Point of View Columns

The Negro Problem and the Letter

Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, there has been a split screen perspective on his administration. On the one hand the livid, steel-boned opposition of the Teapublicans has been described as normal politics – perhaps a tad more strident, but nothing worse than what Lincoln or both Roosevelts or Clinton faced during their presidencies. But there is another perspective which is a reflex that reflects the vile virus of racism that still afflicts this country.

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.” – Frederick Douglass

The eloquence of Frederick Douglass in damning slavery and its racist foundation reverberated in real time and has echoed through the ages to this very day. His challenge to the American people to “live up to their own constitution” could have been spoken this week.

One of the interesting aspects of the United States Constitution is that even though it was written over 200 years ago, it continues as the governance document for this country because of its initial clarity and its continued capacity for adapting to modern times. On the issue of the role of the President and Congress with respect to foreign policy, Article II of the Constitution states:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

This week that 47 members of the United States simply defied the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold by sending a letter to the leadership of Iran that was clearly intended to interfere and subvert the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Iran regarding limiting its nuclear energy usages. Even the most serious student of American history would be hard pressed to locate a similar instance of absolute insult and disrespect by Congress for any President of the United States.

It is reasonable to ask whether these 47 senators and their supporters are so firm in their fear of Iran or so steadfast in their unequivocal and unquestioning support of Israel that they felt it necessary to shatter the centuries old divide between the Presidency and Congress on matters of foreign policy. Was there some imminent danger to which the Obama Administration had turned a blind eye which warranted this shameless conduct?

The answer to all three questions is simply “no”. So why would these senators take such an outrageous action that embarrassed the entire nation in the eyes of the world. Could it be the “negro problem” to which Frederick Douglass referred?

Could it be that the fact that President Obama is black suddenly changes the Constitution, rules of decorum and traditions of probity and respect? How the unprecedented pledge of the Republican opposition in January 2009 to ensure that President Obama would “fail” as president be explained? What other reason can there be for no sanctions being imposed on South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson when he called President Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech to Congress?

Could there be any other explanation other than the “negro problem” for Congress shutting down the federal government and precipitating the lowering of the nation’s credit rating by doing the default death dance with the national budget. And for what other reason would Congress unilaterally invite a foreign head of state to speak for the sole purpose of criticizing the policies of a sitting president?

It would be a waste of time to search for other explanations. The “negro problem” has unhinged the Obama Administration’s opponents to the point that they cannot even feign respect. The “negro problem” has stripped the Teapublicans of their ability to respect the Constitution and it is proper to wonder if this “negro problem” has impaired their ability to think clearly, if at all.

When will the Teapublicans have “loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution”?

Inquiring minds need to know.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 22, 2010

November is nearby and so are the midterm elections. Rhetorical pyrotechnics, no matter how brightly they coruscate in the sky, do not seem to be enough to awaken the somnolent legions of progressives and moderates who are ceding the high ground and the low ground to the right wing of the right wing. Winter may come early this year and for years to come if the G.O.Tea Party has its way.

Race and the Tea Party

Recent news reports have highlighted the apparent attraction that the Tea Party has for angry voters. That anger reportedly stems from the maddening perception that the government interferes too much in the lives of Americans and that the principles of the Founding Fathers should be the sole guiding principles for all governance.

It might be useful, however, to consider the rational basis for this anger and what kind of voter the G.O.Tea Party has attracted. After all, there are some fairly subtle constitutional debates that arise when considering the strict interpretation of the United States Constitution given that it was written over two hundred years ago at a time when slavery was legal, women could not vote and rapacious and persistent genocide was being perpetrated against Native Americans.

Most historians and legal scholars would agree that the unique exceptionalism of the Constitution is that it is an organic document, designed to change. This change can take place through judicial interpretation or amendment. The idea of the Founders was to create a document that could evolve and adapt over time. Otherwise, we would be living in a country where slavery was legal, women couldn’t vote and the physically disabled would not deserve any special consideration as a matter of law.
Simply put, the Constitution was never meant to be the Ten Commandments.

The flawed constitutional analysis of the G.O.Tea Party is paired with a mystical desire to “get government out of the lives of Americans”, even though it is very unclear what aspect of government should be out of our lives. Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for senator in Kentucky believes in removing government from our lives. This would be the same Dr. Rand Paul that accepts Medicaid and Medicare payments for fully 50% of his patients.

Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator in Nevada receives medical insurance and healthcare coverage through her husband’s federal pension yet she is part of the G.O.Tea Party movement to get government out of our lives.

Would it be the government that devised and implemented the G.I. Bill that is absolutely responsible for the creation of a true middle class in this country? Would it be the Food and Drug Administration that is responsible for making sure that market forces don’t result in a failure to adhere to basic health standards in the production and delivery of what we ingest daily?

Perhaps the G.O.Tea Party would eliminate unemployment insurance (that would be Joe Miller, G.O.Tea Party candidate for senator in Alaska)? That is the government program that has helped countless millions of Americans and their families avoid homelessness and hunger during this economic depression.

Perhaps G.O.Tea Party is in favor of eliminating farm subsidies that skew and destroy agricultural economies around the world? Not likely.

So what aspect of government should be out of our lives? The military? The Federal Aviation Administration? The U.S. Parks Service? The Army Corps of Enginers? The Postal Service? It is difficult to understand how these critical government services are the source of such rage.

Perhaps we should examine this rage more closely. Since its inception, barely three months after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Tea Party movement has attracted overtly racist supporters, including some of the most dangerous white supremacists in this nation.

Tea Party rallies have featured President Obama being lynched in effigy, dressed in Africa garb and painted like a minstrel. Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace and mocking his name are all part of a racially-based disaffection with this President that transcends policy differences and constitutional debates.

Congressman John Boehner, who is salivating at the prospect of becoming Speaker of the House as you read this column, was quoted as saying that President Obama could save money on his inauguration by having a “fried chicken dinner”. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he and his G.O.Tea Party cohorts intend to teach Barack Obama a lesson (blessedly, he did not refer to the President of the United States as a “boy”).

If the policy differences regarding the presence of government are false straw men, and if the constitutional debate is at best the result of subtle philosophical perspectives regarding the United States Constitution, what is all the fuss about? Clearly the mere presence of a black President of the United States has been enough to throw logic, common sense, good taste and equanimity out the window.

And the silence in the presence of this onslaught is deafening.

Driving Miss Ginni Crazy

Last week in Point of View’s “Weekend Edition” I wrote about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pointing out the disquieting aspects of her raucous and loud rhetorical attacks on the President of the United States while her husband sits on the Supreme Court. The ensuing free speech debate was discussed and ultimately tabled.

This past weekend Ginni Thomas took time off from attacking Barack Obama to call Anita Hill at 7:30 in the morning to demand an apology from her. The news reports of this bit of unfathomable hubris read like something from the National Lampoon, except that it was real. One wonders at the source of her empowerment.

Is it because, as a new leader of the right wing of the right wing she felt that she could simply call Anita Hill and demand that she apologize to her husband? Did Ginni Thomas take her “Miss Daisy” pills that morning and decide to put an uppity black woman in her place?

Or was she channeling Michael Corleone from Godfather II who famously said, “Today we take care of all family business”? Perhaps she was giving us a prequel of a Tyler Perry sequel, “Diary of a Mad White Woman”.

Maybe she was just warming up for the glow of victory that she anticipates on November 2nd?
I only hope that she is disappointed when she wakes up on November 3rd. Instead of Miss Daisy pills perhaps she will be eating humble pie.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

This Is Not A Test!

At the height of the Cold War, there was something called the Emergency Broadcast System. It was the mid-century version of high tech emergency preparedness and it was designed to disseminate rescue and relief information to that portion of the American population that was not incinerated by a Soviet nuclear attack.

There were Emergency Broadcast channels on the radio and this nation’s television stations were geared up to calm a suddenly radioactive countryside.

Every now and then there would be a “test” of the EBS and high pitched tones amidst the static gave jittery citizens assurance that radio and television stations that survived a series of thermonuclear blasts would be beacons of hope as the nuclear winter approached.

After the “test”, listeners and viewers would be told that this was a test and that, if this was a real emergency life saving instructions would be dispensed. Thankfully the EBS was never used. Thankfully the United States and the Soviet Union stepped back from the nuclear precipice. Thankfully sanity had a momentary reign.

And now, there is another disaster looming, and this is not a test. The rising tide of the G.O.Tea Party activists abetted by millions of anonymous dollars from even more anonymous corporate sources have set the stage for a legal coup d’etat. The inevitability of serial electoral victories by the right wing of the right wing are broadcast hourly by Fox News and CNN and MSNBC and every other electronic media outlet with an audience of more than a dozen.

We have been assured that the accuracy of modern polling is so exact that there is no possibility of the equivalent of “Dewey Defeats Truman” headlines on November 3rd.

Perhaps it is this contrived inevitability that has dampened the enthusiasm and dulled the wits of the progressive and moderate factions of the American electorate. These same absolutist polls also assure us that these progressives and moderates lack the “enthusiasm” to come out to vote on November 2nd, while the G.O.Tea Party adherents, pitchforks and torches in hand, are set to appear at the polls in record numbers and will bring about a new and unprecedented era in political lunacy in this country.
The wonderment is not that this country has brought forth full-grown personas out of nowhere, like a team of Aphrodites walking from the brow of Zeus.

This country has a history of supernovas coming from nowhere and blazing across the sky of the public’s perception. President Obama comes to mind in this regard, but obviously his star came from a very different point on the horizon.

It may be amazing that Sarah Palin endorsed candidates like Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Christine O’Donnell and Linda McMahon may soon be in the United States Senate, but we shouldn’t be amazed if it happens.

Countless millions of dollars in cash and free air time donated by Fox News have combined to make political stars out of individuals that aren’t ready for prime time by any stretch of the imagination.

It is amazing that progressives and moderates are not motivated to vote on November 2nd. Whatever the dissatisfaction may exist because of various legislative initiatives that have not come to pass, it is very clear (because the G.O.Tea Party candidates are very clear and articulate in this regard) that there is an intent to dismantle as much of the governmental apparatus as possible.

The fact that this governmental apparatus has allowed Americans (including all of the G.O.Tea Party candidates) to enjoy a quality of life unequaled in world history is clearly irrelevant. Taking back America means taking this country back to a time when racial segregation is a state matter, corporations can make unlimited anonymous contributions to skew political campaigns and when Social Security was debatable and Medicare was part of a communist conspiracy that should be opposed at all costs.

THIS IS NOT A TEST and the G.O.Tea Party is no joke. Despite the fractured syntax and ignorance of basic items like world events and the United States Constitution and American history, these men and women mean to remake this country in their own benighted vision and we will all be truly worse off for their victory.

For men and women who are eligible to vote to suggest that they are not sufficiently inspired by President Obama would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. If the changes advocated by the G.O.Tea Party are implemented it will take more than another set of elections in 2012 to right the wrongs and repair the damage.

Consider how difficult it has been to redress the damage done by 8 years of George W. Bush – and he is considered a suspicious moderate by the G.O.Tea Party faithful!

During the next few weeks every Point of View column will focus on the importance of voting as well as the importance of understanding the G.O.Tea Party agenda. How you vote is up to you.

But remember—-THIS IS NOT A TEST!