vehicles – an historic record. There are 14 million Americans with newly created jobs who could argue with the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team when they talk about the “failure” of the Obama Administration. And the same can be said for the still employed auto workers who are riding the crest of an historic industrial wave in their industry.

• The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has provided healthcare to over 17 million Americans who didn’t have healthcare. We should ask the Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio, Smiley team to speak to the parents of a sick child who now has care thanks to Obamacare and ask them about “failure”. And Professor West and Mr. Smiley should take special care to note that Obamacare has resulted in major improvements in the health of the national black community – another “failure” in their eyes one can be sure.

• The Obama Administration led the push to pass the Dodd-Frank Act, an historic re-regulation of the financial services industry. The most comprehensive legislation of its type since the Glass-Steagall Act during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt (presumably another “failure” in on the Planet Trump-West-Cruz-Rubio-Smiley).

• President Obama has issued historic executive orders aimed at dismantling the system of mass incarceration that has imprisoned millions of Americans and eviscerated black communities throughout this country. Another “failure” only in the eyes of those who refuse to see.

This is not to suggest that there have not been mistakes and shortcomings on the record of the Obama Administration. But to suggest that it is a “failure” is to ignore facts and deny both history and the facts.

In a world of ordinary people, there are less than extraordinary people who seem to believe that they can change history by denying it. But when history books are written a century from now, Barack Obama will be recognized as an historic icon while Trump, West, Cruz, Rubio and Smiley will be footnotes to footnotes –and that will be one more thing that they will have in common

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Drama in the Fourth Quarter

Recently, President Obama pointed out something that the fans of the National Football League Seattle Seahawks (and the fans of the Green Bay Packers) experienced firsthand last weekend – the fourth quarter can be an interesting time in sports. And, as President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address shows, the fourth quarter of the Obama Administration may prove to be just as interesting as the Seahawks-Packers game.

During this week’s State of the Union speech, another of facts of American political life became apparent. First, despite the tsunami of attacks, insults, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, faux scandals (think birther or Benghazi, to name a few), President Obama still contends, he still competes, he still adheres to a vision in which the people of this country have a better life.

Second, it is also clear that the Teapublican majority in the House and Senate is not prepared to cede even the slightest credit for anything to this president. While applause meters should not be seen as a definitive indicia of much of anything, the protocols of SOTU speeches do call for applause and the Teapublicans would not, seemingly could not, applaud such mayonnaise on white bread good news items as the historic decline of unemployment, the lessening reliance on foreign oil or the fairly benign notion that the minimum wage should be raised from its current, hardly luxurious $7.25 level.

Indeed, the only time that the Teapublican cabal applauded spontaneously is when President Obama mentioned that he would never run for office again. It was, however, a move that the Teapublicans immediately regretted as the president reminded them that he was not running anymore because he had beaten them in the last two elections – thereby proving once again that at times silence really is golden.

Real world, real time issues like education, immigration reform, tax reform and the implementation of a reality-based environmental policy all need to be in the forefront of policy decision-making in Washington. The Teapublicans offer little hope that they have any interest in improving the quality of life for anyone given the fact that their first act in the new Congress was to bring a bill to the floor that articulates draconian restrictions on abortion – as if this issue is what keeps the majority of Americans awake at night. Female Teapublicans squelched this particular bit of grandstanding, but it is an unfortunate sign of things to come.

Meanwhile, another highlight of President Obama’s speech was his call for the lifting of the Cuban trade embargo, a punitive policy that was a failure at the beginning, a failure for the past half century and is a failure to this very day. And in this instance, failure means that the trade embargo has done nothing to change the political environment in Cuba, it has imposed unnecessary harm and damage on the Cuban people, and it has denied economic opportunities to American firms who cannot compete with companies that are based in more enlightened – or pragmatic – countries.

Needless to say, the Teapublican leadership seems intent on clinging to this hoary and worn out relic of the Cold War, even as the Berlin Wall has become part of the pavement between East and West, even as Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China have become robust trading partners with this country. What is it about Cuba that warrants such enmity and political hatred?

For the answer to that question, one would have to ask the aging, Castro-obsessed Cubanos in Florida and New Jersey. They are clearly the tail that is wagging the Teapublican dog in this case and it would seem that they don’t have any real answer except that they want Cuba to go back to the good old days that they remember in their fizzled dreams – and it ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile, President Obama is pursuing a progressive agenda that, while far from radical, does move the country in a different direction than that proposed by the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, et. al. As noted, the fourth quarter should be interesting.

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Be the Light Not the Darkness

It is a certainty that Barack Obama did not run for president so that he could be the first one to cut the food stamps program, a program whose recipients are mainly mothers, children and the elderly. It is also a certainty that his supporters never envisioned him presiding over a federal government that often seems to only care about shredding, carving and eviscerating America’s social safety net. To counter this Season of Mean, President Obama has stated that he will take executive action wherever possible to stem this terrible tide and it is time for us to do the same.

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), also known as the food stamp program, was devised to assist people who were on the wrong side of the poverty line. That there should be anyone in danger of starving in the wealthiest nation in the history of the planet is a disgrace. That the United States Congress could be bullied and browbeaten by Teapublican domestic terrorists and thugs wearing the gossamer disguise of fiscal conservatism is also a disgrace. But somehow, reducing the food stamp program by $8 billion over the next ten years seems better than reducing it by $40 billion over the same period of time – once more proving that the Teapublican terrorist tactics seem to be working.

The federal unemployment insurance program for the long term unemployed has literally helped people keep their homes, their hopes and their dignity. Once again the Teapublican thugs and domestic terrorists have seen fit to dismiss the very real human misery that they have caused. And in an obscene demonstration of Orwellian illogic they have claimed that unemployment insurance actually prevents people from seeking employment.

In the face of this windstorm of misery President Obama announced that he will be utilizing executive orders wherever and whenever possible to offset the domestic terrorism emanating from the right wing of the right wing. But it is a certainty that President Obama recognizes that this will not be enough.

And that is why it is important that the supporters of a progressive vision in this country expand the battlefield from the political charnel house that is the Congress to every state, city, community and neighborhood. That is why it is important that every person who believes that compassion is a virtue and that humanity is not a sign of weakness take it upon themselves to bring light where others would impose darkness.

It will remain important to change the political dynamic in Washington and in state houses and cities across the country. But the systemic change brought about by the right wing of the right wing took decades of dedicated and consistent effort. Countering that change will not take place overnight or by magical incantations.

But while that change is being confronted, countered and reversed there are children who are hungry, families that are homeless and men, women and children who are hopeless. And it is not enough to identify the Teapublicans who are their tormentors. It is time to be the light.

There are countless ways to bring gentle into the public dialogue. There are an infinite number of ways that we can demonstrate kindness – hiring an extra worker, volunteering at a school, giving food to a pantry or friendship to someone who believes that they are friendless.

What is most important is that those who truly believe in a progressive vision take the time to be the light. And in this time when the forces of darkness are real and strong, it has never been more important to be the light.

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Weekend Edition – October 25, 2013

The continued unveiling of the activities of the National Security Agency has elicited cries of “shock” from this country’s European allies. Have they been watching too much “Casablanca? Meanwhile, one of the residuals of New York’s odious Stop and Frisk policy has been the establishment of a new crime category –“Shopping While Black”. And finally, the rollout of Obamacare has been slowed by technology failures. Amazingly, the Teapublicans are outraged – and confused.

“Casablanca Redux”

It turns out that the National Security Agency has been monitoring the calls and communications of citizens in Europe. And it appears that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is included in this mix. And Chancellor Merkel was so “shocked” that she is said to have called President Obama to complain to him personally.

But what is the reason for all of this “shock” and outrage. Every developed country has an equivalent of the NSA and every country conducts various forms of industrial, military and diplomatic espionage and surveillance as a matter of course.

Chancellor Merkel may be shocked that the NSA surveillance of her communications was exposed. What she should be shocked about is that the German equivalent of the NSA or Secret Service wasn’t able to prevent that country’s head of state from being the subject of surveillance by another country for two years. Now that is shocking.

Buying While Black

The many harmful side effects to New York City’s horrible and hateful race-based Stop and Frisk policy have been recounted. The degradation of black and Latino youth and the erosion of trust of the police in communities of color are fairly obvious consequences.

And now a spate of recent news stories has revealed another consequence – the general criminalization of black people in New York. Three separate stories recount the unwarranted arrest of a black college student, a black nurse and a black movie star at prominent New York City stores – Barneys and Macy’s. Their crime? Buying While Black?”

While you won’t find this crime in the New York Penal Code, it is clear that in the view of the New York City Police Department – and local retailers – infected by the racial contagion of Stop and Frisk – feel that there is reasonable cause to arrest a black person for buying a $300 belt, a $2500 purse or a $1400 watch. Even if those purchases were purchased with the valid credit/debit card of the owner. Clearly a black person buying a high end item – or anything – is reasonable cause for arrest.

Gil Scott-Heron wrote an anti-apartheid song entitled “Johannesburg”. It might be time to change the lyrics to “What’s the word, New York New York.

Computer Blues

Since October 1st, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, has been the subject of numerous technical website problems. Although hundreds of thousands of people are already registered for affordable health care, there are millions who remain waiting online.

The Teapublicans, at their predictable knee jerk best, have convened Congressional hearings, but not for the purpose of finding out the reason for the unsurprising glitches in the most ambitious American healthcare initiative in a generation. The Teapublicans want you to believe that these absolutely correctable computer issues are justification for dismantling Obamacare in its entirety.

The fact that millions of Americans have benefited from the passage of Obamacare since 2010 is beside the point on the Planet Teapublican. The dismantling of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is their one and only goal.

Clearly the Teapublican Party is a one trick elephant.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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The Song of Solomon

The Bible may not offer all answers to all questions, but it does offer some interesting insights. This past Sunday the priest at the Catholic Church that I attend gave a sermon which referred to King Solomon and the gift of wisdom that had been granted to him. A clear illustration of that wisdom was his resolution of the dispute between two women as to who was the actual mother of a small infant.

You will recall that King Solomon, after listening to the arguments of the two women claiming to be the child’s mother, offered a very simple solution – cut the baby in half. One contender immediately agreed to this horrific solution while the other woman, appalled beyond imagination immediately gave up her cause, granting the child to her opponent rather than risk harm to the baby in question.

In his infinite wisdom, King Solomon declared that the woman who agreed to cutting the baby in half was the impostor. His impeccable reasoning was that the true mother of the child would rather give up the child than see it harmed in any way.

And that brings us to the latest debt ceiling/budget debate. Every respected economist, every respectable business commentator and every serious financial publication has stated in the clearest possible terms that the harm of an August 2nd fiscal default by the United States government would result in a horrific impact on the global economy, on the American economy and on the lives and livelihoods of the American people.

In the event of such a default, which would be the first in the 222 year history of this country, the international marketplace would be destabilized, causing incalculable damage to the economy of countries around the world. In the event of a default the American economy, already wobbly and barely breathing the fresh air of distant recovery, would suffer setbacks ranging from higher interest rates to increased unemployment as businesses would lose much needed access to capital for their business operations.

Sadly, the American people would suffer as well. Employees of government contractors would be unpaid and furloughed, if not dismissed. Elderly citizens and children would risk missing meals and necessary medical care.

The Federal Aviation Administration is already shut down in 35 states because Congress could not overcome G.O.Tea Party obstinacy and phony fiscal pledges. As this column is being written 4000 FAA workers have been laid off and hundreds of millions of dollars of airport infrastructure repairs have been halted. Now multiply this madness throughout the entire governmental apparatus and you begin to see the potential for financial and social Armageddon.

The G.O.Tea Party has made a profession out of pseudo-patriotism. But it takes more than singing the national anthem and wearing an American flag pin to be a patriot. The cavalier fashion in which the Tea Party stalwarts and their partners in foolishness have dealt with this self-induced budget crisis is alarming and incredibly dangerous.

Just as King Solomon uncovered the phony mother by threatening to harm the child she claimed to be hers, the G.O.Tea Party is showing itself to be the fake patriots by embracing the disaster that looms over this country and its people.

The truth is that the G.O.Tea Party has no philosophy and no principle to which its followers adhere except the overwhelming desire to bring about the defeat of President Obama. There is no argument regarding fiscal probity that would support allowing the federal government to default. When Ronald Reagan, the G.O.Tea Party deity, was president, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times in a little less than 8 years! Indeed, it was President Reagan who said that allowing the United States to default would be “unthinkable”.

But now the inmates have taken over the asylum and are threatening to blow it up. The no new taxes pledge of the Tea Partiers is a fake fig leaf to cover their naked desire to fatally damage the presidency of Barack Obama. That the G.O.Tea Party would damage this country for decades to come in their frothing ambition to unseat the President of the United States is shameful and should be labeled for what it is – treasonous.

How ironic it is that Representative Michelle Bachmann, the head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress once suggested that Barack Obama should be investigated for his “un-American views”. It turns out that the real traitors wear Tea Party hats and wave American flags to distract us from their real mission – the defeat of Barack Obama even at the risk of wrecking this country’s economy.

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Weekend Edition – January 14, 2011

We try to make sense of the Tucson Massacre and immediately there are too many voices saying too many things. Sometimes it is not possible to make sense out of nonsense yet we are compelled to try.

Barack Obama for President

During the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre there was some very real question about what President Obama should say and when he should say it. Having given the obligatory statement of remorse and regret he made the personally courageous act of flying to the scene of the crime to deliver what can only be described as an oratorical masterpiece.

He was able to blend themes of grief, compassion, exhortation and promise. President Obama has been criticized during the past year as being aloof and “cool”. On January 12th he touched the hearts and minds of Americans, not only those in attendance in the Arizona University field house. During that thirty minute speech he reminded all who listened as to how and why he was President of the United States.

His ability to articulate the emotional and psychic architecture of the American public is remarkable. That he could do so with so many disparate forces at work in Arizona resulted in a truly memorable address.

This week Barack Obama reasserted himself as President and Commander in Chief by providing leadership in a moment when it was truly needed.

The Decline and Fall of Sarah Palin

This past week also saw the beginning of what I predict will be the precipitous decline and fall of the political career of Sarah Palin. There is an expression about pride going before the fall. Ms. Palin’s pride is certainly precipitating her fall.

Knowing that one of the finest orators in modern American politics was going to give a speech on Wednesday evening, Sarah Palin decided to release a videotaped statement on Wednesday morning. And it was a disaster – for her.

She could have chosen to express compassion for the victims of the Tucson Massacre and left it at that. She could have chosen to call upon all actors on the political stage to turn down the rhetorical volume if only out of respect for the losses suffered by fellow Americans.

Instead, she employed a Fractured Fairytale version of American history, trying to channel the intentions of the Founding Fathers while justifying her reckless and remorseless assault on the sensibilities of the American public.

She refused to acknowledge the viability of the concern of many that her placing a cross-hair target on the office of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was, at the very least, an unwise act. Of course, one of the many who had that concern was Congresswoman Giffords, one of Sarah Palin’s “targets”.

That one of Ms. Palin’s targets was shot in the head may just be an ugly coincidence. Given the tortured brain patterns of the accused killer, we may never know. But the ugliness of the coincidence would be enough to give one pause. Unless that one is Sarah Palin. For more on the connection between words and deeds in today’s culture please go to this link – http://hiphopandpolitics.com/2011/01/11/rappers-catch-heat-for-inflammatory-words-why-cant-sarah-palin/

Somehow Sarah Palin sees the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre to be all about her. Her narcissism ranks with Snooki, Paris Hilton and Kanye West. But none of them presume to speak seriously about the issues that are important to the future of this country. It is past time for Sarah Palin to show similar restraint. For details on her outright attempt to change the subject in her recent video please go to this link – http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47588.html

And, as if the hole she dug wasn’t deep enough, she excavated some more by referring to criticisms of her as being a “blood libel”. With those words Sarah Palin showed that she not only has she no shame, she also has no sense of good taste.

It is time for her to go.

Have a great weekend!

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Weekend Edition – December 24, 2010

Some observations before the holiday weekend:

Shellacking? What Shellacking?

Was it just last month that the right wing of the right wing was crowing about the “shellacking” that he had received at the hands of the voters? That “shellacking” now appears to be headed to the dustbin of history as the accomplishments of the Obama Administration speak louder than words.

Many observers, me included, were skeptical of the tax cut deal that President Obama brokered with Republicans who were still drunk from the wine of electoral victory. It turns out that Barack Obama was indeed able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

By getting the contentious issue of taxes off the table the Republicans were bereft of any rationale for opposing the consideration of the balance of the Obama agenda. And then the ball started rolling – passage of an historic food safety law, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t tell, the ratification of the START treaty and last, but not least, the passage of the 9/11 first responders health care bill.

In what seems like a blink of an eye, President Obama has indeed engineered the “change” that so many sought when they voted for him in November of 2008. When the Lame Duck Miracle is combined with the transformative national healthcare legislation, the rescue of the auto industry and the regulatory reform of the financial services industry it would seem that we are witnessing history.

I have no doubt that the disloyal opposition will seek to promote its obstructionist agenda in 2011. I also have no doubt that this President is fully capable of outmaneuvering that opposition.

Isn’t it great when the good guy wins every once in a while?

Rent A Slave Anyone?

This past week witnessed the shameful Secessionist Ball in Charleston, South Carolina. Grown men and women dressed up in antebellum costumes to commemorate the secession of South Carolina from the United States – the first step in what was the bloodiest war in the history of this country.

That secession and the ensuing Confederate States of America was all about the continued enslavement of black men, women and children is not subject to debate. The writings of the Founding Fathers of the bastard CSA were very clear that the intent of secession and the ensuing war was to preserve the damnable and peculiar institution called slavery.

Now, 150 years later, there are cretinous buffoons across the South who plan to celebrate the slavery, slaughter and residual animosities for the next 4 ½ years! There are mendacious and utterly false claims that secession and the confederacy were about state’s rights and a resistance to big government. Sound familiar?

It may sound familiar but it is a damned and damnable lie. That any person of goodwill, whatever their political persuasion, would celebrate such an awful aspect of America is a disgrace. That black Americans in particular have to bear witness to this blood libel for the next 4 ½ is a perversion.

However, since this is America, land of free enterprise, I have a proposition for these amoral secessionist revelers. Don’t stop at dressing up as slave owners and defenders of slavery. Get some black people to dress up as slaves – liveried servants, maids, butlers, personal attendants and concubines.

Make the entire celebration authentic and, in the process provide much needed jobs for thousands of unemployed black people throughout the South.

Rent A Slave should be a big hit with these undisguised bigots. There will be no need for field workers or heavy lifting, just “house” work. And, at the end of every assignment, the “slave” can be “emancipated” by the Rent A Slave customer. I can envision Frequent Slave Owner awards as well as Executive and Platinum Slave Owner status.

These maniacs have no respect for history, morality, black people or these United States. They might as well wallow in it.

Holiday Greeting

There is no way to wish away the harshness of this past year. But I do wish all the best to all of the Point of View readers in the new year (and to the right wing of the right wing as well).

Have a great weekend!

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In Defense of Barack Obama

During the past week, President Obama has been excoriated for negotiating a tax bill compromise with Congressional Republicans. Progressives and liberals have rhetorically flayed him for consorting dancing with the devil.

And what is the mortal sin that President Obama has committed? Agreeing to a continued tax reduction that is not limited by income – therefore millionaires and billionaires, as is their custom, will devour the lion’s share of benefits intended by this tax reduction.

This negotiated compromise also continues unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who have been out of work for far too long and it will also include a payroll tax deduction that benefits just about everyone with a job.

Candidate Obama promised to eliminate the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy”. President Obama is aware that the results of the 2010 election were not so much a “refudiation” (apologies to Sarah Palin) of his policies as a reflection of American frustration with the economy.
The tax bill compromise is, in many ways, an incognito $900 billion stimulus package. If this second near-trillion dollar stimulus actually begins to revive the moribund American economy the words “hope” and “change” will no longer be banned.

And President Obama is also aware of something else: the average goldfish has a memory of 3-5 seconds. The memory of the American electorate is somewhat less.

If the economy does revive, the American people will start to retreat from the precipice of personal desperation where too many of us now reside. At that point no one will remember the tax bill compromise.

Let us remember that in less than two years the Obama Administration has fundamentally transformed the manner in which health care will be delivered in this country. As a result, the United States will finally be competitive with the rest of the industrialized world in this very critical area. It is critical not only with respect to the health of American citizens, but also with respect to the health of the American economy.

We also need to remember that the Obama Administration has instituted the first fundamental reforms of the financial services industry in over fifty years. This, of course, is the industry in which dysfunction and deceit served as the handmaidens to the disaster that has befallen this economy for the past three years. This reform has the potential to be nothing short of historic.

We also need to remember that it is due to the efforts of President Obama that the international prestige and influence of the United States has been positively transformed. While the problems of this planet seem to be intractablethe truth is that the United States is now seen more as a partner than an overlord, the World Cup and Olympic votes notwithstanding.

These accomplishments and so many more need to be remembered and recounted in order that the success of the Obama Administration can continue, and so that its errors and miscalculations can be revised without rancor.

The alternatives offered by Palin and Romney and Boehner and McCain and Pawlenty are worse than unpalatable, but the steady, corrosive, microcritiques of Barack Obama could make those alternatives a reality.

President Obama has clearly decided to pivot and comply with aspects of the Republican agenda in order to achieve the success of his presidency and its policies. When Bill Clinton did it in 1994 he was proclaimed a political genius for the ages. President Obama is using that playbook with slightly different terminology and there are too many who wish to brand him as a traitor to the cause.

Politics is rarely simple or simplistic despite the best efforts of some to reduce the facts and issues to the lowest common denominator. But it is true that winning is defining and losing can be death for the causes and issues that are important.

President Obama is intent on winning. Losing is not an option in these days and times. We will remember healthcare, financial reform, an improved environment and enhanced educational opportunities for our children.

If the “compromise” revives the economy, not even a bowlful of goldfish will remember.

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It Must Be The Season

I am certain that there is the odd birther and the not uncommon G.O.Tea Partier who celebrated when the news reports surfaced regarding President Obama getting hit in the mouth during a pickup basketball game. But at the beginning of this week the Obama Administration absorbed a serious body blow that cannot possibly be the cause for celebration in any portion of the increasingly self-absorbed American body politic.

Over the weekend, Julian Assange, the self-appointed avatar of the truth (as he defines it) executed the largest leak of United States governmental files and secret information in the history of this country. The hundreds of thousands of files and millions of pages of correspondence and communication between the United States government and its political and diplomatic contacts abroad were disseminated by WikiLeaks and this deluge of confidential information has been the cause for celebration and dismay throughout the world. I am voting for dismay.

This massive dumping of confidential files, communications and information was done in the name of transparency, but clearly there have been no guiding principles involved. Being the coffee swilling private eye parked in a beat up Chevy in the parking lot of the motel of international diplomacy doesn’t strike me as particularly heroic or particularly helpful.

Knowing every internal conversation by every government does not help us to understand geopolitical forces and movements. Knowing that Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi is afraid of heights doesn’t tell us anything important. Now that we know that Saudi Arabian officials may have asked the United States to bomb Iran only tells us that a range of options, even outrageous ones, are always considered by even remotely intelligent individuals who are in positions of responsibility.

The WikiLeaks disclosures may have a harmful effect on the Obama Administration in its pursuit of various foreign policy and security goals and objectives, but no one really knows. It is very hard to prove a negative.

We do know, for example, that the Iranian-American doctor who escaped Iran on horseback and arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Turkey having fled his captors in Iran, is now terrified that his family members living in Iran will be imprisoned, tortured or killed now that his story has been made public.

Who died and made Julian Assange the final judge as to who will live or die by reason of his disclosures? More importantly, one wonders what standards or criteria he employed in deciding what information was worth disclosing and what costs and consequences for others he was willing to consider as being acceptable.

The embarrassment suffered by American diplomats, but one has to wonder if communications in the future will be compromised or constrained both internally and on bilateral and multilateral bases. Frank conversations and blunt assessments have been a part of diplomacy and foreign policy from the earliest tribal days of humanity.

No one should be shocked or surprised by the candor that is found in these leaked documents. But even professional career diplomats will be fettered in their future work if there is the very real likelihood that there every thought, musing or hypothetical conjuring can be made public.

There is an old adage about two things that one never wants to see being made – one is sausage and the other is legislation. I would add foreign policy to an updated version.

If Julian Assange had uncovered corruption, fraud and deceit like the weaving of the myth of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that led to the hellish and damnable American invasion of Iraq I would be the first to applaud him. But this latest foray seems prurient and self-indulgent.

I am in favor of transparency, but there is reason that there are doors on bathrooms and curtains on bedrooms.

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Modern Day Fairy Tales

When we were children we listened to fairy tales and fables. Cows jumping over the moon and gingerbread houses and magic beans were all part of our nightly fare. As parents, we have told these magic nighttime stories to our children replete with goblins and fairies along with wizards and warlocks.

It all seems to be perfectly harmless. After all, reality is always lurking outside the door, waiting to ensnare children in the coils of responsibility and sober reason. Some mystical escapism tempered with the lessons of the day has been a timeless combination that continues to this very day.

The only problem with fairy tales and fables is when children become adults and still believe them. Women waiting for Prince Charming and men searching for Cinderella can really be quite sad in reality. Political candidates invoking the boogie man and trolls under bridges along with pots of gold at the ends of rainbows are really quite dangerous given the gravity of the problems and challenges facing this planet.

I imagine that all of us wish the travails of Mary and her little lamb and little Miss Muffett and her arachnophobia were the biggest problems of the day. But these are grim times and not Grimm times – there is a difference.

The G.O.Tea Party has sauntered its way to the presumed precipice of victory on November 2nd by peddling fairy tales and fables that, repeated enough times, have taken on the aura of reality. The fable of “death panels for grandma” ranks right up there with the seven dwarfs, but somehow too many of the American people believed and of an important end of life counseling feature of the original healthcare bill was eliminated. And those of us living in the real world must suffer the consequences.

There have been so many “statements” and “inquiries” regarding President Obama’s nativity that questions of his citizenship have the same currency as the NORAD tracking of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Most adults know that the NORAD tracking is just for the amusement of children. The damnable questioning of Barack Obama’s citizenship is shameful and stupid, but more people question his birthplace today than when he ran for President two years ago.

The G.O.Tea Party and its cohorts (with brown shirts and sheets and torches and pitchforks safely tucked away for the moment) would have us believe that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have embarked on a left of liberal, quasi-Marxist legislative agenda that will subvert the rights of every citizen.

Like the three little pigs hovering in their brick home, the G.O.Tea Party adherents believe that Big Bad Obama will huff and puff and blow away all of their freedoms. The fact that there is no proof of such an agenda has not deterred the proponents of these diatribes and the lack of reality has not caused true believers to even pause and wonder.

The stimulus package in all likelihood saved the American economy from cratering and collapsing. There is no doubt that the Obama Administration saved the American auto industry and the millions of jobs related to an industry that has been the very embodiment of Americana for over a century. How that translates into taking away freedoms, aside from the freedom to be poor and unemployed escapes me. But then reality escapes most of the G.O.Tea Party, so we are even.

Mice running up clocks and spiders washing down water spouts may be great conversation points for five year olds, but it is not helpful to the national discourse. Advocating the dismantling of the United States Department of Energy and the United States Department of Education are stories to scare children at night – they are not part of a useful political agenda when this country’s energy policies are in dire need of reconfiguration and this country’s education system teeters between world class quality and dysfunction (depending on where you live and how much money you can spend).

While Halloween is fittingly two days before the midterm elections, even Christine O’Donnell flying by on a broom can’t make reasonable people believe in these fairy tales. We are living in very difficult times with an uncertain future.

This cannot possibly be the time for fables and confectionery stories that make us feel good right after we have our warm milk and cookies. The fact that the Obama Administration has tackled the structural problems in this country’s economy is not a cause for alarm, no matter what is said in the multimillion dollar advertising campaign funded by individuals and corporations that have made billions by reason of these structural problems.

What is important now is for people who are awake and in possession of their wits to go and vote. Too many people who want to believe the G.O.Tea Party fairy tales are going to vote, supposedly in record numbers – with their anger and their refusal to acknowledge the fables that they have been fed for what they are – cynical lies intended to distract voters from reality.

And the reality is that the day after the election, if too many people believe the fairy tales, there will be a real nightmare that will not end.

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