President Obama’s Tax Compromise Passed by Congress

President Obama and Republican Leaders

On Thursday, the unthinkable (to many progressives) happened: Congress passed the tax cuts, a compromise deal which includes an $801 billion package of tax cuts and $57 billion for extended unemployment benefits. The bill will extend the Bush tax cuts for two years (all of the tax cuts) and provide for a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers.The extends for two years all of the Bush-era tax rates and provides a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers.

As FOX News relates,

Workers’ Social Security taxes would be cut by nearly a third, going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, for 2011. A worker making $50,000 in wages would save $1,000; one making $100,000 would save $2,000.

Many progressives see this as a betrayal. The Republicans, rightly or wrongly, have been accused of holding unemployment benefits and taxes for the Middle Class hostage in exchange for helping out their rich friends. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for example, leveled the accusation that Democrats were forced “to pay a king’s ransom in order to help the middle class.” Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) said it was “craziness” and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said “This legislation creates too few jobs and too much debt.”

The final vote?  277 to 14 with nearly identical numbers of Republicans and Democrats voting “aye”: 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans. The Senate had previously approved the package 81 to 19 on Wednesday.

There was an attempt to change an estate-tax provision in the bill (one that Obama had previously agreed to in his negotiations with the Republicans) but even after that failed, 139 Democrats voted for it as opposed to 112 against.

Two years, of course, will bring us right to 2012, when the future of the tax cuts will become more important than ever in the midst of a presidential election. This is not the last we will hear of the matter by any means. Some Republicans would like to see the tax cuts made permanent. Since tax cuts for the rich demonstrably do not create jobs, this position will be a tough sell for Republicans, particularly if the groundswell of opposition swings the other way at the end of the next two years, and it is the Republicans who find themselves under attack for perceived failings.

It is obvious to many people that the economic stability of our nation is at stake and that this deal is not going to fix those problems. It is no more than a finger in the dyke.

For now, the New York Times reports that administration officials say President Obama will sign the bill into law today.

This moment marks both a way forward and signals a lack of progress. Cooperation and compromise are essential facets of government in a modern liberal Democracy like ours and the willingness of Republicans to compromise at last should take center stage over what is seen as President Obama’s capitulation to Republican demands. The President has governed as a centrist and he did what a responsible president would do. Rather than stand on principle and make people suffer, he made a deal.

Rather like the framers of the Constitution back in 1787, none of whom got everything out of that deal they wanted and the New York Times tells us “The White House and Republicans hailed the deal as a rare bipartisan achievement and a prototype for future hard-bargained compromises in the new era of divided government.”

FOX News called it “a remarkable show of bipartisanship.” Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), called it “a bipartisan moment of clarity.”

And so it is.

Progressives, like their Republican opponents, seem of late to have forgotten that lesson. To stand on ideological purity and refuse compromise while the country crumbles around you is not an admirable thing, however they frame it. Government needs to continue to govern. In a sense, a politician hasn’t the luxury of principles, and that includes the president.

Ideological purity is for dictatorships.

For the first time in two years we have seen government function as it should. And if nobody got everything they wanted out of it, so be it. That’s how it works. That is how it has always worked. Sometimes one side gets more, sometimes the other. As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “There probably is nobody on this floor who likes this bill. The judgment is, is it better than doing nothing? Some of the business groups believe it will help. I hope they’re right.”

In this case, most Republican opposition centered around the creation of additional federal debt, but most of them voted for it anyway. Of course, Republicans did not get everything they wanted either.

Political reality suddenly meant something again to the arrogant GOP, as Eric Cantor (R-VA) was forced to remind his colleagues:

“We could try to hold out an pass a different tax bill, but there is no reason to believe the Senate would pass it or the president would sign it if this fight spills into next year.”

It remains to be seen if Democrats and Republicans can find other ways to work together, other areas in which compromise is a possibility, such as repeal of DADT and the DREAM Act, an amnesty program for illegal aliens who came to the United States as minors. There are things the Republicans will want and things the Democrats will want and the current balance of power does not grant to either the ability to pass that legislation without regard for the opinions of the other.

If anything at all is to get done for the next two years, this will not be the only compromise. In the end, both the achievement of bipartisanship in the face of ideological purity and the continuing problems (and its root causes) must be underscored. Fingers in dykes won’t make the flood on the other side of the wall go away. That deluge remains, waiting to sweep us all away. The question is, can our two major political parties stop their bickering long enough to fix it?

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Newt Gingrich’s New Gig: Tea Party Demagogue

Dec 08 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Newt Gingrich

“I’ve never seen an administration, even the Carter administration was never as routinely chaotic,” Newt Gingrich told CNN. “Every time you turn around, this administration is fumbling somewhere around the world.”

His reckless attack on President Obama the other day ought to infuriate liberals and progressives alike. After eight years of reckless disregard for any diplomacy at all, Republicans ought to think twice about venturing forth on that subject. They are in no position to criticize because they have already proven they have no idea what diplomacy even is.

Gingrich claims he sees a gap between “the clarity and focus of that campaign and the confusion of the presidency.”

This sounds an awful lot like an accusation that the presidency isn’t ideologically driven, which is counter to the meme Gingrich otherwise seems to be pushing.

Now remember, Gingrich has called Obama “the most radical president in American history.” A strange accusation made by one of the most radical congressmen in American history against what is in fact a very centrist president.  Remember too, the source of Obama’s radicalism according to Gingrich:

A “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Dinshe D’Souza (ex-boy-toy to demagogues Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham) wrote in Forbes magazine,

“Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father’s dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost”.

And Gingrich thought this analysis was a “stunning insight”.

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

We need to remember this – it is essential to remember this – as we track Gingrich’s rhetoric on Obama. He began his attack by declaring that Obama is “not one of us.” He’s one of “them.” This is more dangerous than simply calling Obama a liberal or progressive ideologue. He is feeding on the birther meme that Obama is not American at all. He has already delegitimized the president, sowing fear and doubt, and then followed up this attack with discrediting his foreign policy.

This politician of a authoritarian and totalitarian party, a man who has re-invented himself a politician somewhere to the right of the Tea Party, has stated that we need to “save America” from Obama and Obama-led authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

And apparently President Obama, who actually HAS a foreign policy, needs to get his act together. What exactly this might mean under the circumstances is anyone’s guess. Does Gingrich want Obama to emulate Bush, and have no direction at all? Simply shoot from the hip and attack people on a whim? Or to detract attention from his domestic problems?

You see, a foreign policy should show some concern for the actual geopolitical situation – the “conditions on the ground” that your fellow Republican Liz Cheney was complaining about the other day. I think most of us can agree that this is more important than an adherence to ideology. But Republicans don’t like the pragmatic approach. Pragmatism is somehow an ideology and all ideology is bad unless it is conservative ideology, which in some way apparently isn’t an ideology at all but simply “common sense.”

It’s enough to make your head spin. It’s certainly reasonable to suppose that Gingrich’s head spins. He is acting like a hyperactive demonic-possession victim as he preps for a possible 2012 presidential run. He wisely declined to run in ’08 but there is no reason to suppose he will show the same sensible restraint next time around. He seems to be keying himself up, and attacks like this serve no other purpose than to draw attention to himself and away from the very real accomplishments of our serving president.

We have enough unreasoning, reckless hate emanating from Sarah Palin. Do we really need it from another possible contender? Is there nothing more to foreign policy than hate and an out of control nuclear-armed American exceptionalism? As if there wasn’t already enough for the United States to apologize for after the Bush maladministration. It is difficult to imagine what the world landscape will look like after four years of Gingrich (or Palin).

We can’t afford it. Our country is broke and exhausted. We don’t need any more cowboy adventurism or ideologically or religiously driven crusades. We need real common sense, and that is something that exists only in the imagination in the right-of-center American political landscape.

An argument is only as good as its foundations, and in this case, Gingrich’s point-of-departure is just plain fantasy. Any argument based on the less than credible premise that Obama is a Muslim or a “Kenyan anti-colonialist” will not be any more credible in itself. A balanced scale – some of you may remember those old scales with weights, has to be poised in the middle, not towards the left or right, or it won’t weigh properly, and Gingrich’s scale is set far to the right. His argument is flawed from the outset.

Back in 1812,  Republican newspapers did something very familiar to those of us of the post-9/11 world, they accused everyone not thinking like they did of being traitors and “tories” (about on a par with terrorists) and said “whoever is not for us, is against us.” The Boston Gazette had an answer for that, and it will be my answer now:

“Agreed, if you say so. [We] are against you…and the opposition to you will increase through every stage of your madness.”

Let that be our battle cry.

4 responses so far

You’re No JFK: George W. Bush Is the Least Popular Living Former President

Dec 06 2010 Published by under Featured News

Gallup has released their 2010 poll of the most popular presidents of the last 50 years. While the two names at the top, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, should surprise no one, George W. Bush made his first appearance on the list, and promptly established himself as the least popular living former president.

After deceased presidents Kennedy (85% approval) and Reagan (74% approval), Bill Clinton is the most popular living former president. Clinton is third on the list with a 69% approval rating. He is followed by the man who he defeated for the presidency in the 1992 election, George H.W. Bush (64% approval), and Gerald Ford (61% approval). Jimmy Carter now sits at 52%. Lyndon Johnson is at 49%, which places him ahead of fellow Texan George W. Bush (47%), and as usual Richard Nixon is last at 29%.

The Gallup poll on former president approval is taken once every four years. The big gainers on the list were Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon Johnson who each gained eight points. Bush has seen his image change through his fund raising efforts with Clinton after the 2005 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti. Former President Clinton has enjoyed a revival in popularity that can not only be tied to his charity work, but also the popularity of his wife Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

Jimmy Carter took the biggest drop of all the former presidents. Carter has lost nine points of approval since the last survey, and this can mostly be attributed to Carter outspokenness on issues such as Israel and the Middle East. Carter’s name has also been vilified by the right due to his willingness to challenge them. Carter is the most publicly politically active former president, so it isn’t big shock that his post presidency approval rating would take a hit.

Despite the release of his new book, and what has amounted to a year plus long publicity campaign to repair his image, George W. Bush remains unpopular with the American people. The memories of the previous eight years have not been erased in the past two. The one thing that Carter, Johnson, and George W. Bush all have in common is that their presidencies were immediately judged as failures. It is the immediate perception, more than anything else that often seals the impression of a former president’s time in office.

At the top and the bottom of the list are the exceptions. Kennedy’s assassination and Nixon’s Watergate scandal influenced each former president’s popularity or lack thereof. History and memories tend to be kind to former presidents over time, but the stench of failure is not going to be removed from George W. Bush anytime soon. Just as images of LBJ are often shown alongside images of protests, racial unrest, and Vietnam, Bush will forever be shown with the war in Iraq, the collapsed economy, and most powerfully the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

If George W. Bush is doomed to lug a legacy of failure along with him wherever he goes, Bill Clinton is the one living former president who could continue to see his popularity grow. It is very possible that Clinton will surpass Ronald Reagan and become the second most popular former president on the list. The outstanding job that Hillary Clinton has done with her own career has remade the family name and turned the Lewinsky scandal more into a memory of Republican excess than a cause for presidential damnation.

George W. Bush’s presidency will never be remembered as fondly as Bill Clinton’s is today. In fact, W. will be lucky if he ever reaches the lofty heights of Gerald Ford. George W. Bush went from unprecedented popularity after to 9/11 to presiding over one of the most spectacular declines in presidential history. Within this poll is a lesson for Obama. Presidents are never remembered for where they start. Almost all of the people on this list were popular when they first entered office. It is how popular a president is when he leaves office that defines his legacy. There is still plenty of time for Obama. Even in the worst case scenario, he will likely fare better than George W. Bush.

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Sheriff Arpaio’s Freikorps

Nov 19 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues

The German term “Freikorps” (Free Corps) applies historically to volunteer armies raised to defend the homeland, generally in a garrison role or other minor duties. During the 19th Century, a period known for it’s poisonous levels of Nationalism, the idea of the freikorps was glorified and their members seen as heroes. This myth was firmly in place at the end of the First World War, when new paramilitary freikorps rose up amid the ruins of the defeated German empire. During this period they were composed of disgruntled Germans eager to get revenge on one enemy or another, including especially communists. Unsurprisingly, many of these men wanted permanent have been described as

[men who] have found in nihilism their final confession of faith. Incapable of any true co-operation, with a desire to oppose all order, filled with hatred against every authority, their unrest and disquietude can find satisfaction only in some conspiratorial activity of the mind perpetually plotting the disintegration of whatever at any moment may exist.

Sound familiar? Full of hate, hating authority, nihilistic?

The man describing them was Adolf Hitler, addressing the Reichstag on July 13, 1934. These men had supported his rise to power. He had harnessed their rage and their hate (sound like anyone you know?). And now he had no need of them. Their rage and hate was an obstacle now that he was in power, a liability, and he had done away with them in the Night of the Long Knives.

The Republican and Tea Party fascination with firearms and militias and “Second Amendment remedies” seem to have a lot in common with these freikorps volunteers. Just as the German freikorps saw themselves as the final line of defense of the Fatherland, so too these American conservatives see themselves as the true defenders of the Constitution (ironically, a Constitution they have neither read nor understand).

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is typical. Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio has run his domain like a private fief, much as would one of those post-First World War freikorps leaders. He is a law unto himself and likes to charge with crimes anyone who raises an eyebrow at his activities. As with Palin’s protege Joe Miller, it is illegal to ask questions. As with Bush, the law is anything Arpaio says it is.  He would probably arrest me for writing this if his jurisdiction reached into the Heartland.

As a result, it is not surprising that he has raised his own little freikorps. FOX News reports that on Wednesday he “swore in 56 members of a new volunteer sheriff’s posse group that includes “The Incredible Hulk” star Lou Ferrigno.”

Other prominent Arpaio Freikorps members are actors Steven Seagal and Peter Lupus of TV’s Mission Impossible, though Arpaio says they weren’t among those sworn in on Wednesday. Arpaio says “They will wear the same uniforms, so you can’t tell the difference.” I don’t know, I think Lou Ferrigno in particular might stand out:

Lou Ferrigno

Yes, the posse is armed, and yes, they wear uniforms. Like the freikorps.

The Freikorps already numbers some 3,000 members. Truly a private army to enforce Arpaio’s totalitarian regime.

Their duties? Fox News reports that,

The new posse group will specialize in helping deputies crack down on illegal immigration.

The sheriff says the volunteers’ duties will include bringing arrestees to jail and handling demonstrators who interfere with immigration patrols.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office website describes the posse thusly:

The posse, whose ranks have increased to 3,000 members under Arpaio, is the nation’s largest volunteer posse. Posse men and women help in search and rescue and other traditional police work as well as in special operations like rounding up deadbeat parents, fighting prostitution, patrolling malls during holidays, and investigating animal cruelty complaints. The posse’s contributions are invaluable and essentially free to taxpayers.

It is important to remember that after being officially disbanded many Freikorps joined the attempted Kapp Putsch in March 1920. That is, attempted to overthrow the government. These men also had guns and they didn’t want to give them up. Sound familiar?

Here is something else that will sound familiar:

Freikorps Poster - Protect your home

The caption on the above Freikorps poster? Should sound familiar to you. We are hearing it everyday. We hear it from Arpaio himself: “Protect your home.”

It’s interesting that the more the Republicans accuse liberals and Obama of being Nazis, the more Nazi they themselves look and act.

A little misdirection? Food for thought.

9 responses so far

Those Don’t Tax But Spend Republicans At it Again

Nov 16 2010 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party

For all their talk about balancing the budget and fiscal responsibility, the Republicans like to spend money. They just don’t like spending it on the same things as Democrats. Rather similar to the way in which they complain about federal regulations but love regulation when it comes to the things that are important to them, such as women’s bodies or marriage.

The Republicans have taken control of Congress and with it, several committees. One Democrat losing his job is Ike Skelton (D-MO). Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) , who right now is the ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee and is likely to replace Skelton as chair of the committee that controls defense spending (we will find out in January), announced at the Foreign Policy Institute on Monday that he opposes cuts in defense spending.

“Cutting defense spending amidst two wars, is a red line for me and should be a red line for all Americans. You do not need to be a policy expert to realize that investment is key to maintaining a robust defense”

And who started those wars, Buck? Yeah, that’s right: you guys did – A Republican administration. And Buck, have you forgotten? We are the most powerful nation on earth; the only remaining superpower.

And the economic crash also engineered by the Republicans? Doesn’t matter, says McKeon. It doesn’t matter if we didn’t tax but increased spending and deregulated and ruined the economy. We gotta keep putting dollars in defense – while not taxing.

Who is going to attack us, Buck? Or like Lindsey Graham are you thinking about attacking somebody else – best defense is a good offense and all that?

American defense spending in 2007 alone amounted to just over half of what was spent in the entire world. In 2008 it was close to 70%. It hasn’t declined appreciably since. I will ask again: Who is going to attack the United States?

China is a future threat, he says (I thought it was Iran? You and Lindsey need to get together and decide):

“While China may not intend to attack our carriers, neutralize our bases in Japan and Guam or push back our naval presence out of the South China Sea, they are without question making the investments and developing capabilities to do just that.”

I would put it to you that China is wise, given America’s recent rogue behavior, the rogue behavior suggested by certain current Republican politicians (Graham, Palin, et al) to put money into its own military. Continuing to spend, spend, spend, as advocated by Republicans is not a healthy course of action. That kind of overwhelming military superiority Republicans embrace is destabilizing but when combined with institutional paranoia, xenophobia (along with an unhealthy dose of American Exceptionalism and Old Testament apocalypticism), it is potentially catastrophic.

Of course, Republicans have already made it clear that they miss McCarthy. Maybe they miss the Cold War too. I know! Let’s start a new one with China and spend each other into the grave.

In the end, it all sounds like more of that “New American Century” crap, in other words, an imperialistic bully-boy America, the wet dream of American Exceptionalists. McKeon gives the game away when he says,

“The growth in the department’s top line is insufficient to address the future capabilities required by our military. One percent real growth in the defense budget over the next five years is a net cut for investment and procurement accounts. A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline.”

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

You’ve got to wonder if McKeon will want to continue funding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program which has already cost taxpayers $382 billion and is about to cost $5 billion more, according to a report from program chief Vice Admiral David Venlet.

That ain’t pocket change, Buck.

Remember when President Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex?

President Eisenhower was a Republican. Apparently, Buck and Lindsey and these other big spenders aren’t Eisenhower Republicans.

Do you remember how Bush cut taxes and started two wars, and sent our economy into a tailspin? Yeah, you can’t fight wars without money and most people (but not Republicans, apparently) realized you need money to spend money. Not only do we need to wonder what all this military spending is for but we have to wonder where the money is going to come from.

The Republicans aren’t big on revealing this part of their plan, mostly because they don’t have a plan, which is why Republican administrations with great regularity send our deficit skyrocketing.

Fiscal responsibility? Please.

They criticize liberals as “tax and spend” but how else are you going to spend? If they were serious about “not taxing and not spending” they might have a point, but they aren’t; they want to “not tax and spend” which is a recipe for disaster, as surely everyone recognizes. Right? Don’t we?

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Going Rogue: The Bush Doctrine and American Exceptionalism

Nov 09 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Fruits of the Bush Doctrine

What is a pre-emptive or preventative war? A pre-emptive war is one you initiate if you think somebody is going to attack you, and you want to get the first blow in; in other words, pre-empt their attack. Obviously, having the initiative is a good thing in warfare, something you never want to lose. In the First World War, Germany adopted a pre-emptive strategy to attack France. Everybody in Europe was upset about Austria going after Serbia; Russia was mobilizing. France was not. No one but Austria and Serbia were actively at war. But the German plan called for taking France out first and then focusing on Russia. Russia was a potential threat. France was a potential threat.

The German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg asked General Moltke:  “Is the Fatherland in danger?”

Moltke said, “Yes”.

It was as easy as that. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1 and France on August 3, 1914. But it wasn’t as simple or quick as anyone thought; it guided the history of Europe for half a century. There might still be a few people who do not realize that the Second World War was a continuation of the First.

Many excuses have been used to declare war over the many centuries of human existence. Humans love to make excuses; it makes them feel better about things, even when there is no real excuse.

Rome, for example, used a flimsy pretext to take out what was left of hated Carthage in 146 B.C.E. Of course, Carthage after losing the first two wars was no threat at all to Rome. It had been disarmed and in the words of Senator Lindsey Graham, “neutered.” But Carthage had grain. Rome needed grain. This excuse would come up less than a century later when Rome began to become involved with Ptolemaic Egypt. Keep that excuse in the back of your mind as we go along here.

Great Britain felt it had the right to interfere in European affairs and build coalition after coalition to defeat Napoleon, not because Napoleon, becoming emperor had attacked Britain (he had fought them as a general of the First Republic) but because they saw Napoleon as a threat. His rise to the rule of France had upset the Old Order of kings. It did not matter in the end if Napoleon wanted peace or not (and he has shouldered an unfair proportion of blame since 1815 since the victors wrote the history books), Britain was going to take him out. And they did.

Iraq: The Bush Doctrine at Work

There is a parallel here with Saddam Hussein. It didn’t matter if Saddam behaved or not. George W. Bush was going to take him out. He was talking about it as early as 1999, whatever lies he is telling in his recent autobiography. And it was really just an excuse. Bush knew as well as anyone that Saddam was no threat to the U.S. Bush’s father had stomped him (can we say “neutered”?) in the first Gulf War and the Iraqi dictator had been more or less behaving since then.

Bush said, “He has weapons of mass destruction!”

Of course, this was not true, and Bush knew it was not true. But it was a handy excuse.

Bush said, “Saddam was behind 9/11!”

Of course, this was not true, and Bush knew it was not true. Saddam didn’t let al Qaeda operate in Iraq. He knew that al Qaeda was at war with the rest of Islam and that it was a threat to his regime.

But it was a handy excuse.

Besides, and shades of Rome and Carthage here, America needed oil and Iraq had oil.

Excuses, it is important to remember, are not the same thing as reasons. The United States had an excuse to attack Iraq, albeit, a manufactured excuse, but it had no legitimate reason. Iraq had no WMDs, it had no way to effectively attack the U.S.  even if it had wanted.

In the end, Bush got his war, took our eyes off his inept handling of domestic issues, and profited hugely in economic terms while thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, many of them innocent civilians. Iraq was literally ruined and is still recovering. Fifty-thousand American troops will remain there probably for years to come to bolster the new democratic regime.

None of this would be as relevant today if Republicans (and America’s belligerent ally, Israel) were not advocating attacking Iran, which, they claim, is a threat.

But it could equally and justly be argued that Israel and the U.S. are threats to Iran, couldn’t it? By this rationale doesn’t Iran have the right to attack us now, before we can attack them? And if they do, would we have a right to complain?

Who isn’t a threat to somebody else? If we all acted on potential threats the world be in a state of perpetual war. Does this line of reasoning make any sense at all?

The real problem lay in the assumption that if somebody is a threat to you that you have to attack them first. But you don’t. There is a thing called diplomacy. Clausewitz understood this if Bush did not: “War is not merely a political act, but also a political instrument, a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means.”

Bush skipped the first part as irrelevant – political actions – diplomacy. For Bush, war became THE political instrument. No longer does war pick up where politics leave off; war becomes a substitution for politics.

Sarah Palin infamously did not know what the Bush Doctrine was, but we do, don’t we?

It was Dick Cheney who said it, of course:

“If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

This is, in a nutshell, the Bush Doctrine, also known as the One Percent Doctrine. But of course, the Bush Doctrine also enshrined such concepts as,

  1. Preventative (pre-emptive) war
  2. Deposing foreign regimes who might be a potential or perceived threat to U.S.  security
  3. Spreading democracy, especially in Middle East
  4. Unilateral pursuit of U.S. military interests

And all this packaged with an unhealthy dose of American Exceptionalism, the new term for extreme nationalism, the evils of which led to WWI and thus to WWII and thus to the Cold War.

In the end, it all boils down to “Might makes right.”

We modern folks look back on Empires like Rome and shake our heads at their naked imperialist ambitions (all too often not realizing or understanding the complexities of Rome’s relations with its neighbors) but apparently are willing to re-elect a political party in our own supposedly enlightened time that embraces a species of naked imperialism even Rome never suffered from. For example, Rome attacked Macedonia because Macedonia had sided with Hannibal and Carthage. But Saddam had not sided with al Qaeda and it was al Qaeda which attacked the United States, not Iraq.

The Roman Republic, with no court of world opinion, moved more reluctantly to war than the United States.

Essentially, Bush and Republicans like Lindsey Graham today seem to think that the One Percent Doctrine should be a permanent  part of substitute for American diplomacy. Anyone is a threat, might be a threat, or might be perceived as a threat: attack and destroy.

No, even empires like Rome did not operate like that. And no empire, including Rome, enjoyed the preponderance of force enjoyed by the United States today.

It is time to consider what would come of Republican victories in 2012. We can be reasonably certain that President Obama will not attack Iran. But a Republican president, like Bush fully backed (one might say owned by) profiteers and oil companies? It is time to be reducing an appeal to war, to making war less an instrument of policy and understand that for war should be a last, not a first resort.

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George W. Bush Blames Sarah Palin for Losing the 2008 Election

Nov 05 2010 Published by under Featured News

As former President George W. Bush gets set to make the media rounds to promote his memoir, he is being peppered with questions about 2012 and Sarah Palin, but Bush is no Palin fan. In fact, he blames the choice of Palin for losing the 2008 election. According to the New York Daily News, Bush thinks that McCain, “destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin.”

According to a story in the New York Daily News, George W. Bush is no fan of Sarah Palin. According to a source, “He thinks McCain ran a lousy campaign with an unqualified running mate and destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin.” Even worse, Bush questioned McCain manhood because he picked Palin, “Naming Palin makes Bush think less of McCain as a man.”

Maybe the NY Daily News story is not enough evidence for you? Fox News played a clip of former President Bush’s upcoming appearance on Oprah, where he is asked about Palin and 2012.

Here is video courtesy of Media Matters:

When asked by Oprah if he thought that Sarah Palin was the one for the Republican Party in 2012, Bush said, “You know, I am not a political pundit. I’m really not, and secondly, a lot is going to happen between now and the nominating process.” Oprah said, she was just asking for his opinion. Bush replied, “You are asking me to wade back into the swamp.”

If Bush’s answer seems familiar, it should be. It is the exact same point that Karl Rove made when asked about Palin on Face the Nation, “Well, I don’t know whether she is going to run or not, and if she runs she would be a formidable candidate, but look there are going to be several geological ages that are going to come and go before the 2012 Republican presidential nomination fight gels.”

Last night, Rove went on Hannity and gave Palin a half baked apology for his criticism of her reality show, but today, this story shows up in the NY Daily News cited an unnamed Republican official who is familiar with President Bush’s thinking calling Palin the reason why Republicans lost in 2008. Any guesses on that unnamed Republican official might be? Rove’s statements mirror those of other former Bush administration members. David Frum, Nicolle Wallace, and Mark McKinnon are three other Bushies who have had strong words for and about Palin.

Palin fancies herself to be the leader of the Republican Party, but the Bush family dominates the levers of power within the GOP. George W. Bush was terrible president, but he was qualified to hold the office, and the man is the best campaigner in the Republican Party. He has good instincts when it comes to electoral politics, but he could not govern at all. I believe that Bush thinks that Palin is unqualified, and he probably does blame her for the loss. He probably sees what everyone outside of her blind followers can see. If Palin wins the nomination, it will be a disaster for the Republican Party.

If George W. Bush doesn’t want Palin to win the nomination, then it is a pretty safe bet that she won’t win the nomination. Palin is getting schooled in big time Republican politics by Rove. In fact, the methodology is classic Karl Rove. He said one thing in public on Hannity, and did the complete opposite in private. Sarah Palin might win a fight against celebrities and the media, but she won’t win a battle with the George W. Bush wing of the Republican Party. George W. Bush is the one Republican who can tame the Mama Grizzly.

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A Lesson for Americans: Reaping the Consequences of Hate

We have all heard the old saying, “You reap what you sow.” This lesson was recently learned by an Arkansas school board district member, Clint McCance, vice-president of the Midland School District in Pleasant Plains. Posting on Facebook, McCance said, in response to a campaign sponsored by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) that people should wear purple to honor suicide victims of anti-gay bullying,

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed therselves because of their sin.” (sic)

McCance now realizes he went too far.

“I’m reaping what I’ve sown,” he told CNN. “I’ve had a lot of hate speech thrown at me and my family on every level.”

But it’s not just what McCance said, it’s the underlying beliefs that led to those words he used, and more than that, it’s the underlying beliefs of the people to whom he directed those words: religious bigots.

Now it’s bad enough when somebody wishes ill on somebody else. None of us should do that no matter how much we disapprove of the person or their actions. A favored religion-inspired response is to say “we don’t hate the sinner; we hate the sin” as if that makes everything okay. It doesn’t. And McCance, to his credit, did not fall back on that to explain his own words.

The lesson that must be learned here, by everyone, but especially by Republicans from whom this hate is flowing, is that you do reap what you sow. Actions have consequences. The 2006 election should have taught them that; the 2008 elections should have driven that lesson home: most Americans do not agree with them.

Words spoken have consequences, but all too often people escape those consequences due to political cronyism.

For example, Juan Williams lost his job at NRP but he has a lucrative job with FOX News, which applauds his hate-mongering xenophobia and is now leading a conservative witch-hunt against NPR. And conservative Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of George W. Bush’s disastrous and bloody Iraq strategy, after his misdeeds at the World Bank had, in Paul Krugman’s words, “a chair waiting for him at the American Enterprise Institute,” a conservative think tank.

Sometimes, what is reaped is a reward by those for who hate mongering is a lucrative business. Sadly, that includes at this point in our nation’s history one of our two main political parties, the corporate-funded GOP, and the conservative billionaire-funded Astroturf movement known as the Tea Party. American politics have become all about hatred and xenophobia. With the aftermath of Katrina we learned that what was most important to Republicans was apportioning blame. What we have learned since is that what is most important is identifying the constructed Other and then blaming them.

For purposes of conservative rhetoric, the constructed Other is anything other than a white conservative Christian. This makes target acquisition easy: anyone can be a target, from liberals (Ann Coulter) to progressives (Glenn Beck) to feminists and pagans (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell) to gays and lesbians (too many to count) to atheists (George H.W. Bush and many others), to immigrants (too many to count), to Muslims (Sharron Angle, Judson Phillips and others), to people who ask questions (Sarah Palin, Joe Miller). All these groups are somehow responsible for destroying the America these conservatives claim once existed and that they want back.

Never mind for a moment that this America never existed. Give it time. They will soon have school books reflecting an ideologically approved revision of history. What is important is that everyone is the enemy, everyone is a potential witch. And it is not only individuals, not even ordinary people like you and me (Lauren Valle, Tony Hopfinger). It is politicians (Vice President Al Gore, Senator John Kerry, Keith Ellison, Barack Obama); it is non-profit organizations (ACORN); it is NPR, which had the courage to take a stand against the hate-mongering and xenophobia; It is the government of the United States; it is the Constitution itself.

We have all been identified as the enemy. We have all of us, because we fail to support the conservative vision of an America that never existed, who have been accused of treason and labeled traitors. But you can’t be guilty of treason against something which does not exist.

Sometimes, as in the case of McCance, the guilty party recognizes he went too far. More often than not, when they are called out, they act like they never said it (Bachman, Angle); they are being persecuted unfairly (Palin, Angle, Bachman, O’Donnell, et al) and that they are the victims, just as it is the bullies in school who are the real victims, not the kids they force to commit suicide. You won’t see any of these people apologizing or recognizing consequences.

Others, like McCance, do, however sincere the apology may or may not be. For example there is Wisconsin GOP candidate for lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who in a recent radio interview said that gay marriage is to be compared to marrying clocks and dogs.

She has since apologized, saying,

“My comments were meant to relay my concern with redefining marriage. I never intended to sound insensitive, and have the utmost respect for all people. I apologize for my poor choice of words.”

On the other hand, there is Tony Perkins, who says that gay teens commit suicide because they know they are abnormal (and your bigoted words would have nothing to do with them coming to believe that, would it, Tony?).

And there is Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas who has somehow come to the belief (remember, he’s from Texas) that that Republicans “can’t compromise on principle.” What principles are Gohmert speaking of, you ask?

Right Wing Watch reports that,

Gohmert, who recently said that God has ordained Christians to run the country, sounded a similar theme on today’s call. He said God gives the sword to government to punish evil, and urged “true Romans 13-believing Christians” to understand that America’s founders set things up so that the people are the government. “We are given the sword in this country.” He told them that God had blessed American Christians and that they’re expected to use the sword of government and hire (elect) servants (public officials) “to do what we tell them.”

The politics of hate are all around us, fueled by right-wing religious fanatics, our own Taliban, and sad to say, it is us, far less often them, who will reap the consequences of what they have sown. But we too bare responsibility when we go to the polls on November 2. If you don’t want to be a victim, don’t be. Don’t put these people in power. Don’t worry about God doing the right thing for America. YOU do the right thing for America.

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The GOP’s Unconstitutional Remedies

The GOP Wants You!

I think Most Americans have a basic understanding of how our political system is structured and how it works. People run for office for one political party or another, one is elected and the other(s) lose. This is a simple, easy to understand system; it has been in place in this country for better than two centuries and it has worked more or less, for that entire time. I say “more or less” because we cannot forget the Civil War, when one segment of the country – the slave-owning South – did not like how things were going (i.e. the demise of slavery) and decided they didn’t want to play anymore with the other states. They picked up their toys and went home. They called their new country the “Confederate States of America.”

Our president at the time, Abraham Lincoln (a Republican) said, “I don’t think so” and the two sides fought. Six hundred thousand dead Americans later, the South lost. The slaves were freed. The Constitution was updated to reflect this fact. That seemed to have settled the issue. Let the record reflect, Lincoln essentially said, that we are one country and that those men did not die in vain:

It is time to reflect on the meaning of the Constitution, and upon Lincoln’s words. Every state has ratified the Constitution. The Constitution says, and we have agreed, that we are one nation, not a confederation of independent nations as under the Articles of Confederation.  The Civil War bloodily drove this point home: that we are all in this together, one nation undivided, and that we don’t simply up and quit when things don’t go our way. We don’t get to take our toys home. No, we work to change them democratically, through the Constitution. When necessary, we even make amendments to the Constitution, as the Founding Fathers did when they incorporated the Bill of Rights (actually ten amendments) into that document (1791); as the Lincoln-sponsored Thirteenth Amendment (1865) freed the slaves and the Nineteenth (1920) gave women the right to vote.

Amendments are Constitutional remedies; Secession and armed rebellion are not. They are treason.

Increasingly, right wing politicians and pundits have advocated violent opposition to things they don’t like (i.e. liberal governance). New York Times columnist Frank Rich drew a clear and undeniable connection between FOX News’ Glenn Beck and right-wing extremist Byron Williams. These right-wing demagogues have increasingly and chillingly advocated un-Constitutional remedies if things don’t go their way in the upcoming midterm elections.

The lesson of the Civil War seems to be lost on these men and women. Let’s look at a few examples:

We have all the Tenther talk about “states rights,” a conversation that leads quickly to talk about secession, including Texas governor Rick Perry, who said,

“There’s a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”

Another governor, Sarah Palin of Alaska, had ties (through her husband) to Alaska-first secessionists. There is Palin’s infamous March 2010 Tweet,

Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.

There is a congressional candidate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, who blithely spoke of “Second Amendment remedies” in case of defeat. In an interview with conservative talk-show host Bill Manders, she said,

Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical…

Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.

Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

We can now add to the list Stephen Broden, a Texas pastor running for Congress, who says that,

“We have a constitutional remedy. And the Framers say if that don’t work, revolution.”

The problem is that the Framers didn’t say that. Revolution is not in any amendment; it is not in the Constitution. Yet Broden insists that if a violent uprising “is not the first option,” it is still “on the table.”

No, it’s not. It cannot be.

This treason narrative is all a part – and a result – of the larger Republican “myth of usurpation,” that since their ’08 defeat in the national elections the GOP is a “government in exile” and that President Obama is a “Kenyan Muslim” usurper.

Republicans have somehow been able to convince themselves that their country has been taken away from them and that they want it back. Never mind that it is our country – ours collectively – and that the country they seem to want to “take back” never existed outside of their imaginations. Two centuries of sometimes diametrically opposed forces working together, through contention and compromise and quid pro quo, have brought about this nation. The American Revolution ended British rule; the Constitution created the United States of America, and that creation did not all happen at once. It was a process; the United States is the result of political compromise and evolution, not violent overthrow.

Compromise, the very thing right-wing politics, married to Old Testament standards of religious purity, refuse to do.

Broden, like the other wannabe Che Guevara’s on the right, seems convinced that he has every legal right to overthrow a legally and constitutionally elected government if he doesn’t like it:

“If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary.”

I would invite Pastor Broden to point to the relevant article in the Constitution to justify that claim.

Broden seems – belatedly – to have realized he went too far, and has backed off a bit in his statements since the incident, but these incidents mark a disturbing trend in right-wing politics.

We can add military personnel to this list of politicians. There is Army Lt. Col. Terry Lakin who refuses to deploy overseas because he won’t accept President Obama as his legitimate commander in chief. And Lakin was not the first. Last year, an Army Reserve major first volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, then, according to MSNBC, “filed suit to keep from being deployed, arguing that Obama was not a natural-born citizen.”

Now we have Stealth bomber pilot Major Brian “Jethro” Neal, who, Bruce Wilson of Talk to Action reports, says

“I’m going to have to separate myself from the service of this nation if it’s required in order to propagate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not going to disregard my responsibilities. But if there ever comes a time when there is a priority to be made, a decision to be made, it must always rest in the work of the Lord and the Lord’s army. Because that commission is greater than the one I received from the United States Air Force Academy.”

Bruce Wilson reminds us that the oath sworn by Neal as a member of the U.S. armed forces, promises that he would,

“support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

As Wilson points out,

“Neal’s statement seemed imply that his “commission” in the “Lord’s army” superseded his commission, as an Air Force officer, to defend the Constitution and obey the President and the chain of command. As an elected official, Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle has sworn similar oaths, to defend the American Constitution and, by extension, American Democracy. Like Neal, Angle has made statements that suggest she is less than fully committed to Constitutional democracy.”

It seems that not only do Republican candidates show little awareness of the Constitution and what is in it, but they do not think it applies if it does not give them the results they want. President Bush treated our founding document like a list of suggestions he could ignore at will, and that seems to be the continuing trend on the right. But there are constitutional remedies to the Constitution. It is called democracy. Republicans ought to consider trying it. It has worked for this country for a couple of centuries. And those that don’t wish to play along? We have a remedy for them as well: it’s called federal prison.

10 responses so far

The GOP is Living on a Prayer

Oct 24 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

An Indiana Prayer Drop Box

The Republicans talk a lot about prayer, a natural off-shoot of their tendency to talk about God. If there was any lingering doubt about the Grand Old Party having become God’s Own Party, the 2008 elections should have dispelled it, and the lead-up to the 2010 midterms have only cemented the new Republican focus.

Sharron Angle said, “I believe that God has been in this from the beginning and because of that when he has a plan and a purpose for your life and you fit into that, what he calls you to he always equipped you for.”

God apparently equipped her with everything but answers. But Angle is the latest, not the first.

Sarah Palin isn’t the first either, but she is by far the most written about. Running for VP back in 2008, and a potential candidate for 2012 and would-be kingmaker and self-styled spokesperson of the Tea Party, offered this nugget:

“As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he’s so bold. And he was praying “Lord make a way, Lord make a way.”

“And I’m thinking, this guy’s really bold, he doesn’t even know what I’m going to do, he doesn’t know what my plans are. And he’s praying not “Oh Lord, if it be your will may she become governor,” no, he just prayed for it. He said, “Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that’s exactly what happened.”

She thought her success was due to God. But this is not a personal thing. For Sarah Palin, it is national. God favors the U.S.A.

At the Wasilla Assembly of God church in 2008, Palin said, “Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan.”

She thought so as the election loomed too. In an interview with James Dobson she said,

To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder. And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God’s hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4.

She’s not alone, obviously, in feeling this way. George W. Bush himself styled his brace of 2003 wars a “Crusade” and felt that his own election had been divine providence. One of his generals, William Boykin, felt the same way, claiming that God, not the American people, had elected Bush. But Boykin went farther: “The enemy that has come against our nation is a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan. And if you do not believe that Satan is real, you are ignoring the same Bible that tells you about God.”

And here we thought we were fighting Saddam Hussein, or perhaps al Qaeda.

People have a right to believe what they will, or nothing at all. The Constitution (for now) still guarantees that. But it is a little disturbing to think of the nuclear football falling into the hands of somebody who thinks God wants them to get all “Old Testament” on another country.

I mean, we at least like to think our leaders (and their generals) can accurately identify the enemy. And Boykin’s “demonic presence” and “forces of darkness” are a little too vague for me. In fact, such words ought to send shivers down our spins.

I’m all right with people praying. It doesn’t hurt me. As Thomas Jefferson said, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

But I don’t want my government run on prayer. And we have a surfeit of prayer these days and a lack of answers. We want our political leaders to address the issues that matter most to us, and we want them not only to listen but to give us answers. Prayer is a cheap answer, isn’t it?

“We’ll pray about that,” “Let’s pray about that…” These aren’t answers. These are substitutions for answers, implying that you have no answers, like the vague “God works in mysterious ways.”

Yes, but our political system does not. It’s cut and dried, spelled out in detail in the Constitution of the United States of America. It is not, significantly, found in the Bible. And God and the Bible are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

So how about addressing the issues. Rather than assuring us that “God will do the right thing” or that prayer will save our country, how about telling me what you intend to do about it? The Republican base may be titillated by thoughts that a candidate has a private line to God, and many of them seem to think so (Palin, Bachman, O’Donnell, Angle and others), but I think the majority of the American public are more like me, skeptical of claims of divine support.

It’s hard to find a Tea Party candidate who doesn’t say God chose them to run. It’s enough to make you wonder what God has against this country. I’m no atheist by golly. I mean, I believe in more gods than Sarah Palin does, but atheism would be almost a relief after all this God-talk.

Enough prayer. Show us the answers. We are going to the voting booth on November 2; we are not going to church. It’s time that distinction was clearly understood.

Or better yet: Pray, Republicans, by all means, pray. The rest of us will go to the voting booth and cast our votes, because we know that prayer will not reduce the price of gasoline at the pumps, and we know that your God does not elect our presidents.

If you really think God is on your side, take this challenge: You cast your prayer in the box shown above, and we will drop ours in the ballot box.

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