Point of View Columns

Trump as Macbeth

When it comes to Donald Trump there appears to be no limit to the depths to which he will descend in his faux campaign for the presidency, a campaign that seems more and more like a textbook exercise in narcissistic self-indulgence. But this time, using his dog whistle to suggest a “Second Amendment solution” to Hillary Clinton he has once again gone too far.

It was only six years ago that Sarah Palin rose from the ashes of a failed campaign for the Vice Presidency to reincarnate herself as a Tea Party Queen. But as she staggered and wobbled from one misstatement to another falsehood, she too went too far. In the fall of 2010 she “targeted” members of Congress who should be defeated by the Tea Party zealots.

In case anyone was short on interpreting symbolism, Sarah Palin’s website displayed a national map and put a gun scope on the offices of the “targeted” Representatives. And then, a few months later, one of the Congressional Representatives targeted by Palin, Gabby Gifford of Arizona, was shot in the head.

Although it has not been confirmed that the shooter was inspired by Sarah Palin, and it is clear that he is a deranged individual, Sarah Palin created an atmosphere where “Second Amendment solutions” start to sound sane to the insane. And the blood of the individuals killed and maimed in Tucson is on the hands of Sarah Palin – indeed she is a modern day Lady Macbeth who will never be able to wash that blood off her hands.

And now along comes Donald Trump, a virtuoso dog whistle player, intimating that Second Amendment adherents could somehow solve the “Hillary problem”. Defenders/enablers of Trump contend that he is guilty of no more than spewing a bad, tasteless joke.

But there is a huge part of this country’s population that has seen presidents shot (Reagan) and killed (Kennedy, John). Many Americans have also witnessed the assassination (Kennedy, Robert) and maiming (Wallace) of presidential candidates in real time. And now that we live in a nation with over 300 million guns it would seem that this would be the worst time to kid around, joke around or dog whistle around rhetoric that even hints of “Second Amendment solutions” to the presidential campaign.

The Secret Service has already taken note of Trump’s comments, another unprecedented occurrence in American political history. But much like Lady Macbeth, we already know that any violence directed against Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her campaign will elicit a canned denial from Trump, who will then be America’s Macbeth.

Of course, what is so sad and sickening about this entire situation is that Trump is the designated candidate of a major American political party. What is worse is that there are tens of millions of Americans who think that arrogant, indecent and profane man should be President of the United States. What is even worse is that even when Trump is defeated in November and he goes back to his gaudy hotels and his defraudulent schemes and his golf courses, those tens of millions of Americans will still be with us.

And that may be the greatest danger of all. Trump will go away and disappear into the swamp of indecency and self-aggrandizement from which he slithered. But those tens of millions of Trump supporters aren’t going anywhere.

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Point of View Columns

The Obamas – A Real Class Act

As the Obama Administration heads into the final lap of its eight year term, it is time for retrospectives to begin. And we can begin with the fact that, even after all the mudslinging and flaming arrows aimed at the President and Mrs. Obama; they have Stayed Strong and continue to Be Great. They have epitomized the concept of “grace under fire” – one more thing for which little credit is given to Barack and Michelle Obama.

Consider the First Lady’s remarks at the recent Jackson State University commencement ceremonies:

“When I hear words like dignity and excellence, I think about my husband … As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you. I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course …”

Much has been written about the substantive and institutional accomplishments of President Obama – the Affordable Healthcare Act and the introduction of a national health care system – the Dodd Frank Act and the initiation of the most ambitious reformation of the financial services system in almost ninety years and, of course, the salvation of the American economy in 2009. These items are historic and undeniable.

More subtle, and perhaps more important, has been the ability of President and Mrs. Obama exhibiting grace and class under the most intense pressure imaginable. Being called a “liar” from the floor of Congress or doubt being cast on the patriotism and Christianity of the President has been bad enough. Being called “shiftless” by the Sarah Palin, the Wicked Witch of the West must have been galling.

Being assailed on the “birther” issue by a carnival barker like Donald Trump might have been laughable for the first week or so, but after the first year the racist fumes of this noxious assault must have been revolting. But Barack and Michelle Obama stayed the course.

And for those who would say that in the 21st century the Obamas do not have any particular responsibility to establish respect for black America or represent black dignity in America I would suggest that they should take a closer look the next time they go shopping. Aunt Jemima is still on that pancake box, Uncle Ben is still on that box of rice and the Gold Dust Twins are still selling flour in the next aisle.

The sordid reality is that in the 21st century relics of black minstrelsy and slavery are still acceptable in the marketplace and so it should come as no shock that dignity and respect for black Americans are goals that have yet to be achieved. The First Family did not seek the responsibility of countering these charmless images, but just by being they have done so.

And so it is important that Barack and Michelle Obama have been able to maintain a stable marriage and raise two teenage daughters in the pressure cooker that is the American presidency, giving many white Americans (and some black Americans), a vision that they can only imagine. Given all the negative statistics regarding the pathologies attendant to black families, this First Family opens the door to the truth that stable and positive black families can and do exist in these days and times.

There will always be the black naysayers who want Barack Obama to “act more like a brother”. But history will show that what was important was that he and his wife acted like a man and woman with class and charm and dignity.

And that says a lot in these days and times.

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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.

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Prelude to Impeachment

Since the evening of the  very day day he was inaugurated as President of the United States on January 19, 2009, the opposition to Barack Obama has sought to delegitimize his presidency, obstruct his administration all the while dismissing his achievements and exaggerating his missteps. The results have been mixed. President Obama was reelected by a sizeable vote in 20012. Today his poll numbers are at an all-time low. On the Planet Teapublican that means it is time to play the Impeachment Card.

Only two American presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton (Richard Nixon narrowly escaped almost certain impeachment and subsequent conviction by resigning and fleeing the White House in disgrace). It is worth noting that neither impeachment resulted in conviction, leading to the slightly obvious conclusion that these proceedings were politically motivated rather than being inspired by actual “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The politically charged atmosphere of the Obama Administration where the clouds of  negative ions are almost visible, it should come as no surprise that Teapublicans are feeling more empowered to use the “I” word every day. Of course it is hard to bring impeachment proceedings just because his very presence in the White House offends the racial and political sensibilities of his opposition. That is where the Prelude to Impeachment becomes a part of the always rickety and forever bizarre Teapublican strategy.

While highly respected constitutional scholars like Sarah Palin and Darrell Issa have opined that there are already grounds to impeach President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner has settled on a game plan that begins with the House of Representatives filing a lawsuit against the president. The basis for this lawsuit appears to center around the use of executive orders and the president exercising his discretion in the face of historic Congressional inaction.

It must be noted that lawsuits have been filed by Congress against the President in years past. But this planned lawsuit must be seen within the context of a six year campaign to get Barack Obama out of the White House by any means necessary.

The “birther” mania, while brainless and idiotic, was given CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation through nuance, implication and inference by the likes of John Boehner, Mitt Romney and other “serious Teapublicans”, to say nothing of the braying of Donald Trump, the screeching of Sarah Palin and the caterwauling of Michele Bachmann. Even the dimmest of these dim bulbs have always known that the “birther” strategy was not going to work, but it represented a few grains of hope on the hard scrabble earth of truth and reality.

Now there is some real sustenance for the meat eaters on the right. A lawsuit sounds sane and reasonable and it involves real lawyers and real judges – nothing nutty like questioning the provenance of a birth certificate. A lawsuit by the United States Congress sounds reality-based and if it wasn’t in the sixth year of the Obama Era, it might possible that there would be a credible basis for legal action.

But this is the sixth year of the Obama Era and it is hard to separate the delegitimizing efforts of these six years from this proposed lawsuit. The fact that law school professors and other “scholars” have supported the notion of this lawsuit misses the point.

The proposed lawsuit is a clear Prelude to Impeachment. The Teapublican strategy can be described as follows:
1. File a lawsuit against President Obama claiming that he has overstepped his constitutional boundaries.
2. Tie up the Obama Administration and the media attention for the next few months.
3. Await the 2014 election results.
4. Regardless results of the election and the lawsuit commence impeachment proceedings in 2015.
5. Tie up the Obama Administration and media attention for all of 2015.
6. Even with the likely event that President Obama will not be convicted even if he is impeached, leave President Obama as the lamest of lame ducks in 2016 with his legacy forever tarnished.

This is the Teapublican strategy which, if you will notice, does nothing to address the economy, the environment, the infrastructure, immigration reform or healthcare. All that this strategy represents is the last major assault by the Teapublicans against President Obama. A last gasp, if you will.

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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 exceedingly 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 hasbeen 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 have already determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.

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Weekend Edition – January 24, 2014

Like a recurring bad dream Sarah Palin just keeps coming back, showering us with torrents of stupidity – last week the pattern continued. Meanwhile Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks proved himself to be an outrageously exuberant competitor, how that made him a “thug” in the eyes of some people reveals a lot about some people. And finally, it turns out that Mike Huckabee knows that there are a lot of women out there who simply cannot control their libidos. Who knew?

The Unsinkable Sarah Palin

In an interview President Obama offers the observation that some (not all) Americans who oppose him are racially motivated. In other words some white Americans don’t like him because he is black. He also opined that some black Americans like him simply because he is black.

Knowing Barack Obama’s aversion to racial controversy, it is pretty clear that he was stating some very obvious truths. There is certainly a racial element at work in his opposition, those Confederate flags and drawings of him with a bone through his nose – along with the birther myths didn’t just spring up like mushrooms.

And the fact that over 90% of black Americans supported President Obama at the polls indicates that there is an element of perceived racial solidarity among his supporters. After all, it is hard to find too many other things upon which 90% of black Americans agree.

And then Sarah Palin comes along saying that President Obama is “playing the race card”. She actually accused the man who never whines of whining that his opposition is race-based instead of policy-based.

If Sarah Palin were to actually engage in the thought process from time to time she might actually utter a fact-based word or two. Clearly, last week was not one of those times.

Sherman’s March

Last week football fans were treated to a great NFC championship game between the San Francisco 49’ers and the Seattle Seahawks. It was an entertaining and highly competitive game that was not decided until the final seconds. And it was in those final seconds that Seattle’s star cornerback, Richard Sherman, made a great play.

And that is when the fun started.

Within two minutes of the end of the game a reporter asked Richard Sherman about the game. With adrenaline coursing through his veins at about a million miles an hour he vented, boasted and vented some more, releasing some of the energy that had propelled him to superstardom on the great stage of sports.

Later Richard Sherman apologized for going over the top. He also pointed out that the only way that most NFL players can be successful is to adopt a hyper-competitive persona on the field and that he had not had time to “flip the switch” moments after the greatest game of his career.

And then………..the Twitterverse exploded and cascades of racist insults rained down upon Richard Sherman – he was called a “thug”, a “nigger” and (unbelievably) worse. And somehow a segment of the sports world lost sight of the fact that athletes, including Richard Sherman, are human beings.

They also lost sight of the fact that he graduated second in his class in high school, graduated from Stanford University and is pursuing a Master’s degree. They also lost sight of the fact that he is a young, articulate and thoughtful man who deserves better treatment for an outburst that may have boisterous but was not mean or obscene.

But most of all, that segment of the sports world lost sight of the fact that Richard Sherman is a human being.

Ladies’ Man?

Some things cannot be made up. This past week Mike Huckabee, a possible Teapublican candidate for president in the 2016 election, opined that some American women are using government funded healthcare services in order to obtain contraceptives to control their “libidos”. (He really said this.)

It is not clear whether there is any truth to the rumor that Mike Huckabee has been deluged with inquiries from single men as to where these women with uncontrollable libidos might reside.

Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Weekend Edition – January 17, 2014

It must be the Mean Season on the Planet Teapublican – seemingly the only explanation for its followers in Congress insisting on continuing to deny benefits to the long term unemployed. Meanwhile, in an effort to repair the wreckage to the Voting Rights Act inflicted by the RobertsonScaliaThomasAlito cabal in the Supreme Court, Congress engaged in a bit of sleight of hand. And finally, while the celebratory skydive of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was covered in the news, Sarah Palin, the approximate cause of her discontent, got a free pass.

In the Land of Mean

Too many Americans know the stress and the shame and the pain of unemployment. The painful irony is that the longer that someone is unemployed, the more difficult it is to find a job. Indeed, some unenlightened employers refuse to even interview unemployed job applicants.

Over the last few years the federal government has extended benefits to the long term unemployed. It has certainly been a compassionate initiative and it has also been helpful to a hobbled national economy, provided direct infusions of cash to shops, stores and service providers each time those checks have gone out.

Now in step the Teapublican shock troops claiming that unemployment benefits, meager as they are, provide a disincentive for the unemployed to find a job. Heroic hypocrites like Congressman Paul Ryan – who grew up in a wealthy family that made its money as government contractors, used his father’s Social Security death benefits to attend college and who never had to look for a job in his life – claim that budget balancing is more important than saving the lives and self-respect of millions.

I am certain that Paul Ryan and his fellow Ayn Rand acolytes are good to their own children and family members. But it has been said that we measure the generosity of someone’s spirit in how they treat people that they do not know.

By that measure Paul Ryan and the Teapublicans come up short.

That Old Bad Magic

When observing events in Congress it is important to pay attention to the details. The seemingly laudable bi-partisan effort to repair the damage caused by the United State Supreme Court in virtually gutting the Voting Rights Act last year is a case in point.

The new legislation which seems to address many of the key elements of the Supreme Court’s attack on America, particularly black and Latino America, does not address the odious Photo I.D. legislation that is spreading across this country like some incurable cancer from KKK hell.

So we will read in the paper that Congress has passed a new Voting Right Act. Great news!

Race/racist driven Photo I.D. laws will still be the subject of trench warfare, state by state, county by county because Congress could not/would not act on this transparent strategy to suppress the voting power of people of color.

NOT great news!

Free Pass for Sarah Palin?

Last week most people of good will celebrated the fact that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords celebrated her continued recovery from the Tucson Massacre by sky diving. Her recovery is an inspiring narrative and a tribute to the strength of her spirit and the support of her husband, family and friends.

But Sarah Palin, the Lady Macbeth in this story, was never mentioned in the news media. Somehow, only three years later, the mainstream media seems to have forgotten that it was on Sarah Palin’s website that a rifle scope was placed over then Congresswoman Gifford’s district – along with several others.

The fact that the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords in the head may not have been directly inspired by Sarah Palin’s cyber-obscenity does not diminish the fact that her overheated and gun-inspired rhetoric contributed to an atmosphere where violence entered into public and political discourse.

Sarah Palin should never get a free pass on this one.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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