Point of View Columns

The Circus is Back in Town

During the 2012 presidential campaign (which actually began in 2011), the Teapublican Party provided a bizarre and macabre Clown Carnival disguised as an electoral process. There was one Senate candidate who had to deny that she was a witch and another who introduced the particularly vile concept of “legitimate rape”. There was a presidential candidate who quoted the Japanese anime character Pokémon and another who wanted to colonize the moon. It turns out that 2012 was just the opening act.

Having written two published novels I would like to think that I have some idea of what kind of fiction is marketable. And I am certain that if I presented my agent with a book proposal that had a leader of the Teapublican Congress losing his seat to an avowed Ayn Rand zealot, she would throw me out of her office.

Yet, the latest news is that Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, lost in a primary to David Brat (you cannot make this up), a college professor who presumably lights candles to honor Ayn Rand every night. That would be the Eric Cantor who has voted to repeal Obamacare over fifty times. That would be the Eric Cantor who voted to cut food stamps and increases in benefits for veterans. The same Eric Cantor who led a Tea Party contingent in Congress that has shut down the federal government, imposed draconian sequestration cuts that impacted too many Americans and threatened to wreck the credit rating of the United States.

That Eric Cantor was not conservative enough for the citizens of the Congressional district in Virginia that he represents and we will now have to endure the lunacy of another ultraconservative who will be very comfortable with the likes of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Tim Scott and the Koch Brothers. And while David Brat may be comfortable with his theoretical musings on how the world would operate with little or no government, the implementation of his vision would produce a living nightmare for most Americans.

It begins with the fact that David Brat lives in the dream world of the self-made man. Somehow, in his contrived universe, he was responsible for building the public schools that educated him as well as training the teachers that taught him. In The World According to Brat, he earned everything through his own hard work and dedication – the roads and bridges and social safety net that protects him and most Americans have had nothing to do with his success.

The defeat of Eric Cantor should just be an historical anomaly. He is the first Majority Leader to have been defeated in a primary since the position was established in the 1890’s. But there is more to David Brat’s victory. Assuming that he will prevail in the general election in an overwhelmingly (and gerrymandered) Teapublican district, he will be one more voice of negativity, denial and fantasy added to the already unbearable Cacophony of No that is the Teapublican majority in the House of Representatives.

The takeaway from the downfall of Eric Cantor is that elections matter and that it is important to vote. The other takeaway is that David Brat is the symptom of a malady that is infecting the body politic and none of us are immune.

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Point of View Columns

The Post Racial Fairy Tale

The election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 was a global feel good moment. Americans savored the notion of a young, energetic and brilliant new president. The sickness of war and the souring economy had this country yearning for the change that Obama promised. And the world looked on with wonder that a nation with a history that has been stained with the impossible atrocities of racism since its birth could elect a black man to lead it. It was at that moment that the narrative of the post racial fairy tale began to be told – and sold.

White Americans held up the election of Barack Obama as proof that America had “moved on” and that race was no longer a factor in political discourse. Even black Americans got caught up in the moment as President Obama’s inauguration was touted as the fulfillment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream – even though towards the end of his life Dr. King’s rhetoric was decidedly anti-establishment.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, upon Barack Obama taking office, his opponents could let slip the racist dogs of war all the while claiming that the president was “fair game”. Rush Limbaugh bellowed that he wanted President Obama to “fail” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell muttered hours after the oath of office was administered that his only goal was to insure that Barack Obama would be a one term president. Although such post-inaugural invective was unprecedented we were assured that there was nothing racial going on…just “fair game”.

And then, like mushrooms popping up in the slime of the forest, the Tea Party appeared. And so did effigies of Barack Obama being burned. And so did posters of Barack Obama depicted as a deranged black Joker and a witch doctor (complete with a bone through his nose). Republicans, Tea Party zealots and Teapublicans assured us that there was nothing racial going on….just “fair game”.

History can be a trickster. We can remember where we were on 9/11 but we forget that the Teapublican Party apparatus dedicated itself to complete and unalterable opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act proposed by President Obama, even though it would address the urgent health care needs of over 40 million Americans and the ongoing health care needs of over 300 million Americans. They opposed the Act even though its key elements were taken from the health care initiative proposed by the everlasting conservative (and Republican) Hoover Institute. Once again, we were assured that we were now living in a post racial America and the entire furor was just politics as usual.

President Obama was called a liar while giving an address to the United States Congress (by a United States Congressman!!!!) and we were told that in post racial America it was politics as usual. Sarah Palin winked at supporters who shouted “Kill him” referring to President Obama and we were told that it was just part of the post racial political scrum.

Throughout his presidency Barack Obama has been subject to the shameful “birther” attacks. Unprecedented in American presidential history, idiots from Rush Limbaugh to Donald Trump has sucked up news time and air space questioning the authenticity of President Obama’s citizenship. Once again, we were assured that there was nothing racist going on, just legitimate inquiry, or “fair game”.

Finally, and hopefully not too late, the cover of the racists and the bigots and the prejudiced miscreants has been blown. Over a dozen states have instituted laws that, while touted as being written to address non-existent voter fraud, are intended to suppress voter turnout among black Americans.

This is a throwback to the days of the Klan which had as its twin guiding lights the preservation of the sanctity of white women and the prevention of blacks from attaining any political power. Voter suppression was the key weapon of Klan because it recognized that voting black Americans were dangerous.

In this allegedly post-racial America, voter suppression has replaced Willie Horton ads and hysterical calls to action. In 2000 the Republican Party literally stole the presidential election and ushered in the Bush-Cheney flirtation with national and global disaster. As has been written before, rather than try to steal another election in November, the Teapublicans have decided to steal the election in August.

Mitt Romney goes to England and takes his foot out of his mouth long enough to sputter some inane comments about Anglo Saxon heritage and how the first black president of the United States doesn’t appreciate that heritage. One of Mr. Romney’s surrogates suggests that the first black president of the United States needs to learn how to be an American.

There is nothing post racial about all of this. If it quacks like a duck it is a duck. And this duck is a racist duck.

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Point of View Columns

United States of Iowa?

In Iowa in January of 2012 the G.O.Tea Party Cavalcade of Clowns gets about a serious as it can get. The Iowa caucus, an arcane series of mini-town meetings, will convene and tell us something about who the Republican Party may nominate as the next president of the United States.

This is so bizarre on so many levels it is hard to know where to start. During the past six months the right wing of the right wing has attempted to entertain us with visions of Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann as president. And just when we are able to catch our breath and stop laughing for a moment, here comes Herman Cain quoting Donna Summer quoting Pokemon – it is impossible to make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, with grim determination and perseverance Mitt Romney seems intent on proving that he can become president by saying anything and everything at anytime. And if that is not enough, while Ron Paul is advocating the virtual dismantling of the federal government, Newt Gingrich continues to try to convince someone other than himself that he really is the smartest person in the room.

The Republican Party will begin to sort out the winners from this bag of losers in Iowa. And that is, to be honest quite amazing. Iowa is about as representative of the United States as Disney World. The urban population of the United States is in excess of 75%; the urban population of Iowa is barely 60%. The minority population of the United States is estimated to be 37%, in Iowa the number is 10%.

Iowa is a state where 25.4% of its citizens classify themselves as white Evangelicals. Black Protestants account for barely 2% of the population of the Hawkeye state. This is hardly what America looks like in the 21st century.

That a state that is so out of synch with the rest of the country would have such a disproportionate impact on the 2012 presidential election would be ludicrous if it wasn’t true. But it is true.

As a result, the G.O.Tea Party virtually commands any viable Republican candidate to veer towards the right wing of the right wing to have any opportunity to be successful. Calling Barack Obama a “secular socialist” actually gets votes in Iowa. Referring to the federal government as “the enemy” can be a guarantee of support and endorsements.

Suggesting that a national health care system might be a compassionate solution to the wreckage of the current system of caring for the ill would be the equivalent of political suicide in Iowa. Proposing a bi-partisan approach to budgetary reform would only benefit the competition when campaigning in Iowa.

Of course Iowa is only one small state out of fifty, but it has an influence on the future of this country that is all out of proportion to its reflection of American opinions, ideals and perspectives. And, given that the next two primaries are in New Hampshire and South Carolina, it is clear that whatever common sense might have existed among the Cavalcade of Clowns will be squeezed out and washed away by the time February of 2012 rolls around.

Democrats will probably rejoice at the notion of pure, distilled, right wing ideologue being the eventual nominee of the Republican Party. On the other hand, we should all be concerned that, in the process of this train wreck of a presidential selection no good can arise.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents should be concerned that the views of the minority of the minority will have so much influence on the selection of a person who could be the next president of the United States. The Obama election team probably welcomes the imbalance – a more nuanced opponent would be troublesome.

However, as citizens we are disadvantaged by the lack of reasonable choices and the elevation of the bizarre and the radical to mainstream consideration.
It is difficult to imagine Ron Paul – he’s the one who would get rid of the Federal Reserve Bank (causing a global economic meltdown) and dismantle the
departments of Energy, Education and Commerce – is the leading candidate in Iowa.

Newt Gingrich, the sincerely damaged and personally compromised combination of bombast and self-promotion was the leading candidate last week. Mitt Romney, who never met a right wing idea that he couldn’t embrace because he has no moral compass is always there as a competitor.

Is this really the best that the G.O.Tea Party can do? Democrats may rejoice but the country as a whole can only be dismayed.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 28, 2011

The business of fortune telling is not an easy one. But channeling my inner Sister Cleo, I predict that will conclude that the recent positive economic news somehow reflects negatively on President Obama. Meanwhile the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone viral, nationally and around the world. What the OWS protestors want may be a bit more complicated than a Tea Party menu. And finally, Rick Perry is the latest G.O.Tea Party presidential wannabe to genuflect at the altar of Donald Trump. Shouldn’t that be an automatic disqualification?

Fortune Telling in the Age of Obama

You may remember the now discredited Miss Cleo. Fans of Richard Pryor may remember Miss Rudolph. Whatever the case, we all know that predicting the future is a tough business. Nevertheless, I am willing to face the risks and make an absolute prediction based upon the news that the GDP for the United States increased by 2.9% during the third quarter of this year.

While this increase has been greeted as good news by most economists, I predict that the G.O.Tea Party candidates for president will spin the news as a negative for President Obama. The spin will go something like this – the reason why the economy is improving is that the business community is becoming convinced that Barack Obama will lose the 2012 election and the upturn in the third quarter is an indication of investor confidence that Obama will lose.

This approach is in keeping with the approach of all of the candidates in saying that anything bad is the fault of President Obama and it is impossible for President Obama to be responsible for anything good.

If nothing else, the G.O.Tea Party is consistent – consistently negative and truly the Party of No.

The OWS Wish List

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has gone international. From London to Oakland to Washington, protestors are occupying public venues to protest the seeming dominance of corporate agendas of 1% of this country at the expense of the other 99%. The staying power of these protests has been remarkable and there is no end in sight.
There has been significant commentary to the effect that the OWS movement is not like the Tea Party movement because they don’t have a “specific agenda”. And there is a reason for that.

The Tea Party came into being with a negative agenda: No taxes, No government and No Obama. It is a very simple matter to craft a negative agenda. A positive agenda is more nuanced.

It appears that the members of the OWS movement are concerned about increasing opportunity and improving the quality of life for people who have been trampled by the stampede to greed. The strategy that expresses these goals is not easily distilled into one word or a catchy slogan.

Being negative is simple. Being progressive is…………well, it’s complicated.

The Mountain Comes to Trump…..Again

Amazingly, Rodeo Rick Perry counts Donald Trump as a source of advice and (possible?) inspiration. This should disqualify Rick Perry for consideration as a serious candidate.

Donald Trump has been very successful at promoting Donald Trump. His ascent to fame began with his father, Fred Trump, one of the wealthiest real estate tycoons that you never heard of. Beginning his faux business career with a multimillion dollar starter kit, Trump has left a trail of bankrupt companies, unpaid creditors, disgruntled bondholders and enough lawsuits to establish a sub-industry in the law profession.

During his tepid presidential campaign, a thinly disguised attempt to boost the ratings of his television series, Trump was literally laughed off the national stage as he trumpeted the totally discredited birther tune. That Rodeo Rick Perry would think that Donald Trump could have anything valuable to say to him speaks volumes about his judgment, or lack thereof.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Cain Mutiny

For a while it seemed as if Herman Cain was playing the Alan Keyes role in the 2012 Republican primary process. As a perennial presidential candidate (1996, 2000, 2008) and erstwhile senatorial candidate (1988, 1992, 2004) Keyes has always been destined to fail in his electoral ambitions while lining his pockets from increased attention to his books, radio show, television show and speaking engagements. Herman Cain has seemed to be a well-heeled Alan Keyes with a slightly better resume.

But there is more to Herman Cain than meets the eye. It has been noted that, despite his prideful contention that he is a political virgin, he was a senior political advisor to the Dole-Kemp campaign in 1996. Despite his wearing his disdain for public service as some bizarro badge of honor he served as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – not exactly a private sector position. And there’s more……….

Since 2006 Mr. Cain, the independent businessman, has been a virtual employee and paid spokesman for Americans for Prosperity (“AFP”). If AFP doesn’t ring a bell, it isn’t supposed to. But it is the political action arm of the ultraconservative billionaire Koch brothers who have also bankrolled the Tea Party movement.

Traveling around the country as its erstwhile charismatic badwill ambassador, Herman Cain has built up membership for AFP and touted its message of reducing taxes, reducing government and eliminating environmental and financial regulations wherever possible.

Mr. Cain’s connection to AFP and the Koch brothers is even more pronounced than his employment. His campaign manager, Mark Block is a former AFP employee. The wacky “9-9-9” pseudo tax plan was devised by an AFP board member and the Cain campaign uses the AFP outside counsel for its legal advice and services.

What are interesting are not the facts themselves. We should not be surprised that Herman Cain would align himself with the not so secret financiers of the right wing of the right wing. What is interesting is that in addition to his never mentioning his role with the Dole-Kemp campaign or the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, Mr. Cain has never managed to whisper a mention of his work as a paid spokesman for the Koch brothers.

His campaign organization has Koch operatives in key positions and his boasting of his independence doesn’t ring true when he has two billionaires, and their billionaire buddies as his benefactors. His speeches and statements could come right out of an AFP press kit, which isn’t surprising since he has been working for AFP and the Koch brothers for half a decade.

Herman Cain rose to national prominence when he debated President Bill Clinton regarding the health care proposals of more than a decade ago. He claimed then, as he does now, that requiring employers to provide health insurance for their employees would force his company, Godfather’s Pizza, to fire hundreds of workers. While he did not provide the statistics to justify his claim later research indicated that during the time that Herman Cain made millions of dollars as the Chairman and CEO of that pizza chain only 11% of the employees of that company were provided with health care coverage (including Herman Cain). Not surprisingly and not unlike the Koch brothers and their ilk, Mr. Cain still does not recognize the inequity of this situation and has promised to repeal the recently passed health care bill when he is elected president.

Through the AFP and other ventriloquist mechanisms, the Koch brothers are calling for the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the evisceration of the social services apparatus that has sustained this nation for more than half a century. The “9-9-9” tax proposal is just a Koch head fake as their real goal is the reduction, if not the elimination of all tax liabilities on corporations and their wealthy owners. That is the tune that Herman Cain is singing.

It remains to be seen whether Herman Cain will ride off into the sunset to reap his Keyesian rewards or will continue his presidential campaign in order to continue to spout the Koch party line. In either case it is clear that it would be too much to ask for Mr. Cain to come clean regarding his true identity as a mouthpiece for a neoconservative apparatus that is bankrolled by billionaires intent on demonstrating the true nature of class warfare in the 21st century.

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Point of View Columns

No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

Barack Obama began his presidency seemingly riding on a tidal wave of hope for change. One could almost perceive an aura of infinite possibility accompanying him. After he took the oath of office, President Obama was greeted with a virtually unprecedented barrage of obstruction, his every step mined with ardent wishes for his failure – the country be damned. The kamikaze role of the right wing of the right wing will be recorded by history as one of the lowest moments of the Republic.

As soon as Barack Obama became president Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaimed that the goal of the Republican Party was to make sure that President Obama only served for one term. Rush Limbaugh, fresh from eluding criminal drug charges, infamously brayed that he wanted Barack Obama “to fail”. This was being said as the economy of the United States wavered on the brink of catastrophe – yet the “failure” of Barack Obama was more important than the future of this country.

These and other incendiary remarks lit wildfires of looniness and lunacy across the country, culminating in a Koch Brothers-bankrolled pseudo grass roots movement known as the Tea Party, and better known as the G.O.Tea Party. The grand strategy of the G.O.Tea Party has been to hobble, cripple and hamstring the Obama presidency, even at the expense of further pain and misery being suffered by the American people.

It is within this context that I read the reviews of “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and The Education of A President” by Ron Suskind. Mr. Suskind, who is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, has studiously researched the inner workings of the Obama White House, especially when the tsunami that hit Wall Street was at its peak. And Mr. Suskind does not paint a pretty picture.

“Confidence Men” makes the case that the economic team that was assembled by President Obama was not the right team and that, in any event, was dysfunctional. We learn that, as Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner essentially ignored a directive from President Obama to assess the advisability of reorganizing Citibank because he didn’t think it was a good idea. Larry Summers, then Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors denigrates President Obama’s skills and acumen, comparing him unfavorably to Bill Clinton.

More telling is that, faced with the most dangerous economic crisis in the history of the United States, there was no overarching philosophical goal. The strategies employed were reactions to the events of the time, but the philosophical goal seems to have been missing.

This is an interesting observation because there has been much greater clarity from this administration when it comes to health care and foreign policy, for example. There was a goal to establish a healthcare infrastructure that would cover all Americans and the recently passed legislation is certainly moving the country in that direction, perhaps inexorably.

In the area of foreign affairs, the Obama Administration has clearly embraced the goal of establish a more collaborative and less combative foreign policy. Thankfully this country has moved away from unilateral days of Bush-Cheney to a multi-lateral process that preserves American security as well as restoring this country’s battered image abroad.

I think that is why “Confidence Men” is all the more troubling because it is not only the Obama Administration that didn’t have a philosophical goal at a crucial time, the Democratic Party and the progressive community seemed to come up short. The Republican, and now G.O.Tea Party goals, simplistic as they may be, are clear and can be summed up as the 3 M’s – Minimum taxation, Minimal regulation, Maximum profit. It may be that the progressive stance is too nuanced for the hand-to-hand combat that characterizes these days and times.

My final thoughts on “Confidence Men” are that I keep waiting to learn about the absolute Obama loyalists in the rooms where the decision makers decide. Where are the men and women who have his back? Where is his right hand man/woman who demands loyalty and support of the president?

I am once more reminded of the old saying – sometimes it seems like Barack Obama is in a chair fight and everyone has a chair but him. If he ran his campaign the way he has been running his presidency this column would be about President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin.

The Obama campaign was historic. The Obama campaign was also coldly efficient, calculating and focused – at all times. It is time to unsheathe those weapons again – and not a moment too soon.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 16, 2011

This week it was hard to watch the Tea Party “debate” (and when did the Tea Party get on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties anyway?) and not experience amusement and dismay – cheers for executions and the death of the uninsured, a debate on HPV immunizations that morphed into a discussion of Rodeo Rick Perry’s price tag. What a show! Speaking of HPV immunizations, it seemed that Michele Bachmann decided to add medical opinions to her bizarre repertoire and then she remembered —that’s right, she’ not a doctor! And then James Carville channeled his inner Prince and encouraged the Obama Administration to dance to “Let’s Get Crazy”.

The Tea Party Asylum

In watching the nationally televised Tea Party “debate” it was hard to decide the worst of many evils. In a craven quest for ratings, CNN decided to broadcast a Tea Party “debate”, automatically putting it on a par with the Republican and Democratic parties. This, despite the fact that the so-called Tea Party caucus in Congress numbers less than thirty – and all of them were elected on the Republican Party ticket!

CNN decided to reward the loony, gun-toting, racist-sign carrying, myth-mongering right wing of the right wing with its very own national television show. And that is how fanatics get empowered and gain an impossibly bloated image of themselves.
And what about the “debate” itself? It was hard not to be appalled by Rodeo Rick Perry bragging that 234 human beings had been executed in the state of Texas while he has served as governor. Doing the math, that comes to government-sponsored killing of a human being every other week. And the crowd cheered.

Ridiculous Ron Paul was asked what role government should have if an uninsured person was seriously injured. This elected official of the federal government blithely stated that freedom entailed risk. When asked if the government should let this hypothetical person die, members of the crowd brayed “Yeah” – Congressman Paul didn’t distance himself from that remark.

And who can forget that Madcap Michele Bachmann implying that Rodeo Rick Perry ordered mandatory HPV immunizations in exchange for a $5000 campaign contribution from a pharmaceutical company. Proclaiming his commitment to the sanctity of life (strange words from a man who boasts of executing hundreds of human beings), Governor Perry pronounced himself “offended” that Congresswoman Bachmann would think that he could be influenced by $5000. Presumably he was “offended” by the low price.

Paging Dr. Bachmann?

Not content with slamming Rick Perry for trying to protect young girls from cervical cancer, after the Tea Party “debate” Michelle Bachmann announced that the HPV immunizations posed serious “side effects”, quoting a miscellaneous and anonymous “mother” who told her that her daughter suffered from “mental retardation” after receiving an HPV vaccination.

When faced with a firestorm of outrage from the scientific community for promoting an absolute fallacy (there is absolutely no record of any incidents of mental retardation – or anything similar – as a result of HPV vaccinations), Madcap Michelle retreated just a teeny tiny bit by stating “I’m not a doctor”.
Clearly she isn’t a doctor. Just as clearly she has only a distant relationship with the truth and an even more tenuous connection with reality.

Fire, Indict and Fight!

This week, that Ragin’ Cajun James Carville published some advice for President Obama that can be summarized as “Fire, Indict and Fight” – http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/14/opinion/carville-white-house-advice/ – he basically thinks that the President should fire his economic staff, direct Attorney General Holder to start indicting the Wall Street satraps who have direct responsibility for the financial meltdown that precipitated the current economic crisis.

And finally, he urges President Obama to take on the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party and fight.

As Prince has said, “……….let’s get crazy, let’s get nuts.” Given President Obama’s plummeting poll numbers and the fact that 2012 is right around the corner, perhaps he should listen to Mr. Carville.

Have a great weekend!

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