Tag Archives: obama

Worth Fighting For

The death of Antonin Scalia resurrects the decision he wanted us to forget: his protagonist’s  role in the Supreme Court decision that gave us eight years of George W. Bush.2014supremecourt640

As in November 2000, Republicans are again trying to hijack the Constitution and undermine the democratic process.

Back then, Gore did in fact win the presidency, not only in popular vote nationally, but also by the electoral vote in Florida. Republicans railroaded Bush into office. In November 2000, a consortium of major news media investigated and found that Gore had won in Florida. They did not push the “send” button when the Democrats gave in for fear that the institution of the U.S. government would be in jeopardy if they protested the Supreme Court’s decision.

Now Democrats face another monumental choice:  to push and rally public opinion for confirmation and then to make sure they have an electable candidate for president.

One Supreme Court justice still serving and now praising Scalia said that the Bush v. Gore decision was tantamount to a coup d’etat. (The comment was made off the record.)

Get over it. It’s so old by now,” Scalia said once and again when people harped on the majority-Republican Court’s decision to hand the presidential election to Bush. As Scalia is eulogized as a brilliant and a charming friend by those who knew him and even those who disagreed with him, look no further than Bush v. Gore. We will not soon “get over it.” That decision will be forever tied to Scalia and his dominant role on the Court in the late 20th and early 21st Century.

Scalia, the man who championed decisions based on the letter of the Constitution, did not have a constructionist explanation for his vote in that shattering decision — the Court majority chose its favorite to be the 43rd president of the United States.

Republicans now argue that the appointment of a new justice should be “left to the people,” meaning the 2016 presidential election should be a referendum on the Supreme Court.

They would thus declare that President Barack Obama — chosen by a majority of the people — is not entitled under the Constitution to appoint a new Supreme Court justice.

President Obama’s authority to replace Scalia is a settled matter by virtue of the 2012 presidential election. And he says he will fulfill his part of the bargain of popular democracy and will nominate a Supreme Court justice.

Democracy is worth fighting for.

I side with Paul Krugman’s modest suggestion: “Maybe we should all start wearing baseball caps that say, ‘Make America governable again.’ “

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Guns Abroad — How Others See Americans

Guns turned in voluntarily after Australian law took effect (AP)

Once, when I was a kid, a lady in Germany was shocked that I was an American who could speak to her in her own language and took advantage. “Where’s your six-shooter,” she asked. Another time, entering New Zealand, a customs official thought about patting me down for drugs and weapons. “Florida, eh? he said raising an eyebrow.

That’s the way they see us.

Such is the case with U.S. gun violence; President Obama’s announcements on gun control were big news.

Australian television, for example, chose an extreme talking head, Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America, to discuss the issue.

By way of context, Australia imposed gun laws that worked in 1996 after a shocking mass killing. Former Prime Minister John Howard described the success of Australia’s laws in an op-ed article in the New York Times.

Here’s a section of the interview with Mr. Pratt on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

LEIGH SALES: In Australia, the government reacted to a massacre in 1996 by banning the sale, importation and possession of semi-automatic rifles and by removing 700,000 guns from circulation.

In the 18 years before that we had 13 massacres. After that we had zero. We didn’t have a civil war, the government didn’t come and take all of our stuff away from us. Why not just give it a try in the US?

LARRY PRATT: Once you’ve given it a try there’s no going back and so in the United States we’re not going to do that. In the United States we are citizens in control of the government and as the Swiss say to this day, a rifle is the emblem of a free man.

LEIGH SALES: But it worked in Australia. Why not just try it?

LARRY PRATT: Your violent crime rate is not so admirable and besides…

LEIGH SALES: It’s a lot lower than yours.

LARRY PRATT: We’re not interested in being like Australia. We’re Americans.

An American friend of mine visiting Australia called attention to the interview. “Doubtless Larry Pratt left the show pleased with his no holds barred defense of Americans’ right to own automatic weapons,” my friend said, “but I have to say that as the segment ended I felt sick.”

It is called American exceptionalism. Overseas, it is a farce.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Republicans

“A [political] change coming on”

muse of history“I feel a change comin’ on
Though the last part of the day’s already gone”
Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter

We may be witnessing a sea-change in American politics, but we’re too close to know exactly what it is. How can Republicans and their losing agenda survive when a majority of people in the United States support exactly what Republicans hate, issues including: gun-control; a woman’s right to choose; and the government role in health care. Oh and one more thing, a majority of Americans have just re-elected President Barack Obama. Republicans are not a happy lot.

There’s an interesting analysis by George Packer in The New Yorker that describes a progressive change in political alignment — the South was solidly Democratic until Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans have been ensconced one way or another ever since. “At the same time,” Packer writes….

the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California.

We hear a protest movement from that “real America,’ secession nonsense and defiance. Governors and legislators who are sworn to uphold BOTH the U.S. Constitution AND their state constitutions advocate defiance of federal programs, health insurance or any move from Washington to control guns.

Packer says the change, as far as we see so far, is that Republicans, controlled and distorted by this Southern bloc, can no longer lead.

The Southern bloc in the House majority can still prevent the President from enjoying any major legislative achievements, but it has no chance of enacting an agenda, and it’s unlikely to produce a nationally popular figure.

Where is it all headed? Interesting question on the eve of the inauguration of second term for a man who has repeatedly cited his own unlikely road to the White House. That man is a member of a new generation, a product as we all are, but not a part, of the South.

1 Comment

Filed under 1, Elections, Politics, Republicans

A greater victory for President Obama than some say

John Boehner, Eric Cantor
–The last-minute tax deal in Washington drives a wedge between a comparatively moderate Republican majority in the House of Representatives and an “end of days” fringe that cares little about the politics of compromise.

The deal follows through exactly with what the president said he would do – make a deal that would minimally affect only a small minority of taxpayers.

–Begins to erode the ideological wasteland created by the Republican tax pledge to Grover Norquist.

Offers evidence that the president can and will use the bully pulpit successfully in his second term.

The outcome is much better than the alternative of having allowed full tax hikes to kick in. True, the Republicans will try to marshal forces on spending cuts in two months. But crafty Democratic planning can cut them off at the pass.
If and when the Republican extreme right forces the issue of the debt ceiling, Republican moderates might be forced to cave once more. The moderates know that ruining American faith and credit is wrong – and bodes poorly for holding a majority in the House for 2014 elections.

From this perspective, it’s not a bad start to January for President Obama even before inauguration.

update: Meanwhile, Paul Krugman is saying that President Obama wimped out. I disagree. I think he worked with what he had

2 Comments

Filed under Obama, Politics, Politics, Republicans

McCain and Graham: Hypocrisy Over Benghazi and Susan Rice

Humor always wins out over outrage. Case in point is the blatantly political, obnoxious campaign by Republicans to blame Susan Rice for screw-ups in Benghazi. To understand the context, once and for all, turn to Jon Stewart who makes concise points about senators McCain and Graham, along with another politician named Rice — Condoleezza Rice. More than concise, he demolishes them. (Watch Episode Here)

–In 2002, Condoleezza Rice declared that Iraq is importing aluminum tubes “that can only be used” for enriching uranium and making a bomb.

–Unlike Susan Rice, Condoleezza Rice knew that she was lying about Iraq, and like other members of the Bush administration blames bad information from the CIA. That excuse is exactly what senators McCain and Graham are using to criticize Susan Rice, who is in a far less authoritative position than Condoleezza Rice was 10 years ago.

–Jon Stewart also plays clips of McCain and Graham defending Condoleezza.

The report is so clear and crisp as to melt McCain and Graham in their own hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, let’s be serious, the wing-nut Republicans are just trying to force the president to choose Senator John Kerry as secretary of state, thereby opening a senate seat they believe that defeated senator Scott Brown might reclaim in a special election. Nobody says it as clearly or as concisely as the humorist main man, Mr. Stewart.

1 Comment

Filed under Bush, Condi Rice, Journalism, Obama, Politics, Politics

Back to the Future: Hillary and the Prospects for Middle East Negotiations

As Hillary Clinton arrives in the Middle East, there are hopes of a truce between Gaza and Israel.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Burma

Whether or not a ceasefire holds, it may be a case of Back to the Future. The Middle East could be arriving at one of those crossroads in which real negotiations, international pressure and the legacy of leaders offer tantalizing hope.

Hamas has been hurling rockets at Israel for months – a brutal form of 52-card pickup: throw hundreds of cards in the air and see where they land.

Israel lashed out in frustration and began retaliating with a Biblical variant: not eye for an eye, but an eye for many more in return.

It makes no difference when outsiders draw up sides. If the goal is peace, neither side can sustain a policy of attacks and counterattacks. Negotiations require outside pressure and mediation led by the United States.

Hillary Clinton returns to the Middle East as part of an administration that has four more years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his neo-con friends in Washington tried and failed to wait out the Obama presidency.

If they try again, they must also consider the possibility of 2016: they could face Hillary Clinton once more with former President Bill Clinton always in the wings.

Back to the future:
–President Obama is looking to make a mark in history—the Middle East is ripe territory.
–The Clintons, having failed at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency to strike a Palestinian-Israeli deal—have every reason to try again. Hillary’s uncertain future exerts tacit pressure even after she leaves the State Department in January.
–Hamas and the Palestinians need to be pushed to moderation in the person of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, both eager to make a mark.
–Finally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 63-years-old and facing January elections, also should be thinking legacy. One never knows. The founder of his extreme right-wing party, Menachem Begin, was 65 years old when he began negotiating with Egypt and finally signed the Camp David Accords.

Generations of violence, misery and death must end. The future could break with the past.

1 Comment

Filed under 1, Egypt, Middle East, Obama, Politics

Romney the Elder Statesman? Not

Romney’s legacy and the debacle that could have been is still in the rearview mirror. (As the mirror warns, objects are closer than they really appear). Just as we thought the image was gone, he came back with nonsense about entitlements and President Obama buying the election with giveaways. Talk about graceless defeat.

Let’s make sure that we’re overtaking the inertial mass we’ve just passed and get moving back into our lane. It ain’t easy, what with wingnuts writing petitions to secede, morons who are saying that the UN has a secret plan to herd suburbanites into cities, and bloviating radio mouths spouting any other insanity that can be belched into semi-intelligible sounds.

As we digest what we can, here’s a great summary from Garry Wills in the NY Review of Books:

“What happens to those who lose a presidential campaign? Some can do it with heads rightly held high, and go on to give valuable service to the nation….

“What public service do we expect from Mitt Romney? He will no doubt return to augmenting his vast and hidden wealth, with no more pesky questions about where around the world it is stashed, or what taxes (if any) he paid, carefully sheltered from the rules his fellow citizens follow.

“What vestige of a backbone is Romney left with? Things he was once proud of —health-care guarantees, opposition to noxious emissions, support of gay rights and women’s rights, he had the shamelessness to treat as matters of shame all through his years-long crawl to the Republican nomination.”

Seriously, friends and relatives who voted for Romney, can you not see that this would have been a road-wreck with all of us tied to the roof?

2 Comments

Filed under Elections, Obama, Politics, Politics, Republicans