Friday, May 30, 2014

In Politics Actions Speak Louder Than Words

“Actions speak louder than words.” “I see better than I hear.” “Better to judge a person by the actions that he takes rather than the words he utters.”

No where are these words more appropriate than in the world of politics.

Let’s take a look at the topics that have saturated the media over the past few weeks and compare our elected leaders’ words with their actions. Our focus for this piece will be on the Republicans because they have been by far the most vociferous in their outrage over current events.


FACT - Republicans are outraged over the deaths of four Americans manning the American Consulate in Benghazi. The primary target of their furor has been former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They accuse Clinton and the White House of lying to the public about the events leading up to the murders for political purposes. They condemn Clinton and the White House for failing to provide adequate security for the consulate and they are horrified that the administration would be so crass as to politicize the deaths.

FACT – While under the leadership of Hillary Clinton the State Department repeatedly requested additional funds to beef up the security at US embassies around the world particularly those in hostile environments like Benghazi. House Republicans led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan cut the administration’s request for embassy security by $`128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. For fiscal 2013 the GOP controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s World Wide Security Protection Program…less than the State Department’s requested $2.15 billion. Securing embassies costs money. When you refuse to provide the necessary funds bad things can happen
Regarding the faux indignation over the administration’s politicizing the murders…Republican Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa has held TWO years of investigatory hearings on the matter. Each does little more than rehash the same information while allowing Republican committee members to vilify the former Secretary and presumptive Democrat nominee for the presidency. Noticeably absent in the hearing is any mention of the GOP House cutting hundreds of millions from funds used to provide embassy security.


FACT - The big story of course is the scandal involving the Veteran’s Administration failure to properly tend to the medical needs of vets on a timely basis. We know that the books were cooked to make it look like most patients were getting in to see a doctor within two weeks time when in fact it is taking 3-6 months to see a physician. As many as 40 veterans have died awaiting treatment. Republicans, long considered the party of choice for the military establishment are outraged over the agency’s failures and blame the administration, the president in particular, for failing to fix the problems as he had promised to do six years ago.
FACT – The VA is the largest provider of health services in the country. It is a bureaucratic nightmare. Veterans receive the highest quality care once they are admitted. But getting in to see a doctor can take months…even longer west of the Mississippi where VA facilities are scarce. It can take Vets hours to drive from their homes to get treatment. Last February Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, proposed a bill that would have expanded health care and education programs for veterans. The bill contained measures designed to fund additional facilities to alleviate the backlog. Republicans blocked the measure via filibuster so as not to have to go on record as voting against an expansion of veteran’s benefits. This was after Senate Majority Leader Reid refused to allow an up or down vote because the GOP had attached an amendment that included additional sanctions against Iran? Numerous sources report that Sanders will reintroduce the bill next week.

As previously mentioned Republicans cried “foul” at what they perceived as the Democrats politicizing the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Apparently that outrage does not apply to American veterans who died waiting for treatment at VA facilities.

Senator Mark Bagich is a Democrat Senator from the state of Alaska. He is up for re-election in November and is considered vulnerable. Senator Bagich Bagich sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Today Carl Rove’s Crossroads GPS will launch a television ad tying Bagich and his committee to the deaths of those veterans. Naturally you will find no mention in the ad of the committees’ request for neither additional funding nor the GOPs’ extraordinary efforts to stop the funding from happening.

These are just two recent examples of where actions speak louder than words. There are others…

FACT - Republicans are seen as the fiscal conservatives, proponents of spending cuts and reduced deficits. However, historically our debt and deficits increase under Republican administrations and decrease when Democrats hold the White house.

FACT – Republicans are considered to be the strong defenders of the military establishment while Democrats prefer diplomacy. It is true that Republicans go out of their way to protect our military, securing appropriations for the most advanced weapon systems available. Even when the military says the systems are unnecessary are redundant, Republicans will push the appropriations through. “Nothing is too good for our fighting men and women” they say. Is that the real motivation? Or could it be that they want to keep those government contracts coming to the munitions developers and manufacturers that reside in their districts? How do they square spending billions of borrowed money on unwanted weaponry while blocking funding for VA benefits under the guise of fiscal responsibility? And what about the increase in the debt that balloons with every weapon system built?

As you go to the polls this year take a moment to look up the voting records of the candidates. More often than not you will find that their words say one thing but their actions say something else.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What's Your Solution?

The president appeared before the graduating class at West Point yesterday to deliver what was ballyhooed to be a major foreign policy address. By all accounts the substance failed to meet the hype. Critics on both the right and the left voiced their displeasure over the lack of any significant policy declarations.

The president said that the al Qaeda leadership has been decimated but rising up in its place are a host of like minded splinter groups scattered throughout the world. These extremist groups continue to pose a threat to American interests to the extent that “terrorism still remains the most direct threat to America at home and abroad…we need to develop a foreign policy to meet this threat.”

Rather than offering any new policy initiatives the president chose this moment to defend his belief that the way to defeat terrorism is through alliances with other nations rather than the use of unilateral military power. “Military action cannot be the only or even the primary component of our leadership in every instance…just because we have the biggest hammer doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail…exercising the military option in every instance is both unreasonable and unsustainable.” The president sited the effective use of sanctions to force Russia to withdraw from the Ukraine and Syria’s agreement to remove chemical weapons when he took the military option off the table.

The president’s critics were not convinced. “Feckless”…”weak”…”without direction” were the terms most commonly used. They noted that Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria have grown in strength largely due to the lack of American military presence in the region.

Foreign affairs are like the sands in the desert. Conditions on the ground are constantly shifting. Finding the proper balance between diplomacy and military action is an inexact science and a never ending process. That said no one wants to hear a president six years into his term saying that we need to “develop" a new foreign policy to meet this threat.” With all due respect Mr. President, extremist splinter groups have been springing up since George W. Bush took us to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. What have you been doing these past six years?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. The problem that we have with those who criticize the president’s foreign policy efforts is that they have no thought out solution of their own. It is easy to beat the military war drum every time a skirmish breaks out in some far off place. But once you’ve gone “all in” it is far more difficult to get out.

Critics are right to note the increase in extremist activity that has erupted in Iraq ever since the president withdrew American forces. The same scenario will undoubtedly occur when we pull out of Afghanistan. This should come as no surprise. The only way to prevent the incursion is to maintain a military presence in the region in perpetuity. The Bush administration was too hell bent on taking revenge for 9/11 to consider an exit strategy. President Obama seems to have learned that lesson. Good for him and good for the country.

We are of the belief that the primary reason that our nation finds itself in the cross hairs of every extremist group in the world is because since WWII we have taken it upon our self to insert our beliefs, our morals, our way of life and our military into everybody else’s business. We have proclaimed our “exceptionalism” as the world’s policeman while often acting like a rogue cop. Imagine our indignation if any foreign power, friend or foe, were to stick their nose in the political debate between our far right and far left. Imagine the outrage if any other foreign power, friend or foe, were to set their military boots on our soil or set up a military base on the Washington Mall. To what extent would we go to remove that incursion from our lives? We are where we are because we put ourselves there. Now we must suffer the consequences.

The president understands that save a small number of even smaller minded neo-cons the country has no interest in engaging our military in conflicts across the globe. He understands that the way to defeat terrorism is by building alliances with other nations designed to combat the ever changing foreign threats. He has kept his promise to get us out of Iraq and he has set in place a timetable to get us out of Afghanistan. He has brought the 9/11 terrorists to justice. He has kept us safe. That’s a pretty good record.

To his critics we would say this. You are entitled to disagree with the president’s foreign policy. But just saying “no” does not resolve the problems that we face. What we need are solutions. And if you are not part of the solution…then you are part of the problem.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nation Mourns Shooting Spree...awards liquor license to shooting range???

Over the past few days we have watched thousands of mourners attend vigils held in remembrance of the victims of our most recent mass shooting. It is a scene that will continue to play out in the days and weeks ahead. It is a scene that we have witnessed all too many times before. Yet as the nation continues to mourn there are signs that we are already moving on.

We learned this morning that the city fathers in Oklahoma City have awarded a liquor license…to a shooting range. The General Manager of the Wilshire Gun Range maintains that they have a strict “no shooting after drinking” policy. Perfect! Liquor and firearms…what could possibly go wrong?

Have we become so anesthetized to the violence that lives at the very fiber of our society that we think selling liquor in a shooting range is a reasonable proposition? Apparently so!

A vast majority of Americans believe that we need to take steps to curb the violence in this country. A vast majority of Americans believe that those steps include a national gun registry, back ground checks on ALL gun purchases, the elimination of the sale of extended ammo clips, banning assault weapons and an increased emphasis on mental health issues and the role they play perpetrating that violence. Yet the majority continues to be held hostage by the NRA and a small group of wackos who measure the size of their penis by the size of their arsenal.

We like to talk about “American Exceptionalism.” We like to talk about how we live in the greatest country on earth. Patriotic bravado is cheap.

The facts are that we live in a society where any home on any given block can house an arsenal that would well equip a Marine platoon. We live in a society that allows the reoccurring slaughter of its innocents to go unchecked. We live in a society where the safety of our children is routinely held hostage for political gain.

There is nothing “exceptional” about that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How Many More Lives Must Be Lost?

Another mass shooting!

Six more are dead at the hand of an individual suffering from mental health issues.

The NRA says that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The good guys WERE called. The killers’ parents had previously summoned local police to their home. They were concerned about their son's behaviour. They saw the warning signs. But the officers left after the killer convinced them that everything was fine. No laws were broken. There was nothing they could do.

The response from those who actually could do something was predictable.

Appearing on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) spoke of the “horrific, insane, mad occurrences” of gun violence. He promised to push congress to revisit stricter gun control legislation. Similar thoughts were expressed by a host of legislators. Rule number one in politics. Never let a tragedy go to waste.

Blumenthal’s comments would be funny if they were not so pathetic.

How many more lives must be lost before congress addresses gun violence and the mental health issues that constantly come into play?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Putin Secures Economic Lifeline While US Bumbles

According to the media the big story of the day comes from the White House where President Obama promised that those involved in the VA scandal would be held accountable.

The far bigger story comes from the Kremlin where the Russian government announced a $400 billion dollar deal to ship natural gas to China over the next 30 years. The Russians will invest $100 million in infrastructure near the Chinese border to facilitate the transport. This unprecedented deal comes on the heels of a similar agreement last year which involved among other things $70 billion in upfront payments to Russia from the Chinese. China has said that it will invest another $20 billion in domestic projects within Russia and expects to increase its investment in Russia fourfold by 2020.

The Russian economy is struggling, their infrastructure crumbling, and their cash reserves held hostage by western sanctions. Russia is in dire need of cash. The only thing Russia has to offer the rest of the world economically is energy…lots of it. But their primary customers are the European markets that are now pulling back in anger over Putin’s invasion of Crimea and Ukraine. The Russians are cash poor with seemingly no one willing to buy their primary source of income.

Enter China! The Chinese do not share the western world’s indignation over Putin’s aggression. The Chinese desperately need energy sources to fuel their growing economy…lots of it. Russia can provide all the energy they need. China has plenty of money to invest. A deal is struck. A marriage made in heaven. No longer dependent on European markets, Putin can now continue his western expansion without fear of economic repercussions.

And where was the world’s loan superpower while this deal was being struck?

The US is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. The only thing standing in our way is us. Democrat leaning environmentalists threaten to withhold millions in campaign contributions if the White House tries to mine our greatest natural resource. Conservative groups block anything that might give the White House a win. We should be finding ways to extract the gas and oil resources we have in a manner that does not endanger the environment. That requires investments in infrastructure and research and development. Partisan gridlock prevents us from moving forward.

Take the Keystone Pipeline for instance. The Canadians are going to transport their oil sands to refineries on the coast. They can either do it across the US to our refineries in Texas us or find another partner. The project will create jobs and improve our economy. Environmental concerns are legitimate. Surely we can find a way to address environmentalist concerns while moving this project forward.

The Chinese needed reliable sources of energy. They found a willing partner in Russians. It should have been us cutting that deal. Instead Putin is a hero and Russia gets handed an economic get out of jail free card.

Meanwhile we sit on the sidelines playing with ourselves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fix It!

FIX IT! – The VA is the largest health care provider in the country. It is also one of the country’s largest beauracratic train wrecks. It has been for decades. The most recent allegations of VA incompetence, waste, fraud and abuse include the revelation that VA administrators have been intentionally altering the books to show that veterans are receiving treatment on a timely basis when in fact they are forced to wait 3-6 months to see a doctor. We now know that at least 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at a Phoenix VA hospital. The Obama administration responded to the scandal by accepting the “resignation” of VA undersecretary for health Robert Pelzer…a man who had already announced his retirement in October of 2013 and whose replacement the Obama administration had submitted for conferment three weeks ago. The president made a campaign promise to fix the VA…twice. It has been six years yet nothing has been done. The Obama communications department said that the administration has invested more money in the VA than any previous administration. They called Pelzer’s firing an appropriate response. It would appear that the only agency more incompetent than the VA is the Obama communications department. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric Shinseki is expected to meet with the president at 10 AM today. Perhaps the secretary will be tendering his resignation as well. Accepting another “resignation” and throwing more money at the agency won’t fix the VA. The VA needs a complete and drastic overhaul if it is to meet the needs of our veterans. The president needs to fix it.

FIX IT! – The results of the first primaries are in and the GOP establishment had a pretty good night. Led by Mitch McConnell’s 25 point win over Matt Bevin moderate establishment Republicans countrywide posted victories over Tea Party opponents. McConnell celebrated by using his post election speech to label Alison Lundergran Grimes, his Democrat opponent in the general election, as Obama’s candidate. “She is the Democrat candidate because President Obama wants her to be the Democrat candidate.” Unfortunately for Senator McConnell that strategy won’t work. Republicans are just as tired of Washington gridlock as the Democrats. Big money Republican bundlers are making it clear that they are tired of investing in Washington if all they are going to get is more of the same. They want their Republican candidates to stand for something…to have a vision for the future. If the result of the mid-terms is more of the same Washington gridlock then what difference does it make if Harry Reid is majority leader in the senate or Mitch McConnell? Moderate Republicans seem to be convincing their more radical members that before you can change Washington you have to win elections. And in order to win you have reasonable candidates who actually stand FOR something. Thus far there is no apparent plan. Republicans need to fix this if they want to succeed in November.

FIX IT! – GM just announced another recall. 2.4 million GM manufactured vehicles are affected. This is the 27th GM recall this year. Say again…the 27th GM recall this year…15 million GM cars worldwide. GM says two more recalls are imminent. USA Today’s front page headline asks: “Are There Any GM CARS That Haven’t Been Recalled?” GM needs to fix this!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Are You Thinking?

Today begins the six month marathon to the November mid-terms. Today primary voters in key battleground states begin to create the political landscape for the next two years. Even though these are only primary elections the results will play a key role in determining the respective party’s message moving forward.

Over the past several months both political parties have worked tirelessly to create a lasting image that they hope voters will carry with them into voting booth. We found ourselves wondering just exactly what that message might be. What is it that the Democrat and Republican parties want voters to be thinking about when they cast their ballots?

So we decided to look back over the past 60 days leading up to the election to get a sense of what the Democrat and Republican parties wanted voters to hear before casting their vote. We examined key conservative (FOXNEWS, Wall Street Journal) and liberal (MSNBC, New York Times) media outlets to ferret out the party talking points. For nothing gives you a better sense of what a political party stands for than the daily talking points their political hacks repeat ad nauseam. Ask any political operative any question you like…he/she will always return to the days talking points.

Here are our findings.

Democrats – In no order of importance here is what Democrats have been talking about in recent weeks: Immigration reform, gender equity, increasing the minimum wage, gay marriage, health care enrollment, immigration reform, climate change, new trade agreements, immigration reform and diplomacy first in foreign affairs.

Republicans – Again in no particular order here is what Republicans have been talking about in recent weeks: No, No, Benghazi, No, repeal Obamacare, Military intervention in Syria, Benghazi, No, Military intervention in Crimea, No, No, Benghazi, Benghazi, military intervention in Ukraine, the president’s feckless foreign policy, Benghazi, No, No, repeal Obamacare, repeal Obamacare, No, Benghazi, Benghazi, Hillary Clinton has brain damage.

Both parties talked about job creation but in a limited context as compared to the other topics mentioned.

Democrats seem to have a vision for the future on a variety of topics. You may disagree with their vision but at least they have a plan and you know where they stand.

Republicans do not speak of the future. Their focus is on military intervention, Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s mental health.

Which poses this question: Why would you turn power over to a party who seems to ignore our future domestically, promotes an unpopular foreign policy and calls into question the mental health of an individual who is not running for office?

If you think we are being a bit harsh…feel free to perform your own analysis.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Health Care Is The Key

The 2014 election season kicks into high gear tomorrow with primary votes in key senate and gubernatorial races across the country.

Over the next 24 hours Republican candidates will ramp up their right wing rhetoric in hopes of appeasing the conservative base and securing their party’s nomination. Democrats will be watching and taking notes. “Don’t tread on me” rhetoric works well in Republican primaries. But conservatives generally find themselves moving to a more centrist position in the general election. Democrats will be waiting…eager to use Republicans own words against them. (See Mitt “I am a severe conservative” Romney in the last presidential contest.)

Mitch McConnell, who is facing a primary challenge from the right, has been banging his “Just say no” drum with increased fervor over the past several months. His conservative mantra has given him a comfortable 20 point lead over Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin. But obstructionist tactics don’t play as well with the masses. McConnell finds himself trailing his presumed Democrat opponent, Alison Londergan Grimes, in the general.

Tactics are always subject to debate. But there is no question what the key issue will be when voters take to the polls in November. 90% of those recently polled say that health care will be the deciding factor in how they cast their vote.

Republicans interpret these polls to mean that voters oppose the president’s health care law and want to see it repealed. Democrats disagree. These same polls show that the key components of the law are very popular. Democrats feel that while people may not care for all aspects of the law, they prefer to see it fixed…not repealed. Republicans face a hard road convincing voters to put them in power so they can repeal the law when they have no alternative solution to offer. Besides, it’s hard to look voters in the eye and tell them that you don’t want them to have health care.

Which party is right? The stakes are enormous. The winner controls the senate. If Republicans wrest control of the senate from the Democrats the president’s agenda grinds to a halt two years before he leaves office. Presidential appointments, Supreme Court nominees and a large swath of presidential power all must pass through the senate. Without the senate Obama becomes the lamest of ducks and all eyes turn to 2016.

Health care is the key!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Let Us Never Forget!

The 9/11 Memorial will be formerly dedicated today.

It will forever stand as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred that day and as a tribute to those who selflessly gave their lives in service of their fellowman.

May it also stand as a reminder that if we are to continue in our self appointed role as the world’s policeman…we will pay a heavy price.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Karl Rove Is At it Again

Republican kingmaker Karl Rove is at it again.

Rove has suggested that Hillary Clinton may have suffered brain damage from a fall she took last December. “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears she is wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.”

The former Secretary of State did take a fall last year and suffered a concussion that caused a blood clot to form. Clinton was treated at a New York hospital and released after several days. Her doctors said that she is fully recovered and in good health.

Republicans and Democrats alike criticized Rove for the crassness of his statements. But Rove doesn’t care about the facts. His goal was to make Clinton’s age and fitness for office an issue. Mission accomplished.

This is typical Karl Rove.

This is the guy who while running Bush 43’s campaign accused Bush rival, John McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child. Rove was behind the Swift Boat campaign that questioned John Kerry’s military records and torpedoed his run for the presidency. Rove labels his rivals with hints of pedophilia, theft, graft, adultery and incompetency on a whim. This is the guy who during the last election raised hundreds of millions of dollars for unqualified candidates that the Americans people soundly rejected.

When asked about Rove’s comments on Clinton’s health and capacity to serve White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “Here is what I would say about cognitive capacity, which is that Dr. Rove might have been the last person in America world on election night to recognize and acknowledge that the president had won re-election, including the state of Ohio. So we’ll leave it at that.”

During Bush 43’s term in office Carl Rove was known as “Bush’s Brain.”

That explains a lot about Bush 43’s term in office.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Republicans Are Not Fiscal Conservatives

If you are worried about the country’s debt and deficit you should return Democrats to power in 2014 and 2016.

Yes, that’s right.

If you are worried about the country’s debt and deficit you should return Democrats to power in 2014 and 2016.

Our country has long lived under the false premise that Republicans are the tight fisted fiscal conservatives and Democrats are the freewheeling big spenders. That simply is not the case. Debt and deficits INCREASE when Republicans hold power and DECREASE when Democrats are in charge. This is not our personal opinion…it is a historic fact. One need only look to the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations for proof.

Bill Clinton balanced the budget and left a surplus on the books when he road into the sunset. George W. Bush said “that surplus isn’t the government’s money…it’s your money…and I’m gonna’ give it back to you.” Bush cut taxes…and then took the country into two wars without paying for them and passed the largest government funded social program in our country’s history…Medicare Part D. When 43 left office he had turned Clinton’s surplus into a $5 trillion dollar deficit.

“But Obama has taken the Bush debt and tripled it” you say. Yes he did. When Obama took office he inherited two wars, a banking crisis, auto industry crisis and a failing economy that was hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs per month. Obama took the necessary steps to end both wars, save the banking industry, save the auto industry, and resurrect a crashing economy. Last month the country produced 255,000 private sector jobs. Those corrective measures cost money. Now that the country has turned the corner we see that the debt and deficit is shrinking. In fact the deficit under the Obama administration is shrinking at a rate not seen since WWII.

Last night Rachel Maddow made the same case on the state level citing mounting budget deficits in Republican controlled state legislatures. Maddow specifically notes the great job Chris Christie is doing in New Jersey.

You all know Chris Christie. The straight talking Republican governor and presidential hopeful is lauded by Republicans for his success in a very blue state. Christie, like Bush cut taxes. He also took on the teachers’ union where he cut teachers’ salaries and legacy costs, much to the delight of his party and the private sector. Conservatives sang his praises.

But the tax cuts left a huge gap in the state’s cash flow. A lot more money was going out the door than coming in. The state deficit skyrocketed. Christie was forced to borrow to make ends meet. The bond rating bureaus didn’t like what they were seeing. They reduced the state’s bond rating five times during Christie’s term in office. Now Christie is forced to borrow at even higher interest rates to keep his government running. The state deficit continues to grow.

The same scenario is playing out in Republican run states across the country. Maddow cites Kansas and North Carolina as two more examples where Republican leadership has turned a surplus into a deficit.

Selling tax cuts to the American voter is easy. “That surplus isn’t the government’s money it’s your money…and I’m gonna’ to give it back to you.” Hell ya!

The problem comes when you try to cut services to make up for the revenue you lost when you cut those taxes. Most Americans would like to give as little of their hard earned dollars to the government as possible. Americans also like well paved roads, free public school education, safe neighborhoods and clean air and water. These things cost money.

Democrats understand that government plays an important role in our society. They understand that government costs money and that you can’t simply cut tax revenue and figure the rest out later.

Republicans have yet to grasp that concept.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"American Exceptionalism!"

“American Exceptionalism!”

You are no doubt familiar with this phrase. It is a phrase that we use frequently to make us feel good about ourselves. We use it when we talk about our society, our way of life, our entrepreneurial spirit. We use it when we talk about our freedoms, our rights and our historic achievements.

Sometimes we use it in reference to aspects of our society that in reality are not quite so exceptional…like our education, our health care, our legal system, our economic inequality and our exalted status as the world’s lone superpower.

“American Exceptionalism!” We are Americans and therefore we ARE exceptional.

If we are in fact an “exceptional” nation one would think that we would look out for those who allow us to live our exceptional lives in peace. We are referring to the American military.

There are those who feel that we spend too much time and effort “glorifying” members of the armed forces. It is true that in a country without conscription these men and women volunteered to serve. They knew what they were signing up for. Nobody made them do it. There is a great deal of truth to that point of view.

It is also true that they volunteered to do something that most of us do not have the courage to do…risk their lives for their fellowman. They are in fact the only thing standing between our ability to live our “exceptional” lives in peace and a regular replay of the horrors of 9/11. Whether or not they deserve the reverence that we send their way is subject matter for another rant. What they most certainly deserve is the care and benefits they were promised when they signed up.

There are new reports that the VA continues to fail to provide military veterans the care they were promised. Reports out of a VA hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming tell the story of systematic efforts being undertaken to conceal the fact that military personnel have to wait 3-6 months to receive care.

A veteran seeking a medical appointment is supposed to be seen within a 14 day window. Schedulers in Cheyenne report that they are being taught by their supervisors how to adjust the records to make it appear that veterans are being seen on a timely basis when in fact it takes 3-6 months to get in to see a doctor. This report comes on the heels of a scandal at the Phoenix VA where as many as 40 veterans have died while waiting for the care they were promised

There is a systemic failure on the part of the VA to care for returning veterans. It seems like every six months we hear reports of another scandal within the VA. People will cry out in outrage...congress will hold hearings…and nothing will be done.

“American Exceptionalism.!”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Republicans Politicize Benghazi

Trey Gowdy says that it would be wrong for his Republican counterparts to politicize the deaths of four Americans murdered in the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the newly appointed Republican chairman of the Watergate like select committee investigating the events surrounding the attack and the administration’s response, told the hosts that he would do everything in his power to conduct a fair investigation and refrain from politicizing the tragedy.

On one hand, as committee chairman Gowdy’s comments carry some weight. On the other hand the very formation of his committee in and of itself reeks of partisan politics. Darrel Issa and his House Oversight Committee have been conducting hearings on the matter for the better part of two years. We know what happened and we know how the administration handled the aftermath…badly. The only purpose for appointing Gowdy’s committee is to politicize the event and drag out the scandal through the elections.

Want proof!
hile Gowdy was telling the “Morning Joe” crowd that Republicans would not politicize the death of four Americans, the National Republican Congressional Committee was sending out an email proclaiming “Benghazi Was a Cover-up” and proclaiming itself to be a “Benghazi Watchdog.” Viewers were encouraged to become "Benghazi Watchdogs" by donating $25-$500 to help Republicans expose the cover-up.

Nothing political going on here!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This & That

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK/ROUND ONE – Moderate Thom Tillis successfully defeated two unstable Tea Party challengers to secure the Republican nomination for the North Carolina Senate seat. Tillis earned the right to face off against Democrat incumbent Senator Kay Hagan in the general. Winning the North Carolina seat is critical to any hope Republicans have of taking control of the Senate. Tillis’ ability to defeat Tea Party candidates backed by Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee is a big win for the Republican establishment. On a side note…90% of the money spent in the campaign came from outside special interest groups. The purchase of this election was brought to you by the United States Supreme Court.

ROUND TWO – Speaker John Boehner successfully defeated two Tea Party challengers to win his party’s nomination to seek a thirteenth term in congress. Yawn! Boehner’s camp flooded the local airwaves with radio and television ads over the past several weeks. One has to wonder if the money would have been better spent elsewhere than on a campaign whose success is a foregone conclusion.

BENGHAZI…again – Republican leadership has authorized the formation of a Watergate type ad hoc committee to investigate the events surrounding the attack on the Benghazi consulate that took four American lives. Democrats have refused to participate in what they feel is a political witch hunt. Both sides need to be careful here. By refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the committee Democrats risk being accused of a cover up. For their part Republicans run the risk of being accused of politicizing the deaths of four Americans. As one Republican analyst said: "There is a fine line between an invetigation and a kangeroo court." Either way this is a boil that will continue to fester through the upcoming elections.

NIGERIA – The United States is sending kidnap and hostage negotiation experts to assist the Nigerian government returning the 200 young girls kidnapped by Islamist terrorists. This is a moral issue and we applaud the administrations’ willingness to help. But once again we have to ask…why us? Why do we always have to be the one stepping in whenever a tragedy occurs? Is there no other nation in the world capable of offering the Nigerian government the assistance they seek?

PUTIN – It appears inevitable that the Russians intend to annex the Ukraine. The large number of Russian troops now stationed on the eastern Ukrainian border, the internal violence and unrest propagated by Russian agents and the call for subsequent new elections mirrors the course of events immediately prior to Putin’s invasion of Georgia and later Crimea. President Obama is soon going to have to decide when enough is enough. The world, as always, is sitting on its hands and watching.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let The Festivities Begin!

If you are a political junkie then today is your Christmas Eve. For tonight marks the beginning of the primary season.

The war that we will be watching closely is the one being waged within the Republican Party between Party moderates and the Tea Party Patriots. The Republicans have a very good chance at winning control of the senate. The question is whether they can set aside their internal bickering to nominate candidates who have snowballs chance in hell of defeating weak Democrat incumbents.

You may recall that in 2010 the Tea Party managed to place into nomination a host of misfits that allowed weak Democrat incumbents to hold their seats. Todd “legitimate rape” Akin comes to mind. Akin was such a flawed candidate that incumbent Claire McCaskill anonymously ran television ads promoting Akins candidacy in the primary. A weakened McCaskill understood that Akin was the only Republican that she had a chance to beat in the general. Akin won the Republican nomination and McCaskill beat him by 15 points in the general.

Tonight all eyes will be on North Carolina where incumbent Democrat Senator Kay Hagen is in real trouble. The Republican moderates want to nominate state House speaker Thom Tillis. A seasoned political veteran, Republicans believe Tillis gives them the best chance to unseat the weakened Hagen. Tillis has won the support of the NRA, Jeb Bush, Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney. Local Tea Partiers have other ideas. They favor the more conservative Greg Bannon or Mark Harris. Bannon has stated publically that the Supreme Court has no authority under the Constitution and that the right to bear arms includes the right to own nuclear weapons. Will Bannon be this year’s Akin?

Will moderate Republicans reign in the Tea Party bunch and take control of the Senate? Or will the radicals on the right once again propel Democrats to victory?

“Tis the season!”

Let the festivities begin!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Good Enough For Us

The president continues to take flack on his foreign policy bona fides. Critics call him weak, disengaged and feckless. His foreign policy disjointed, ad hoc and without any true sense of direction or urgency. The New York Times Editorial Board in a recent op-ed wrote: “Mr. Obama’s record on foreign policy is not as bad as his critics say. It’s just not good enough.”

“Not good enough?” What does that mean?

It is true that the Obama is seen as a weak president in many countries across the globe. Washington Post reporter and bestselling author David Ignatius makes that point. “I travel the world. Ideology aside…President Obama is seen as ineffectual and weak among foreign diplomats and heads of state.” His drawing a red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons and then failing to act when Assad crossed the line played no small part in fomenting that opinion. The president most certainly has made some mistakes and his cautious approach has fed the narrative. But basically Obama has been the type of foreign policy leader most Americans and world leaders wanted after eight years of George W. Bush’s ham fisted diplomacy.

Critics should remember that in spite of all the bluster about our president being the leader of the free world he is first and foremost the President of the United States of America. He answers to the citizens of this country not the foreign heads of state that are only too happy to have him do the heavy lifting while they sit back and pad their wallets. The American people have made it clear that they are war weary and have no desire to enter into any conflict that does not pose a direct threat to our borders. Senators McCain and Cruz can bang the war drums all they want. They are in the minority when it comes to spending our blood and treasure on another civil war in a foreign land. If conscription were the law of the land mothers and fathers would be praising his patience and level headed approach.

The first priority of the President of the United States is to keep the country safe. By all accounts he has done that. He has pulled us out of the quagmire of two unending wars and he has been resolute when it comes to dealing with those who would threaten our shores. (See Osama bin Laden and the use of drones to eliminate terrorists, even those born within our boarders, who pose a direct threat to our way of life.)
But Obama is no Putin. And in spite of the daily praise showered on the Russian leader by FOXNEWS we are most happy for that to be the case.

By all accounts the president is listening to the American people; keeping the country safe while using diplomacy as the first response to foreign aggression.
That may not be good enough for the NYT…but its good enough for us.

There remains the unanswered question…when will enough be enough for this president. What will it take to cause this president to act in a manner that will satisfy his critics?

Let’s hope we never find out.

Friday, May 2, 2014

All Benghazi...All The Time!

Benghazi...Benghazi…Benghazi… the story that just won’t go away.

The lead story once again in today’s politics is the raid on the US Consulate in Benghazi. Chairman Darrell Issa and his Oversight Committee found another piece of red meat to chew on with the delayed release of an email that appears to contradict White House and State Department assertions that they believed the raid was a spontaneous act carried out by individuals who were protesting an anti-Islamist video.
The White House says that they believed the attack was a spontaneous event. They say their belief was based on talking points provided to them by the intelligence community.

Republicans believe that the White House knew that the attack was an orchestrated terrorist attack but that the administration did not want to appear weak on terrorism in the middle of an election campaign. According to Republicans the White House politicized the death of four Americans for political gain. The White house has consistently denied that allegation.

Here is what we think happened.

There were massive protests going on in Cairo over the anti-Islamist video. When the attack occurred in Benghazi the CIA and State Department assumed it was a spillover of those same protests. At some point in time the administration received “after action reports” detailing the RPGs and other heavy armaments used by the attackers. The munitions made it clear that this was no spontaneous attack but a planned assault by terrorists. Whether the terrorists were inspired by the video is anybody’s guess. By the time the reports came in the administration was too far into its assertion that the attack was spontaneous to suddenly change course and admit to the terrorism. This is not all that surprising given the administrations’ unwillingness to give any advantage to its political opponents. Now that the dust has settled and the facts are becoming clear the cover-up is proving to be more damaging than the story itself.

Issa and the Republicans are only too happy to pile on the criticism. Republicans have been extremely efficient at halting this president’s agenda and Benghazi offers another opportunity that is too good to pass up; especially in an election year.

Republicans are also happy to divert the public’s attention from their horrific congressional record. Blocking the president may be good politics but the American people want to see the country moving forward.

Politics aside, the real scandal here is why a US Consulate was left unprotected in a war zone. The State Department has requested an additional $350 million to beef up security at American embassies across the globe. The Republican House denied that request. The consulate in Benghazi had asked the State Department for additional security forces on two previous occasions. Those requests were denied. Once the attacks began, spontaneously or not, there was nothing the State Department nor could the US Military do in time to stop the carnage.

The Benghazi story lives on…and it’s not going away any time soon…especially if Hillary decides to run.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

FOXNEWS Viewers...This One's For You!

I live about five miles from Speaker John Boehner’s West Chester residence. As you might imagine it is a very conservative community. The news outlet of choice around here is FOXNEWS. If you walk into any home or business you will in all likelihood find FOXNEWS providing background noise for the day’s activities. Most of my friends and family members have made FOXNEWS their news outlet of choice. So it is with some amount of trepidation that I write this posting.

It is my personal belief that the misinformation coming out of FOXNEWS has had a detrimental effect on the Republican Party, the conservative movement and the country. For too long I have nodded my head in polite agreement as I listened to friends and family parrot what I know to be the factual misrepresentations coming out of the FOX cable news channel. Well, enough is enough.

So to all those advocates of the FOXNEWS network…this blog is for you.

FOXNEWS viewers are uninformed. That is not just my personal opinion. ABC, NBC, CBS and PEW all conducted surveys to determine viewer preferences for current events. They each asked focus groups a series of questions about civics and current news topics. They also asked the participants to provide their primary source for news and information. Across the board, the most uninformed of all the groups surveyed was the group of participants that sited FOXNEWS as their primary source for news and information. The results are not surprising, especially given the personalities that FOXNEWS hires as paid contributors.

FOXNEWS hired Sarah Palin as a political expert. FOXNEWS viewers believe that Ms. Palin is qualified to serve as president. This is a woman who quit her governorship, doesn’t read and according to her campaign SUPPORTERS preferred Bloomingdales to briefing books.

FOXNEWS gave us Dick Morris as polling expert and campaign guru. Morris is the guy who on the morning of the election predicted that Romney would defeat Obama in a landslide.

FOXNEWS hired Carl Rove to handicap the election. Rove raised hundreds of millions of dollars in support of candidates that the American people rejected. On election night Rove embarrassingly refused to call Ohio and the election for Obama when every other major news outlet…including the pollsters at FOXNEWS…had already made the announcement.

FOXNEWS hired Glenn Beck. Enough said!

FOXNEWS supports candidates like Todd Akin, Sharon Engle and Christine O’Donnell. Candidates no more qualified to serve nor capable of winning and election than I am.

Viewers of FOXNEWS slurp at the tough and parrot the talking points. But their actions often tell a different story.

Viewers of FOXNEWS typically support the Tea Party. Fair enough! They can be found at Tea Party rallies bearing signs that say “KEEP YOUR GOD DAMN GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE!”

Viewers of FOXNEWS hate the president and bemoan the size of government. Then they drive on federally paved highways, send their kids to government funded public schools, buy food protected by the FDA and breathe air protected by the EPA. I could go on but you get the picture.

FOXNEWS complains about the government meddling in people’s lives. Palin likes to chime in here and talk about freedom and liberty. Viewers applaud and parrot the talking points. Then they support laws that tell taxpaying citizens who they can love, who they can and cannot marry, when they can and cannot vote; all while restricting access to legal women’s health services.

FOXNEWS likes to talk about the “takers.” These are the people who dare to access the social safety net. The 47% who FOX says are happy to live on the government dole. Viewers applaud and parrot the talking points. Then they stand in line to collect their unemployment benefits and use emergency rooms and Medicaid to tend to their health care needs.

FOXNEWS supports the NRA. Fair enough! Viewers proclaim their right to bear arms. “If you take away my gun you take away my liberty.” Another talking point! They bemoan the tragic mass shootings at places like Columbine and Sandy Hook. Then they block every attempt to pass sensible gun laws to curb the violence.

FOXNEWS portrays Ronald Reagan as the godfather of conservatism. Viewers nod in agreement. Reagan raised taxes nine times in his eight years in office.

FOXNEWS portrays Republicans as sober fiscal conservatives and Democrats as lavish spenders. Viewers parrot the party line. History tells us that deficits typically shrink under Democrat presidents and increase under Republican leadership. Clinton balanced the budget. Bush 43 left office with a $5 trillion deficit. Wars can be expensive.

Speaking of wars…FOXNEWS portrays Republicans as warriors and Democrats as weak and feckless. Viewers agree! Bush sent the full force of the US military after bin Laden and failed. Obama got him with a handful of Navy Seals.

FOXNEWS rips Obama and the intelligence agencies for violating Americans’ privacy. “Hacking our emails and tapping our phone logs is a violation of our basic freedoms” they say. Viewers parrot the talking points. Yet FOXNEWS and its audience had no problem with Bush signing the Patriot Act into law. The Patriot Act is the very cornerstone on which the current eavesdropping procedures are based.

FOXNEWS likes to tell its viewers that we are a nation of laws. Viewers enthusiastically nod in agreement. Talking points to follow. But they look the other way when we violate the Geneva Convention by water boarding detainees. And they are silent on the topic of due process when we hold detainees at Guantanamo indefinitely without filing charges. Sarah Palin attends an NRA Convention where she defends water boarding and proclaims “If I were in charge, they would know that water boarding is how we baptize terrorists.” In one sentence Palin offends law abiding Americans, Muslims and the religious community. Viewers give her a standing ovation.

Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. But if you are going to voice your opinion, then at least make it an informed opinion. Check out another news outlet to get a different slant on the issues. ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS the Cartoon Network…I don’t care. Listen to opposing views and then make up your own mind rather than allow one news outlet to make it for you.

FOXNEWS likes to say they are “Fair and Balanced” in their reporting. Roger Ailes says that FOXNEWS was specifically launched to provide a counterbalance to the left leaning reporting coming out of MSNBC.

If you watch FOXNEWS and you don’t know who Roger Ailes is…then you are truly uninformed.