Let’s have a show of hands. Who else is confused about the proposed GOP lawsuit against President Obama?
House Speaker John Boehner (R, Sun Lamp) likes to push his way onto your TV screens with more talk about why he wants to sue the president. First it was that Obama was “failing to fulfill his constitutional duties.” Another day Boehner claimed that Obama was abusing executive power and circumventing Congress by issuing so many executive orders. (Note: Obama has actually issued FEWER executive orders than other modern presidents, as shown in this chart from the American Presidency Project.) Yet another day the Orangman said, “This is about the legislative branch … and it’s not about executive actions.” Well, sure. Why not waste millions of dollars in taxpayer money for a lawsuit that likely will get tossed quickly unless it’s to focus attention on Congress?
When Boehner finally announced the point of the lawsuit, it seemed to be (because it’s early in this process — they could dream up something else screwy) that Obama had delayed implementation of one part of the Affordable Care Act, the requirement that large employers must offer health insurance to employees, until 2015.
OK, let’s back up. In the 50 or so votes (because there are obviously no other problems facing the country) the U.S. House of Representatives has taken to repeal the ACA, some have sought the repeal of the employer insurance mandate. Indeed, those same lawmakers voted to do the exact same thing at virtually the exact same time — defer the employer mandate until 2015.
So … Boehner says he’s suing the president because the president took an action Republican members of the House wanted in the first place.
Huh? Nothing personal here, Mr. Speaker, but do you even listen to yourself? And why are you wasting so much money and time on this?
The GOP has to know this is a losing proposition. Recent reports about the success of the ACA show that the number of uninsured people in the U.S. has dropped from 18 percent to 13.4 percent, according to a recent Gallup Poll. There are 9.5 million fewer uninsured people now, according to a Commonwealth Fund study.
Even worse for the Republicans is the fact that most people seem to really like their new health care coverage. According to Margot Sanger-Katz in The New York Times: “Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans.”
Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans. Wow.
Don’t forget the words of the GOP nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney: “If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states.” Because “an outright repeal would take time,” he reminded GOP voters, “an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states.”
So I guess it would have been OK if a Republican president had done it.
You have to love the official reaction from the White House press secretary: “It is disappointing that Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars on a political stunt. At a time when Washington should be working to expand economic opportunities for the middle class, Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the President on behalf of hardworking Americans. As the President said today, he is doing his job — lawsuit or not — and it’s time Republicans in Congress did theirs.”
No argument here.
Chicago’s Fourth of July weekend toll of shooting violence was horrific even by city standards. There were 82 gun-related incidents, with now 14 people dead, two of them 14- and 16-year-old boys shot by police when they refused to drop their weapons. In any other city, that would cause an uproar. Here in Chicago, it causes an uproar, but by now, it’s only in the neighborhoods affected and on the evening news, which overcovers the “if it bleeds, it leads” stories.
Local activists like the Rev. Michael Pfleger, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel all reacted. They talked about stiffer penalties for gun crimes. They have beefed up security, increasing overtime for police and are now talking about adding more officers, although that will be hard to do in a tight budget crunch.
Father Pfleger, who has led St. Sabina’s church on the South Side for many years and has been a leading voice against gun violence, sends out regular tweets with the gun violence toll. On his Facebook page, he wrote: “We send Billions of Dollars across the World in the Name of KEEPING AMERICA SAFE…..MESSAGE TO THE CONGRESS AND ADMINISTRATION, WITH 82 SHOT IN CHICAGO THIS WEEKEND OF WHICH 14 WERE FATAL ” AMERICA IS NOT SAFE.”
So — why? Why is there so much gun violence? A more important question is — what can anyone do about it?
I live in a mostly white but definitely mixed suburb of Chicago, mixed both racially and socioeconomically. We’re very near to Chicago’s West Side, which has lots of gun violence and a high crime rate — almost as high as certain neighborhoods on the South Side. Yet we have very little violence here. So what’s different?
Over the past few decades, businesses have fled the city and moved to far-out suburbs or even out of state by the promises of lower corporate taxes. Taxes might be lower, but what do they get for it, and what did they leave behind? They left behind a decimated work force with few jobs left and fewer opportunities to find one.
The overall unemployment rate in Chicago actually dropped last year. But it’s still very high on the South and West Sides. This map by the Workforce Information and Resource Exchange, an initiative of the Chicago Jobs Council, gives a breakdown of socioeconomic statistics in various Chicago neighborhoods. In Father Pfleger’s neighborhood near St. Sabina, unemployment is nearly 25 percent. In the violence-ridden Back of the Yards neighborhood, an area described as a “no man’s land” by The Chicago Tribune, it’s nearly 35 percent. Most unemployment numbers on the South and West Sides hover close to 20 percent.
Contrast that to the whiter, more popular places to live in Chicago like Lincoln Park or Lakeview. Unemployment is less than five percent in each neighborhood.
So people need jobs. No surprise there — we’re just now digging out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The problem for many in those high unemployment neighborhoods is that there are no jobs to be had anywhere close by.
During my commuting days, I always rode the CTA Green Line along the West Side. The worst sight was the old Brach’s candy factory, which closed its doors in 2001 after 76 years of making StarBrite Mints and Milk Maid Caramels, leaving 1,100 people out of work. The company moved most of its candy manufacturing to Europe.
Now, the old factory sits empty, a broken shell of a once-thriving company. Worse, the 12-story building is awash with gang signs and symbols. Who was there to stop any street gangs from tagging the building? No one.
I have a fantasy that someday I’ll win the Powerball lottery and buy the old factory, turning it into a green energy plant that will give training and work to people on the West and South Sides, since it’s right by an El stop. Of course, I’ll get hit by lightening first.
We have a friend on the South Side named Shawn, a 40-year-old black man who has always struggled to find work. He’s a hard worker who has worked a series of jobs in various places around the city — when he can find them. More recently, though, the only places he sees hiring are out in the far west or northwest suburbs. How is someone who lives on 95th Street on the South Side who doesn’t have continued access to a car supposed to get to Elgin? Or Oak Brook? Or Schaumburg? The unemployment rate in his neighborhood, by the way, is nearly 20 percent.
At least he has access to a car. What is someone who doesn’t supposed to do when the only job available is 25 miles away, and the only way to get there is a 2 1/2-hour commute — or more — by a series of trains and buses? Whatever anyone says about the CTA, Metra, and Pace, the local public transportation train and bus services, they do have ways of getting from Point A to Point B. But it can take a long time.
No, there need to be more jobs available in the city itself. When people talk about investing in infrastructure, they should talk about starting businesses on the South and West Sides. People would line up at the door to apply.
I know about problems with the Chicago Public School system, and how many who do graduate aren’t always qualified for the jobs that are available. I know why companies that fled the city are happier in the far suburbs, where the owners live anyway.
But if you want to do something about gun violence, give those young men something to do besides join a gang. Shawn always tells us that the only two businesses in his neighborhood that do well are liquor stores — and funeral parlors. After a weekend like this, I’m not surprised.
Throwing all judicial precedent out the window, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that for-profit corporations can have religious beliefs. In a 5-4 decision by five Roman Catholic males (and don’t tell me those two factors don’t count), the court ruled that a for-profit company that is “closely held” has the right to decide on and limit contraceptive coverage for its female employees, who otherwise would receive free prescription contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The decision was expected for two reasons. One, the questioning by the court’s five conservative justices when it heard the case suggested the outcome. Two, when the right wing went apoplectic in 2012 over the court’s upholding of the ACA, you figured it was just a matter of time before the five conservatives found a way to beat it down again. And as for being “closely held”: Koch Industries is closely held, and it employs 100,000 workers in 60 countries. What will the Koch brothers decide to do? No, this decision could affect quite a few women.
Medical groups were outraged by the decision. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, just to name a few, saw the decision — correctly — as hurting women’s health care. All of these groups (and many more) had argued the government’s side during oral arguments in friend-of-the-court briefs. “Contraceptives that prevent fertilization from occurring, or even prevent implantation, are simply not abortifacients regardless of an individual’s personal or religious beliefs or mores,” said the amicus briefs, according to Medscape Medical News.
The ruling “intrudes on the patient-physician relationship,” said AMA President Robert Wah, MD. It “inappropriately allows employers to interfere in women’s health care decisions,” said ACOG President John Jennings, MD. According to AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, MD, the court may have set the stage for employers to deny coverage for a variety of services that conflict with religious teachings, never mind the scientific evidence supporting their need. “We have a precedent where someone can come forward and say vaccines are against their belief system.” he said.
ANA President Pamela Cipriano, PhD, also saw the socioeconomic effect. “This ruling places an unfair burden on some women, particularly those with lower incomes, who may not be able to access medically appropriate contraceptive care due to the additional expense.” she said.
The wording of the decision suggested that it was limited in scope. HA! The dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly predicted that the decision opens the door to other objections to other laws on religious grounds. Already, according to an online story in The Atlantic, a group of religious leaders sent a letter to the White House, asking for more “deference” to the prerogatives of religion. “We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.
This reference isn’t talking about contraception. It’s talking about an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So — if it’s OK for Hobby Lobby to tell female workers it won’t pay for birth control pills (even though it still covers Viagra), it must be OK for other groups to say their religious beliefs allow them to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the workplace. That’s essentially what the letter is saying, without spelling it out bluntly.
Ginsburg presciently saw this coming. Noting that a restaurant owner in a 1966 high-court case cited religious beliefs for not serving African Americans, Ginsburg said the majority ruling would not help lower courts field possible objections to vaccinations, antidepressants, and anesthesia, all of which are proscribed in one faith or another.
And what of the political fallout? Right-wing groups, Republicans, and Fox News were gleeful about the decision, mostly because it went against something that President Obama had done. But that ecstatic reaction may come back to bite them — big time.
“It’s all about the women, both in substance and politics,” argued Jill Lawrence in an online piece for Al Jazeera America. Nearly 60 percent of the public favors the contraception coverage mandate, according to a May 2014 tracking poll by the Kaiser Health Family Foundation. “More than 99 percent of sexually active women in their childbearing years have used contraception. You don’t want to pick a fight on this turf.”
Despite the possibility that insurance companies or the government could pay for the coverage instead, as has been suggested, Lawrence said it was a matter of principle. “Why should taxpayers foot the bill for this and future instances of corporations getting themselves exempted from following federal law? Why should women have to jump through hoops to get standard birth control? Why should a for-profit company with a diverse workforce have the right to pick and choose what parts of a federal law to observe? And can a corporate entity really hold religious beliefs, just like a person?”
“The court,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, “has ventured into a minefield.” Oh, it’s just the beginning. And instead of a minefield, it may turn into a full-fledged land war.
Some are speculating that the plans of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R, Sun Lamp) are merely the first step to what the real right-wing crazies have wanted from the beginning — the impeachment of President Barack Obama. But they’re wrong, and here’s why.
Tea Party types, Rush Limbaugh’s dittoheads, overpaid right-wing pundits, the crazy uncles who lose brain cells every time they tune in to the Fake News Channel — they’ve all been clamoring to get rid of Obama since before he was even elected. He was a socialist Muslim Kenyan, after all, without a legitimate birth certificate who was intent on destroying the American way of life. Palled around with terrorists. Wanted to redistribute wealth. The list goes on and on. And don’t forget #BENGHAZI.
But the loss by Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party darling if there ever was one, to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in the Republican runoff primary election really pissed them off big time. And Cochran courted black voters, too! There were threats of forming a third party, voting for Democrats “just to show them,” refusing to donate any more money, etc.
When The Orange One announced the lawsuit in a press conference, he couldn’t come up with any specifics as to exactly what Obama had done wrong. When questioned by a reporter as to what specific executive actions he plans to challenge in court, Boehner replied, “When I make that decision, I’ll let you know.”
Of course, Obama has taken fewer executive actions than other modern presidents. But why let facts muddle a good narrative? As Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi put it: “He hasn’t come anywhere near what Republican presidents have done on executive orders. I make of it as subterfuge — as I’ve said, [Republicans in Congress] are doing nothing here and so they have to give some aura of activity.”
But Boehner has to do something to appease the Tea Party, so he announced the lawsuit idea. But he will never take it as far as impeachment. There have been suggestions that the lawsuit is the first bone thrown to the Tea Party dogs, and one that will motivate them to vote in (and — let’s be honest — give money to candidates for) the midterm elections this fall. And Boehner knows he has to keep the base motivated.
Here’s the problem, though — nothing, and I mean NOTHING — would motivate the base of liberals, African-Americans, Hispanics, young voters, women, and everyone else who elected Obama to come out to vote in droves this November like the impeachment of Barack Obama.
Do you remember Bill Clinton’s impeachment? Whether you liked him or not, whether you thought the case against him had any merit or not, Democratic voters were angry. Very angry. Everyone knew there was no way the Senate would convict Clinton. And even if the GOP captures the Senate this fall, don’t forget that the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of senators to convict on any matter of impeachment. So Obama’s not going anywhere.
Republicans took quite a hit in the 1998 mid-term elections. They didn’t lose the House, but they lost seats — enough so that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R, Biggest hypocrite you ever saw), who had bragged that the GOP would pick up 30 seats, had to resign from Congress. The actual impeachment didn’t occur until after the election, but the clown show that was Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s investigation and the surrounding impeachment talk and speculation was enough to motivate Democratic voters.
No. Boehner may not be a very good lawmaker or a very effective speaker, but he wants to keep his job. They can whine all they want about a lawsuit, but don’t expect to see impeachment on the table anytime soon.
He may not even have justification for a lawsuit. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, Boehner and other GOP House members need to show that they’ve been injured:
“The lower federal courts have of late developed a body of law with respect to the standing of Members of Congress, as Members, to bring court actions, usually to challenge actions of the executive branch. Most of the law has developed in the District of Columbia Circuit, and the Supreme Court has yet to consider the issue on the merits. It seems clear that a legislator ‘receives no special consideration in the standing inquiry,’ and that he, along with every other person attempting to invoke the aid of a federal court, must show ‘injury in fact’ as a predicate to standing.”
I may be wrong — I sincerely hope that I’m not. And I wouldn’t put anything past the Roberts Supreme Court as to what they would do in this case. I just think Boener is politically astute enough to know that impeachment is a crazy idea. Yet the GOP has become the party of crazies, so who knows?
The beady eyes, the snarl, the growl in the voice, the perpetual frown — all of those characteristics make up the man we know as former Vice President Dick Cheney. But something about him seems familiar…
We’re forced to listen to Dick Cheney recently because some misguided news stations seem to think he has something to add to the conversation about what’s happening in Iraq. Of course, his bad ideas were what got us stuck there for a decade, even though he promised the war would last “months, if not weeks,” and that members of U.S. military would be “greeted as liberators.” Oh, and the war would “pay for itself.” How did all of that work out?
So instead of listening to him pontificate about everything the current administration is doing wrong, choose which villain is most like Mr. Unlikeable. Too bad — you can only vote for one.
In the June 24 runoff for the Mississippi Republican nominee for Senate, pitting incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran against Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel, there was lots of hot air about avoiding “voter fraud.”
Neither candidate reached the 50% plateau in the June 3 primary — there was a third candidate who received a tiny slice of the vote — so the two main contenders faced each other in a runoff election. Tea Party folks from out of state were vowing to be “election observers” to make sure no one voted who wasn’t supposed to. Cochran, in the political fight of his life, was openly courting black Democratic voters to cross over and vote for him, reminding them of all of the federal goodies he had procured for the state during his six terms in office. These Tea Party “observers” with the not-at-all ironic name of “True the Vote” promised to police polls to make sure Democratic voters weren’t voting where they weren’t supposed to or voting twice if they had cast a vote in the Democratic primary on June 3. The “observers” were planning to invoke an obscure and never-enforced Mississippi law stating that primaries are limited to people who “intend” to support the party in question in the general election.
Nothing intimidating about stopping people from voting, is there? In Mississippi? Where 50 years ago, three civil rights volunteers were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan for having the audacity to register African Americans to vote? In a state with a history of Jim Crow laws and poll taxes? Luckily, the state’s attorney general and secretary of state stepped in to make clear that Tea Party groups have no right under state law to send “election observers” to state polling places. UPDATE: Thad Cochran won in a close contest, 51 percent to 49 percent. Some of the margin of victory is reportedly due to black Democratic crossover votes.
No doubt you’ve heard the term “voter fraud” before. Republicans claim it’s rampant and that it has helped in electing Democrats. GOP state legislatures have used the excuse to pass voter suppression laws in several states, including passing voter ID laws, cutting the days of early voting, trimming registration times — in general, doing just about anything to make it harder for people to vote. People, that is, who tend to vote Democratic.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court basically gutted the Voting Rights Act, new voting restrictions passed in several states, mostly in the South, which would still have been under the Voting Rights Act if its enforcement mechanisms had been upheld. Twenty-four voting restrictions have passed in 17 states since 2011.
Now out of Wisconsin, we have a new real voter fraud case. According to the online version of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Robert D. Monroe, described as a supporter of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, was charged with more than a dozen counts of illegal voting, casting multiple ballots in four elections in 2011 and 2012, including five in the 2012 gubernatorial recall. He used addresses in Milwaukee, Shorewood (a Milwaukee suburb), and Indiana, and cast some votes in the names of his son and his girlfriend’s son. According to the complaint, Monroe cast two ballots in the April 11 Supreme Court election, two in the August 2011 recall election for state Sen. Darling, five in the Scott Walker-Tom Barrett recall, one illegal ballot in an August 2012 primary, and two ballots in the November 2012 presidential election. According to a John Doe voting records investigation, “Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory.” Also, according to the John Doe records, Monroe claimed to have a form of temporary amnesia and did not recall the election day events when confronted by investigators.
So that’s the way to do it! Claim amnesia! That’s one enthusiastic voter you’ve got there.
In an investigation of potential voter fraud, students who were part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education called News21 reviewed thousands of public records, court documents, and media reports to uncover voter fraud. An analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, “the rate is infinitesimal.” Out of hundreds of millions of ballots cast, they found 633 actual incidents.
In North Carolina, right-wing media outlets charged that there were 36,000 cases of voter fraud in the 2012 presidential election, of people voting in more than one state. An actual investigation has whittled that number to 765, and many of those are now said to be the result of clerical errors.
Let’s look at some other, real cases of voter fraud, outlined on the MaddowBlog for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show:
“Remember the Nevada voter who cast multiple ballots in the same election because she wanted to test the integrity of the elections system? She was a Republican voter. Remember the Texas voter who cast absentee ballots on behalf of his girlfriend for the five years after she died? He was a Republican voter, too. Remember the Indiana secretary of state convicted of voter fraud? Yep, a Republican.”
Look, voting shenanigans can occur — on either side of the aisle — but such instances are rare. Elected officials need to establish honest systems to encourage more people to vote, not fewer. Congress needs to do its job and pass new extensions of the Voting Rights Act.
Imagine how heads would be exploding on Fox News and imagine the faux outrage from GOP lawmakers in front of TV cameras if the Obama administration had ignored intelligence that an outside terrorist group was going to attack Americans.
No, I’m not talking about the Bush administration’s failure to read the intelligence briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike In U.S.” before the Sept. 11 attacks. We all know how that fiasco and lack of action turned out.
No, I’m talking about how those inside the Reagan administration in 1983 ignored the intelligence from the National Security Administration about an upcoming attack on U.S. Marines on Oct. 23, 1983. Two suicide bombers drove trucks into two buildings housing U.S. and French troops in Beirut, Lebanon, where U.S. forces were part of a multinational group of peacekeepers in Lebanon. In all, 241 U.S. servicemen were killed, as well as 58 French servicemen, six U.S. civilians, and more than 20 Lebanese civilians. It was the biggest single-day death toll for the Marines since World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Another 128 Americans were injured, and 12 later died.
Less than one month earlier, the NSA had intercepted a message from Iranian intelligence directing the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon to “take spectacular action against U.S. Marines.” This comes from a book called Peacekeepers at War: Beirut 1983 — The Marine Commander Tells His Story, by Marine Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, who commanded U.S. forces in Lebanon at the time.
In June 1982, Israel had invaded Lebanon, which was in the midst of a civil war. Israel wanted to create a buffer zone between Israel on one hand and the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon. The presence of U.S. forces — even in a multinational peacekeeping role — created ill will among Lebanese Muslims, who assumed the Americans were on the side of the Israelis and the Christian-led forces of the Lebanese government.
On Sept. 19, 1983, the U.S. launched a missile strike against the Syrian-supported Druze PSP, radical Palestinians, and assorted Muslim militias who were fighting the Lebanese Armed Forces. Some of the U.S. missiles hit innocent bystanders. Said Geraghty in his book, retelling the event: “My gut instinct tells me the Corps is going to pay in blood for this decision.”
The Marines did pay — in blood. By the next March, President Reagan had pulled all U.S. forces out of Lebanon. Despite heated rhetoric and talk of retaliation from U.S. officials, no counter strike was ever launched. A little-known group called Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the October attack, a group with ties to Iran and Syria that ultimately turned into Hezbollah, although Hezbollah and both countries deny any involvement to this day.
And that NSA interception of intelligence asking for payback against U.S. Marines? It wasn’t delivered to the Marine unit until Oct. 26, 1983, three days after the attack.
So let’s recap: 241 U.S. servicemen killed. No retaliation. A complete U.S. troop pullout, and continued violence in the region. Yes, there was a fact-finding commission, but ultimately, no one paid a political price, and certainly not anyone in the Reagan administration. Instead, the nation’s hearts went out to the families of those 241 servicemen.
(The Reagan administration, of course, had moved on to bargaining with Iranian terrorists holding Americans hostage in Lebanon, selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the seven hostages and later illegally using the proceeds to fund the contras against the democratically elected government in Nicaragua. But we digress.)
What’s different today? Today, there’s a Democrat in the White House. Despite the fact that it was the Bush administration who arranged the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq, the growing sectarian violence in Iraq is obviously President Obama’s fault. Despite the fact that the Bush administration abandoned the search for Osama bin Laden and left it up to the Obama administration to find and kill him (without the help of the false “intelligence” gleaned under torture), that strike doesn’t count.
Despite the capture of the alleged mastermind of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, that capture is nothing but a “distraction,” in the words of talking heads on the Fake News Channel. And Ahmed Abu Khattala has been quoted saying the attack was in response to the inflammatory video, The Innocence of Muslims, an online preview of which was seen all over the Muslim world in the fall of 2012 and caused demonstrations worldwide. Which is exactly what the Obama administration has been saying all along. But I guess the lure of more meaningless hearings is too great to resist for the GOP-led House.
So tell me, media: Why do you keep inviting these liars and architects of failed policy to give their opinions on what is happening in Iraq today?
Nearly 12 years ago, the United States government lied to its citizens and other countries around the world to start a war in Iraq, a country under the thumb of a regional strongman but that never had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. We invaded, destabilized the region, and disbanded the Army. We spent trillions of U.S. dollars, tanked our own economy, caused nearly 4,500 American troops to lose their lives, and left tens of thousands of members of the U.S. military wounded, maimed, and worse.
Where Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims used to live in relative peace, they are now segregated and at each other’s throats. Where once al Qaeda was successfully kept out of the country, it is now being overrun by a group so bad that al Qaeda doesn’t even want anything to do with it. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Most of the weapons Saddam Hussein had were the ones sold to him during the 1980s through Donald Rumsfeld when he was President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East. And yet some members of the GOP can’t wait to send in troops again.
Sen. John McCain (R, I never met a war I didn’t like) thinks he’s playing a successful game of gotcha with the media and the Obama administration. “The fact is, we had the conflict won,” McCain said on MSNBC the morning of June 13. Funny way to define victory — wreck a country, claim success, then go on TV and hope the American people won’t remember how wrong you’ve been all along.
We were never greeted as “liberators,” as Vice President Dick Cheney so often claimed at the beginning of the conflict. It was only supposed to take months, if not weeks — remember those promises by so many in the Bush administration? The Iraq war would pay for itself because of all the oil revenue. Yet the U.S .spent more than $1 billion a week for a decade on the war.
McCain, who has been wrong so often that you would think he might show an ounce of humility, left a classified briefing on Iraq early to rush in front of the cameras to denounce the Obama administration’s foreign policy. According to a piece in Politico with the headline, “GOP on Iraq: We told you so,” McCain demanded that the entire Obama foreign policy team resign. Funny, he never asked the entire Bush administration to resign after they lied about WMDs, yellow cake, mushroom clouds, and the like. And don’t forget that McCain is such a shrewd judge of character that he chose $arah Palin to be his running mate.
House Speaker John Boehner (R, Sun lamp) accused the president of taking a nap. This from a guy whose House of Representatives has been the least productive in modern history, has wasted nearly 50 votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and meets only one out of every three weeks. Hey, Boehner, head back to the tanning booth. I think you need a nap yourself.
How wrong was John McCain on Iraq? He claimed that Saddam was tied to the 9/11 attacks, telling ABC in 2001 that Iraq was part of a “network” of terrorists. (It wasn’t.) McCain knew — he just knew! — there were WMDs there. (There weren’t.) In 2001, he even blamed Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. (Attacks were finally linked to an American.) He told CNN in 2002 that success in Iraq would be “fairly easy.” We all know how that turned out.
Why should we listen to someone who has been so spectacularly wrong? Why should the media give him such a large spotlight? Hint to news networks: Just because John McCain opens his mouth doesn’t mean you have to stick a microphone in front of it.
On June 13, President Obama clearly said no — no U.S. troops will head back to Iraq. The United States has a history of backing corrupt leaders in unstable countries, and the American people are rightly saying, “No more.” Air strikes and limited military aid are a possibility, Obama said, but there’s not much point unless Iraqi leaders act to be more inclusive of the Iraqi population as a whole in all government levels. And where would these air strikes be, and against whom? Who would get the military aid?
No good answers, no good options. Remember, we elected this president — twice — because he said, “I am not opposed to all wars. I am opposed to dumb wars.” And the Iraq War was a dumb war.
Sometimes you wonder what it will take to make America wake up to the insanity of its twisted gun culture.
A few days ago, two self-styled, anti-government militia members decided to start their own revolution against law enforcement. Before long, five people would be dead.
Jerad and Amanda Miller left a friend’s apartment after telling neighbors that they were going to carry out an attack against police, but the neighbors did nothing — did not call police or any authorities. Did they think the Millers were just kidding? The friend they were staying with, a self-styled “patriot” herself, saw them leave with a shopping cart full of guns and backpacks filled with ammunition, but she didn’t think anything of it. Just another Sunday morning with your guns, I guess. Police said the pair walked four miles through Las Vegas neighborhoods with the gun-loaded shopping cart, but apparently no residents or passersby bothered to call attention to the fact that heavily armed citizens were walking around a residential neighborhood.
We all know what happened next. The Millers went into a pizza restaurant where two police officers were taking a lunch break. The pair shot and killed both officers, took their weapons and ammunition, then covered one body with a Gadsden flag favored by Tea Party and militia groups with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” They left a Nazi swastika just for extra decoration. They also pinned a note to one body, saying, “This is the beginning of the revolution.”
The Millers next went to a nearby Walmart, fired a round, announced that “the revolution had begun,” and yelled for shoppers to clear the store. Shopper Joseph Wilcox, carrying a concealed weapon himself, drew his gun, but Amanda Miller shot him. Sort of puts a damper on the National Rifle Association’s argument that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” doesn’t it? Amanda Miller ended up shooting Jerad and killing herself.
The Millers were part of the heavily armed militia group that descended on the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada in April. Bundy, of course, is the freeloading cattle rancher who refused to pay fees for letting his cattle graze on federal lands for 20 years and owes the federal government $1 million in back payment and fines. Militia members carried assault rifles and other semi-automatic weapons, frequently aiming them at federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management who were just trying to do their jobs. The militia members all joined in spewing out heated rhetoric against the federal government. Jerad Miller even got his own 15 minutes of fame in a TV interview in which he issued a veiled threat against federal authorities.
Groups favoring the right to carry guns anywhere they damn well please have made news lately by carrying assault weapons into family restaurants such as Chipotle’s and Chili’s in Texas, and objecting when other patrons objected to them and store owners asked them to leave. They proudly carried their weapons into Target stores and even left a loaded gun in a toy aisle. In a moment of temporary sanity, the NRA spoke against this practice, saying it looked “weird.” The NRA had to backtrack quickly after the “carry-your-guns-everywhere” group threw a fit.
States are passing laws allowing people to carry guns into churches and into bars. Nope, nothing bad happens when you mix alcohol and guns, right? And no doubt the next phrase from the religious right will be WWJS — Who Would Jesus Shoot?
Maybe the Millers just acted alone, as police are saying. Maybe they were just two meth-addled young adults with nothing better to do on a Sunday. But they left a trail of YouTube videos and online rants filled with anti-government zealotry — views that are developed by listening to the same hate-filled rants from others, and in turn influence other “patriots” down the line.
How many killings will it take? How many more people have to die before the populace realizes it’s just not normal to walk calmly down the street with an assault rifle strapped to your back? The NRA was right — it is “weird.” How many more deaths do we need to know that you DON’T have to carry a gun everywhere you go?
The woman the Millers were staying with, Kelley Fielder, who accompanied the pair to the Bundy ranch, now tearfully says she’s got “five deaths on her shoulders,” and that she is “so sorry.” Somehow, I don’t think the widows and children of the two slain police officers take much comfort in her apology.
UPDATE: And before I could even finish writing this post, there is another school shooting in Oregon. This follows a shooting at Pacific State University. The Oregon school shooting is the 74th school shooting since 20 children were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
This is not the America we want to live in, but it seems to be the America we have right now.
Many commentators — not enough, so far — say we’ve entered a new era of despicable politics with the attacks on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his family. In one sense, that’s true. But it’s also a throwback to the knee-jerk reactions of the 1950s, embodied by GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.
You all remember Sen. McCarthy, who shamed the nation when he basically made stuff up as he went along in Senate hearings, smearing everything and everyone to the left of the John Birch Society by calling them Communists. It didn’t matter who they were or what line of work they were in, or whether they were in the military. In his role as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist Activities, old “Tail-Gunner Joe,” a failed lawyer, chronic gambler, and alcoholic, was there to discredit their good names. He rarely had evidence, and his claims were dubious, but oh, how he loved the spotlight. Blazing his way into TV and feeding the anti-Communism frenzy was his way of saving his moribund political career.
It wasn’t long before the U.S. House started its own investigations with HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, which only continued the witch-hunts. It also trickled down to states and even local school boards. Communists were not welcome. Even if you weren’t a Communist at all. And it was all done to build up political careers.
Television became McCarthy’s undoing, because too many Americans saw his constant attacks as too mean-spirited and unscrupulous, especially when he started attacking the U.S. military. “At long last, have you no sense of decency left?” asked Joseph Welch, counsel to the Army, during one hearing. The Senate censured McCarthy in 1954, and he died in poor health of alcoholism in 1957.
So what is different today? Today, unfortunately, McCarthy would be a regular guest on Fox News. He might go for the bigger audience and the bigger paycheck and get his own show. Consider the half-truths and lies that have been told in less than a week since the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap:
* Six soldiers died trying to rescue him. No, it was SEVEN. Make up your minds, already, GOP operatives who are scheduling these interviews with various news agencies. According to a New York Times story, nothing is cut and dried. And Defense Dept. data on when Bergdahl left his unit and was captured and when those soldiers actually died put those claims further in doubt.
* The Obama administration told us nothing, NOTHING, claim the GOP, specifically Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.). Then why did he know the details of a Bergdahl swap during a February interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN? He even mentioned five high-level members of the Taliban.
* Bergdahl’s family must be Muslims — just look at his father’s beard. As so many have said, most humorously by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, scraggly beards are only OK when they’re on the cast of Duck Dynasty.
* The Senate got a classified briefing about the details of the prisoner swap. So what did GOP senators do? They left the hearing and rushed right to the cameras, still claiming outrage.
The town of Hailey, Idaho, had planned welcome-home festivities for when Bergdahl finally gets home to see his family again. They were forced to cancel those events because of “security concerns.” Hey, with the way the fright-wing (I saw this recently and decided it was so obvious that we all need to use it) lunatics are sending hate mails to the town and posting hate messages on fright-wing websites, I would cancel, too. Some of those militia guys down on Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada might be looking for something else to do, since the cameras have left.
Bowe Bergdahl enlisted in the Army to serve his country. Whatever he thought about a war that most Americans stopped thinking about long ago is beside the point. He spent five years being held by the Taliban, and he’s free now — that’s something to celebrate. When the U.S. Army investigates what happened, there will be more answers. He went, and many of us didn’t. And neither did many of the Republicans and hosts on the Fake News Channel who are now expressing faux outrage. One GOP House member went so far as to say that Bergdahl deserted his post, “just like John Kerry did in Vietnam.” It’s Swift-boating all over again.
Historians describe McCarthy as “one of the least qualified, most corrupt politicians of his time,” according to an article from the Cold War Museum. Given the lies and the low level of discourse we’re hearing from many in the Republican Party, we may not be doing much better today.