Tag Archives: Tea Party

With Trump As Nominee, The GOP Chickens Have Come Home to Roost.

Trump banner 1Trump banner 2Trump banner 318391145-mmmainFor more than fifty years, the Republican Party, has betrayed its distant, noble 19th century origin as ”the party of Lincoln” and has moved inexorably toward its degeneration into the party of Donald J. Trump: the rump repository of poor, ill-educated, mostly white, xenophobic anger and class resentment.

donald-trump-is-escalating-his-war-of-words-with-hillary-clinton.jpgTo those who aren’t students of political history, it may seem crazy that a vulgar, bloviating, serially insulting, spray-tanned, combed-over, shoot-from-the hip billionaire real estate mogul turned reality TV personality with zero political or government experience could seize the Presidential nomination of one of our nation’s two major political parties. But, if you’ve been paying attention since 1964 (or you’ve done the least bit of research), you wouldn’t be so shocked.

donald-trump-grow-upGiven trends in the Republican party over the past half century, The Donald’s domination of the Republican nominating process should not be a surprise at all: the blitzkrieg elevation of Trump 2016 was, if not inevitable, then certainly very, very, very possible.

With Trump as their standard bearer, whether Republicans like it or not, the chickens have come home to roost for the Grand Old Party.

The phrase “the chickens have come home to roost” means that the bad things someone did in the past have come back to bite them. They must deal with the consequences of dark deeds done long ago.

Malcolmx_3_0That expression has been fraught with heavy socio-political baggage, ever since Malcolm X used it in relation to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, saying that, “President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon.”

When he was widely excoriated for his remark, Malcolm X explained that he meant, “the hate in white men had not stopped with the killing of defenseless black people, but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked, had finally struck down this country’s Chief Magistrate.”

Regardless of whether you consider Malcolm’s statement offensive, his citing of “hate, allowed to spread unchecked” has resonance in the context of the current state of the GOP. Indeed, the Republican Party has gotten to this woeful point by deliberately stoking the fires of racial animus, anti-government paranoia, religious intolerance and anti-intellectualism to serve its narrow electoral purposes.

lbj_vra-1024x794The cancer in the GOP that has metastasized in Trump’s primary success began its rot decades ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965. These two landmark legislative victories for racial equality and egalitarian progress were passed by overwhelming Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and signed into law by a Democratic President.

c462524f2It’s been said that when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he turned to his press secretary and stated ruefully that the Democratic Party had just “lost the South for a generation.”

_6be8c97b_1379a104379__8000_00000134Indeed, this was the fateful moment for both major parties. Southern Democrats — “Dixiecrats” as they were called — finally bolted their party for the GOP, fueling the Republican Party’s transition from the anti-slavery “Party of Lincoln” into the “state’s rights”, anti-Federal government repository of white resentment and racism a century after Abraham Lincoln’s martyrdom.

From the mid-1960s to the 1980s – from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, the Republicans sought power by exploiting white, working class disaffection with the advancing Civil Rights movement and other progressive social advancements, from feminism to birth control, gun control and affirmative action. Among this new GOP coalition were Nixon’s “Silent Majority” and “Reagan Democrats” — religious conservatives, including formerly Democratic working class Catholics, who rallied to Republican rhetoric against reproductive rights, LGBT rights and other progressive social causes.

wallaceTo help keep the flames of anger stirred among their new coalition, Republican politicians were not above race baiting – sometimes in subtle ways and often in overt ways. The openly racist candidacies of George Wallace and former KKK leader David Duke were obvious overtures to racial prejudice.

reagan-neshoba-wideRonald Reagan was subtle.

When candidate Reagan touted “states rights” in a speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi during his 1980 campaign – many heard an unmistakable race-baiting dog whistle.

fp_neshoba_poster_350_297_c1Reagan and his staff no doubt knew that in June of 1964, just a few miles from where he spoke, three young civil rights workers (called “Freedom Riders) were murdered by white racists in one of the most infamous atrocities during the Civil Rights Movement.

Reagan’s choice of speaking venue that day was a continuation of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”

KLBJ Billboard on August 15, 2011

KLBJ Billboard on August 15, 2011

The GOP has refined its Southern Strategy over the years into a less obviously racist but no less intolerant “God, Guns and Gays” strategy.

The moneyed Republican political elites cynically exploited these hot-button social issues to garner conservative votes. Yet, once they got those votes, GOP legislators rarely delivered on their fiery rhetoric. Tax breaks for the wealthy were what the Republican Party was truly all about.

vxkpya90rrs90ydsqtyeAfter more than five decades of this bait and switch, many in the GOP’s angry extreme right wing got wise to the game. The most zealous of the largely Southern, anti-government, anti-choice (and, yes, racist) base grew impatient with “establishment” Republican political hacks who talked big about outlawing abortion, relaxing gun laws, putting prayer back in schools, ending affirmative action and deporting illegal immigrants – but did little or nothing to advance that agenda. And while GOP candidates crowed, “jobs, jobs, jobs” – once in office, they concentrated instead on tax policy that favored the wealthy and large corporations.

2010-09-22_gopteapartyThus, the Tea Party was born. GOP seats in the House of Representatives — and some in the Senate — were soon occupied by a large bloc of true believers for whom compromise was a dirty word. So, we got dozens of attempts to limit a woman’s right to choose and overturn Obamacare and annual threats of government shutdowns — and why not?

If you’ve been told for decades that government can do any good, who cares if it shuts down?

0fa222556df6b621f1d0e7972623efd2After all, it was Reagan who said in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

This year, the GOP’s toxic sludge of anti-government rhetoric and subtle (and not so subtle) appeals to racism and intolerance have combined with their own constituency’s anger at the party establishment’s failure to deliver on social issues and jobs, jobs, jobs to produce the noxious nomination of political outsider Donald J. Trump.

ac.trump.morgan.borger.cnn.640x360Let’s not forget that Trump first seized national political attention in 2011 by questioning the citizenship of the first African-American President of the United States. The Donald was a champion of the “Birther” movement. It wasn’t a dog whistle to the racists in the GOP base: it was a trumpet blast.

partylincoln_500A year earlier, in an interview in The National Journal, doddering white Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Seriously. Old cracker McConnell’s number one goal was to delegitimize the first black President.

McConnell, of course, failed in his goal.

Just as the GOP establishment failed in its goal of stopping Donald J. Trump from winning the party’s nomination.

After all, one thing leads to another.

And Republicans only have themselves to blame.heres-what-donald-trump-supporters-really-believe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joe, George & Ted…

Cruz banner 1Cruzbanner2Does the equation above seem too glib? Senate Republicans Speak To The Press After Weekly Policy Meetings

Do Senator Joe McCarthy and Governor George Wallace really add up to Senator Ted Cruz? That’s been my knee-jerk reaction. Watching Ted Cruz engage in his demagogic shenanigans over The Affordable Care Act and the Tea Party’s government shutdown, images of McCarthy and Wallace kept coming to mind. Yet, after looking into the history of both men — the infamous ‘50s Red baiter and ‘60s race baiter – I’ve come to the conclusion that my impulsive equation adds up. Unfortunately.

Unfortunately for public discourse, our political process, the American economy and working people.

And ultimately, perhaps most unfortunately for the Republican Party…

Let’s take a look back at Joe and George and see what their political careers tell us about Ted – and the prospects for the future of Senator Cruz and the Grand Old Party he’s driving hard right into the ditch. joseph-mccarthy-demagogue

Joe McCarthy served as a Republican Senator from Wisconsin from 1947 until his death from acute hepatitis – aggravated by his alcoholism — in 1957. Like Ted Cruz, McCarthy was a junior Senator who latched onto a hot button issue and quickly rode it to prominence. Less than three years after taking his back bench in the Senate, “Tail Gunner Joe” was the face of his party — and his reckless, bullying, blacklisting anti-Communist crusade gave birth to a noun that still casts a dark shadow over American politics to this day. “McCarthyism”

It’s important to note that Senator Joe McCarthy was, first and foremost, a liar. He lied early and often.

mccarthy-the-fight-for-america-senator-joe-mccarthyTo begin with, McCarthy lied about his war record. Despite the clearly recorded fact that, as a sitting judge at the time of his enlistment, he received an automatic commission as a lieutenant in the intelligence service, McCarthy liked to claim that he enlisted as a buck private.

McCarthy’s twelve combat missions as a gunner-observer earned him his nickname, “Tail-Gunner Joe,” but he later claimed 32 missions in order to qualify for the Distinguished Flying Cross, which he was awarded in 1952. This was also based on a lie. McCarthy claimed his letter of commendation had been signed by his commanding officer and countersigned by Admiral Nimitz. But, alas, McCarthy wrote that letter of commendation himself: a relatively easy subterfuge for an unscrupulous intelligence officer like himself.

mccarthyism-3McCarthy’s willingness to lie boldly and baldly made him nationally famous in 1950 — when he asserted in a thunderous speech that he had a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” who worked in the State Department. He was never able to prove his sensational charge.

Not being in possession of the facts didn’t stop McCarthy from making more incendiary accusations. Not only had Communists infiltrated the State Department, he warned, there were Commies inside the Truman administration, the Voice of America, Hollywood — and even the U.S. Army.

joseph_mccarthy-1The McCarthy witch-hunts were on. Armed with the kind of faux populist righteousness and fanatical zeal that animates so many Tea Party advocates, McCarthy used the harsh spotlight of his Senate hearings (and behind-the-scenes strong-arming) to hound those he deemed to be Communists, communist sympathizers, disloyal Americans and – gasp! – homosexuals inside and outside of government.

McCarthy’s scorched Earth political tactics made him a fearsome, polarizing household name – but his hubris and recklessness kept him at arm’s length from most of his senior GOP colleagues, especially Truman’s successor, President Eisenhower, who considered Tail Gunner Joe’s demagoguery reprehensible.

JoeHowever — and today’s Republican leaders should take note vis a vis Ted Cruz – Ike had a chance to torpedo McCarthy’s rising star, but failed to do it. Well aware of McCarthy’s base of support inside the GOP, Eisenhower bowed to the demands of electoral politics during the Presidential election of 1952, and tempered his disdain for the blustering, bullying junior Senator from the dairy state. The peerless soldier who, as the Supreme Allied Commander, conquered North Africa, liberated Sicily, and invaded Fortress Europe to defeat the Nazi horde hedged his bets as a Presidential candidate in ’52 to avoid a political confrontation with a pompous, prevaricating poltroon who hadn’t even served one term in the Senate.

Ike regretted his lack of political courage at that pivotal moment for the rest of his life. Today’s Republican leaders may well look back at this moment in political time with the same stinging regret.

It took another Joe to shoot down Tail Gunner Joe. On June 9, 1954, during the Army–McCarthy hearings, the Army’s lawyer, Joseph Welch, finally fired a shot below McCarthy’s waterline and sent him sinking to the bottom.

Before a nationwide television audience, Welch finally said what today’s GOP leaders should be saying to Ted Cruz: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph_McCarthyNot long after that principled stand by one honest, courageous man, McCarthy’s support and popularity evaporated — and on December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67 to 22: one of the few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. He died less than three years later at the age of 48 — a man whose name will live in infamy.

Sadly, I fear there are many Ted Cruz fans in the Tea Party who still look upon Joe McCarthy as an American hero.

And what about the notorious segregationist, George Wallace? How does his tragic political career relate to Ted Cruz?

Can anyone say “Third Party”?

WALLACEGeorge Wallace became Alabama’s longest-serving Governor, spending 16 years in that office largely because he was an unabashed, belligerent champion of state’s rights, white supremacy and segregation.

Can anyone say “Tea Party”?

Wallace took the oath of office as Alabama’s governor on January 14, 1963, standing on the exact spot where, nearly 102 years before, Jeff Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy. That same year, in an attempt to keep black students Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling at the University of Alabama, George Wallace took his famous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.” Wallace, of course, lost that fight before the year was out. His was a futile stand against progress, against history, against humanity. It was destined to fail – but it won Wallace a fervent following among Southern racists and those who hated the Federal government. (Wallace would have been a Tea Party god.)

george-wallaceIt may seem strange to younger Americans, but George Wallace was a member of the Democratic Party.

Before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, populist economic policy and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation kept much of the South in the Democrat’s corner. (The GOP was considered the party of Big Business.) After signing the Civil Rights Act in ‘64, President Lyndon Johnson – himself a Deep South Democrat — confessed, “We have lost the South for a generation.”

Johnson’s progressive Democratic Party certainly lost George Wallace.

gwallaceoldThough, at first Wallace challenged the Democrats from within the party. In the Democratic Presidential primary season of 1964, Wallace campaigned on his opposition on integration and a tough approach to crime and did surprisingly well in Maryland, Indiana and Wisconsin (the home of Joe McCarthy). Johnson ultimately retained the Presidency in a landslide – and Wallace took that as his cue to split from the Democrats and run the next time of a Third Party ticket.

Are you studying your history, GOP?

George_WallaceWallace ran for President in 1968 as the candidate of The American Independent Party. His platform was a mix of populism and racism. He ran on ending federal efforts at desegregation, yet he also advocated generous increases for beneficiaries of Social Security and Medicare. If the Vietnam War wasn’t winnable within 90 days of his taking office, he pledged an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. An isolationist in the Rand Paul mode, Wallace asserted that foreign aid was money “poured down a rat hole”. Wallace’s appeal in the South and to blue-collar workers in the industrial North drew votes from the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey in northern states like Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan.

131013_confederate_flag_white_house_rtrWallace received the support of extremist groups like the White Citizens’ Councils. While Wallace didn’t openly seek their support, he didn’t refuse it. (Have either Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin denounced the man who waved the Confederate battle flag in front of the White House?)

Wallace carried five Southern states in ’68 and won almost ten million popular votes — and 46 electoral votes. And while the loss of those votes weren’t the margin of Humphrey’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon, it can be argued that Wallace’s third party run and his split from the Democrats exacerbated the fatal fissure in the party that Johnson has prophesied when he signed the Voting Rights Act four years earlier.

According to Wikipedia: “In Wallace’s 1998 obituary, The Huntsville Times political editor John Anderson summarized the impact from the 1968 campaign: ‘His startling appeal to millions of alienated white voters was not lost on Richard Nixon and other GOP strategists. First Nixon, then Ronald Reagan, and finally George Herbert Walker Bush successfully adopted toned-down versions of Wallace’s anti-busing, anti-federal government platform to pry low and middle-income whites from the Democratic New Deal coalition.’ Dan Carter, a professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta added: ‘George Wallace laid the foundation for the dominance of the Republican Party in American society through the manipulation of racial and social issues in the 1960s and 1970s. He was the master teacher, and Richard Nixon and the Republican leadership that followed were his students.’”

6236983860_981919646d_zSince the end of World War Two, the Republican Party has pursued (or allowed elements of their party to pursue) the same toxic racist, anti-government base that McCarthy and Wallace courted. The GOP has used hot button social wedge issues like war, abortion, gay marriage and gun control to keep blue-collar working class voters – who would actually be helped by the Democratic Party’s economic policies – in the Republican Party’s big tent.

The problem for the GOP now is that their big tent may not be big enough for Ted Cruz and his Tea Party zealots.

tedcruzThe current self-inflicted government shutdown and debt limit crises are an historic moment of truth for the Republicans. Either Ted will crash and burn like Joe McCarthy, taking the Republican Party’s reputation down with him. Or Ted will, like George Wallace, split the GOP and take his Tea Party acolytes with him. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Time marches on – and so does social progress. There are only so many racist, anti-government, neo-Confederate dead-enders left.

Does John Boehner understand that?

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Poor Sports

Loser bannerAPR_Oct_1_2013I am thrilled that my hometown Major League baseball team, The Cleveland Indians, have staged an impressive and determined late season rally to earn a spot in the Wild Card playoff game – and a shot to advance in their improbable quest for the Tribe’s first World Series crown since 1948.

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland IndiansMy Indians will play the Tampa Bay Rays in a single game tomorrow, Wednesday October 2 in Cleveland, to determine which team advances to face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

There will be a lot riding on that one game tomorrow: the hopes and dreams of both teams and the millions of fans that follow them in Northern Ohio and the Florida Gulf Coast. For the players and fans, there will be a lot of pride, prestige and money at stake. A great deal will be on the line when the two teams face off between the lines.

-48a9714f75dcb39dWhen the Wild Card game is over, there will be a winner and a loser. The winning team will advance and the losing team will not.

The team that loses may claim a moral victory. The Indians and their manager, Terry Francona, certainly could console themselves with a moral victory as nobody expected this young team of no-name players to get anywhere near the playoffs this season. But, more likely, they won’t. Instead, like all good and honorable athletes and sportsmen, they will look to the future and rededicate themselves to earning playoff victories next season.

bildeAnd you won’t hear a lot of gripes from the players on the losing team about the umpires being unfair or how they really won but the media, or the opposing team, or their opponent’s fans are Un-American  liars and cheaters. They will behave like professionals. They’ll have measured, respectful, even complimentary words to say about the team that defeated them. They’ll thank their fans and they’ll take their lumps in the press and the court of public opinion depending upon the merits of their performance on the field.

And that’s why I love sports. Because, in the end, if you play the game the right way – sports builds character. In life, you must learn how to win with grace and humility – and how to lose with dignity and an optimistic resolve to improve and persevere.

2aea3a55c6047b68_enhanced-buzz-25400-1380636798-10.preview_tallWhich is also why I can’t stand the GOP majority in the House of Representatives and their poor sport tactics that have led to this unfortunate, self-inflicted government shutdown. Driven by the right wing ideological anarchists of their rabidly anti-government Tea Party caucus, the GOP has steered itself – and the nation – into an easily avoidable ditch. And why?

Because the GOP refused to behave like professionals when they lost the big game.

0929-romneycare-obamacare.jpg_full_380Last year, President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, played a long, marathon playoff series called the Presidential Election of 2012. At stake in that contest was a public referendum on the key legislative accomplishments of Obama’s first term, especially the Affordable Care Act. Romney made it clear that he would abolish “Obamacare” (as though he actually could do such a thing on his own, which he couldn’t) and President Obama defended the new health care law as a fundamental step in restoring out nation’s economic and physical health.

After all the games were played, The Democrats outscored the Republicans to take the championship.

763fc0aaf484d5203e0f6a706700c3e6President Obama won the election 51% to 47%. He won by 5 million votes. It wasn’t even close. Democrats also increased their majority in the Senate and won additional seats in the House. In fact, half a million more Americans cast their votes for Democrats in the House than they did for Republicans. So, the GOP could claim no mandate (no moral victory) coming out of the big game.

So what did the poor sport Republicans do?

Did they endure their loss with dignity and look forward with optimism and a resolve to improve and persevere?

130820231059-ted-cruz-obamacare-story-topNo, that’s not the way these sore losers play. Instead, the GOP refused to accept the final score and have tried over and over to re-play the game all by themselves. They voted dozens of times to overturn Obamacare — despite the fact they could not possibly prevail because the President and the Democrats in the Senate had already won that crucial game and had no reason to re-play it. The same was true of the GOP House majority’s constant votes to degrade a woman’s right to choose, weaken voting rights laws, and re-play other critical games they lost in the Presidential Championship Series of 2012.

rAnd now these poor GOP-Tea Party losers have decided that, rather than compete in a new season with new ideas, more popular policy positions and a rededication to making progress through the small-D democratic process – they have forced themselves and the nation into the damaging, self-defeating equivalent of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.

That baseball strike wiped out the second half of the season, the playoffs and the World Series. It was devastating to the Great American Pastime – and to Cleveland in particular. When the strike began on August 12, 1994, the Indians were just one game back from the division-leading Chicago White Sox and were leading the AL Wildcard Race over the Baltimore Orioles by 2.5 games.

Barack ObamaNow, these whining Conservative House Republican losers have shut down the political season because they couldn’t compete on the playing field in last year’s championship playoffs. And their manager, John Boehner, has proved himself a wimp of a leader: a man who knows how the game should be played but is too weak and venal to lead his unruly players in a manner that respects their opponents and the great American game they all play: democracy.

I wish my Cleveland Indians good luck tomorrow and I dearly hope they win.

john_boehner_begs_gop_congressmen_to_stop_partying_with_pretty_lady_lobbyists-1280x899And I hope John Boehner and his Tea Party-GOP children are watching. It will be good for them to see how adult professional sportsmen compete.

Play ball, GOP.

In the adult world, you can’t just take your ball and go home when you’re on the wrong end of the score.

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Visions of Election Night…

Sometimes it helps to have a vision.

If you can see in your mind’s eye a picture of the future as you want it to be – then you’re steering the universe in that direction. Or something like that. It’s called “creative visualization”.

Athletes and salesmen have been using creative visualization for decades. Wikipedia defines creative visualization as “the practice of seeking to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations.”

So, let’s practice a little creative visualization by conjuring up a wonderful, satisfying vision for Election Night, Tuesday November 6, 2012.

Picture in your mind and heart the moment the television networks announce the shocking news – early in the evening — that President Obama has carried South Carolina. Not just North Carolina, but also the Cradle of the Confederacy. (The most recent poll gives Romney only a 6-point lead in South Carolina, down from double digits not long ago.) Visualize people, visualize!

Now, picture yourself on the couch with your loved one, Chardonnay in hand, as Barack Obama sweeps the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin – and MSNBC (who else would you be watching?) projects that Obama has been re-elected as President of the United States.

But it gets even better, if that’s possible – because now comes the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the soundly defeated and thoroughly demoralized GOP/Tea Party. With their House majority lost, their Senate minority reduced – and the White House back in Democratic hands – Karl Rove is the first to appear on Fox News and stick a knife in Romney’s back. All the tens of millions that Rove raised from all those undisclosed Super-Pac donors couldn’t sell the Romney-Ryan ticket to the American people. And “Bush’s Brain” isn’t blaming himself.

Next in the pathetic parade of Republican ruin comes GOP Chairman Reince Priebus. With an angry Tea Party mob preparing the tar and feathers outside his barricaded doors, Priebus announces his resignation as GOP chair – and his immediate departure for the Cayman Islands, where he will go into hiding along with Mitt’s money.

Then, just before we hear from Mitt Romney, the nation’s TV cameras turn to Janesville, Wisconsin, where we double our fun – because not only has Paul Ryan lost the Vice Presidency – he’s also lost his Congressional seat! Pop some more popcorn! Uncork another bottle of Chardonnay! Sales of “Atlas Shrugged” are plummeting even as he speaks…

And now, it’s Romney’s turn to concede defeat. Socially, Mitt tried to drag us back into the 1950’s while economically trying to return us to the fiscal glory (make that “gory”) days of George W. Bush. America sent him packing – just like Mitt and the Bain Gang packed up so many American factories and sent those jobs overseas. Mitt announces that his wife Ann is turning him out to pasture along with her dressage horse, Refalca – both losers this year. (Ironically, Mitt didn’t even get 47 percent of the vote.)

And now, goodnight and sweet dreams.

And visions.

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A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ike.

On October 4th, Jim Newton’s Presidential biography, Eisenhower: The White House Years arrives in bookstores.

This is exciting news. Not just because the author is a very dear friend of mine – but because I can’t think of a more apropos time since his Presidency ended in 1960 for us to look back on Ike’s two terms in the Oval Office.

My buddy Jim Newton is a veteran newspaperman who began his career at the New York Times. Since I’ve known him, he’s been an editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he’s now the editor-at-large. In 2006, Jim wrote a definitive biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren entitled, Justice for All.

Now, he’s focused his brilliance and talent on the man who put Earl Warren on the court.

Hold on. It was Republican who put the classic “activist judge” Earl Warren on the Supreme Court?

Indeed. And that’s just one of the reasons it’s a good time to revisit the Eisenhower Presidency.

More than a half-century after Dwight D. Eisenhower left office, his old campaign slogan “I like Ike” has become a cliché. But, in this era of Tea Party Republicans and Ronald Reagan worship, it’s nostalgic to recall a Republican President who would never have said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

That kind of simplistic, anti-government demagoguery would not have appealed to the complex man who built our interstate highway system and sent Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation.

In a move that would be anathema to today’s dogmatic GOP states’ rights defenders, Ike ordered units from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock on September 24, 1957. The next day, those soldiers escorted nine black students through the front door of Central High and into its formerly all-white classrooms. Of course, Ike had some previous experience with the paratroopers of the 101st. 13 years earlier in a little dustup called D-Day on June 6th, 1944. The Screaming Eagles followed Ike’s orders into their drop zones behind the beaches at Normandy – and into the hallways of a Little Rock high school.

But Jim’s book is not about General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander who led his forces to victory in World War Two. It’s about the Eisenhower, who, like George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, went from the highest-ranking military leader in an epochal war to Commander in Chief as the thirty-fourth President of the United States.

I was born in 1958 during Ike’s second term, but John F. Kennedy was the first President that I was aware of – and my first clear memory of Kennedy was watching his funeral on TV.

During my boyhood, President Eisenhower was a distant figure: even more dimly remembered than General Eisenhower, the hero of D-Day and all those World War Two movies I loved and re-created in my backyard.

Comedians made jokes about Ike playing golf and how homely his wife Mamie was. After the glorious Jackie Kennedy enchanted The White House, dowdy Mamie didn’t have a chance.

By the time I was in high school, my sense was that Eisenhower’s Presidency, if I thought of it at all, didn’t amount to much. He was a dull President in a dull time. Thank goodness, 16-year old Paul didn’t write the book on Ike.

I certainly wasn’t alone in thinking of Eisenhower as little more than the Caretaker-in-Chief, hitting the links with Bob Hope and presiding over an easygoing, black & white, “Leave It To Beaver” American society. Long after I graduated from college in 1980 that was still the prevailing attitude about Ike’s time in the Oval Office. There was, however, residual gratitude on the Democratic Left for Eisenhower’s lukewarm endorsement of Vice President Dick Nixon in the 1960 race against Kennedy.

The laugh was on Dick. Dick got the last laugh.

Pressed by reporters to give an example of Nixon making a key contribution to his administration, Ike said, “Give me a week and I’ll think of one!” Priceless. Nixon went on to lose to Kennedy in one of the tightest Presidential races in American history. Nixon got the last laugh, though. Not only did Tricky Dick win the White House eight years later – that same year, 1968, Nixon’s daughter Julie won the hand of Ike’s grandson David in marriage.

But, looking back at Ike’s Presidency, it’s hard to imagine why, as a callow youth, I thought his time in office so inconsequential. Eisenhower was the second President to have an atomic bomb in his arsenal — and he refused to use it. He kept radical anti-Communist McCarthyism at arm’s length until it became, as he called it, “McCarthywasm.”

And, after lifting the nation out of its post World War Two debt, he was the last president until Democrat Bill Clinton to leave office with a budget surplus. The top marginal tax rate under Eisenhower was 91%. George W. Bush slashed that rate to 35%. Ike paid for WWII and built our highway system. George W. Bush built nothing and left us in debt to China.

For these, and many more reasons, this lifelong Democrat likes Ike. And I like Jim’s book. But you don’t have to depend upon my endorsement (which is so much more enthusiastic than Ike’s backing of Nixon) – you can just check out these amazing reviews…

“A truly great book, spirited, balanced, and not just the story of President Eisenhower but of an era.”
 Bob Woodward

Jim Newton does a masterful job illustrating the forces that confronted Dwight Eisenhower during his years in the White House, from nuclear politics to race relations to the federal debt and deficit. He paints a vivid portrait of a president struggling to find middle ground—sometimes successfully, sometimes not — but always with the good of the country in mind.” 
Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator

”

“Newton’s contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower’s White House years as I’ve ever read… This is a book for all who are interested in a better understanding of how America and the World were shaped post–WWII and for those who aspire to lead: Read Newton’s book first.”
 Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator (1997–2009)

“Ike’s wisdom, born of experience and intellect, is on display in this important book, which heightens appreciation for his leadership. Newton reveals, for instance, that after the Korean War, only one American soldier was killed in combat during Eisenhower’s presidency. This volume contributes to our understanding of an outstanding human being.”
 George P. Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State

“Jim Newton’s ‘Eisenhower, The White House Years’, simply and eloquently, delivers the man, his Presidency and, if America is paying attention, the life lessons that are his legacy.”
 Norman Lear

“Jim Newton’s brilliant reassessment of Eisenhower’s presidency is long overdue, and his book makes it clear that Ike was indeed a great president. Ike’s insistence on always doing the right thing for the country despite party pressure and personal predilection serves as a valuable model for politicians in all three branches of government.” Former FBI Director, William S. Sessions.

Buy my friend Jim Newton’s book today — and learn what a principled, heroic Republican used to be. And, alas, you’ll know why bipartisanship is a thing of the past.

I still like Ike.

Now more than ever.*

* With apologies to Nixon’s 1972 campaign.

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Will Today Mark the Rebirth of the Progressive Movement in America?

From the land of Fighting Bob La Follette

Tuesday, August 9th is a very special election day in Wisconsin. Today just might be the day that progressive populist grassroots action will stem the tide of the GOP’s pro-corporate, anti-union, neo-fascist agenda.

If Wisconsin voters can recall three Republican State Senators – despite a massive 40 million dollar flood of anonymous corporate cash spent on behalf of GOP incumbents – the balance of power in the Wisconsin Legislature will shift to the left, and frustrated working class voters in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere will know that they, too, can retake control of their political destiny.

Triggered by popular resistance to GOP-Tea Party Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union overreach, today’s vote in Wisconsin marks the nation’s largest ever recall election. A string of Democratic victories in six state senate districts, many of which have historically voted Republican, would send shock waves throughout the Midwest – and reverberate in the nation’s capitol.

It’s a referendum on Scott Walker’s conservative Tea-Party policies. And the conservative establishment is not giving up without a fight. The right wingers have played dirty tricks like passing voter ID laws to disenfranchise minorities and the elderly and mailing out fraudulent ballot information to Democratic voters – and they’ve spent $40 million dollars to support GOP incumbents and bash their Democratic challengers.

How much money is that? It’s twice as much as the Wisconsin record of $20 million set in the 2008 elections, spent on campaigns for half the state Senate and all the Assembly members.

As I write this, the results are too close to call. Nothing can be taken for granted. Wisconsin Democrats and working class citizens must get out and vote.

The whole nation is watching.

On, Wisconsin!

Here’s a little song to vote by, written and performed by Ripon, Wisconsin native, Steve Rashid.

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Daring to Say the F Word…

President Obama & Vice President Biden share a moment of relief after the Debt Ceiling was lifted.

Now that the debt ceiling fight is over, the newspaper scribes in the Washington press corps and the pundits on television (“the dunderpates”, as my wife calls them) prattle on about the winners and losers in this sorry showdown.

President Obama is the loser because he caved to the Tea Party minority. Obama’s the winner because he showed Americans that the GOP is ruled by its radical Tea Party minority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the winner because he sidestepped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the final negotiations with The White House. Speaker John Boehner is the loser because he couldn’t control his caucus in the House. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Lost in all this claptrap is the biggest loser: the American people. It’s a sad commentary on our news media that the reporters and talking heads who dominate the public discourse are so insulated from normal working lives, so infatuated with politics-as-sport, that they cannot see outside their own sandbox.

However, if the media ever managed to crane their craven heads above the Beltway, they might be forced to tell a story too complicated and nuanced for front-page headlines and television sound bites. The American people, it appears, can actually sort through GOP bullshit – even if smug, self-satisfied hacks like David Gregory (Meet the Press) and paid flacks like Chris Wallace (Fox News Sunday) can’t or won’t. According to the latest CNN poll, a large plurality of the American electorate were not swayed by the GOP-Tea Party’s no-taxes, cuts-only Siren song.

Yet, somehow, despite the fact that 60% of Americans agree with President Obama about his oft-stated “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, the bullhorns in the mainstream media keep blaring the Big Story of Tea Party success. (We’ll keep FOX out of the discussion. It’s not a news organization: it’s a propaganda arm of the GOP.)

GOP Congressman Walsh was a big cheerleader for default. Turns out, he had already defaulted on his own kids.

The more nuanced story is that, while the Tea Party fanatics may have won a political victory by moving the debt ceiling deal far off to the right – it looks like they’ve lost the larger battle for American hearts and minds. And that could cost them dearly in the 2012 elections. Not to mention the wrench these Tea Party bomb-throwers and their enablers in the Republican Congressional leadership just threw into the works of the GOP’s normally cozy relationship with Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce. Something tells me you won’t see too many Tea Partiers backed by the Chamber in 2012.

Looking ahead to 2012, the Conventional Wisdom is that President Obama has been grievously wounded in the debt ceiling fight. And it’s clear that he took a hit to his approval rating and his reputation for political cool. Yet, according to the latest CNN poll, the American people have judged that Obama came out of the debt ceiling debacle well ahead of Congress – and far ahead of GOP Congressional leaders. In fact, nearly 70% of those polled disapprove of how GOP leaders behaved during the rancorous debt ceiling negotiations — a scathing indictment of Sen. McConnell, whom the Beltway intelligentsia has declared the winner in this fight.

Now, if you (like me) are a regular reader of left wing-Democratic-progressive websites like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post (which isn’t all that progressive anymore) – you’d think that every Liberal is frustrated and angry — and that all Democrats are up in arms, feeling betrayed by Obama’s capitulation to Tea Party brinkmanship. Calls for a Democratic primary challenge to the President have gone out – and a general alarum has been sounded. However, the latest Gallup poll provides a very different perspective on how left-of-center folks feel about the debt ceiling agreement.

Shocking, huh? A plurality of Democrats and Liberals approve of the debt ceiling agreement — and Republicans and Conservatives (those the mainstream media claim were the victors in this battle royal) don’t like the deal at all.

Of course, this poll reflects something most of us already know: liberals and Democrats have a more positive and realistic attitude toward American government. (At least we don’t hate it.) But these poll results also signal peril for the Tea Baggers. Usually, when political leaders make a big deal their constituents don’t like, it’s a bad sign for them in the next election cycle.

We don’t hear much in the media about how this debt ceiling debacle has damaged the right-wingers. The Beltway Wise Men say it’s all doom and gloom for Obama and the Democrats. But at least at this moment, the American people aren’t buying that bullshit narrative.

Now, please forgive me. I’m going to use the F-word.

I suggest that there’s a larger political narrative in America that we (and the national media) should be focused on right now — something that David Gregory and Chris Wallace wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. I know it’s not nice to use the F-word in polite political discourse — but since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, The United States has been creeping towards fascism. The post-9-11 environment and the cynical exploitation of misguided Tea Party populism has accelerated our fascist drift.

I know that intelligent, dignified and reasonable people shouldn’t throw the term “fascist” around lightly — and the “fascist” label has been seriously misused, mischaracterized and misunderstood.

After all, the Tea Party-GOP crowd has alternately lambasted President Obama as both a left-wing Socialist and a right-wing Fascist: mutually exclusive condemnations.

But, I ask you to consider the definition of “fascism” found in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, and written by Sheldon Richman.

“As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.

The word derives from fasces, the Roman symbol of collectivism and power: a tied bundle of rods with a protruding ax. In its day (the 1920s and 1930s), fascism was seen as the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, and profit-oriented egoism, and revolutionary Marxism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.”

“Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture…The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export.”

“Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography…Corporatism was intended to avert unsettling divisions within the nation, such as lockouts and union strikes. The price of such forced “harmony” was the loss of the ability to bargain and move about freely.”

Here’s a simpler definition…

Fascism: “The merging of state and corporate interests.”

Modern American Fascism is more subtle than the Mussolini version in the mid 20th Century. Corporate interests exert their control over the U.S. government in less overt ways than they did in Italy in the 30’s and 40’s. In today’s American strain of fascism, it’s not the U.S. Government that’s in charge. Instead, through campaign donations, lobbying and revolving door cronyism, Corporate Oligarchs exert their control over a Government that increasingly serves corporate interests.

The problem is bad and getting worse. Since the Scalia-Roberts-Thomas-Alito axis on the U.S. Supreme Court established corporate personhood and opened the sluice gates for billions of corrupting corporate dollars to flow anonymously into our electoral system, the slide toward oligarchy by U.S. CEOs and their Congressional minions has advanced with scant resistance by what passes for an American left. (Though we saw vigorous resistance to the fascist agenda in Wisconsin earlier this year.)

And what of this union-bashing, union-busting agenda that a cabal of GOP governors are pushing? What about all these bipartisan “Free Trade” deals that have benefitted the bottom lines of multi-national corporations while hollowing out our U.S. manufacturing base and driving our wages lower? This agenda is clearly not in the best interest of the American People, so who does it serve? Corporate fat cats. That’s who.

Just this week, the paychecks of thousands of airline employees, FAA employees, and construction workers on airport improvement projects were held hostage when the GOP-led House, at the behest of Delta Airlines, tried to attach an anti-union provision in the bill authorizing funding for the FAA. Delta wants to bust their employees’ labor unions and Delta’s toadies in the GOP House stood ready to do their bidding — even at the risk of thousands of American jobs in an already-bad economy: not to mention threatening the safety of the traveling public. Again. Who are John Boehner and Eric Cantor serving with this dangerous game of political chicken? Corporate Big Money. That’s who.

Maybe it’s time to call these guys what their actions reveal them to be: American Fascists.

Author and radio host Thom Hartmann has been concerned about creeping American Fascism for quite a while. In his article, The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: “It Can Happen Here”, Hartmann writes about the warnings of Vice President Henry Wallace, who served with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early years of World War Two.

Here are some enlightening passages from Hartmann’s article. I urge you to read the whole thing:

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?” 

Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. 

”The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist” – the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.) 

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” 

Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this.

V.P. Wallace and the great Pete Seeger.

“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings,” Vice President Wallace wrote in his 1944 Times article, “then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. … They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”

“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” Wallace added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information…”

“Still another danger,” Wallace continued, “is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.”

As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.” He added, “Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.”

Wallace continued: 

”The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.”

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

For another view of Vice President Wallace, you can check out this link and draw your own conclusion.

When you pause to consider it, the Fascist agenda that Wallace warned about — as championed by most of the Republican Party (and too many conservative Blue Dog Democrats) — is making frightening progress. Let’s evaluate where we stand today against these clear warning signs…

Heck, this looks like the Unofficial Republican Party platform!

Are the Tea Party extremists fascists? Are today’s Congressional Republicans fascists? Are “Free Trade”-supporting Democrats fascists? Is President Obama a fascist? Do you think I’m completely off-the-wall for even raising the possibility of American Fascism? Can it really happen here? You decide. But, before you dismiss this article as the ravings of a Liberal loon – please do some research. You might be surprised by what you’ll learn.

We don't want these guys to get reinforcements, do we?

One thing to consider: the President elected in 2012 will probably have the opportunity to appoint two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court — and it’s likely they’re be replacing old liberals who have stood as a bulwark against the Fascist Faction on the court. Whatever else you want to say about him, President Obama’s two picks (Sotomayor and Kagan) have been reliable votes in opposition to Scalia and his gang of black-robed corporate shills.

I hate to use the F word again — but if we don’t turn out the progressive vote for President Obama and the Democratic Party in 2012 — our democracy will be in F-ing trouble.

Pete Seeger's buddy Woody Guthrie knew who America's enemy was. (Check out the sticker on his guitar.)

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