Saturday, June 7, 2008

* Historic moments – In the course of a lifetime events of truly historical significance are rare. So far in 2008 we have been fortunate to witness two very special developments. On Tuesday night those of us watching Barack Obama’s speech in Minnesota experienced with him the crossing of a threshold in American politics and history. An African American is the nominee for President of the United States of America. The divisiveness of race has been lessened and I have a sense of pride for America. Equally important to the moral growth of our nation is the achievement of Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton has demonstrated that gender is no longer a barrier to attracting the support of millions of Americans for the highest office of leadership in the free world. Future generations will note this just-concluded Democratic presidential contest as not only groundbreaking but also evidence of a nation growing up.

* The “average” guy does not qualify for President of the U.S. - New York Times columnist and often times Bush apologist David Brooks is one of the last people I would seek out for a good laugh. But there he was on MSNBC pontificating on Tuesday as Barack Obama edged closer to the Democratic nomination for president of the U.S. Brooks said, “Obama‘s problem is he doesn‘t seem like a guy who can go into an Applebee‘s salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there. He has to change to be more like that Applebee‘s guy and as he‘s done that he‘s become much more transactional.” The last time I was in an Applebee’s I did not bump into someone that I wanted as my president. I want someone who is exceptionally bright, visionary, tough and dedicated to working 18 to 20 hours a day to lead and transform my country. I have enough friends to share a six pack, argue over a football game or compare our prescription drug plans. George Bush was seen as the type of guy with whom people wanted to share a barbecue. The result was that we got cooked with the pulled pork.

* A changing electorate – The Philadelphia Inquirer asked readers to comment on the following question: With the Democratic primaries over, what, in your view, led to Hillary Clinton's position at the finish? The following is the letter I submitted: Under normal circumstances, especially when our troops are in harm’s way, voters look to experience. The circumstances in America are far from normal and the human, moral, and economic drain resulting from the Iraq war emphasizes to Americans that experience has it limitations - especially when that experience is misused to enhance power to the detriment of the public good. The experienced ones, in all branches of government, have failed this country. Barack Obama is perceived as a break from the “experience” that Sen. Clinton symbolizes and he offers a fresh approach to a troubled country. The “tried and true” is no longer comfortable to America’s youth and many of us older heads.

* Excerpt from an interview on NPR: “In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service.” The speaker is Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded ground troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. He just authored “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story” and he joins the book of the week parade that I expect will continue for quite some time, demonstrating that King George is naked - intellectually and morally.

* The Pharmacy that America Trusts – This catchy slogan of Walgreens deserves greater scrutiny. On Wednesday the Justice Department announced an agreement for the drug store chain to pay $35 million to settle claims it improperly switched patients to more expensive versions of three drugs. The company denied any wrongdoing in connection with the settlement. One would have to be popping Percocet to believe that Walgreens paid $35 million if they did no wrong? Why is the Justice Department not prosecuting executives of the company who made the decision to screw consumers? Corporate fines are of little consequence to those entrepreneurs who choose to be leeches. Personal jail time would have a broad impact. Perhaps the next President will install a real Attorney General to head the Justice Department instead of the Punch and Judy puppets we know as Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey.

* Speaking of Rule of Law – Our current President is known for executive orders, secret executive orders and orders that even he is not allowed to know he issued. He set the presidential record for the number of times he signed a law and then added a signing statement interpreting the law in such a way that it often had little connection to the intent. At a recent fund-raiser in Denver Barack Obama said, if elected president, one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed by George W. Bush. “I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution.” It is noteworthy that Obama has a background teaching constitutional law. My biggest concern is that this chore alone could consume his first two years in the White House. There is much to be undone.

* The busiest department in the federal government is… - The website TPM Muckraker does a terrific job keeping readers informed of what is wrong in government. On Friday they reviewed current investigations by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the watchdog arm of the Department of Justice. Current investigations include: allegations of selective prosecution relating to the prosecutions of Don Siegelman ; John Yoo's torture memos; Monica Goodling's possible firing of an attorney because she'd heard a rumor that he might be gay; officials who gave legal approval to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques; the role of Department of Justice attorneys in the authorization and oversight of the warrantless electronic surveillance program and the probe into the firings of U.S. attorneys general. Much of this information will not be found on the nightly news but we have options in addition to TPM. Some of the sources I have found valuable include: americablog; Crooks and Liars; dailykos; Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel; Glenn Greenwald at; The Raw Story; and Brad Freidman at The Brad Blog. There are also many other people as well doing quality research and commentary that make a valuable contribution to keeping us informed and exposing incompetence, malfeasance and hypocrisy in our leaders and our government. I strongly feel that in the early part of the 21st Century it is the work done by these many blogs on the internet that is helping to keep America from veering to a somewhat fascist and religious-right entity.

* When failure may be a good thing – This week I received emails from five or six different organization devoted to addressing climate problems. Each urged that I contact my senators asking them to support the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, legislation that the Senate introduced on Monday. By Wednesday the Republicans were filibustering the legislation and with 60 votes needed to end the filibuster only 48 votes could be mustered. The legislation was withdrawn on Friday. Although this is a major disappointment for many I am okay with this development. Democrats have a majority of one in the Senate and a man in the White House who does not believe in science and who is joined at the nozzle with Big Oil and the smokestack with Dirty Coal. Any legislation that would make it through this mine field would be weak. Perhaps it is better that meaningful legislation be delayed until next year when there will be less Republicans in the Senate and Mr. Bush will be at his ranch reading the memoirs of those people who helped him make Herbert Hoover look good. In the long run a more comprehensive climate legislation package that goes into effect sooner than this failed legislation called for may actually serve our collective best interests. The National Wildlife Federation has a list indicating how each senator voted.

* You can run but you can’t hide ~ the surreal world of John McCain – The Republican presidential candidate is working overtime to distance himself from a failed president laden with a 25% approval rating. A Memorial weekend fund-raiser with Bush in Arizona was held in private and without cameras or reporters. This week McCain’s office announced that he will not attend a fundraiser for Republican congressmen on June 18th that features President Bush. What is on public record is that in 2007 McCain voted with the Bush agenda 95% of the time and in 2008 100% of the time. Quite the maverick! It appears that 100% is not sufficient for the over-achieving John McCain. He is now reversing previous positions to earn extra credit. “In an interview about his views on the limits of executive power with The Boston Globe six months ago, Mr. McCain strongly suggested that if he became the next commander in chief, he would consider himself obligated to obey a statute restricting what he did in national security matters (unlike President Bush)… I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.” This week a top adviser to Senator McCain said Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team. Running from and toward George Bush at the same time has interesting metaphysical implications but makes for a troublesome presidential candidate.

* “I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”
Adlai Stevenson in 1952

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I like most about your blog, Stephen, is you make me think. Isn't David Brooks amazing? For such a smart man he makes such asinine comments. We do need comic relief though in this most challenging of times. On the Beach was on Turner Classic Films last week reminding us of our follies at playing God, so let David Brooks play the clown while hopefully our future leaders will take care of the life and death issues surrounding us all. - Ruth Z Deming