Friday, October 30, 2015

GOP Candidates Revolt! Meet To Bargain Collectively!

The GOP candidates are mad as hell…and they’re not going to take it anymore!

The Republican Party has railed against the liberal bias of the main street media for as long as I can remember. And so it came as quite a shock when I learned that the Republican National Committee had decided to cede production control of its important presidential debates to various new outlets.

Now, three debates into the cycle, it appears that the committee’s decision has resulted in a candidate revolt against both the media and the RNC.

The GOP candidates are up in arms over the debates. They are unhappy with the selection process and the length of time on stage. They are unhappy about the type of questions being asked…the “gotcha” questions and what they claim to be demeaning queries posed for the sole purpose of embarrassing the candidate. They are unhappy with the inadequate time they are given to respond. They are unhappy with the tone and tenor of the moderators. And they are unhappy with the RNC; who they believe failed to adequately represent their best interests during negotiations with the biased media outlets.

Two days ago the nation watched as this anger was unleashed during the third presidential debate. Almost every candidate on stage took valuable debate time to lash out at the media in general and the moderators specifically. They stood united against the evils of the biased left wing main street media.

Last night we learned that the GOP candidates are taking their dissatisfaction with debate process to another level.

POLITICO is reporting that this coming Sunday representatives of each of the GOP contestants will meet behind closed doors to discuss their dissatisfaction with debate process. It is expected that they will cobble together a list of demands that they expect to be met moving forward.

It is interesting to note that the leaders in organizing this meeting are the “unqualified never held an elected office outsiders” Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

It is also interesting to note that the RNC was not invited to attend.

One of the major tenants of conservative ideology is a push back against workers’ rights to bargain collectively. The GOP has no stomach for unions. Any elected official whose resume’ includes a history of fighting successfully against organized labor is a hero in the eyes of the Grand Old Party. For example Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is highly regarded for beating back the employees’ union in his state. He made his bones and won three gubernatorial elections on the strength of his success against organized labor. Walker is not the first to ascend within the Party largely due to his stance against organized labor and he most certainly will not be the last.

So given the Party’s history of fighting against organized labor, I find it fascinating that fourteen of the most highly accredited members of the Republican Party would pool their resources to bargain collectively for better working conditions. Presidential wannabes who have worked tirelessly to deny others the right to bargain collectively now coming together when it suits their personal interests.

The hypocrisy here is beyond the pale.

Just another example of those who find it easy to preach their conservative ideology to others but are unable to practice it themselves.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Winners and Losers! Payback?

“Governor Huckabee…you have said that a candidate for president must have the moral authority to unite the country. When you look at Donald Trump do you see someone who has the moral authority to unite the country?”

That was just one of several “controversial” questions directed by moderators toward the candidates in last night’s Republican debate. CNBC’s John Harwood the author of that particular query.

Another Harwood gem. This time to Donald Trump: “Is this (Trump’s run for the White House) a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”

If you watched either of the previous two GOP presidential debates you had to tune into last night’s event with expectations of some amount of mudslinging among the candidates. I bet you didn’t anticipate that the moderators would be there in the pit with them.

You know it’s bad when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, having been interrupted by the moderator several times says: “to tell you the truth…even in New Jersey what you are doing is called rude.”

What was supposed to be a debate about economic issues turned into a hot mess. The largest applause lines came after Christie, Rubio, Cruz and Trump called out the moderators and the media for their bias and faulty reporting. It was as if decades of pent up Republican anger over perceived main street media bias finally exploded.

Who won the debate? Who knows? It depends what you are looking for.

It terms of optics and performance…Rubio and Cruz shined. Rubio’s comments and responses were more scripted whereas Cruz let it fly off the cuff. Both were effective. Christie had some notable moments.

As far as substance…it was a train wreck. Christie did a good job of laying out the facts about the solvency problems of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. His solutions, which include raising the retirement age, are politically unpopular but economically accurate. He demonstrated political courage in putting them out there. Kasich did a good job of explaining how his economic strategies worked to balance the federal budget in Washington turn a deficit into a surplus in Ohio. Ben Carson’s economic proposal made no sense in part because he could not articulate it in any form of the English language. The other candidates’ economic plans and tax reform proposals were pure pandering with no grasp of reality.

Trump was very quiet. The other candidates didn’t bother Trump much after he eviscerated Kasich’s opening bell attempt to marginalize both the Trump and Carson candidacies. He remained in the shadows until the end where he rightly took full credit for negotiating a deal with CNBC that reduced the scheduled length of the debate from 3.5 hours to 2 hours. He gave Carson credit for joining him in the effort. Trump’s parting shot: “CNBC wanted the debate to go 3 to 3 and a half hours. It’s too long. Nobody is going to watch. I found out that CNBC was charging $250,000 for a 30 second commercial. They wanted a 3-3.5 hour debate. So even though it cost them a lot of money in 2 minutes I negotiated them down to 2 hours so we can all get the hell out of here. I’ll do the same for America.”
Current Iowa frontrunner Ben Carson, ended the night unscathed. The presumed full frontal attacks never happened.

Still looking for winners and losers? Consider this…

The pundits all had Rubio and Cruz as the co-winners with Trump right on their heels. Post-debate online polls from Drudge, Times and CNBC all had Trump as the clear winner going away.

There was no debating the loser. Jeb Bush.

In the run up to this debate the Bush Campaign was in a death spiral. The consensus was that the former governor needed a strong performance to soothe the rattled nerves of supporters and donors. Last week’s big summit meeting with Bush 41, Bush 43 and major donors and divisors gave credence to the narrative. Bush came out as before…flat…docile…in a nerdy kind of way. His attempts to go on the offensive often backfired. His performance lackluster. Bush knew it. In post-debate comments he told reporters: “If they want a performer, I’m not the guy.” Unfortunately the ability to “perform” in difficult situations is a key component in being president. There are more debates to come. More chances for “Jeb!” to repair his image. Is it too late?

The other big loser last night was the main street media in general and the CNBC moderators in particular. Presidential debates should be about the candidates and their views on the issues. They should not be about the moderators. They should not be about “gotcha” questions and orchestrating must see TV mudslinging moments.

There is an old adage about dealing with the media that says: “Never enter into a war of words with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Ten GOP candidates tested that theory last night. Payback can be a bitch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Round 3!

Republicans gather in Boulder, Colorado tonight where they will stage their third presidential debate.
Tonight’s event will be held under very different circumstances than the previous two.

For the first time in the 100+ plus days of this campaign season, Donald Trump is no longer leading in all the polls. Ben Carson, the man whose political success remains an enigma, now leads Trump in Iowa. Jeb Bush, the odds on favorite back in June, faces the very real possibility that his run may be over. Latino conservative Republicans have issued an ultimatum to Party leaders. The US government just announced a controversial new military strategy in Iraq and Syria. And finally, today the House is expected to take up a vote on a “bi-partisan” two year budget that has inflamed the divisiveness within the Party ranks.

Here is what I’ll be looking for this evening.

TRUMP – Four respected telephone polls have Trump now trailing Carson in Iowa. The most recent CBS/NYT poll has Carson leading Trump nationally. Trump doesn’t like being challenged. His modus operandi is to attack whomever his closest competitor may happen to be. Most of the attacks are personal. Nothing is off limits. I expect Trump to go hard and often at Carson. I’ll be curious to see how he goes about it and how that plays with voters in the post-debate polling.

CARSON – Anyone who knows competition knows that it is harder being the “hunted” than being the “hunter”. For the first time since announcing his campaign; Ben Carson enters tonight’s festivities as the frontrunner. Trump will certainly go after him. I expect others on stage to do the same. Part of Carson’s appeal to voters is his calm soft spoken demeanor. I’ll be watching to see how he responds to the pressure.

“JEB!” – The “Jeb!” campaign is in trouble. The campaign is hemorrhaging money and laying off staff. When last seen the once presumptive nominee was going off on a petulant rant against voters for rewarding those who based their campaigns on divisiveness versus the issues. He told voters that he had: “Lots of cool things I could be doing rather than sitting around being miserable...” “Jeb!” recently retreated to Houston where a “campaign reset” summit was held. “Jeb!” was joined there by Bush 41, Bush 43, and a host of major donors and advisors. Trump, who gets under “Jeb’s!” skin like nobody else, accused “Jeb!” of “running home to mommy and daddy.” Clearly the Bush brain trust understands that they are at a critical moment in the campaign. Cleary they understand that their candidate’s performance tonight will be pivotal for any chance of success moving forward. I’ll be watching to see how this “campaign reset” plays out tonight.

LATINOS – Yesterday, the American Principles Projects Latino Partnership, a coalition of influential conservative Latino Republicans issued a stern warning to the Republican Party…elect Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric and you are on your own. “Heed our warning: don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election. If you are not with us now, we won’t to be with you then. If you insult us now, we will be deaf to you then. If you take us for granted now, we will not recognize you then.” That warning was issued by Rosario Martin: former Treasury Secretary to George W. Bush. Ms. Martin’s statement came as reports from Washington seemed to say that regardless of the candidate the GOP led congress will not be moving to enact immigration reform legislation any time soon. There are reports that Paul Ryan agreed not to bring immigration reform to the floor “under this current president” as a condition to receiving Freedom Caucus’ support for his run at the Speakership. I expect immigration reform to come up in tonight’s debate and I’ll be watching to see how Trump and the other candidates respond to these specific events.

FOREIGN POLICY – Last week Kurdish forces stormed an ISIS prison in Iraq for the purpose of rescuing 75 prisoners who had been condemned to death. The raid went badly and US Special Ops forces were called in to assist. The prisoners were rescued but one American: Master Sargent Joshua L. Wheeler was killed in the battle. Master Sgt. Wheeler was serving his 14th deployment. Earlier this week in testimony before the Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter informed the committee of what amounts to change in military strategy in the heretofore undeclared war to defeat ISIS. Carter told the committee that US Special Ops forces would be “supporting capable partners” as happened in the attack on the ISIS prison. He also said that the Special Ops forces would be “conducting such missions directly” which opens the door for US forces to take the fight to ISIS on their own. The Obama administration has repeatedly beat back any notion of US boots on the ground in a “combat” role. Now the DOD is saying that US troops will be conducting ground operations against ISIS both in support of and independent from our coalition partners…in both Iraq and Syria. This is a major shift in US policy that has received little scrutiny from the media. I will be watching to see how the candidates deal with it tonight. Assuming of course that it even comes up.

BUDGET – Speaker Boehner and the White House have cobbled together a two year budget agreement. The deal heads off what could have been two contentious future votes to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government. The question is cannot pass through congress. Fiscal conservatives in both the House and Senate hate it because it increases government spending by $80+ billion. Dems hate it because it reduces entitlement disability benefits. The fact that both sides are pissed off means that everyone must give a little to move things forward. The bill will be placed on the House floor for a vote, today. Its’ passage or failure is certain to result in a lively discussion tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sailing Through Politics

Engaging in politics is like embarking on an oceangoing voyage. The journey is fluid. At one moment you find yourself buoyed by calm waters and favorable winds. The next you are struggling to stay afloat as a sudden storm front crashes forty foot swells across your bow.

For the past several days the political spotlight has been on the Democrats as they chart their course toward the next election. By all accounts the voyage is going well.

Democrats staged their first presidential debate. Unlike the sophomoric food fight produced by the Republicans; the Democrats came off as serious people discussing serious issues. The frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, righted her heretofore rocky ship and came across as a very polished and knowledgeable candidate. Bernie Sanders also did well demonstrating that he can hang with Clinton over the long haul. Sanders authored the highlight of the debate when he came to Clinton’s defense over the endless inquiries about her emails: “The American people have heard enough about your damn emails.” A bit of humanity and camaraderie not often found in the murky sea of politics. The evening’s festivities may not have been as entertaining as the Republican comedy hour but it clearly showed that Democrats were ready to govern. The optics drew a stark contrast to the Republican crew of not yet ready for prime time players.

Next port of call…the Benghazi hearings. Clinton was not subpoenaed to appear…she did so voluntarily. Committee Chairman Gowdy offered her the option of a closed door private testimony or a public hearing. She chose the latter. Now we know why. The results speak for themselves. By all accounts…both liberal and conservative…she schooled the Republicans in the art of politics. She navigated the rocky shores of Benghazi with little if any damage. Thanks to the Republicans she emerged from the eleven hour inquisition an even stronger presidential candidate than before.

And then then came Joe Biden. Biden had been struggling over the prospects of embarking on another presidential voyage. Last week he came to the conclusion that another campaign just wasn’t in the cards. As Biden announced his decision from the White House Rose Garden, he exhibited all the class and humanity that have made him one of the most beloved politicians in our nation’s history.

Now the spotlight shifts to the Republicans.

Just a few days ago there was a mutiny within the GOP ranks. They threw their captain overboard. Their first mate as well. Now it appears that Seaman Paul Ryan is prepared to take the helm. But Ryan’s ascension to the captaincy is no sure thing. A faction called the Freedom Caucus favors another. They will undoubtedly demand further concessions if they are to throw their full support behind Ryan. A rancorous vote for the captaincy is scheduled for this week. Should consensus prove illusive there will be a price to pay. Just ahead lies yet another vote to raise the debt ceiling. Difficult waters to navigate from a rudderless ship.

Meanwhile there is a GOP presidential campaign to be waged. The Party will stage another debate this week. By all accounts the entertainment value will far exceed the substance.

Donald Trump is on a rampage. For the first time in 100 days Trump is not leading in all the polls. Carson has overtaken Trump in Iowa. Trump is killing all comers in every other state. But Carson leads in Iowa essentially because the soft spoken Carson appeals to evangelicals. Naturally Trump weighed in on Carson’s “extremely low energy” and questioned Carson’s Seventh Day Adventist religion.

Jeb Bush is in the news. The once presumptive nominee is hemorrhaging money while plummeting in the polls. Forced to announce cutbacks in staffing and events; a clearly frustrated candidate took his anger out on the voters. Sounding more like a petulant child than a presidential candidate; Bush said he was fed up with the divisiveness of the campaign: “If this election is about how we are going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock become so dominate that people are literally in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That’s a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.” Jeb then retreated to Houston where he met with Bush 41, Bush 43, Barbara Bush and a number of major donors. Naturally Trump weighed in…taunting Bush for “meeting with mommy and daddy.”

Then there is Marco Rubio. Rubio has decided that he hates serving in the senate. So he has given up on it in the middle of his first term. Rubio announced that he will not seek re-election. It’s the White House or bust. Perhaps that explains why Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator. 59 votes to be exact. Rubio has been questioned before on his blatant absenteeism. He said the votes don’t matter because: “A lot of these votes don’t mean anything. They’re not going to pass, and even if they did the president would veto them.” If Rubio is so disenchanted he could resign. But why give up $175,000 in taxpayer paid salary…plus benefits…when you can collect it for doing nothing.

Smooth sailing for the Democrats. Troubled waters for the GOP

Friday, October 23, 2015

Another GOP Disaster

I spent the better part of yesterday watching Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Benghazi Committee.

Yes, I admit that I have no life…but yesterday's hearing was like a multi-car pileup. It’s really bad…and you don’t want to look…but somehow you can’t seem to turn away.

Let me start by saying that I am not an avid fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton. In my view she has spent the better part of her career treading a fine line between serving her country and serving her own self interests. Her decision to ignore 2009 administration regulations and use a personal email address to conduct sensitive state department business was as self-serving as it was reckless. Her decision to archive those emails on a personal server in her home was in my opinion the result of an unhealthy paranoia about personal privacy and a well thought out plan to avoid any freedom of information inquiries that were certain to come in the future.

That said, words cannot describe the rude, spiteful disrespectful and embarrassing manner in which she was treated by the Republican members of the Benghazi Committee.
For eleven hours Secretary Clinton made herself available to the whims of an angry mob. She was calm, professional and in total command of the subject material. Dare I say…presidential. She was clearly the only adult in the room. For their part...the GOP members on the committee acted more like an angry mob than a committee of statesmen looking for the truth.

The Republican members of the committee were so intent on crushing her that they could not seem to get their story straight. Each member appeared to have an independent view on what happened in the time leading up to the attack. Each member seemed to have a different view of Secretary Clinton’s failure in handling the situation. Some argued that she was indifferent to the needs of the embassy’s security requests. Others argued that she made herself available to close friends like Sydney Blumenthal but remained unavailable to Ambassador Stephens. Still others tried to show that as the attack was in progress she ordered the military to stand down; thereby allowing four Americans to die.

Secretary Clinton calmly refuted each accusation; citing testimony from previous impartial witnesses and noting the findings of the eight Republican led committees that had previously investigated the incident.

When the Republican members weren’t stumbling all over themselves to get at the red meat they were going off on tangents; boring in with questions that had nothing to do with their stated purpose of finding out the truth about the attack on Benghazi.

It became clear early on that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was right; the purpose of this hearing was not to learn the truth about Benghazi. The purpose of this hearing was to damage the presumptive Democratic nominee and thereby weaken her chances in the upcoming general election. In that regard…yesterday’s hearing was an embarrassment…a complete failure for which Republicans may never recover.

As one Republican lawmaker told FOX News during one of the breaks: “If they continue with this line of questioning they might just as well swear her in as president right now.”

Don’t believe me? Check out this morning’s newspapers. They are chock full of comments from conservative pundits and lawmakers lamenting the unmitigated disaster of yesterday’s hearing.
Or listen to committee Chairman Trey Gowdy's own words as he faced reporters after the hearing. Congressman Gowdy was asked if the committee had learned anything new from Secretary Clinton’s testimony. “I don’t think we learned anything new from the last time she testified.”

Seventeen months of inquiries…$4.6 million dollars…eleven hours of testimony…nothing new learned. The only effect being that the target of this investigation…Hillary Rodham Clinton…is better positioned to win the Oval office now than she was when the whole thing started.

The Republican Party! Ready…Fire…Aim!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three Days To Decide

The GOP has reached an important crossroad.
They have a choice. They can continue to focus their efforts on a strategy of obstruction and opposition as they have for the past seven years. Or they can exercise their control of the legislative branch to offer proposals that move their agenda and the country forward.

“Opposition” or “Proposition.

That is the choice that Paul Ryan gave the Republican caucus when he agreed to allow his name to be placed in consideration for Speaker of the House.

Ryan gave his caucus until the end of the week to decide.

Ryan has no interest in the speakership. He is content to spend his time doing the only job he ever wanted…chairing the powerful Ways and Means Committee. But the Party needs him because apparently he is the only one who can unite their fractured caucus.

So after several days of deliberation Ryan has thrown his hat into the ring. But he did so with conditions: that the party would unite behind him…that it would move from being a party of opposition to one of proposition…that it would change the current rules that allow one disgruntled member to set into motion the process to unseat him…and that he would not give up any of his family time. If the caucus found these “requests” agreeable then he would gladly serve.

He gave them three days to decide.

It didn’t take Ryan’s detractors three days to voice their opposition to his candidacy. Ryan had barely left the podium when a number of conservative media outlets joined several members of the party’s Freedom Caucus in blasting him. “King Ryan!” “Obama’s New Partner!” In the eyes of the far right Paul Ryan is not a true conservative.

For the record…Paul Ryan is a very conservative politician. His views on taxes, entitlements and social programs would make any progressive ill.

But Ryan is also a pragmatist. He understands that we have a two party system of government and that you need to find common ground across the aisle in order to move the country forward. You are never going to get everything you want. Compromise is the key. In Ryan’s eyes engaging in opposition and obstruction to the extent that it hurts the party and the country is not an option.

I agree with very little of Paul Ryan’s policy agenda. But I support his nomination for Speaker of the House. Paul Ryan is one of the few adults in the Republican caucus. He is one of the few conservative lawmakers that actually wants to govern and is willing to find common ground to get things done. In my view he is the clear choice to get our government working again.

There is a great deal at stake here. We are in the middle of the general election season. Maintaining control of the legislative branch is critical to moving the conservative agenda. The Oval Office is there for the taking. The deadline to raise the always controversial debt ceiling is November 3. The government will once again run out of money on December 11.

If the GOP can coalesce quickly around Ryan it will end much of the internal chaos and put the party on firm footing moving forward. If Ryan is defeated chaos and dysfunction will rule once more.

Opposition or Proposition!

They have three days to decide.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

GOP Paying For Decades Of Lies

The Republican Party is a house divided. The divisiveness within party ranks has become toxic to the point of driving Speaker Boehner into early retirement and forcing his presumed successor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to withdraw his name from consideration.

Tonight the Republican House Caucus is scheduled to meet behind closed doors. Their goal this evening is to find enough common ground to elect a new Speaker of the House. Budget Chair Paul Ryan appears to be the only candidate on whom the Party can agree. But Ryan is a reluctant candidate and will only assume the thrown if certain conditions are met. If the Party can’t coalesce around Ryan then there is no telling what happens next.

The reality here is that Republican Party is on the verge of being destroyed from within. There is a genuine anger within the membership that may only be exceeded by the level of distrust felt toward the leadership.

The toxic atmosphere that permeates the Republican Caucus today is not a new phenomenon. It is an unhealthy environment that has been brewing for quite some time.

We saw the first glimpses of dissatisfaction acted out in protests by the Tea Party Republicans. As the anger and frustration grew incumbent candidates not deemed conservative enough found themselves facing primary challenges in the midterms from Tea party sponsored candidates. Today outsiders Trump, Carson and Fiorina dominate the polls while establishment candidates like Bush, Rubio and Kasich struggle to gain traction.

The other day I watched as a panel of veteran pundits struggled to make sense of the groundswell of opposition that has overtaken the Party. The answer is really quite simple.

The Republican establishment has spent the better part of the last 30 years lying to its base. Republican leadership has consistently failed to deliver on promises of lower taxes, lower deficits, less debt, less regulation and reducing the size of the federal government. To the contrary, once rewarded by the voters, Republican lawmakers tend to increase the debt and deficit. George H. W. Bush told the base to read his lips: “No new taxes.” Then proceeded to raise them anyway. Ronald Reagan raised taxes nine times during his two terms in office. Bush 43 led us into two unfunded wars and orchestrated a prescription drug plan for seniors that is the largest social welfare program in the history of the republic. His conservative leadership burned through a $500 billion surplus and left the country with a $5 trillion dollar debt.

The conservative base is mad as hell; and today they are doing something about it.

Three months ago the Republican establishment scoffed at the campaigns of "outsiders" Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Today those same naysayers grudgingly admit that Trump or Carson could actually win their party’s nomination. They also admit that should Trump or Carson prevail there most assuredly will be a Democrat in the White House for the next eight years.

The Republican Party is in serious trouble. The first positive step toward righting the ship would be to appoint an adult like Paul Ryan Speaker. That would require something absent among the Party ranks for quite some time. Compromise!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Trump Schools "Jeb!"

Republican candidates engaged in another food fight this weekend. Once again it was Donald Trump taking center stage; this time trading barbs with “Jeb!”

During a weekend interview with Bloomberg News, Trump had the very “Un-PC” audacity to lay blame for the 911 attacks at the feet of former President George W. Bush.
“I think I have a bigger heart than all of them. I think I’m much more competent than all of them. When you talk about George Bush… I mean say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

Bloomberg’s Stephanie Ruhle pushed back saying: “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

But Trump wouldn’t back down. “He was president, ok? Blame him, don’t blame him but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

A visibly angry Jeb Bush came to his brother’s defense. He called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” He said: “Leadership is what you do after a brother responded to a crisis and he did as you hope a president would do…he kept us safe.”

Sadly, “Jeb’s!” passionate defense of his brother is as flawed in logic as it lacking in historical fact.

Jeb would have us believe that his brother bares no responsibility for failing to prevent the 911 attack in his first year as president; yet be given all credit and due for stopping similar attacks during his final seven years in office. As if the Bush administration didn’t take office until September 12, 2001. Dick Cheney has been trying to re-write history with this same nonsensical rhetoric since he left office. It doesn’t pass the smell test. You can’t have it both ways.

CNN’s Jake Tapper addressed the matter with “Jeb!” on Sunday. He said if George W. Bush should not be held responsible for what happened during his watch on 911 then why should Hillary Clinton be held responsible for what happened in Benghazi? A fumbling stumbling “Jeb!” could only mutter that the situation was different.

Republicans are flummoxed that Trump would dare to utter such a damning statement against one of their own. What they fail to understand is that Trump is a good politician that understands the game. “Jeb!” Bush is not.

Trump’s comment boxed “Jeb!” in a corner. If “Jeb!” refuses to respond he’s labeled as “weak.” If he does respond then he is “lowering himself to Trump’s mud raking level.” Every minute that “Jeb!” is wasting defending his brother he losing in defining himself. Win, win for Trump. “Lose, lose for “Jeb!”

Time is getting short. Iowa and New Hampshire are three months away. If Trump takes both Iowa and New Hampshire…and right now it appears no one can stop him…its Katy bar the door. Engaging Trump in a food fight is wasted time. Laugh at him…dismiss him…but don’t elevate him by acting as if his words matter. Because that is exactly what Trump wants you to do?

Politicians, CEO’s and other people in power are fond of telling us that saying “The buck stops here.” “Jeb!", Dick Cheney and many other former members of the Bush 43 administration prefer to engage in what we call “passing the buck.” Whether it’s 911, the Iraq War, the banking disaster or the economic meltdown they would have us believe that it all happened on someone else’s watch.

To his credit George W. Bush has remained above the fray; refusing to criticize his successor or lash out in Cheney like defense of his policies. Former President Bush understands that his legacy is in the hands of the historians and there is nothing he can do or say to change that now.

A true leader shares the credit for his organization’s success and accepts the blame for its failures. It is with this understanding that we assign both the credit and the blame for the events that occur under a president’s watch. “The buck stops here.”

Apparently “Jeb!” didn’t get that memo. Trump handed just handed him a copy.

Win, win for Trump. Lose, lose for “Jeb!”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"You can check out any time you like...but you can never leave."

BREAKING NEWS – Word out of Washington is that the president will announce today that the US will leave 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

The original plan was to leave a residual force of 1,000 in country to allow the Afghan government the space to develop its military protection. But the resurgence of the Taliban, the continued presence of Al Qaeda and the rise of ISIS in the region threatened the Afghan government and caused a change in strategy.

It should be noted that where the original plan was for the remaining troops to provide force protection for the Afghan government; under the new plan this larger force will be called on to engage the enemy wherever Afghan and American interests are threatened.

The president’s new plan will cost an additional $14.6 billion borrowed dollars.

Critics say that the president’s altered course is the result of a lesson learned after “pulling the rug out from under the Iraqi government” by withdrawing all American forces from that country. The resulting vacuum allowing for the rise of ISIS and a country on the verge of collapse.

That critique, while politically convenient for those eager to deny history, is lacking in basic fact.

The truth is the president wanted to leave a residual 5,500 man force in Iraq for stabilization purposes. He was denied that request by the new democratically elected Iraqi government. Eager to show that it was not an American puppet; the Iraqis would only allow Americans to stay in country if they were held subject to Iraqi law. The president naturally refused and withdrew the troops. The Iraqi government has thus far been able to fill the vacuum left behind.

The Afghan government watched from afar as these events played out. Having no interest in repeating the Iraqis’ mistakes, the Afghans decided to accept the American protection. It is the Afghans who learned a lesson here…not the president.

Unfortunately I believe what we are seeing in this new plan is a glimpse into the future. The first of many similar plans that will be executed throughout the region.

There are probably a dozen small, weak countries in the region where America has a vested interest. I think that you will see us deploying small residual forces in these countries, to be used in concert with Special Ops, drones and military air attacks. All deployed in a coordinated effort to beat back the extremists and protect our allies. The cost in blood and treasure will be astronomical.

Or we could leave.

We could withdraw our troops and leave it to the locals to solve their centuries old disputes.

We find ourselves in an untenable situation that is the direct result of decades of bad interventionist policies. Militarily speaking we can roll back the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS with little effort. But unless we are prepared to occupy the taken ground in perpetuity we are engaging in a fool’s errand. And every time we drop a bomb, kick down a door or occupy a pasture we incite more and more extremists to join the battle.

Senator Lindsey Graham is a war hawk. He has never met a war that he didn’t want to wage. He was recently asked if he could see an end to the Middle East conflicts. “When do we leave?” He was asked. “Never!” He replied. “You can never leave.”

The American people are not interested in the prospect of unending wars. They have too many problems of their own to concern themselves with the plight of the Palestinians or the Israelis or the Syrians. The American people checked out of Iraq long before the war was over. After 15 years they have long since checked out of Afghanistan. But the politicians in Washington aren’t listening.

I guess Lindsey Graham is right. The Middle East has become our Hotel California...

“You can check out any time you like…but you can never leave.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An the winner is...

The Democratic Party held its first presidential debate last night.

In my view the clear winner was Hillary Clinton.

Going into the debate I felt that optics and persona would trump pure politics. After all the political leanings of the two key contestants was pretty clear. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the moderate left leaning Democrat with a hawkish streak versus surging challenger Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist. O’Malley, Chafe and Webb serving as nattily attired placeholders.

As far as I was concerned there were only two key questions that needed to be addressed:Could Hillary Clinton give a performance that would soothe the fears within the party that her campaign was on the ropes? Could Bernie Sanders look presidential?

The answer to both was an emphatic: “Yes.”

I thought Hillary Clinton gave a masterful performance. She demonstrated a clear command of the issues. Cool, calm, strong and confident…she knew the points that she wanted to make and artfully inserted them into the conversation. As the clear frontrunner she was challenged from all sides. But unlike past appearances where she looked annoyed or angry, as if she would rather be anywhere else...last night she actually looked like she was having a good time.

I found noteworthy the manner in which she also went out of her way to tie herself to President Obama. Clinton referred to several examples where they worked together to get things done. She spoke highly of the president’s accomplishments and of how she would continue his work. To me the point was clear: “Note to Vice President Biden. There is no room for you to enter this race. I’m not going anywhere…and the position to the immediate left of your boss is mine.”

Bernie was Bernie. Banging out the same policy points that have been on his play list for decades. Bernie is all about income equality and equal opportunity. Win or lose he will forever be a thorn in the side of Wall Street billionaires, big banks, big pharma and big money politics: “Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street." He said. "Wall Street regulates congress.” He stumbled a bit when he got away from his stump speech and Clinton hurt him by bringing up his five votes against the Brady bill. Bernie just shrugged off the blows and shouldered on.

So confident was Sanders in his message that he even took it upon himself to bail out Clinton. When moderator Anderson Cooper started in on the hubbub surrounding Clinton’s emails Sanders said: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails….enough of the emails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America."

I believe that both Clinton and Sanders helped themselves. Clinton did exactly what she needed to do to calm the fears of her supporters. She will remain the clear frontrunner. Sanders’ performance will fire up his already rabid following; infusing them incontrovertible evidence that he CAN be the next president.

One final note.

I think the real winner last night was the Democratic Party.

As expected last night’s event did not have the entertainment value of the two Republican debates. Last night you didn’t see any of the behavior that we have come to expect from the right. Absent was sophomoric food fight and name calling. Absent was the carnival atmosphere in which engaging in fear mongering, racism, bigotry and personal attacks garners you a standing ovation.

Last night was about serious adults having a serious conversation about serious issues.

Last night Democrats schooled Republicans in the arts of civil discourse and governance.

It may not have been good entertainment...but it was very good politics.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dems Take The Stage

Democrats will converge on Las Vegas tonight where the Party will stage the first of six presidential debates. While the entertainment value of tonight’s event will in all probability pale in comparison to a Republican “Trump fest” there is still good reason to watch.

Here is what I’ll be looking for.

Clinton enters tonight’s debate as the clear frontrunner. She has little to gain here and much to lose. She will certainly face questions about her emails, and her position on the Keystone Pipeline and the TPP trade agreement will generate some discussion. She has faced these inquiries hundreds of time before and I expect the she will have no problem handling them again.

The question for me is more about persona than politics. Clinton’s biggest challenge is to overcome the fact that people don’t trust her. They see her as a cold, calculating politician who will say or do whatever is necessary to win. Can she push aside that image? Can she reveal the open, funny caring side that her friends and family swear exists? People want a president that exudes strength and a command of the issues. But they want to like and respect him/her as well.

I expect Bernie Sanders to do well. He has a thorough grasp of the issues. His socialist message is the same one that he has been delivering for decades. His programs are popular. His political challenge will be to explain how he intends to pay for them. The smart money guys estimate that his programs will cost taxpayers an additional $18 trillion in government spending over the next decade.

Like Clinton he has a persona problem. People don’t view him as presidential. His wild hair and disheveled appearance are more the nutty professor than world leader. And he needs to watch his temper. He can be a bit of a prickly curmudgeon if provoked.

Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafe fill the bill. Each in his own way is an accomplished politician with a distinguished career. Each is hoping to use this evening to kick start campaigns that are essentially dead in the water. Visions of a Carly Fiorina like surge are dancing in their heads. I look for O’Malley to try to make headlines by going right after Clinton.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who Will Captain This Rudderless Ship?

The USS Republican and the USS Democrat are on shore leave this week after months of floundering aimlessly at sea. How the crews spend their time ashore will depend to a large extent on which insignia they wear on their sleeve.

The crew of the USS Democrat will spend their time focusing on tomorrow night’s first Democratic Presidential Debate and the orderly selection of a new captain. At the same time the officers of the USS Republican will be trying to quell a mutiny while desperately searching for someone…anyone…to captain their rudderless ship.

You see, life at sea aboard the USS Republican has been anything but ship shape. Things are in such disarray that Captain Boehner attempted to abandon ship and his Executive Officer, Kevin McCarthy, was pressured by the mutineers to refuse the helm.

If you read the media reports about the mutiny on board the USS Republican you are led to believe that it is all hands on deck for crewmember Paul Ryan to replace Captain Boehner. But if you listen to the voices of the crew, particularly the members of the Freedom Caucus, Ryan’s promotion to captain is no sure thing.

The Freedom Caucus consists of 35-40 crew members that toil deep below the waterline in the belly of beast. They have grown so agitated over the course that Captain Boehner has chosen that they have threatened to run the good ship Republican aground if a radical change of course is not executed. In past months this small but aggressive crew’s reckless behavior has accomplished little more than to waste millions in provisions while forcing the vessel further and further from its intended arrival at the Port of Governance.

Boehner became so frustrated with the crews’ insubordination that he attempted to abandon ship; only to be pulled back from the rail when his first officer was forced to walk the plank. Boehner continues to reluctantly man the helm but only until the next captain is selected or his commission ends…whichever comes first.

The majority of the Republican crew is behind Ryan. But the Freedom Caucus is the tail that wags the GOP dog. The Freedom Caucus will only stand behind Ryan if he agrees to substantively change the course the USS Republican follows as it navigates the stormy seas of politics. Smaller government, less spending, defund Planned Parenthood, no increase in the debt ceiling…these are just a few of the ports of call the Freedom Caucus intends to visit. Agree and its smooth sailing for Ryan. Disagree, or commit the heinous crime of seeking help from the crew of the USS Democrat and the Freedom Caucus will run the good ship Republican aground…and take the entire navy with them.

Thus far Ryan has declined the promotion.

Who can blame him?

Would you leave your family to captain the Titanic knowing full well what lies just over the horizon?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Train Wreck!

Kevin McCarthy’s eleventh hour decision to pull his name out of the Speaker’s race speaks volumes.

It says that whatever moderates that may be left in the Republican Caucus serve at the pleasure of the far right fringe.

It says that in this herd of cats known as the GOP, “governing” is a mortal sin and “compromise” is a four letter word.

It says that the far right minority will resort to any means necessary to get their way; even if it means destroying their Party’s chance of winning a general election.

It say that there is no understanding within this caucus that the first step to getting your agenda put into law is finding a consensus within your own ranks.

Kevin McCarthy’s decision to withdraw rather than deal with the irresponsible nonsense coming from his right is the clearest sign yet that this is a party on the fast track to political irrelevance.

The GOP can’t govern itself. Why should voters believe that it can govern the country?

Train wreck!

Attack the Shooter!

Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say “Hey guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me but he can’t get us all.”

That was Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s response to the recent mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Carson later said that he wasn’t criticizing the victims. He just wanted to plant the seed for the next time the situation occurs.

I cannot criticize Dr. Carson for politicizing the Roseburg shooting because I believe that the political atmosphere that allows for 294 mass shootings in the past 274 days should be politicized.

Dr. Carson is just doing his civic duty to prepare us for what he sees as the inevitable next mass shooting.

In that spirit of civic duty I offer this advice to all parents.

Before you put your child on the school bus don’t forget to plant the seed.

“Attack the shooter!”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This & That

IN IT TO WIN IT – The Republican elites and the main stream media continue to look down their nose at Donald Trump. Not a day goes by without speculation in the back rooms and the press gaggles as to when Trump will crash and burn. Are they right? Consider this…

Quinnipiac has just released polling results for primary voters in key swing states. The numbers suggest The Donald isn’t going anywhere soon.

Florida – Trump 28%, Carson 16%, Rubio 14% and Bush 12%

Ohio – Trump 23%, Carson 18%, Kasich 13%, Rubio 7% and Bush 4%.

Pennsylvania – Trump 23%, Carson 17%, Rubio 12% and Bush 4%.

In Florida Trump has double the support of a sitting state senator and has a 16 point lead over an extremely popular former state governor. In Ohio Trump leads the state’s popular sitting governor by 10 points. In Pennsylvania Trump leads the Party’s leading fund raiser and once presumptive nominee by 19 points.

Still not convinced that Trump is here to stay?

A just released Reuter’s national poll has Trump at 33%, Carson 16%, Bush 16% and Rubio 7%.

If any other “establishment” candidate were posting these numbers in key swing states the media and Party elites would be declaring “game over” and referring to him/her as the “presumptive nominee.”

Republican primary voters have a deep seething anger toward the Party establishment. Trump speaks to that anger. The folks in the Party penthouse and the main street media had better start taking Trump seriously…boring in on him for specifics…questioning his policies. Until the elites make a serious effort to expose Trump’s flaws, he is in it to win it. Those who scoff at his campaign do so at their own peril.

WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE IS GOOD FOR THE GANDER – In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham voted against a bill authorizing the federal government to send $60 billion in relief to the state of New Jersey. Graham argued that of the $60 billion only $24 billion actually went to New Jersey for relief efforts. The remaining $36 billion was pork.

Now we have Senator Graham asking his colleagues to approve federal relief funds for those in his state who fell victim to Hurricane Joaquin. Before reaching a final vote this bill is certain to find itself loaded with pork in much the same manner as the Superstorm Sandy relief bill. Will Senator Graham vote “No” on this bill as well?

TRUTH OR POLITCS AS USUAL - The controversy over the motivations of the House Benghazi Committee continues to rage. Republicans have long believed that then Secretary Clinton understood that the embassy in Benghazi was under terrorist attack and did nothing to offer assistance. Some went so far as to assert that she ordered the military to "stand down" as the DOD scrambled to provide aid. The Benghazi Committee was allegedly formed to find the truth. But given the accusations from the right in the immediate aftermath of the attack the question remains: Is this a well-intended search for the truth or a politically motivated witch hunt to take down the presumptive Democratic nominee? "Fiscally conservative" Republicans have spent $4.5 million (and counting) tax payer dollars on the endeavor.

Presumptive Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy inadvertently answered the question when he proudly linked the committee’s work to the reduction in Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. McCarthy has since walked back his assertions; saying that the committee has only the purest of intentions.

Unfortunately for Republicans recent events tell another story.

A week ago Secretary Clinton’s former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills spent eight hours testifying before the committee. For some reason Committee Chair Trey Gowdy ordered that her testimony be held behind closed doors; secreted away from the prying eyes of CSPAN. The intrigue only heightened when Gowdy inexplicably refused to release the transcripts of Ms. Mills’ testimony. In spite of Ms. Mills protest that the entire transcript of her testimony be released to the public; the transcripts were sealed.

Democrats, furious over McCarthy’s revealing gaff and incensed over Gowdy’s refusal to release the Mills transcripts, leaked excerpts of the transcripts to the press. The excerpts show that Clinton did far more than nothing.

Ms.. Mills testified that Secretary Clinton was “very concerned” about safety and well-being of her good friend Ambassador Stevens and his staff. Mills testified that Clinton and President Obama ordered the military to “everything we can” to secure the embassy and its staff.

Democrats have promised to release the full transcripts in five days to allow time to redact any information that might violate national security interests.

It now seems pretty clear as to why Chairman Gowdy wanted Ms. Mill’s testimony taken behind closed doors; and why he refused to release the transcripts.

Truth or $4.5 million dollar tax payer funded political witch hunt? It’s almost Halloween!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ready! Fire! Aim!

Donald Trump continues to be the lead dog in the race for the Republican nomination. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are keeping pace. Three “outsiders” dominating the field. Each tapping in to a palpable frustration within the Party. A frustration over politics as usual coupled with a burning desire to show the world that same old same old is no longer good enough.

Into this vortex of discontent steps the Republican leadership. On one hand eager to harness the passion and frustration of the base and direct it toward a White House victory. At the same time fearful that left to its own devices the frustration on the fringe could destroy the Party from within and with it any chance for an electoral victory.

Republicans understand that they have a real opportunity in 2016 to control the House, the Senate and place one of their own in the Oval Office. All they have to do is learn from the mistakes of the past, control the crazies and put forth a conservative plan to re-kindle the American dream.

Unfortunately, in spite of all their promises of reform and inclusion all we have seen of late is yet another example of how to lose a general election. This time it’s not the crazies like Trump Cruz, King and Ghomert leading the charge to electoral ruin…it’s the Party leadership.

Things were going along so well.

The House Special Committee on Benghazi had spent the past eighteen months successfully painting Hillary Clinton, the Democrat frontrunner, as complicit in the tragic deaths of four Americans at the Benghazi mission.

Clinton herself then “emailed” Republicans and unexpected gift. Her use of a personal email account and private server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat, her mishandling of confidential documents and her botched attempts to explain it all away were like manna from heaven. The FBI was investigating. The server was subpoenaed. The emails thought to have been destroyed were recovered and would be released in a slow steady drip for months to come; forcing Clinton to address the issue over and over again. The firestorm had grown so bad that Clinton had finally agreed to testify before the committee on October 22. The nation would be watching as the committee would expose her for the liar Republicans believed her to be.

There were victories to be had on other fronts as well.

Republicans have been obsessed with the issue of abortion. Over the past two years the Republican led House had passed 48 ant-abortion bills only to watch each of them die a slow death in the Democrat led Senate. Suddenly a clandestine video has gone viral. A Planned Parenthood employee is caught discussing in callous terms the disposal and illegal sale of harvested fetal tissue. The nation is horrified and Republicans are giddy. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is subpoenaed to testify before the House Oversight Committee…where she and her organization will be torn to shreds.

Suddenly, Speaker John Boehner announces his resignation. The man who could never bridge the factions within the party was leaving. The opportunity existed to find a new leader. Someone who could unite the moderates and the right wing fringe in pursuit of one common goal…winning the White House.

Things were going well. Republicans were on a role.

And then the wheels fell off.

The presumptive new Speaker, Kevin McCarthy proudly announces that the Select Committee on Benghazi had accomplished its goal…Clinton’s poll numbers were plummeting. With one undisciplined remark McCarthy had exposed eighteen months of assertions that the committee was only seeking the truth. A witch-hunt is exposed. McCarthy’s presumptive rise to
Speaker no longer certain. Outrage and chaos swell within the Party ranks. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz announces that he will challenge McCarthy for the Speakership.

Then Chaffetz creates a controversy of his own.

During his committee’s long awaited grilling of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Chaffetz introduces a slide which he asserts shows evidence that claims of abortions making up only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are false. Richards refutes the accuracy of the evidence. Chaffetz believes he has Richards in his crosshairs. He believes he has the proof that will ultimately destroy Planned Parenthood and propel him to the Speakership. He smugly states: “I got the information right off of Planned Parenthood’s corporate reports.”

Richards retorts that Chaffetz assertions are false. She tells him that slide he is showing was produced by Americans United for Life; an antiabortion activist group. Americans United for Life is clearly listed as the source on the bottom of the slide. “You should check your sources.” Richards says. Chaffetz, clearly humiliated and speechless, yields his remaining time and turns off his mic. The lie exposed. The advantage lost.

In one weeks’ time Republicans managed to toss away golden opportunities to take down two of their most despised ideological opponents: Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood. Once again their lack of discipline and unfiltered ideological dialogue has resulted in a self-inflicted wound. Politics as usual. Same plan…same result.

But this time it’s not the un-tethered crazies on the fringe pulling the trigger. It’s the Republican leadership.


Monday, October 5, 2015

GOP Keeps Its Word

Today we shift our focus from Roseburg, Oregon and the consequences of conservative cowardice at the prospect of losing the endorsement of the NRA. Today we turn to the great state of Alabama and the GOP’s ongoing efforts to suppress the minority vote.

Selma, Alabama sits in the middle of what has historically been referred to as the Cotton Belt. Seventeen counties running east to west across the state; home to some of the richest, blackest most fertile soil in the world and the epicenter of what once upon a time was the state’s most profitable field crop…cotton.

Owing to the financial opportunities literally lying at their feet, local plantation owners brought thousands of slaves into the region to work the cotton fields. Over time the black population exceeded the white and the area referred to as the Cotton Belt also became known as the Black Belt. The disproportionate number of blacks versus whites living in the region remains in effect today…as does the reference.

In 2008 and 2012 the predominantly Democratic voters in the Black Belt were instrumental in helping Barak Obama win the White house.

In 2014 Alabama’s GOP led state legislature took steps decided to diminish the electoral power of the Black Belt and other like-minded citizens by passing new voter I’d laws that were particularly impactful on the minority population. A list of approved forms of identification became the law; one of which had to be presented in order to vote. Number one on the approved list…a valid state driver’s license. Over 250,000 black Alabamans who had legally voted in previous elections could now be turned away due to lack of proper identification.

Alabama is a poor state; one of the poorest in the country. So poor that the GOP legislature recently convened and emergency session to figure out how to pay its bills. Alabama’s elected leaders decided that budgetary cuts were in order. Included among the cuts was the closure of 28 offices across the state that issued state driver’s licenses.

Fifteen of the 28 office closures just happen to be in counties within the Black Belt…10 of the 15 in counties where blacks make up over 75% of the population.

Mere coincidence?

After the last general election Republicans promised to be “more inclusive” in policy and thought. It appears that what we have here is the Party keeping its word; including the state of Alabama in its efforts to suppress the vote.

My thanks to the Rachel Maddow Show for bringing this story to light.

Friday, October 2, 2015


They say that it is inappropriate to politicize certain issues.

Like the recent shooting in Roseburg, Oregon that claimed 10 lives and injured 7.

They say that to politicize such an event is crass…insensitive…overstepping the boundaries of acceptable political discourse.

Yesterday an angry President Obama said that events such as Roseburg are exactly the type of event that should be politicized. I agree. So let the crass discourse begin.

The mass shooting at Roseburg…the 45 other school shootings that have occurred this year…the 294 mass shootings that have occurred in the first 274 days of 2015…all resulted in part due to the cowardice, selfishness and irresponsible behavior of the members of the United States Congress.

In spite of overwhelming evidence that gun violence is a serious problem that is having devastating effects on our society, congress refuses to act. Why? Because our elected leaders place a higher value on their job security and the significance that an endorsement from the gun lobby has on their prospects for election…than they do on the lives of innocent men, women and children.

Congress has moved heaven and earth to prevent foreign born terrorists from killing Americans. Trillions have been spent and wars have been waged to “protect the homeland and secure American lives.” Nothing…not even the United States Constitution…has impeded their frenetic hair on fire pursuit of this endeavor. Under the auspices of national security they pass laws that allow them to eavesdrop on our phone calls and emails, profile us on the basis of ethnicity, pat us down, make us remove our shoes and belts, herd us like cattle, scan us and subject us to strip searches, hold us without cause for as long as they like without probable cause and deny us access to legal counsel. When it comes to protecting us from radicals who would kill us there is no stone left unturned…no civil right that cannot be violated. But when it comes to protecting us from killing ourselves Congress does nothing. The right to bear arms trumps any and all other civil rights. Why? Because protecting the gun lobby protects one’s job. The disproportionate response toward threats to American lives proves the point.

Congress would argue that the above is a false equivalency. Accept it isn’t. If every American life matters then equal steps should be taken to protect them from threats be they foreign or domestic. That is clearly not what is happening here. If congress were willing to act they could make a difference.

President Obama challenged the media outlets to show the number of deaths in this county caused by gun violence and compare it to the number of deaths cause by terrorist attacks. NBC took up the challenge. Here are the results for the past decade:
# of deaths attributed to gun violence – 315,000
# of deaths result from gun related homicides – 118,000
# of deaths from terrorist attacks – 38

Congress took steps to stop foreign born attacks. No plan could ever be 100% successful in a country with open borders. But the results bear witness that a seemingly impossible task can be accomplished. And Americans sleep well in their beds knowing that everything possible is being done to keep them safe; never knowing the number of terrorist plots that have been thwarted on their behalf.
Yet when it comes to protecting citizens from violence here at home congress lacks the political courage to even try. They have become so numb to the violence that each occurrence generates and even lesser response.

It used to be that when a situation like Roseburg or Columbine or Sandy Hook occurred congressmen would be stumbling all over each other to find a television camera where they could express their faux outrage and sorrow before returning to business as usual. Now they don’t even bother. This morning many of the congressional messages of grief came via their twitter accounts. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.” #Whatever!

Then there are those willing to go on the record but only to parrot the NRA’s boilerplate talking points when suck tragedies occur: “Guns don’t kill people…people kill people. The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun…” And there are those politicians who already this morning have made the argument that we don’t need more gun laws we just need to enforce the existing ones. They note that Oregon has in place some of the toughest gun laws in the country but they didn’t stop this tragedy from occurring. This line of thinking basically says that since we can’t stop all the gun violence there is no sense even trying.

Stricter gun laws don’t have to be perfect to be effective. Universal back ground checks for all gun purchases will save some lives. Closing the gun show loophole will save some lives. Outlawing assault weapons and expanded ammunition clips will save some lives. A national gun registry and more investment into the correlation between mental illness and gun violence will save some lives. enough? 80% of Americans believe these laws should be enacted.

These common sense laws won’t save everyone but they will make a difference. How much of a difference? Who knows? Bit if saving even one life matters than shouldn’t we make the effort. Shouldn’t we make the same effort to stop the violence against Americans coming from within our borders as we have in disrupting attacks from abroad?

What will it take to move congress to act? They watched as one of their colleagues took a bullet to the head and did nothing. They watched as 20 babies were slaughtered; some of them disfigured beyond recognition from multiple gunshots to the face…and did nothing. What will it take? Do we need to watch a person armed with an assault weapon mow down members of congress from the visitors’ gallery to effect change?

It’s up to the American people. The voters need to send people to congress who will enact series gun violence legislation or send them packing. Lawmakers need to fear the people more than they do the gun lobby.

Tweeting “our thoughts and prayers are with victims and their families” isn’t enough.

Sometimes God wants you to get off your ass and act.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Turf War

Just when you thought things in the Middle East could not get any worse.

Forty eight hours ago President Obama and Russian Czar Vladimir Putin addressed the UN General Assembly. In their prepared remarks each leader made it a point to harshly criticize their counterparts’ foreign policies.

Afterward the two met privately to discuss their differences. The conversation centered on Russia’s aggressive moves in Crimea and the Ukraine and its insertion of military arms, material and personnel into Syria. The president has said that ISIS must be defeated and that the Assad regime must be removed from power. Putin agrees that that ISIS must go but he wants the Assad regime, Russia’s best ally in the region, to remain a key player in any transition movement.

Off the record reports categorized the meeting as “icy.” Body language made it clear that the only thing these two leaders share is a palpable personal dislike for each other.

We are told that the leaders did agree to coordinate military efforts in taking the fight to ISIS. The US believed that there would be a series of meetings between US and Russian military personnel to coordinate their efforts. Evidently Mr. Putin does not share our government’s need for meetings and strategy. Less than 24 hours later a Russian military attaché marched into the US embassy in Bagdad and informed US representative that Russian airstrikes against ISIS targets would commence within the hour and that all US military aircraft should be grounded. Translation…Russia had just informed the US that it was imposing a no fly zone over the Syrian territory.

Russia is purported to have carried out 20 bombing runs against various targets in Syria. Some of the targets were known ISIS strongholds. However some of the bombing runs were aimed at areas occupied by the Syrian Free Army; American backed moderate rebels fighting against the Assad regime.

The Obama administration expressed outrage over the sudden Russian attacks; particularly those against US backed rebel groups. Secretary of State John Kerry was immediately dispatched to meet with his Russian counterparts. Clearly the US government was caught flatfooted; lulled into some false sense of cooperation by Putin.

The US had been working for months to cobble together a coalition of European partners and local Middle Eastern nations to defeat ISIS. Unwilling to ask a war weary nation to engage in another Middle Eastern conflict; the Obama administration had been working tirelessly to help the region defend itself. Unfortunately the process is like herding cats as most of the players have grown comfortable with the US playing the role of policeman and protector. With the US maintaining its distance a power vacuum has emerged.

Suddenly the Russians have inserted themselves into the void. The entire region has grown exponentially more complicated and dangerous. What happens if the Russians bump into Israeli or Turkish forces; allies that the US has sworn to protect.

Syria isn’t the only area of concern. Lest we forget Iraq is a mess and growing more fractious by the day. The Taliban have returned with vengeance in Afghanistan; taking and holding the city of Kunduz. Yemen and Libya are rudderless territories; safe havens for extremists like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Naturally Republicans blame all of this on the “feckless” leadership of President Obama. Yet when asked what they would do specifically to resolve these issues they have no answer. Let us not forget that the Republican led congress yet to authorize the president’s yearlong air war against ISIS. Better to lob grenades from the sidelines and let the president take the heat. No profiles in courage here.

My guess is that Putin senses a weakness in the resolve of the American people and their leadership. He sees an opening that he feels he can exploit to his benefit. If his plan to keep Assad around works then he maintains his ally in the region. If it fails and Assad is forced out; then Putin assures himself a seat at the transition table. Meanwhile he demonstrates to the Russian people that he is keeping his promise to return the Motherland to its rightful leadership role in world events.

Putin has just challenged the United States to a turf war. It’s a very dangerous ploy that could have disastrous consequences.