got your lottery ticket?

If the pundits have it right the Tea Party will run Congress after tomorrow’s election. Maybe not the day after, but soon enough. And if that’s the politics of the majority of voters, it’s almost certain there’ll be a Tea Party president in the White House in 2016.

My reaction? Congratulations!!! They finally did it.

While other Americans sit around twiddling their thumbs and moaning about the state of affairs, Tea Partiers and their billionaire backers, have accomplished what they set out to do.

The federal government will be disemboweled and states will have to go it alone in trying to figure out how to serve their own constituents. Some will fare better than others. It depends upon the talent and intelligence of their politicians, the benevolence of their wealthy citizens, and whether or not Lady Luck is on their side.

Seattle will definitely do better than some.

We’ve got Bill and Melinda Gates, billionaires with heart.

Headquartered here are Starbucks, Costco, Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft. Other tech companies have begun moving into town and more startups are on the verge. Wine tasting is becoming a favorite past time, with wine bars popping up all over the place.

I recently read somewhere that Seattle’s Eastside has the best track record for cardiac rehabilitation in the nation.

Ours is one of the few states to recognize gay marriages.

Marijuana is legal for those 21 and older.

A $15 minimum wage might become reality. 

A couple of suburbs have led the nationwide list of “most desirable small towns” in which to reside.

And signing up for affordable health insurance has been comparatively stress-free.

Of course we have our issues…over-aggressive police…theft…homelessness…dui…sex offenders…gun control. Yes, we have school shootings too.

It’s probably obvious from what I’ve said that Washington is pretty much a liberal state. Thanks to that, its citizens will do better than most when the Federal Government of the Tea Party, run by the Koch brothers assumes power.

It might be that our country is headed for the Great Depression that President Obama tried to head off when he took office. The faction of right-wing conservatives who were never going to submit to the leadership of a black liberal have convinced the majority of their political brethren to go back to the likes of George W. Bush.

This time though it will be more than just another economic collapse and another war. The earth as we know it will finally succumb to the oil barons. And the entire world will revert back to the days of the Wild, Wild West with the have-nots going after the haves with a vengeance.

I feel for folks who live in Ohio and similar states marching to the drumbeat of ultra right wing conservatives. A recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine highlighted a couple of towns suffering under the ideologies of Tea Party politicians.

Most of the young middle-and working-class women I meet in Lima had children very young, many before they were 18; Allen county has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Ohio. And yet, Ohio has been at the forefront of recent attacks on reproductive rights. The state has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and its most recent budget placed $1.4 million in funding for Planned Parenthood at risk, while allocating money to Christian-based “crisis pregnancy centers.” Lima’s one family-planning clinic offering limited abortion services recently closed down; today, a search for abortion clinics in Lima will turn up a pro-life organization called Heartbeat of Lima. Though the county health department offers free birth control, a woman wanting an abortion must travel more than an hour to Toledo, to a clinic that, thanks to restrictions that have closed almost half of Ohio’s abortion clinics in the past year, may soon be forced to shut its doors. “People don’t talk about abortion in Lima.” says Carissa.

Carissa split with the father of her son when she was 23. She waitressed while putting herself through college. When her hours were cut back she had to go on public assistance. ” ‘It wasn’t something that I talked about…I wasn’t taking advantage of anything. I had to have insurance for my son. I had to feed my son. My only other option was to drop out of school.’ “

“The problem is that if you grow up in, say, a lower-income family, your options are extremely limited,” says Carissa. It doesn’t matter what kind of grades you get in high school, she notes, as college is now a luxury for most people. And even with a college degree, then what? “It used to be you go to college, get married, have children–you did the right things, and then you’d be guaranteed some kind of future,” she says. “But the whole pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps American-dream thingy…that’s kind of mythology at this point. To me, it’s like a winning lottery ticket.”

When the Tea Party overtakes Capitol Hill and the White House, it’s my fervent hope that you’ll be living in a state where you feel like you’ve…

…hit the lottery!

…hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

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calling out the posse…iraq

Having already made my way through several presidential biographies, I’ve decided to keep on the path of learning who the real man is behind the facade. So I picked up a book I’d purchased a while ago at Half-Price Books…The Family, The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty…by Kitty Kelley. 

I was never a fan of the president, or the author, for that matter. That’s why the delay in reading the book. I’d bought it thinking “Why not? I’ll get around to it one of these days, when I’ve nothing else to read.”

Since I was on a presidential roll, it was Bush’s turn. Knowing Kelley’s tendency for sensational reporting, having read Oprah: A Biography, I should’ve been prepared for her book. Well shame on me, I wasn’t.

It’s not to say Kitty Kelley doesn’t report facts. She does. It’s her explosive style of telling a story that has me on the edge of my seat. The lady is not averse to confrontation. Far from it. She welcomes the challenge.

According to USA Today

The Bush Administration and the Republican Party launched a vigorous campaign to discredit Kelley as a Democratic partisan and discourage coverage of her 733-page book….Kelley pointed out that she has never lost a lawsuit and ‘never, ever had to retract a story.’ “

…and the Houston Chronicle adds…

Doing what {Kelley} does is like poking a stick into a hornet’s nest. The holder of the stick gets a nasty reaction from the disturbed occupants….The resulting book, however, is a good read.

Describing Kelley as a woman “with balls,” is putting it mildly. She’s more like a bulldog on a mission. Point in case? Her tell-all on the Bush family was written while George W. was the sitting president.

 With every book I’ve written, I’ve encountered a certain amount of hesitancy on the part of potential sources, because they are understandably reluctant to talk about powerful people, either for fear of retribution or for fear of being socially ostracized. The amount of trepidation I encountered in writing this book was unprecednted, but perhaps that’s what comes from writing about a sitting President whose family has a long reach. Many sources were reluctant to tell their stories on the record, and much as I dislike using unnamed sources, in some cases I had no choice. Many people who know the Bushes–friends, former employees, classmates, business associates, and even a few family members–were skittish about speaking for {fear of retribution.} I heard an endless stream of excuses and apologies, some comical, others disconcerting: “You don’t know that family…If they think I’ve talked to you, they’ll never speak to me again.” “This town is too small to rile the Bushes.” “I want to live to see my grandchildren.” One man said, “You can’t use my name. They’ll come after me. The Bushes are thugs.”

“Thugs? Surely, you’re kidding,” I said.

“Look what they did in Florida during the 2000 recount,”  he answered, and then detailed the “Brooks Brothers Riot” of Republican activists who helped stop the voting in Miami by storming the canvassing board. To prove his point, the man sent records showing that many of the rioters in pin-striped suits had been paid by the Bush recount committee.

With stability in Iraq hanging in the balance, George W.’s war against Iraq is once again called into question. 

Call me politically naive, but I’ve always thought the presidential son had a personal vendetta against Saddam Hossein for the assassination attempt against the presidential father. An article from the History News Network dated 3/6/07, “How Do We Know That Iraq Tried To Assassinate President George H. W. Bush?” lends credence to my claim.

On June 2, 1993, representatives of the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and others in the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed the results of their investigations with representatives of the Clinton Administration. Three weeks later, the DOJ and CIA reported their conclusions. The DOJ and CIA reported that it was highly likely that the Iraqi Government originated the plot and more than likely that Bush was the target. Additionally, based on past Iraqi methods and other sources of intelligence, the CIA independently reported that there was a strong case that Saddam Hussein directed the plot against Bush. – See more at: http://hnn.us/article/1000#sthash.1KMHbZkx.dpuf

So in true Wild West style, George W. gathered up his posse and went after the bad guys. “Shoot ’em up, cowboys! Bang! Bang!” Too bad a lot of innocent people, Iraquis and Americans alike, got caught up in the bloodshed. Not to mention the trillions spent in the process…hard-earned taxpayer dollars. 

Minutes ago I visited another blogger’s site since she’d been by to view mine. From what I can surmise, she resides in the Middle East. It may even be that she’s an Iraqui. Reading her post, “Who Destroyed the Cradle of Civilization,”  it’s obvious she’s not speaking tripe. 

Saddam Hussein might have been the craziest of leaders but the man knew the geopolitics of Iraq. He was the impetus behind turning Iraq from a mere Arab nation to the most advanced Arab country in history. Iraq was always better than its neighbours. Healthcare facilities were excellent. Education was imparted right from the primary level up to the university, completely free of charge. Iraq was a nation where more human rights were granted to its citizens than any other Arab nation, especially in the areas of religion and liberation of women. The New York Times had thus, once called Baghdad “The Paris of the Middle East. Toppling Saddam Hussein was the biggest misstep US committed and now Iraq has to face people, I call pre-historic barbarians . I’d never thought a day would come when I’d have to support a man like Saddam Hussein over President Bush. Sometimes, I feel that the biggest Weapon of Mass Destruction in Iraq was Mr. President himself.

The day Saddam was caught President Bush had said, ” the world will be better off without you, Mr. Hussein.” Today Iraq has gone worse, and so has the world.

( http://akritimattu.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/who-destroyed-the-cradle-of-civilization/ )

I’ve always wondered why it is that some Americans insist other countries adopt our ways…lock, stock, and barrel?

Democracy, as we know it, works for us because it is founded upon Christian principles…because our ancestors were determined to free themselves from oppressive rulers…and because we’ve had centuries to make democracy our own.

How do Middle Eastern countries founded upon Islam adapt their values and cultures to Western ways? Not easily, that’s for sure. Should it be our battle? Or should it be that the people of the region figure it out with as little outside interference as possible?

A complex question with an impossible answer it seems. But it surely didn’t help…

to have a cowboy mentality in the White House. 

………hugmamma.

business and the oval office…a duck out of water

A good read in today’s Wall Street Journal, the following article brings perspective to the requirements of the Oval Office. Where I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I felt in my gut, this writer nailed it. Perhaps you’ll agree. Let me know what you think.

The Case Against a CEO in the Oval Office
by Alan S. Blinder

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% - Cartoon

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% – Cartoon (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Mitt Romney bases his case for being president on his evident success in business, where he made a fortune as CEO of Bain Capital. But are business achievements important, or even relevant, to the presidency?

Probably not. Presidential history teaches us that the abilities, character traits and attitudes it takes to succeed in business have little in common with what it takes to succeed in government. In some respects, they are antithetical.

Think of our greatest presidents. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the two Roosevelts didn’t have any business accomplishments to their credit. (Well, maybe Washington did, a little.) Neither, by the way, did Republican icon Ronald Reagan, who was once a union leader. Harry Truman sold a few hats, and Woodrow Wilson was a professor. On the other hand, the two truly successful businessmen to win the presidency were Herbert Hoover and George H.W. Bush.

This negative correlation between business success and political success is probably not a coincidence. Nolan Bushnell, the highly successful entrepreneur who founded both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, once observed that “Business is a good game–lots of competition and a minimum of rules. You keep score with money.” That’s virtually the opposite of being president of the United States: The president has no direct competitors (though he does have opponents), must abide by numerous rules and certainly doesn’t keep score with money.

The differences between business and government are manifold. Start with democracy, the preservation and strengthening of which may be a president’s first duty. Not many successful companies are run as democracies; benign dictatorship works far better. All the checks and balances that characterize American democracy would drive a hard-charging CEO, accustomed to getting his own way, crazy.

Sound companies dote on efficiency. They’d better, for the competitive marketplace is a tough environment. If you’re less efficient than your competitors, you’ll founder and probably fail. That’s what we love about capitalism–the survival of the fittest.

While there are niches in the federal government where efficiency matters a great deal, such as in defense procurement or running the General Services Administration, the White House isn’t one of them. Hoover was a sterling manager. But as he learned painfully, the big decisions aren’t about efficiency at all. It may even be critical to cut people a little slack here and there.

Rather than worshiping efficiency, some notion of ” fairness” is typically paramount in government. One of the key success criteria in politics may be public perceptions of fairness, for perceptions and realities don’t always line up.

Fair dealing can be important in the business world, too. But fairness per se–in the sense of everyone getting his or her just deserts–rarely is. Markets are engines of efficiency, not fairness. In fact, a generous helping of greed may be good in business, as Gordon Gekko–and before him, Adam Smith–taught us.

Which brings us back to keeping score. Top business executives focus single-mindedly on the “bottom line,” meaning profits. Among the reasons why so many smart business people fail in politics and government is that there is no bottom line–or perhaps I should say there are so many bottom lines that the search for a single one is futile.

A president wants to further the national interest. But that amorphous phrase subsumes dozens of goals, some of which are vague and several of which may conflict with others. Governing is certainly not about profits, whatever that might mean in a political context. The crisp political goal analogous to maximizing profits is maximizing your chances of re-election. But do we really want a president who dotes on that every day? By that ignoble standard, Richard Nixon was surely one of our greatest presidents and Lincoln one of our worst.

A long-standing debate rages over whether companies should act solely in the interests of their shareholders or should consider more broadly the well-being of “stakeholders”–a more encompassing term that includes (at a minimum) employees, suppliers, and the communities in which they operate. Stakeholder versus shareholder perspectives can lead to quite different decisions. Think, for example, of laying off workers or closing a plant. But there is no such debate in the private-equity world, Mr. Romney’s business home. Bain Capital’s website says that the firm’s mission “is to produce superior investment returns for our investors,” period. Governments need a wider view.

A good president communicates well with people and inspires them. Think about Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt–or more recently, Reagan and Bill Clinton. Corporate leaders need communication skills, too, but of rather different sorts. Mitt Romney’s repeated verbal stumbles bear witness to the differences; I presume he was a whiz with balance sheets and corporate boards. Barack Obama may never have met a payroll, but he’s a gifted orator, and empathy and fairness are in his bones.

Presidents must also be patient, a trait not prized in CEOs. A CEO often demands quick action and results. But the American system of government wasn’t designed for rapid change. Those annoying checks and balances are meant to get in the way. You don’t have to remind President Obama that Congress often tosses his ideas out the window–or totally ignores them. That doesn’t happen much to CEOs, whose underlings generally snap to attention. That may be why Mr. Romney keeps telling us all the things he’ll do in his first days in office. Oh, really? He apparently hasn’t met the U.S. Congress.

Setting foreign and military policy is the one place where, as George W. Bush inelegantly put it, the president often is “the decider.” But it’s the rare corporate executive who has any experience in, or even much knowledge of, these matters. Recall former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain stumbling over the names of countries. But it is the rare president who is not immersed in foreign policy virtually every day.

So don’t be surprised to find a superior businessman looking like a duck out of water as a presidential candidate. It is what history and logic should lead you to expect. The business of America’s government is not business.

The Peacemakers.

The Peacemakers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Mr. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.)

 

English: President Barack Obama welcomes Israe...

English: President Barack Obama welcomes Israeli President Shimon Peres in the Oval Office Tuesday, May 5, 2009. At right is Vice President Joe Biden. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. Français : President Barack Obama accueille le président israélien Shimon Peres dans le bureau ovale mardi 5 mai 2009. A droite, le vice-président Joe Biden. Photo officielle de la Maison Blanche par Pete Souza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

in the aftermath…#2

Following is the second in a series of opinions reacting to Osama bin Laden’s death, which I am sharing.

Bin Laden’s Last Challenge–to Republicans
by William McGurn

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...

Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

In life, Osama bin Laden‘s ability to elude capture for almost a decade after 9/11 challenged the American claim that no enemy is beyond her reach. In death, the al Qaeda terrorist now presents a new challenge, mostly to Republicans hoping to run in 2012. The message is this: You better have a coherent foreign policy to go along with your fiscal agenda.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is looking strong. For the moment, at least, he is strong. In the nearly 10 years since our troops set foot in Afghanistan, a clear outcome remains far from sight, and many Americans have wearied of the effort. As President Obama reminded us Sunday night, getting bin Laden doesn’t mean our work there is done–but his success in bringing the world’s most hunted man to justice does reinvigorate that work.

It does so, moreover, in a way that few of Mr. Obama’s recent Democratic predecessors in the Oval Office have matched. The killing of bin Laden was no one-shot missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory suspected of making chemical weapons, as ordered by Bill Clinton. Nor was it a failed hostage rescue in Iran a la Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was a potent combination of American force and presidential decisiveness.

SEALs in from the water.

Image via Wikipedia

First, Mr. Obama authorized a ground operation with Navy Seals far inside Pakistani territory. Second, he did not inform the Pakistanis.

These are the kinds of hard decisions that presidents have to make, where the outcome is likely to be either spectacular success or equally spectacular failure. For taking the risks that would paralyze others, and for succeeding where others have failed, the president and his team have earned the credit they are now getting.

Yes, in the days to come we may learn that the real story is a little more complicated than the one Mr. Obama gave us Sunday night. Did enhanced interrogation play a role in generating vital intelligence? And about that order to the CIA to get bin Laden: Wasn’t that a modification of an order given by George W. Bush after 9/11?

Nevertheless, in going after and getting bin Laden as forcefully as he did, Mr. Obama has just undermined one of the primary narratives against him–that of an indecisive president who worries more about the rights of our enemies than the freedom and safety of our citizens. If Mr. Obama ends up toppling Moammar Gadhafi too, he will look even stronger.

In fact, even weaker policies–e.g., cutting defense, pulling out from Afghanistan, might now be argued from a position of strength: “I said I would get us out of Iraq, and I did–and Iraq is stronger. I said I would prosecute our real enemies in Afghanistan, and I did–and we got bin Laden. It is true that I am reluctant to commit America to overseas conflicts. But when we are engaged I will finish the job.”

Do Republican candidates even have an answer? Apart from Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, few Republicans even talk about foreign policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably comes closest to offering a coherent vision, having come out for a robust foreign policy that backs up our friends and takes on our enemies without apology.

Within the GOP, however, there remains a strain that is deeply suspicious of U.S. involvement overseas, especially since the end of the Cold War. The irrepressible Ron Paul, of course, has been most explicit. Before announcing he wouldn’t run in the GOP presidential primaries, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sounded a similar note when he complained about trying to turn Afghanistan into Ireland and suggested we start shrinking our troop presence there.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

As for the rest, the former governors from last time around (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) seem to be hedging their bets. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served under President Bush, but he would hardly be confused for an advocate of any freedom agenda. For the most part, the Republican hope appears to be that eight-plus-percent unemployment along with six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will be enough to defeat Barack Obama.

They may be right. Certainly one forceful strike is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be re-elected, much less that he will follow-up with other muscular acts. But it does make the argument against him weaker. Up to now, Republican candidates seem to have believed they had been gifted with the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

President Obama makes surprise visit to Bagram...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

If Republicans are smart they will recognize that this meme took a big hit when a Navy Seal put a bullet in bin Laden’s head. Along with his decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president now has the opportunity to present himself in a way few Democrats ever have: as more hard-nosed about protecting the American people from foreign threats than his Republican opponents.

(Write to MainStreet@wsj.com)

in the aftermath…#1

President Obama confirms death of Osama bin Laden

Just as the media was rife with coverage of the royal wedding, so now the spinmeisters are  squeezing every last bit of life out of the latest news, Osama bin Laden’s demise. All the details have been revealed and recycled ad nauseum. So too have the endless probing questions put forth by the journalists. It’s made me realize that they’re just doing their jobs, as we all are, prince and princesses, presidents, housewives, reporters. So rather than regurgitate the known facts, I prefer to share some insightful opinions from different perspectives.

Obama’s Finest Hour
by Bret Stephens

There was only one discordant note in Barack Obama’s otherwise masterly speech Sunday night announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden. It came when the president invoked the word “justice” to describe what had just been done to the architect of 9/11.

It wasn’t quite the word he was looking for. But actions speak louder than words.

Justice as we in the West have come to know it, requires due process. It takes place in a courtroom under the supervision of a judge. Prosecutors must prove their case; defendants are entitled to a competent defense; rules of evidence and procedure must scrupulously be followed. A jury must render its verdict. Punishment can be neither cruel nor unusual.

Khalid_Sheikh_Mohammed

Image via Wikipedia

This is the sort of justice the hapless Attorney General Eric Holder had in mind when he sought to have bin Laden’s operational lieutenant, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, tried in a civilian Manhattan courthouse. The people of New York City revolted. KSM will now get better than he deserves in a military tribunal.

As for bin Laden, what was meted out to him was vengeance. Vengeance pure and simple, sweet and sound. Vengeance cathartic, uplifting, necessary and right. Got a problem with that?

I don’t. Nor did the people who poured into the streets Sunday night to cheer outside the White House, or the crowd I saw Monday morning as I walked the perimeter of Ground Zero.

“Why does everyone root for the avenger in feature films?” asks my friend Thane Rosenbaum, who teaches law at Fordham and is writing a book about revenge. “Is it because people are immoral in the dark, or is it because we all realize that the avenger’s quest and duty is righteous and true?”

Thane’s point isn’t that vengeance is better than justice. It’s that there can be no true justice without vengeance. Oddly enough, this is something Barack Obama, Chicago liberal, seems to better grasp than George W. Bush, Texas cowboy.

The former president was fond of dilating on the point, as he put it just after 9/11, that “ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice.” What on Earth did that mean? Of course we sought revenge. “Ridding the world of evil,” Mr. Bush’s other oft-stated ambition, was nonsense if we didn’t make a credible go of ridding the world of the very specific evil named Osama bin Laden.

For all of Mr. Bush’s successes–and yes, there were a few, including the vengeance served that other specific evil known as Saddam Hussein and those Gitmo interrogations that yielded bin Laden’s location–you can trace the decline of his presidency from the moment he said, in March 2002, that “I really don’t care (where bin Laden is). It’s not that important.

Outside of White House after death of Osama bi...

Wrong. It was of the essence. Americans didn’t merely want to be secured against another attack–an achievement experienced only in the absence of fresh outrages and appreciated only in hindsight. Americans wanted vengeance. It’s what they had wanted after Pearl Harbor, too: what took the Marines up Mt. Suribach, the Rangers up Point du Hoc. Revenge is a glue that holds a fractious nation together in the service of a great and arduous cause.

Mr. Obama, for all his talk of justice, understands this. Or, in the education that is the presidency, he has come to understand it. Maybe it’s true, as his critics allege, that his steady focus on finding bin Laden was done for the sake of declaring victory in the war on terror so that he could start rolling up America’s commitments in Afghanistan. If this is his “Mission Accomplished” moment, he will come to regret it.

But I doubt Mr. Obama is that dumb. Nor is there any reason not to take him at his word when he said Sunday that bin Laden’s death “does not mark the end of our effort.” Osama is dead; his franchisees carry on. Count on a self-styled bin Laden Martyrs’ Brigade to take credit for whatever terrorist atrocity comes next.

But even if it does, it will lack the sinister potency of previous attacks. The air of mystery that sustained al Quaeda all the way through Sunday night has finally been laid bare, and it looks like an ugly house that can be located in seconds on Google Maps.

Here is something that Mr. Obama, more than most Western leaders, deeply understands: Symbolism matters. It matters that the ultimate symbol of Islamist rage did not wear a ring of invisibility. It matters that he was taken out not by a laser-guided bomb, but by American fighting men whose names we may someday know. It matters that the story of 9/11 has been brought full circle, even as the fight against terrorists carries on.

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s been a whiff of sour grapes in some of the right-wing commentary about the president’s speech. Too much emphasis on the first-person pronoun, not enough credit to President Bush, and so on. It’s unbecoming. If ever there was a doubt about just how American Mr. Obama is, Sunday’s raid eliminates it better than any long-form birth certificate. This was his finest hour. It’s for the rest of us, avenged at long last, to rejoice.

(Write to bstephens@wsj.com)

 

the “right” wing voice…which is it?

Stanley Armour Dunham, Ann Dunham, Maya Soetor...

Image via Wikipedia

Don’t usually reference Republican opinions on my blog. I think they’re more than entitled, that’s for sure. Let’s just say our way of thinking, theirs and mine, don’t usually run along the same lines. This once, however, I thought I’d share the opinion of Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, former leader of the Office of Strategic Initiatives in the George W. Bush administration.

The GOP and the Birther Trap

Thanks to Donald Trump–real-estate mogul, reality-TV star, and possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination–a fringe conspiracy theory is now front and center in American politics: the claim that President Barack Obama might not be a natural-born American citizen.

By focusing on Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, Mr. Trump has garnered a lot of attention and some support. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, among Republicans he is now tied with Mike Huckabee as the most popular prospective GOP presidential nominee. If responsible Republicans don’t speak out immediately against Mr. Trump’s gambit, it will do substantial damage both to their party and to American politics.

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

Image via Wikipedia

The Trump case goes like this: Mr. Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate, his grandmother has stated that he was born in Kenya, his family is fighting over which Hawaii hospital Mr. Obama was born in, and “nobody knew” Mr. Obama while he was growing up in Hawaii.

The problem is that Mr. Trump is wrong on every particular.

Many media outlets have shown that Mr. Obama has a certificate of live birth that includes an embossed seal, an official signature, and all the information necessary for proof of citizenship. The directors of Hawaii’s health department and its registrar of records have both verified that the information on Mr. Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s record. His certificate would be accepted by the State Department and any court in America. “In other words,” the conservative magazine National Review has written, “what President Obama has produced is the ‘real’ birth certificate of myth and lore.”

Stanley Ann Dunham

Image via Wikipedia

In addition, both the Honolulu Star and the Honolulu Advertiser published birth announcements just days after Mr. Obama’s birth. Mr. Trump speculates that Mr. Obama’s grandparents put the ads in the papers “because obviously they want (Mr. Obama) to be a United States citizen. ” That sounds like an odd strategy. No one disputes that Mr. Obama’s late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a U.S. citizen. She graduated from Mercer Island High School outside Seattle the year before she gave birth.

Yet people like Mr. Trump act like the president appeared out of nowhere. He ominously said, “I’ve seen too many things,” hinting that there is a massive conspiracy underway that is obscuring the truth. What he is trading in is nonsense.

The problem for Republicans is that some significant figures within the party are giving a wink and a nod to his efforts. Sarah Palin has said, “I believe (Mr. Obama) was born in Hawaii,” but in recent days she also said, “More power to (Mr. Trump). He’s not just throwing stones from the sidelines, he’s digging in, he’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.”  (Ms. Palin has refused journalists’ requests to explain where the $2 million figure comes from.)

Representative Michele Bachman (R., Minn.) has said that she takes the president at his word and doesn’t care about the issue. But she has added: “The president just has to give proof and verification, and there it goes”–even though proof and verification have already been given.

When prominent figures in a party play footsie with peddlers of paranoia, the party suffers an erosion of credibility. While certain corners of a party’s base might be energized by conspiracy theories, the majority of the electorate will be turned off by them. People are generally uneasy about political institutions that give a home to cranks.

There’s more than a partisan cost to all this. Mr. Trump is succumbing to a pernicious temptation in American politics: not simply to disagree with political opponents, but to try to delegitimize them. The argument isn’t simply that Mr. Obama is wrong on almost every public policy matter (which I believe he is). Rather, the argument is that his presidency is unconstitutional and that he is alien.

President George W. Bush and President-elect B...

Image via Wikipedia

Something like this happened with Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who inspired such rage in some of his critics that they deemed his presidency illicit.

In self-governing societies, there have to be unwritten rules by which we abide. Among them is that we accept the outcome of elections and keep our public debates tethered to reality.

From time to time people emerge who violate these unwritten codes. They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.

(Wall Street Journal article)

2 wars, high unemployment, medicare overhaul, trillions in debt, nuclear disaster, unstable global economy, mid-east turmoil…

then there’s…obama’s birth certificate…

…hmmm…hugmamma.

 

something in common, Obama and the electorate

Am posting the words of another author, as I’ve done before. Bret Stephens’ article, “Not the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For,” appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s OPINION page, on November 2, Election Day. It doesn’t seem he’s a fan of Obama, but it’s for sure he’s not a fan of the electorate who voted the president into office, especially those complaining about his performance now. I don’t agree with all he says, but what Stephens posits is thought-provoking. You, dear reader, can decide for yourself.

And so, today, the American people will seek an honest reckoning with Barack Obama. Good luck with that. Whatever his other virtues–not the least of which is campaigning on tautological slogans while passing himself off as Marcel Proust–this president will never be distinguished by his humility: Don’t expect from him a decent admission, as George W. Bush had the decency to admit after the 2006 midterm, that his party had sustained a “thumping.” Instead he will immediately decamp to places where he is still admired. That means exiting the country.

So expect no reckoning there. Nor should Americans expect one with the Democrats. If the party does a little less disastrously than anticipated, it will rally like a stock whose quarterly losses are slightly less bad than had been projected. And if it’s Götterdämmerung, then we already know the narrative: secret sources of funding, plus a failure of communication. On which last score, they have a point: When your “accomplishments” consist of legislation nobody is allowed to read prior to the vote, and nobody can comprehend after it, then no wonder the swine have failed to take appreciative note of the pearls.

No, the only reckoning Americans can hope to get–and the one they most need to have–is the one they’re least likely to seek. That is a reckoning with themselves.

Pundits, particularly those who lean right, are schooled always to praise the wisdom of the electorate. Please. Only three years ago, Americans became acquainted with a junior U.S. senator with an interesting personal history, notable rhetorical gifts, programmatically liberal ideas and zero legislative accomplishments. Whereupon he was hailed as a saint and elected president.

In Argentina or Venezuela such behavior may be unexceptional. But we’re America, as they say: We’re supposed to be into celebrity culture, not cult-of-personality politics. What happened?

Maybe Americans were sold on Mr. Obama as the man who could deliver them from the financial crisis. I don’t buy it. Six months before Lehman Brothers collapsed, he delivered his instantly celebrated and soon forgotten race speech in Philadelphia. Historian Garry Wills compared it to Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Others called it “stirring,” “brave” and “flat-out brilliant.” This for an address in which the candidate defended his anti-American, anti-semitic pastor by outing his dying white grandmother as a woman prone to racist slurs.

Alternatively, perhaps Americans believed that Mr. Obama could make the United States beloved in the eyes of the world again. And maybe there’s something to this. He did wow them in Berlin. But what kind of electorate surrenders itself to the good opinion of a Kreutzberg Kaffee-klatsch or a Damascene hookah bar? As president, Mr. Obama also offered an outstretched hand to Iran and gave a big speech in Cairo to the Muslim world at large. Yet Iran continues to enrich, and the parcel bombs keep getting posted in the mail. How did anyone ever expect it would be otherwise?

The answer is that as in relationships, so too in politics: Infatuation clouds judgment. You bank on the empty promises even as you refuse to take the object of your desire at his most precise word. Americans disillusioned today with the president for his health-care legislation, his refusal to extend his predecessor’s tax cuts, his ties to labor unions and groups such as Acorn, and his belief in the regulatory state, can’t honestly say that they were promised otherwise during the campaign. They got almost exactly what they voted for–or at least they got an honest political stab at it. If Mr. Obama now thinks that they have no right to complain, he has a point.

True, the president hasn’t delivered on the promises of unity–of postracial, postpartisan, perhaps even post-American politics. These days, it’s friends versus enemies, the politics of right-thinking people versus the politics of fearmongers.

That’s not surprising. What is surprising are the masses of people who gave themselves over to the fantasy of unity in the first place. In a democracy, disunity is not just the reality, it’s the premise. To wish for unity is to wish for an entirely different kind of politics, or perhaps something beyond politics itself, like religious transcendence.

Americans spent most of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st fighting against that kind of wish, which goes by the name of totalitarianism and comes in fascist, communist or Islamist varieties. No, I’m not saying Mr. Obama is a closet totalitarian; on the contrary, he’s nothing if not a partisan pol. But the people who donned those creepy T-shirts with Mr. Obama looking to the far distance like a latter-day Che Guevara were wholly in the mold of Eric Hoffer’s true believers. In an earlier era they would have found their life’s purpose as followers of Shabtai Tzvi, William Davies or Father Divine.

And so Americans go to the polls. Democracy being what it is, it holds not only our leaders to account, but our own political choices as well. Plainly Barack Obama was not the one we’ve been waiting for. But let’s have the grace to admit we weren’t the ones we’d been waiting for, either.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

 I’m not sure who Stephens dislikes more, the president or those of us who elected him. While there certainly are many who are disenchanted with what Obama has, or has not, done; there are probably just as many, like me, who feel he has tried to do the best with the “hand he was dealt.” Yes, he has had to compromise, to pass through legislation. He might have preferred to write a new set of Ten Commandments, obligating us to do as he says. But alas, the presidency is not a “one man show,” contrary to current popular belief. He too, has had to make “detours,” which he probably hadn’t bargained for. That’s life. Even presidents are allowed to make mistakes. George W. Bush did, and it almost landed us into another Depression.

I’ve never thought of Obama as a “saint,” or a “messiah.” I reserve that for my husband, who has to put up with me. He might even claim that’s a bigger job than running a country. Actually, I thought of the President as a guy from Hawaii who was going to encourage the rest of America to do things the way the 50th state does, with “Aloha Spirit.” It may be, that the other 49 states aren’t ready for our laid back, accommodating, everybody’s-got-a-place-in- the-sun, attitude.

The island way is not perfect, that’s for sure. But most visitors to Hawaii leave feeling it’s a special place, where the people are special. It’s an inherent mind-set, where the natives prefer to “get along” with one another, rather than expending energy coveting what belongs to others. Maybe we’re “pupule” (crazy) to think the “Aloha Spirit” can thrive outside of the islands, but it’s just not in our nature to stop trying. Growing up in Hawaii, I’m sure the “Aloha Spirit” rubbed off on the President. So it may have been naive of him to think he could govern with it, but perhaps he knew no other way. Like us, his personal “baggage” is the framework from which he operates.

Sarah Palin brought her 49th state experience to the national political scene, as did Obama who brought his life experience in the 50th state to bear in his political career. I wonder if these two who hail from “the last frontier”, and “an island paradise,” respectively, can truly find commonality with the electorate throughout the other 48 states? Whether or not they can, they are both major league players in our country’s politics.

Unlike Stephens, I think we strive for unity in our democracy, even though we may fall short. America’s Founding Fathers were religious men, whose beliefs permeated the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. So maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think that we unconsciously, or consciously, incorporate our spirituality into our politics. Maybe it is fanciful thinking, but I like to believe our souls are what elevates us to be guardians of all that is available for our use on earth.

I’m not a fan of Stephen’s cynicism, but it did make me think.

how about you?…hugmamma.