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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Point of View Columns

Free Range Congress – On the Loose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us hope that this time it will be different.

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Point of View Columns

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

At the beginning of this month we were all witness to a shameful illustration of ideological fantasy transformed into institutional cruelty. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was forced to reduce food stamp benefits for tens of millions of American men, women and children in the name of austerity and fiscal probity. What was really happening is that the mean-spirited worst aspects of the right wing of the right wing were implemented in real time leaving American men, women and children to suffer.

Part of the fantasy of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party is that this country is based on principles of total self-reliance and that it has been by the sheer will of the individual that all progress has taken place in this country, indeed on this planet. That this patently untrue is obvious to even the casual student of the history of this country.

From the implementation of a national postal system to the construction of the Erie Canal to the establishment of a transcontinental railroad, major progress has taken place in this country only through collective engagement and governmental support. The public health system, the public education system and government support of and participation in scientific research in multiple fields have established a societal platform that has supported unprecedented industrial and commercial success in these United States.

There have been men and women who have been highly successful in their use and exploitation of this platform. But to quote President Obama, “…they didn’t build that.” The American people have built that platform over the course of more than two centuries and it is undeniable that the millionaires and billionaires who reside in America (even if their money doesn’t) cannot even imagine a more suitable place in the world where they could create and amass the fortunes that they possess.

And so it is more than odd, it is counterintuitive,  that men and women who populate the right wing of the right wing who are direct beneficiaries of government-based initiatives now wish to reduce and eliminate these beneficial initiatives for other Americans now that they and their families are comfortable and secure. Consider the example of Congressman Paul Ryan, the recently failed Teapublican Vice Presidential candidate who is considered a leading theorist in the right wing drive towards fiscal austerity and the shrinkage of government.

Paul Ryan’s family became very wealthy and comfortable in Wisconsin by building roads. What kind of roads? Public roads and highways that were funded by public funds are the key source of wealth for the Ryan family and is a major reason why Paul Ryan did not have to drop out of school and go to work when his father died (his brief stint at McDonald’s notwithstanding) and the reason why he has never had to hold a paying job in the private sector as an adult.

To make the irony even more bittersweet, Paul Ryan attended college with Social Security benefits that he received by reason of the unfortunate death of his father. The same Social Security program that he now wants to scale back and privatize, turning it into a shredded semblance of a social safety net once helped him and his family.

It should be clear that the narrative of Paul Ryan is not exceptional for its hypocrisy and crass betrayal of a system from which he has reaped enormous, life transforming benefits. Senator Rand Paul, another Teapublican avatar and faux advocate of self-reliance, had no problem reaping millions of dollars in Medicare payments while practicing medicine.

Senator Ted Cruz is another Teapublican avatar who claims that government is the enemy of the American people. But the American government wasn’t the enemy when his father immigrated to this country from Cuba. Presumably the elder Cruz could have selected some other country to pursue his hopes and dreams and to raise his family, but he chose the United States precisely because to the programs, infrastructure and societal platform that he son now seeks to destroy.

To compound his detestable and dangerous hypocrisy, Ted Cruz attended Princeton and Harvard, two institutions that have received billions of dollars of federal assistance over the years for research, scholarships and other supportive measures. Because these schools have been able to maintain a level of excellence over the years, Ted Cruz was able to reap those benefits. Again, these are now benefits that he would seek to eliminate for current and future generations of students.

And it is within this House of Hypocritical Mirrors that we see the Teapublican apostles of austerity cutting food stamp programs while they sit well-fed, well-educated and well-satisfied with the life that the governmental system has provided for them.

We are reminded of the selfish caricatures that climb up the ladder to success and then pull up the ladder so that no one can follow.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 9, 2012

To paraphrase R&B legend Billy Preston, the good guys win every once in a while and Barack Obama has been elected for a second term. The pleasure of seeing the continuation of the Obama legacy is countered by what seems to be a Teapublican death spiral. However, there are some lessons that the Republicans can learn from 11.6.12. Meanwhile Donald Trump and an assortment of Karnival Klowns simply refuse to let reality get in the way of a good rant. And finally, is it time for President Obama to make Africa a major agenda item during his second term?

Lessons to be Learned

While the supporters of Barack Obama start planning his second inauguration on January 21, 2013, the Teapublican Party leaders must be wondering what happened. Historically incumbent presidents with high unemployment rates don’t get reelected. Typically, presidential candidates with the most money almost always win. But Mitt Romney lost – and he lost in almost every state that he had to win in order to prevail on Election Day.

So what lessons can the Teapublicans learn while sorting through the ashes of defeat?

1. The Teapublican Party will almost certainly never win another national election by centering their focus on white men. The demographics are simply not there and there aren’t enough white men to provide victory except in the South.

2. Voter suppression is not such a hot idea. The blatant and transparently racist voter suppression tactics pursued by Teapublican governors and legislators throughout the country fired up minorities who were incensed by the notion that the government apparatus was being used to deny their right to vote. Right now David Axelrod is probably writing a thank you note to all the voter suppression advocates.

3. Treating women as stupid and compliant is not such a hot idea either. President Obama received 55% of the female vote and part of the reason had to be the Teapublican embrace of “forcible rape”, transvaginal wands, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and misogyny in general. The Teapublicans are learning, very slowly, that women are neither stupid nor compliant.

4. Money can buy a lot, but it is really hard to buy a national election. The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court of the United States opened the money spigots for the 2012 campaign and the Koch brothers, Shelden Adelsen and other right wing billionaires did their very best to simply drown the Obama campaign in dollars. The thing is that in 1992 buying a million television ads might have worked. But in 2012 people receive their information not only from television but also from the social media. Guess the Teapublicans never got the memo.

There are many other lessons to be learned but it will be interesting to see if the Teapublicans double down on their right wing trajectory and end up in a museum display case right next to the Whigs.

Voices in the Asylum

One of the more interesting aspects of President Obama’s victory has been the response of Mitt Romney and his supporters. Governor Romney was actually gracious, graceful and pitch perfect in his concession speech. Indeed, if that Mitt Romney had been campaigning the election results might have been closer. But that Mitt Romney could never have secured the Teapublican Party nomination.

Even after CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had declared Barack Obama as the winner on Tuesday evening, Karl Rove refused to accept the reality. He actually spent several hours awaiting some magical, mystical message from Ohio even after the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio confirmed the Obama victory and went home.

Sadly, Karl Rove reminded us of one of those legendary Japanese World War II soldiers who was left on a lonely Pacific Island continuing to fight a war that ended a long time ago.

Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant claiming that an Obama victory was a “travesty” and that it was time for a revolution. He then went on to call for a march on Washington.
As it turns out the only march on Washington coming up will be the thousands of Obama supporters coming for Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Time for Africa?

Africa has an expanding economy. Democracy is taking root and flourishing in many countries. While challenges continue on the continent, there is no doubt that the countries of Africa represent one of the greatest market opportunities remaining on the planet and it is a market in which American companies are not full participants.

This week in an appearance on CNN Rowland Martin proposed that President Obama move Africa up on his second term agenda beginning with personal visits as well as serious policy initiatives. The American economy needs new markets, new customers and new opportunities.
The Chinese, Indian and European companies have already figured this out, but the American brand is still preferred.

Making Africa a trade priority is a great leadership opportunity for President Obama in his second term.

Its been a great week – Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Hide The Klowns!

The delicious symbolism of a Hurricane Isaac bearing down on Tampa just as the Teapublican convention begins is clearly the product of a divine script. But rain and gale force winds cannot possibly hide all the Krazy Klowns that have descended upon this Florida city. The powers that want to be of the Republican National Committee have tried to hack into the GPS devices of the Krazy Klowns, but they are coming to town anyway. And there aren’t enough attics, basements and closets available to hide them all.

Congressman Ted Akins kind of jumped the gun with his “legitimate” rape rant, but it is not as if Akins is the source of shame and dismay in the Teapublican Party. His odious and Neanderthal perspective on women is shared by many members of the legions of the right wing of the right wing including the presumptive vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

After all, it is Paul Ryan who has joined Congressman Akins in co-sponsoring bill after bill calling for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. After all, the Teapublican Party platform calls for the ban of all abortions, even in the instance of rape and incest. And Mitt Romney is on the record as seeking to limit reproductive choice for women only in the instance of rape and incest – a position Paul Ryan calls “a step in the right direction”.

As you settle back to watch the Teapublican Klown Kavalcade with a glass of wine (or strychnine) there is an interesting bit of information that the leadership of the RNC would desperately prefer that you ignore. The following individuals have all led Mitt Romney in polling for president – Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.

That would be Michele Bachmann who believes that God wanted her to run for president – although obviously God did not want her to win. Herman Cain, the pizza mini-magnate who couldn’t seem to tell the difference between a friendship and an affair and has ideas “twirling around” in his head was considered by many Teapublicans to be preferable to Mitt Romney.

Rodeo Rick “Oops” Perry was the darling of the right wing of the right wing until it became perfectly clear that Governor Perry was all hat and no cattle. And still, at this very moment, there are Teapublican delegates in Tampa who would vote for Rick Perry if they are allowed to do so. And we can’t forget Saint Santorum who wholeheartedly agrees with Paul Ryan that a rapist’s child is a gift from God to the rape victim.

Donald Trump, he of the manufactured hair and the contrived lies (or is it the contrived hair and the manufactured lies), played a latter day Dumb Quixote tilting at the birther windmill, that is until he was absolutely skewered and barbequed by President Obama at the National Press Club Annual Dinner. And The Donald, like a bad smell or a bad dream, still won’t go away.

And finally, it wasn’t too long ago that Newt Gingrich was the Teapublican flavor of the month (basically defined as Anybody But Romney). His ignoble failure at leadership as Speaker of the House and his pitiful personal narrative were bad enough. The fact that it was revealed on the national stage that he really had no reason to be so impressed with Newt Gingrich pretty much sealed the coffin of the Gingrich candidacy….and I haven’t mentioned Ron Paul who has been so moved by that fashionable neo-fascist Ayn Rand that he named his son, U.S. Senator Rand Paul after her (can you imagine a Democrat naming his son/daughter Marx?).

Nevertheless, there will be thousands of Teapublicans on full display who truly believe that a rapist’s child is a gift from God and that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, Muslim anti-Christ. There are presumably sane men and women who will contend that fraudulent claims of voter fraud are a legitimate tactic to deny the right to vote to black Americans.

The airwaves will be full of frothing Teapublicans who want to bomb Iran, shoot illegal immigrants and shred the social safety net. Shrinking the federal government to a size so that it could be drowned in a bathtub may be Grover Norquist’s ghoulish catch phrase, but most of the people that you see on television this week believe that this catch phrase articulates a strategy that will make this country better.

And underlying this entire maelstrom inside of a hurricane will be the gusting winds of racism. Toure and Chris Matthews at MSNBC have come under criticism for telling the truth. Ascribing foreign and un-American characteristics to President Obama are slick and slimy methods of playing the race card and stoking the mindless and soulless racist resentment that fuels the white heat of opposition to the very existence of Barack Obama on this planet.

And meanwhile, Mitt Romney blithely lobs not very subtle racist dog whistles and slime balls by touting his citizenship even though, ironically, his father George Romney actually was not born in the United States. But as Romney grips and grins his way through this outrageously gruesome Klown Karnival, the RNC leadership hopes that no one is watching…..or really listening.

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Teapublican Tall Tales

When untruths are told for entertainment value we refer to them as “fables” or “tall tales”. When untruths are told for political purposes we sometimes call them “lies”. In the hope of promoting a kinder and gentler political discourse I am going to recount some Teapublican Tall Tales.

Tall Tale #1 – Although Barack Obama promised in his campaign to end partisanship in Washington and to bring this country together, President Obama has turned out to be the most divisive force in Washington.

The Truth: Immediately upon his inauguration leaders of the then-Republican (and now Teapublican) Party announced their determination to make Barack Obama a one-term president. The strategy that they have employed to achieve this goal is to oppose virtually every legislative proposal originated by the Obama White House. The G.O.Tea Party has been nearly unanimous in casting “no” votes against everything from health care to rescuing the American automobile industry.

Political commentators and historians agree that solid front of opposition by the Teapublicans in Congress is unprecedented. For these same Teapublicans to complain that President Obama is divisive is reminiscent of the criminal who kills his parents and then asks for mercy because he is an orphan.

Tall Tale #2 – The G.O.Tea Party Cavalcade of Clowns that is running for that party’s presidential nomination disagree on many issues but they are an atonal chorus in proclaiming that every policy advanced by President Obama to address this country’s economic crisis has failed. Additionally, the policy of paying people not to work has only exacerbated the crisis.

The Truth – During the past three weeks the American G.D.P. grew at fastest rate in over three years. Additionally the stock market closed last week at a four year high and unemployment continues its 5 month decline to its lowest level since 2008 (that would be before Barack Obama was elected). The combination of the stimulus plan, the bailout of the American automobile industry and numerous legislative and administrative measures have produced positive results.

Providing continued and extended assistance to unemployed Americans has given meaning to the safety net that the G.O.Tea Party barely recognizes. Referring to unemployment benefits as “paying people not to work” is using the rhetoric of the rich, the self-satisfied and the mean – that would be the Koch brothers and their billionaire buddies.

When we consider the catastrophic results of the Bush era financial policies, the recent recovery, in less than three years is nothing short of remarkable. But the Teapublican playbook calls for blaming President Obama for anything bad and never giving him credit for anything positive.

Mitt Romney went so far as to say for President Obama to credit for improvement in the economy is like the rooster taking credit for the sun rising. This would be the same Mitt Romney who is willing to heap truckloads of blame on President Obama for what most economists of any political hue would describe as major structural defects in the American economy. Mitt, Newt, Rick, Ron, Paul and the Teapublicans want to have their blame cake and eat it too.

Tall Tale #3 – During the presidency of Barack Obama America’s foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster. By “apologizing” to the world President Obama has weakened this country’s standing on the global stage and he has emboldened our enemies, Iran being Exhibit A.

The Truth – During the presidency of Barack Obama America’s foreign policy has been a success by any reasonable standard. By striving for alliance and accommodation rather than confrontation there are more countries that are willing to stand with the United States than ever before. By resorting to military force as a last option (and then on a very limited and focused basis) the Obama Administration has seen positive results that have addressed major security concerns (the execution of Osama bin Laden comes to mind).

By keeping to an existing American commitment to remove troops from Iraq the misery suffered by the American people and the Iraqi people has diminished. By committing to remove American troops from the quagmire called Afghanistan we are on the threshold of an era where warfare is no longer the key tool of this country’s foreign policy.

And speaking of the truth, as the Teapublicans wail and holler about “taking the country back” perhaps they could be honest about who currently has the country. When Barack Obama was elected president there were some new members of Congress and the Senate, but certainly not in sufficient numbers to spark fears of a “takeover”.

In truth the Teapublicans want to “take this country back” from the Kenyan Muslim illegal alien who current resides in the White House. They should just tell the truth – confession is always good for the soul.

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