Sunday, December 26, 2010

An unexpected Obama surge

By Don Klein

When you have the nerve to express your opinions publicly you have a tendency to occasionally to put your foot in your mouth. I experienced such a moment a mere three weeks ago when I scolded President Obama for what I concluded was a reckless abandonment of principles in giving in to the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.

I described Obama as a " reluctant warrior" who demonstrated "failed leadership" because of his compromise with the obstinate Republican senators on extending the Bush tax cuts. I said Obama was a disappointment and was suffering from a "massive dose of languor" because he didn’t fight harder for his principles.

Then came the final week of the Lame Duck Congress just before Christmas. It proved I was wrong.

Obama turned the tables in a sudden unpredictable sweep of legislation that would have made any president proud. It was unprecedented. He managed, with the help of solid Democrat support and a handful of moderate Republicans, to demonstrate that he did indeed have the clout we all hoped he would have. He improved his image as a leader here and abroad. All of which accrues to the benefit of the nation as a whole.

Just in case you have forgotten, this is what the Obama Congress accomplished in his first two years. It is as formidable as any president could have done and surpasses the efforts of previously Republican leaders:

>Lilly Ledbetter Act, January 29, 2009. Makes it easier for workers to file
employment-discrimination lawsuits.

>SCHIP, February 4, 2009. Expands health care coverage for children.

>Stimulus, February 17, 2009. Provides $787 billion in tax cuts and additional spending to aid U.S. economic-recovery efforts

>Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, April 21, 2009. Creates incentives to foster volunteer opportunities through programs such as AmeriCorps.

>Credit Card Bill of Rights, May 22, 2009. Enhances safeguards to protect consumers from abusive practices.

>Tobacco, June 22, 2009. Provides the Food and Drug Administration with enhanced authority to regulate tobacco products

>Cash for Clunkers, August 7, 2009. Provides consumers with a cash incentive to buy automobiles with higher fuel-efficiency standards.

>Hate-Crimes Bill, October 28, 2009. Enhances law-enforcement resources to prosecute crimes based on gender and sexual orientation.

>Health Care, March 30, 2010. Overhauls the U.S. health care system to provide insurance coverage for more Americans.

>Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, March 30, 2010. Makes the federal government the provider of all student loans.

>Financial-Regulatory Reform, July 21, 2010. Expands federal government’s role in regulating financial markets.

>Tax Cuts, December 17, 2010. Extends for two years the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003.

>'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell', December 22, 2010. Lifts the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military

>Food Safety, December 21, 2010' Strengthens regulatory standards intended to protect the nation’s food supply.

>New START, December 22, 2010. Implements a new arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia.

>9/11 First-Responders Bill, December 22, 2010. Funds medical care for first responders sickened after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Add them up and there are 16 important bills in two years. Admittedly not all of them were perfect, but that is not unusual in legislation. Nothing is ever really the way many people prefer it to be. But is a sign of accomplishment.

What must be remembered is that all this was accomplished in the face of an obstructionist senate which at the whim of a single senator, bills could be delayed into oblivion. We should be particularly proud of the Democrats who stood by their guns to fight for the people down to the bloody end. We also must take our hats off to the dozen or so Republican moderates who joined the majority near the end of the session to salvage much of this legislation.

Even though may, including me, are still extremely unhappy with the extension of tax cuts for millionaires, many of whom said they would happily forgo the benefit, it seemed to be the plunger that dislodged the hopelessly stuffed legislative pipeline. I am only sorry that Obama didn’t rise to the can-do occasion before the election to possibly save the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Make no mistake. The next two years will be no picnic on Capitol Hill. I doubt the president will be able to do as much, in fact I think most of his energy will be used to stave off the GOP, which allowed much of what was accomplished this session only because they planned to kill some of the laws by not funding much of this new legislation in the next Congress since they hold the purse strings in the House.

Nevertheless there is a new sense of reliance in Obama and his strategists. I would not sell him short given his successes during the first half of his term. The sadness is the failure of the Dream Act to pass. That should work to the disadvantage of the Republicans in the presidential election of 2012. Hispanics would be fools not to remember which party submarined the bill to aid the innocent children of illegal aliens.

The important fact is the Republicans now know they have a notable opponent in Obama and will not take him lightly as we move on to the next Congress. I look forward with lots more enthusiasm to the next two years.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not doing the right thing

By Don Klein

When I think of bravery and self-sacrifice I can’t help but visualize the indelible and lasting image of those martyred firefighters and policemen racing into the scorching, choking New York skyscrapers in September 2001. That picture will never escape my mind.

As thousands of innocent occupants fled the inferno to safety several hundred first responders, laden down with heavy hoses and air packs, rushed into danger without regard to their safety. It was surreal. Why would they do that when good reason would insist that they exit, not enter, the death traps?

When the toll was counted after the collapse of the buildings, 343 firefighters and 60 policemen died in the tragedy.

By and large that is what firefighters and policemen do. They go where the trouble is and don’t slow down because it might be dangerous or because it is a holiday.

But that is not the end to the calamity. For months afterward scores of surviving firefighters, joined by other volunteers and off-duty cops, searched the rubble looking for survivors and when that hope dissipated, they worked to recover as many of the 2,742 of the dead they could from the entangled debris to provide them with honorable burials.

There was nothing anyone could do for the dead but the first responders who stayed at the scene for months have been rewarded by fate with dreadful health problems (severe lung ailments and untreatable cancers). Now the United States Senate rewarded them with callous indifference.

Legislation to provide relief for these heroes passed the House of Representatives but has been delayed, if not halted altogether, by Senate Republicans. Why? One reason is it involves a lot of money and in this age of monstrous deficits the Republicans only have room to remember the rich with a $900 billion unfunded boondoggle in tax cuts while real American heroes can wretch themselves into oblivion.

Senate Republicans will allow these 9/11 champions to suffer and die while they pander to the most covetous, wealthy of Americans. The Republicans don’t care because they will never get a dimes worth of campaign donations from firefighters while the upper crust will reward their political lap dogs handsomely before the next election.

Most Americans strongly disagree with these astigmatic Republicans. When I was an adolescent living in my family’s apartment in the Bronx I was awaken one night by a noisy commotion across the street in the early hours of a wintery morning. It turned out that a three alarm fire had engulfed a five story apartment house. It was so cold the water thrust from multiple fire hoses into the upper floors froze into long stalactites hanging from the fire escapes on the way down.

Mesmerized by the scene unfolding before my eyes I suddenly noticed housewives from other houses in the areas, my mother included, each bundled against the cold, carrying pots of hot coffee to the firefighters as the battle against the flames went on for hours.

It was a small gesture and they didn’t have to do it, but the sense of community was strong in those days. The firefighters were protecting their families and the least they could do was to offer them something hot on a frigid night.

Not so with our apathetic senators. Their hearts are so cold they see nothing wrong with spitting on ordinary people. They have been doing it for years. It is their second nature. What is difficult to understand is why we keep sending these contaminated minions of the rich and privileged back to Congress election after election?

Sen. Jon Llewellyn Kyl, (R-Arizona) gave another explanation why the bill to relieve the first responders should not be brought up during the lame duck period. They would have to work over the Christmas holiday week and that, according to him, "would disrespect" Christians observing Christmas.

I would like to see Kyl present one Christian, other than a rock-ribbed Republican, who would object to Congress working during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and one who would not favor giving assistance to 9/11 heroes.

The Republicans are the first to holler "class warfare" whenever anyone says that the rich should pay a larger share of income taxes than others. Yet it is senators like Kyl who are the people engaged in class warfare. Why? Because it is all right for you and me and every other ordinary citizen to work during the Christmas-New Year’s holidays but not members of Congress.

Check any fire house or police station anywhere in the country this holiday season and you will find men and women on duty as they have been during every holiday in the history of the United States. These are the working brothers and sisters of the injured first responders that Kyl disregards because he doesn’t think there is enough time to do the right thing.

We could hope the day never comes when Jon Llewellyn Kyl’s house is on fire and when the local fire house gets the alarm the crew on duty stops to take a vote requiring a super majority before the trucks roll. It would never happen because firefighters are committed to serving the public. Too bad Republican senators are not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bad execution vs. bad behavior

By Don Klein

For years we have been hearing the same plaintive cry from frustrated citizens: “There is not much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. It doesn’t matter which one is in power, the result is always the same.”

Recent behavior of President Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress has given us all a clear-cut lesson in this dazzling distinction.

Of course, there are basic policy dissimilarities. The Democrats are primarily concerned with the nondescript workers and voters, unions and the moral high ground while the Republican are influenced by corporations, the military and the infinite greed of the wealthy.

Aside from this there is something that goes beyond basic policy. An important element that deserves consideration is called political style. The Democrats for all their desire to do good are poorly organized and are horrible political tacticians. The recent capitulation of Obama on Bush tax cuts is a painful example. In sports it’s called good planning, bad execution.

The Republicans on the other hand are organized and brutal in pursuit of their goals. They were despicable in their cold dismissal of such reasonable measures as medical aid to 9/11 first responders and the rejection of the patently unfair policy towards gays and lesbians called, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

They stand on these pillars of decadence to protect their “holy grail” tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republicans don’t care how much the tax breaks for the rich will damage the deficit while they are determined to fight to the death to end unemployment insurance payments to the jobless without corresponding spending cuts.

They don’t seem to care that they are borrowing money today to pay for tax cuts that our children and their children in the decades to come will have to redeem. More importantly they are damaging the worldwide stability of the nation to reward their rich patrons.

Further, this contemptible behavior by the Republican leadership manages to get virtually 100 percent support from their ranks in Congress while the Democrats skirmish with each other like alley cats over the issues agreed to by their leadership.

You could say when thinking of the difference between the two parties the Republicans are disciplined and obedient and the Democrats act like rowdy disputants at a condo association meeting. They prove Will Rogers correct. He once said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”

Democrats can be disappointed with their leaders, as they are now with the Obama tax deal that has split the party, but Republicans are worse than just disappointing. They are calculating and carry the banner of hypocrisy with pride and callousness.

Take one of the leading and very confusing Republicans –- Senator John McCain. He is a politician who at one time seemed to be the bright light in the Republican firmament. I am ashamed to say that at one time I considered him a candidate worthy of my vote. That was ten years ago -- before he lost his way.

If you remember 2000 when he, a war hero, fought George W. Bush, a war eluded, for the GOP presidential nomination, he was the man of rationale battling the man of claptrap. The party chose the wrong man and the country will pay for that mistake for decades to come.

The McCain who ran for president in 2008 was not the same man. He moved to the right to garner the support of those extreme elements that voted for Bush in the previous two elections and added insult to injury by choosing a buffoon as his running mate.

Take “don’t ask, don’t tell” for example. When the issue came up some time ago a reasonable McCain said that he would vote in favor of abolishing the policy if military leaders indorsed the idea. Then earlier this year when the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs recommended an end to the policy he said he wanted to wait until the Pentagon report on the subject was released in December.

Now that that report was out showing that the vast majority of servicemen and woman supported the end of the policy, the inscrutable McCain said it was not the time for this act because of a bad economy and he asked for another survey. Soon he is liable to oppose ending DADT because the beer tax is too high.

McCain is an enigma and a hypocrite. That should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to today’s Congress. He is just one of hundreds there. McCain is not so much the “maverick” he claims to be but more of an obedient follower who stood by his party in its deplorable disregard for 9/11 heroes and lack of concern for the jobless.

In the end Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid may be slow to act and negligent and President Obama may be a lousy negotiator, but the Republicans have downright scoundrels like McCain in their ranks. It’s a bad choice no matter what.

It is as if Will Rogers could see into the 21st century with his appropriate quip made years ago: “Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what is going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The wizard that wasn't

By Don Klein

During the campaigns of 2008 many of us were lifted to great emotional heights by the words and political wizardry of Barack Obama. We saw in him the antithesis to the dark, unsettling years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

We anticipated, or wished, that from this brilliant light from the heartland would spring forth a bold new vision of progress. We saw a young, articulate leader of intelligence and hope who would make the country well again.

Elegant and eloquent was he. Just what we needed. We saw him as a reincarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy combined.

We were wrong. As president Obama was a disappointment , a pathetic 21st Century version of failed leadership. We were treated to a massive dose of languor from the Obama White House. He was a reluctant warrior.

To the dismay of the rest of us, it seems the Republican figured out Obama from the beginning. Obama is not a fighter. He is no Lyndon B. Johnson or Harry S. Truman. He is not in the mold of traditional great Democratic presidents. He will not grab an opponent by the lapels and push his ideas to fruition. Rather he is a re-embodiment of Ferdinand the Bull.

We must face the fact that he is wimpish. We need a leader for president not a easy-going guy who seems to put more energy into his basketball playing than governance. The latest betrayal by the GOP (no Senate action until tax cuts are extended) one day after "amicable" talks in the White House demonstrates how brazen his enemies have become.

The GOP has perfected the act of showing disrespect for him and the office he holds. Obama originally invited the Republican leadership to the White House for talks earlier only to be told no thanks. They said reschedule the meeting to their convenience or no soap. It is unheard of to snub an invitation to meet with a head of state on his schedule.

They seem to know they can get away with anything with Obama, especially when it is demeaning. It’s like rubbing a dog’s nose in his own grunge.

The signs were there from almost the start of his administration. His attempts at bipartisanship were a flop because he failed to recognize what everyone else knew –- the GOP was not going to cooperate on anything he proposed. He wasted a filibuster-proof Senate until Senator Ted Kennedy's death ended this advantage.

The result: the GOP emasculated the health care bill by dumping the public option into the trash can with Obama’s approval. They also weakened his financial regulation bill so that it is not much of an improvement over the past. They refused to pass legislation to care for the 9/11 first responders nor extend unemployment insurance for those longtime jobless Americans.

And what did the White House do? An infrequent mention of these events embodied deep within a speech somewhere in the hustings when a fighter would have been shouting these outrages from the rooftops.

Obama supporters are befuddled by his inaction. What happened to their knight in shining armor elected to right the wrongs of previous years?

Did he sacrifice a meaningful health care bill just to be able to brag that he was the first president ever to enact a health bill of any kind? Did his advisers suggest he should look good while not being particularly helpful.

Obama has to wake up. Get his dander up. Get rid of those who have been advising him to failure. He is half way through his initial term and he doesn’t have much time to improve if he expects a second term.

This pussycat has to turn into a tiger or the Republicans will make him look like a dupe.

1. He must hold fast to his commitment not to extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthy even if it means no tax cut for anyone else. If the GOP stands firm on its position to increase the deficit by extending tax cuts, end them all. The president can do it by a simple veto, which the GOP cannot override.
2. To cut the deficit he can do a number of things. First, end the Afghanistan war and cutoff aid to Pakistan. And while he is at it, close US bases in Europe and Asia and bring home troops based there. He must tell the Republicans they will not get their way with his prerogatives as president. Use the veto whenever.
3. He must loudly trumpet all the shifty Republican policies which do not serve the public – like denial of unemployment insurance and health care for first responders.
4. He should be at least as forceful with Congress as he was in the case of the Harvard professor and the Cambridge cop. In that instance he stuck his nose where it didn’t belong. In Washington politics his nose belongs in the GOP’s face.

The truth is I don’t think he will do any of these things in the next two years. He looks upon confrontation as bad politics (even though it worked for the GOP in the midterm elections) and will continue fruitlessly to try to work with his political opponents.

In that case I believe, even though it is unlikely under normal circumstances, that there will be a strong attempt to oppose a sitting president in the 2012 party primaries and he could be replaced by a more aggressive potential leader. If Obama doesn’t change his tactics many will find that solution favorable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Washington, where turkeys abound

By Don Klein

In this uplifting celebratory season when we give thanks for the bountiful life we Americans have inherited there are millions who will be cutting back on festivities and gifts because the government has encouraged greedy industrialists to seek greater profits for their products by hiring foreigners to do the work once meant for Americans.

The practice is known as “outsourcing,” which is more accurately described as craven profiteering. It is unpatriotic to put your own people down in favor of outlanders.

Outsourcing is such an onerous practice that I decided some time ago I would embark on what once was considered a half-baked xenophobic practice called, “buy American.” Whatever I would buy from then on would have to be produced in this country or I would not buy it. Sounds reasonable? That would be my puny way of getting back at the cold-hearted business elite who are exporting American jobs.

Well I found it wouldn’t work too well. I would have little clothing to wear, great difficulty in watching television or calling someone on a cell phone, or even finding utensils for consuming my dinner. Buying American would leave me bereft of so much of what I need to live by, I would feel impoverished.

Everyone should be outraged about outsourcing, especially today with so many fellow citizens out of work or being underemployed elsewhere after being displaced from careers. It is another case of the moneyed guys making more money and the working people being left off to fend for themselves in a bleak economic environment.

A friend of mine, a doctor of philosophy in economics, once told me “it’s a good thing to let those who can produce at the lowest price be the suppliers of goods.” He said that made economic sense. My response was that that might be text book sense but not reality. I added that a major world power cannot exist without a manufacturing base. He shrugged his shoulders and said we have to learn to compete.

Compete? How do you do that when there are people willing to work at one-tenth the salaries that Americans have become accustomed to earning over decades.

It is difficult to get straight talk when looking into outsourcing. There is an unfortunate conflict off facts. Just the other day the president of MIT, Dr. Susan Hockfield, told television host Charlie Rose that 40 percent of the world’s manufacturing is US based. That is more than any other nation.

At the same time the immutable fact exists that more than 15 million Americans are out of work and millions more are employed at jobs that pay a fraction of what they once earned. The only explanation I have for this apparent conflict in “facts” is in the definition of terms.

Could it be that when Dr. Hockfield’s high numbers in manufacturing refer to tonnage (giant items like airliners and heavy ground moving equipment) or possibly she is speaking of costs of goods, while other nations are eating our lunch by exporting to us labor-generating cargoes like television sets, cell phones, autos and clothing?

It doesn’t matter because so much of Americana has been outsourced by short-sighted industrialists whose myopic vision is calibrated solely to the profit margin of the balance sheet. If they keep exporting jobs overseas who will be left in this country to buy the multitude of goods that are pouring into our shops from cheap-labor nations?

Certainly it is prideful to know your country makes the most desired airliners available as well as most of the large agricultural and construction equipment that is sold anywhere. Other large US foreign exchange products are films and television shows pumped out of Hollywood almost daily.

These selective victories do little to help the unemployment problem. The manufacturing loss is painful. The knowledge that the Rawlings baseballs we all grew up playing with on the local sandlot are now made in Costa Rica is one that makes me gag.

That is not all. Most of the power shoes from Converse, Rockport and others which have become as much a part of American life as bagels and cream cheese are not made in the US. Even the omnipresent Mattel toys and most other playthings that American kids love are made in China.

You think you are buying an American-made vehicle when you buy a car from General Motors, Ford or Chrysler but the chassis for many of these models are made elsewhere.

Americans built the most extensive and efficient railroad system in the world but today would have to import Manganese turnouts if they wish to expand or improve the rail lines in the country.

Traditional vending machines at every bowling alley and filling station are no longer made in this country as are Levi jeans, Dell computers and even canned sardines. The four-wheeled red wagon I dragged behind me when I was a child is no longer an American product.

Even the Internal Revenue Service reportedly has outsourced some of its tax work to India and the Defense Department uses foreign contractors to provide services to military forces throughout the world.

To rub salt in the unemployment wound the government offers tax breaks to American companies operating in other lands. Is there no spunk left in government?

When the Tea Party shouts they “want their country back” and then focuses on rescinding health care and reducing entitlements they are looking in the wrong direction. Yes, I want my country back from those in foreign lands making a living off the jobless Americans they displaced in the work force.

It is disgraceful that Washington continues to allow widespread outsourcing. It seems the biggest turkeys this Thanksgiving will not be found on the dinner tables, but in Congress.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bad times for journalists

By Don Klein

My old journalism professor smugly reminded us bright eyed students that no one really enjoys freedom of the press except the publishers of newspapers. Today that holds true for owners of radio and television companies as well.

That might explain why the bosses at MSNBC came down so hard on Keith Olbermann for breaking a work rule that many believe was unjust to begin with. When it comes to political donations only the bosses are free to make commitments.

The Supreme Court saw to that when it ruled earlier this year that corporations have the right to secretly donate any amount to support political candidates. But when TV commentator Olbermann donated $7,200 to three Democratic candidates in the recent election he was summarily suspended “indefinitely” by MSNBC.

Although I don’t particularly care for the snarling, sneering, antagonistic journalism practiced by Olbermann, nevertheless I believe MSNBC was wrong in suspending him for exercising his sacred right as an American citizen.

Most of the time I agree with Olbermann’s stances and believe he is an excellent foil for the reactionary mouthpieces on conservative Fox Network but, as already mentioned, I am not fond of his style. He has my political head but loses my heart with his antics.

Obviously, the network realized that it did not do itself any favor by suspending him and lifted his “indefinite” ban after just two broadcast days. I suppose the 250,000 listeners who signed a petition demanding Olbermann’s return had its effects on management.

Also I would hope they realized that no employer has the right to establish work rules that deny anyone their legal right to support political candidates of his/her choice.

Having said that, allow me to add that I object to the way Sarah Palin was treated in a story heavily criticizing her by a number of unnamed GOP sources as carried online by Politico. I don’t like Palin and believe she is an awful example of the worst in the American political environment today, but I dislike hidden hatchet jobs using masked marauders as sources.

I know occasionally anonymous sources are important to gathering news especially in the secret environment that now exists in many organizations. Certainly confidentiality is a necessary evil when writing about criminal activities, corporate corruption or governmental malfeasance and whistle blowers deserve protection from retaliation as the price for their cooperation.

However, this protection should not be extended to people seeking political advantage by telling malicious stories to gain favor or to scuttle the opposition. Anyone who has information that should be put into the public domain ought to have the gumption to identify themselves so we can evaluate the source of their claims.

I think newspaper and broadcast news editors should apply strict rules for using unnamed sources in major stories because of the tendency for unfair political gain. Many editors are careful about such matters but it still happens too often.

Palin was maligned by unknown sources and had the right to be ticked off. There are plenty of good reasons to confront Palin as a harmful element in our national politics and we need brave people to step up and do so. Journalists should never become back fence gossipmongers.

There is a third media story that bothered me recently. That was the firing of Juan Williams by NPR for describing on air his negative reaction to boarding an airliner which included passengers in Muslim garb. Williams was expressing an opinion held by millions of Americans and felt justified by the many instances of terror attacks committed by Muslims here and abroad.

Many believe Williams was fired for other reasons and that NPR used the Muslim remark as a convenient cause of the moment. I lean to the belief that his superiors at NPR did not like his frequent appearances on Fox News as a contributor which they felt reflected badly on them.

If that was the case they should have told him to stop or resign and let him make the decision. NPR can be considered a competitor of Fox and demand that someone on their payroll not share his talents with a rival. To blame his dismissal on his Muslim comment is being devious.

Getting back to the point of journalists with personal political opinions, I don’t think there should be any restrictions on supporting anyone they please as does every other private citizen as long as their professional work is honest, fair, and does not favor anyone or thing other than the truth.

If you are a liberal and have an extremely conservative doctor treating you, the only thing that matters is how well he takes care of your medical needs. He has to maintain professional perfection. He has to have your good health in mind and you won’t care one twit about his political leanings.

We’ve all heard the saying that in combat, GIs don’t care if the soldier sharing his foxhole is a conservative or a liberal as long as they cover each other. The same is true in civilian life and a reporter who writes fair and accurate stories is not to be feared by readers or restrained by their employers when it comes to his personal choices.

Commentators like Olbermann are different. They are paid to have strong opinions and be crusty promoters of causes. In such cases it is even more outlandish to punish him for showing his preferences by donating to certain candidacies. The MSNBC practice to have rules restricting editorial personnel from supporting political candidates when it pleases them is iniquitous.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have a good day!

By Don Klein

When I was a teenager I attended dances hoping to meet the "right" girl. I never did and got to the point that I lowered my expectations because I knew nothing special would evolve.

Today’s politics reminds me of those feverish adolescent times. No matter which party is in power it would be wise to lower expectations.

Even though the Democrats triumphed in spectator form just two years ago, today they are on the ropes. Although it was a shellacking, as President Obama put it, it could have been much worse if the Republicans had been diligent and selected more sober candidates instead of the ill-natured Tea Party prospects.

It was not necessarily an election the Republican won as it was an election the Democrats lost – through no fault other than their own. No matter who gets the credit or blame, the fact is the power in Washington has changed.

The mystery to me is why had the Democrats, who accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time, failed to act as if they were proud of their handiwork. Not one Democrat to my knowledge (who was running for office) ever mentioned the centerpiece of their success – the national health bill.

Neither did they talk openly about the new financial regulations they passed, nor any of the environment efforts, nor the tax cuts for working people that were made, nor such attractive matters as the children’s health bill.

Much of the good they did was ridiculed and mocked by the Republicans as viciously as the swift boat veterans attacked Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, with the same result. No competent response from the Democrats. They took blow on the chin after blow and expected the voters to figure out the whole complicated subject matter by themselves.

The Democrats were not nearly as aggressive as the GOP in standing up against wild claims of legislative excesses. Obama was as much to blame as the rest of the party essentially because he did not wake up to the facts of the failing campaign until much too late.

I cannot understand the outrage over national health care since the public was clearly misled. The law would reduce, not increase, medical costs, and would include millions more Americans than are now covered. Anyone would think it a win-win situation except those committed to partisan contention.

The worst factor in the law was the lack of a public option to force insurance companies to play straight with clients. Then the delay of full implementation until 2014 made its impact hardly noticeable today. These were factors the Democratic leadership in the Senate conceded in hopes of getting bipartisan support.

The Republicans outsmarted the timid leadership and after squeezing out these concessions refused to vote for the bill anyway. Mark that as an early GOP victory.

That may be considered water under the bridge but it is an indication of how superficial was the Democrats support for the issue. They gave health care much lip service, never in campaigns oddly, and applied little intestinal fortitude to the subject and sowed the seeds of their eventual defeat at the polls.

Many youthful Obama voters who stayed home would have voted were they not disgusted by the lack of fight put up by the administration and Senate Democrats during the heath care and other debates. Add to this to the scarce effort to solve joblessness, and there is a prescription for defeat.

They acted in similar wishy-washy ways in everything they did, claiming they were seeking bipartisanship, which never materialized. They rejected advice to shift into high gear and force the whole package and not try to compromise with people who vowed not to work with them.

The definition of stupidity is to continuously expect different results from the same failed policy. If you keep knocking your head against a wall you will soon suffer more than just a severe headache.

It would be just if only the Democrats were the ones with the headache but unfortunately the headache will spread to all of us with the possible except of the wealthy. Now we have a GOP controlled House of Representatives, a Senate still under Democratic rein although with less of a majority, and a Democrat in the White House.

Despite all the talk about working together, do not believe it. The 2012 presidential campaign has already started and little comity can be expected from the two parties.

The Republicans want to retake the White House and will do everything they can to upset the Obama applecart. The next two years will witness the House passing bills that the Senate will kill. If a House bill should somehow make itself past the Senate, the president will veto it and the GOP will not have enough votes to override it.

It will mean more gridlock. More ineffective government. More citizen dissatisfaction with Washington. And all those who voted the incumbents out this year because of lack of progress will be beside themselves trying to figure out how to get Congress to work for the people again.

Meanwhile the environment will worsen, China and India will be strengthened economically, the US will go into deeper debt, unemployment will eventually ease up but millions will be forever damaged by job loss, and attempts will be tried to restrict our personal freedoms. And everyone in Washington will blame the other guy.

Eventually we will all lower our expectations as I did many years ago and government will drone along like an aloof sleepwalker. Our children will grow up to leave the country to find work in Africa and Asia because most American businesses will be outsourced.

The American century of dominance will end with a whimper like the British Empire expired almost a century ago.

Have a good day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gridlock, thy name is Congress

By Don Klein

Tired of the Democrats controlling Washington? They’ve been running the government for the last 20 months and you are unhappy with the results? Like millions of others you are ready for a change? Ready to throw the bums out, are you?

After all, Barack Obama has been in office less than two years and has not lived up to all our tantalized expectations. He managed to unite the country as promised but not as he wanted. The pros and cons are in agreement. They are both negative. The pros (progressives) and cons (conservatives) are bitter.

Time for a change, again? Some want "to take their country back." If they win, this is what might be in store for all of us.

1. There will be efforts to privatized Social Security again so that Wall Street brokers can make even larger profits than now and the financial destiny of senior citizens will be left to the whim of the stock market.

2. In order to continue the fiction of an allegedly insolvent Medicare, Republicans will force seniors to pay higher premiums to the government and shell out steeper co-pays to doctors in order to lower federal health expenses.

3. The new Republican Congress will extend the unfair Bush tax cuts providing the wealthy with savings of millions in income taxes and the middle class with merely hundreds. They will call this beneficial for all when actually it is acceptable only to the richest among us.

4. Instead they may propose an equally onerous national sales tax of 23 percent in lieu of the income tax. This sounds good until you realize that a family with $30,000 income incurs the same amount of tax for a loaf of bread as the family with $50,000,000.

5. To level the playing field which now finds some giant corporations not paying any federal income, the Republican Congress will reform the tax code to add more loopholes to allow many more flush corporations to be free of the burden of taxes while the working class will be clobbered with more taxes to cover the difference.

6. To further enhance corporate profits the Congress will offer broader tax incentives for companies to out-source work to India, Latin America and other developing areas so American products can more easily compete in the worldwide marketplace while laid off American workers no longer can afford to buy these goods.

7. The Republicans will attempt to impose their lifelong ambition to rescind the minimum wage law. This will encourage individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps the same way the wealthy pulled themselves up before they inherited Daddy’s legacy.

8. Unemployment insurance will prove too big a burden so the Republicans will try to eliminate all jobless benefits.

9. To keep costs down among deficit-ridden hospitals around the nation, emergency care facilities will no longer be required to treat destitute patients.

10. In order to cut government outlays to needy citizens Congress will enact laws turning over many social welfare responsibilities to religious organizations, after bolstering them with federal funds.

11. It will be a great period for unqualified ultra-conservative lawyers because the only Supreme Court justices who will be confirmed by the Republican Senate will be those of the Clarence Thomas ilk.

12. Embryonic stem cell research will be halted in the United States and adult stem cell research will be severely restricted by Republicans catering to the Evangelical bloc.

13. Gay marriages will be prohibited by federal law and aid to education will be sharply reduced.

14. Illegal aliens will be rounded up and held in concentration camps run by greedy contractors, like Halliburton or Blackwater, as harsh warnings to future outsiders thinking about entering the country illegally.

15. Environmental protection laws will be weakened or abandoned. The federal government under the Republicans will issues licenses for off shore drilling all along the East Coast from Florida to Maine.

With all of the above the GOP will not improve one iota the job market, nor reduce the prospects of foreclosures, improve the economy, nor better day-to-day life of the middle class.

Of course you might say some of these predictions are exaggerations -- and maybe they are. But others could happen if and when the new Republican Party "takes back the country" if they win the White House, as well as Congress, in 2012.

Right now take a look at what might happen after next week’s election. It could be almost as bad.

There are three possibilities once the votes are counted on November 2. The first is the Republicans will take over both houses of Congress. The second is
that the Republicans will win the House but not the Senate, or vice versa. And lastly the Democrats will continue to maintain control of both Houses, but with a smaller majority than currently.

Neither of these potentialities will serve the public interest.

In the first option many of the bills mentioned above could be passed and sent to the president, where he will veto them. The GOP will not have enough votes to override the veto. Hence: Gridlock.

In the second instance the GOP House will not get any of their bills passed a Democratic Senate, nor the Democrats get theirs passed the House.
Hence: Gridlock.

In the final scenario the Republicans, now a larger minority than before, will block all Democratic bills from getting out of Congress. Hence: Gridlock again.

So with the pros and cons chomping at each other necks they end up overshooting the most important goal – the welfare of all. We find ourselves back were we started before the election with gridlock the name of the game and the people not being served.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wingnuts, oddballs and conservatives

By Don Klein

There is trouble brewing in the country, real trouble.

We have a mess of candidates all asserting they emanate from the grassroots who are accompanied by a raucous mob wrapped in strict interpretation of the Constitution. Oddly they have demonstrated by their actions they have little understanding of the meaning of American democracy.

Not only do they display ignorance of the Constitution, they seem to have no respect for it and appear to relish in defying its tenets.

I am talking about Tea Party candidates like Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska and Christie O’Donnell of Delaware. What a travesty it would be if all four of these oddballs were to actually serve in the US Senate.

Rand Paul is an ophthalmologist who is blind to reality. He wants to do away with all entitlements even though a good portion of his income is derived from patients who sustain his gravy train life with funds from Medicare, Social Security and soon from the newly passed Health Care Law. He calls it socialism but gladly deposits the government checks into his bank account.

Just imagine what would happen to today’s medical profession which greatly depends on government payouts to keep their private lives financially robust. If Paul succeeded in ending Medicare, doctors would soon feel the same economic pinch the rest of us feel today. Actually, most of them quietly campaign for increased payments, not an end of the program.

That is without taking into account the terrible hardship that would befall the elderly who without the safety net of Medicare would be in dire straits. That’s when the reality of Death Panels would come into effect, only the boards would be populated by doctors playing God and insurance companies playing misers, not bureaucrats as radicals contend.

Then there is Sharron Angle who is running against the pusillanimous Senate majority leader Harry Reid. If any Democrat deserved to loose this year it is Reid, yet his opponent is such a disgrace to earthly reason that even his worst critics are hoping he survives her.

Angle makes up her own facts as she rambles along the campaign trail, she spouts out racial insults and appears not to even realize it, she doesn’t want to reform the IRS she wants to vacate it, she wants to cut the federal budget but refuses to answer questions from the press on how. She will only appear on Fox News, as she nervily stated, to raise money for her campaign not to answer probing questions.

Joe Miller is the pet choice of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. He espouses strict compliance with the Constitution yet he hires thugs, some of whom are active duty military types, and harasses reporters who in the course of doing their jobs have the effrontery to ask him questions on matters of public interest.
Recently goons working for Miller handcuffed a reporter covering his campaign, thus violating the newsman’s personal rights (holding an individual against his will, kidnaping, etc) and also desecrating the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press. The journalist was released when police arrived. This matter might end up as an embarrassing federal court case.

Finally we have Christine O’Donnell, the Delaware whiz who thought she was being clever in suggesting to her opponent that the dictum of separation of church and state cannot be found in the Constitution. When she was informed that the Constitution denies Congress from making any law establishing a religion she appeared suddenly enlightened as a child would when first learning that the Earth rotates around the Sun, not the opposite.

No one should bother to spend time talking about Buffalo’s ruffian candidate for governor, Carl Paladino. He is the most colossal joke the Republicans ever played on New Yorkers.

All these “scholars” recognized, as we all do, that things in America are in terrible shape but not one of them have a clue on how to solve them. All they have is sound bites designed to incite the public, not to sort out the problems. They all believe Obama is a culprit and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the wicked witch of the West, and they want to go back to the good ole days of Republican dominance in Washington.

Virtually all Americans would like answers to our mounting national problems. But is this the crew we should be looking to for answers? Reasonable people have to say no. There are trends afoot that indicates there might be sanity creeping back into the nation’s psyche.

Democrats are beginning to show improvements in the polls. Senator Reid has moved up to a tie with Angle in Nevada. Lisa Murkowski, Miller’s write-in GOP opponent in Alaska, surprisingly is sticking close to him in the polls. Joe Manchin is holding his own in West Virginia against carpet-bagger John Raese. Joe Sestak is pulling ahead of Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Christine O’Donnell supposedly has no chance against Chris Coons, the Democrat.

No question that the election two weeks hence will be a nail-biter but at the moment it doesn’t look all that bad for Democrats. It should serve as a wake-up call for them since they have not performed well enough during Obama’s first term to have earned anyone’s esteem. But as usual the GOP failed to capitalize on the circumstances. They shot themselves in the foot by allowing the wingnuts of the Tea Party to steal their thunder.

A handful of reasonable. solid conservatives could have guaranteed a Republican victory this year. That is no longer certain now that the Tea Party crowd is calling the shots for the GOP.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stay home Christine

By Don Klein

I try to steer my print comments away from local elections but Christine O’Donnell is too juicy to ignore. She s like a quirky kid sister who disrupts the normal family routine with just enough craziness that you want to hug her back to sanity.

In a strange way I actually like her. She’s not nearly as revolting as the screwball Tea Party candidate, Sharron Angle, running a moronic senate campaign in Nevada nor California’s gubernatorial hopeful, the offish Meg Whitman, who emits a snobbery that would dismay even Thurston Howell III, the pompous millionaire on Gilligan’s Island.

Christine, on the other hand, is a sweetheart, loopy maybe, but a sweetheart nonetheless. I feel sorry for her disastrous comments and her failing campaign. But somehow I think she would be a welcome guest at my dinner table any night I was in the mood for some eccentric conversation.

Who else would admit dabbling into being a witch these days? That would fire up any conversation. Further, she is the first person to say something funny about masturbation since I was a teen and rollicked over an adolescent claim having something to do with hairy palms.

With this (albeit muted) affection for her I watched with interest her televised debate with Democratic opponent, Chris Coons. Who else could get me to watch a debate between two candidates from Delaware? Even in the best days of Vice President Joe Biden, when he was their senator, no one could interest me in Delaware politics.

In today’s screwy environment here comes Christine, perky as she is kooky, with her chance to show the world the stuff she is made of. In the end we discovered that she is not the independent she likes to claim she is. She is a right wing Republican who endorses every harsh step back to the past. "That isn’t so," she protests saying she is beholden to neither major party.

As she continues to talk, however, she contradicts herself saying exactly the opposite. The only President Obama policy she backs is the inherited bad Bush war in Afghanistan that the president has tentatively embraced. She also likes the stepped up drone attacks.

Then there is the exchange over Coons’ bearded Communist statement and Christine’s witchcraft. She insists she has the right to call her opponent a "self-proclaimed Communist" as long as others refer to her being a witch. She said both occurred when the candidates were a lot younger and made strange public remarks.

Well, I am sorry to tell you dear Christine, but there is a difference. Coons explained that his comments were a college spoof that everyone at the time accepted as a goofy charade and that he has always been a "clean-shaven Capitalist." Further, his career actions have proven his political credentials.

As far as Christine being a witch? No one ever took that seriously. Even when she first made the straight forward admission, people laughed at the prospect. It is not on the same level as accusing an opponent of something that you know is untrue. No one called Christine a witch in this campaign. If she hadn’t gone on television with a commercial starting with "I am not a witch" no one would be thinking of it now.

There again we see the behavior of troubled kid sister lashing out without concern for facts or perspective. She speaks like a teenager without evaluating the impact of her words.

Christine also tells us that evolution is a myth. Most educated people throughout the world know that God did not create the galaxy in six days and rested on the seventh. That’s biblical myth and even the overwhelming majority of devout people know it. By rejecting creationism they are not diminishing their belief in deity. One does not rely on the other to be true.

The plain fact is only the intellectually blind believe in the Bible’s version of creation. Let me point out one fallacy in that belief. If God as so many believe is an omnificent, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient a force that could create this complicated world in less than a week, does he really need a day off to rest?

What does being all powerful, all knowing, being everywhere at once with the ability to create whatever is needed mean anyway? Does such a force really need union hours? And what would this force do on it’s day off anyway? Frolic in the park with angels, watch a football game, visit a museum, rest in a hammock eating cherries?

Nevertheless Christine rejects evolution in favor of creationism. Is that the kind of person you want in the US Senate deciding on the serious issues of the day? Then when she was asked during the debate about her Evangelical beliefs, she gave the most vague response, "What I believe is irrelevant."

Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho! That’s when all viewers should have discovered being cute and perky does not mean you are ready for political prime time. What Christine believes is very relevant since she would be voting on matters that concern the future of the nation.

Fortunately the latest polls indicate that Christine has little chance of winning, being behind her opponent by double digits. For the record, Angle and Whitman are both doing better in close races in their states.

Christine O’Donnell I like you. Come to dinner at my house sometime. But stay out of Congress. There are enough kooks there already. We need people like you back here in the civilian sector to give us things to laugh about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Defining real allies

By Don Klein

With allies like Pakistan who needs enemies? For a decade we have bolstered that country with billions of dollars in aid and what has it gotten us? Nothing worthwhile.

They were supposed to use some of the $10 billion we gave them to snuff out the
Taliban and al Qaeda irregulars running freely in their northern provinces where they openly run terrorist training camps for disgruntled Muslims from around the world. But the Pakistanis are too craven to take on an enemy within their borders.

Further they wouldn’t let US forces go into their territory to root them out because this would be too damaging to their self-esteem. In the end they would not do what needs to be done and they wouldn’t let us do it either.

Today we have a similar situation. Our alleged ally closed the border crossing used by American forces as a supply line to units in Afghanistan because of an accidental killing by Americans of two border guards. The blockade forced supply trucks to backup on the Pakistani side of the border becoming sitting ducks for insurgents.

In the past seven days they have been juicy targets for rebels. The halted convoys have been chewed up daily with severe losses of goods and materiel needed at the front. The Pakistan authorities sat on their hands all this time claiming it was not their job to protect the trucks.

And since they would not let US forces inside Pakistan to do their work for them, the vehicles have been as vulnerable as cattle in a pen, blasted time and again while the ingrate Pakistani government stood by. They wouldn’t protect them, and they wouldn’t let others protect them. That’s what we call a friendly nation?

I think not. It is time to break ties with these spineless, contradictory people. Discrepant Pakistan was, and still is, a thorn in the side of every western country by exporting terrorism. It claims to be our friend but never lifts a finger to help. It might be they don’t know how to help.

They failed miserably to assist their own people thrown into turmoil by earthquakes and floods. Many locals are still waiting for the government to come to their aid. All they know is to take handouts and hide in the corner when real action is required.

It is clear to many people the Pakistanis cannot govern themselves. They are incapable. They would have been better off to listen to the late Mahatma Gandhi and remain within the Republic of India, which in the 63 years since the two peoples split up has developed into a modern, forward-looking democracy.

By the way, American troops were allowed to cross the Pakistan border to bring helicopter supplies to the earthquake and flood victims. That was all right with the thankless government but fighting northern province insurgents with US forces when their military refused was taboo.

They are worthless collaborators in times of necessity. Apparently similar unworthiness is true of the Afghan government, if you can call it a government. President Karzai is reported to be holding secret negotiations with the Taliban while accepting aid from the US in cash, and more so, in the presence of 110,000 American troops which keep him in office.

Scheming is the common bond between these two sorrowful nations. They continuously fail to live up to their end of a bargain. Isn’t it about time we changed our policy towards these dubious "allies?" Here is my suggestion:

1. We withdraw our military forces from Afghanistan rapidly and let Karzai fend for himself. We also end foreign aid in this hopeless cause.
2. We should also halt funds to Pakistan. Another hopeless cause.
3. While we are withdrawing our forces in the Middle East, we should also bring all troops back from Europe. In case you hadn’t noticed the war there ended 65 years ago.
4. Ditto the US troops in East Asia for the same reasons.
5. With these troops inside the US again, use them to shore up border crossings to assist is stifling illegal immigration.

There are lots of benefits to this approach. To begin with we can reduce the size of the Army and thereby save billions in the budget. It will also make other well-heeled countries around the world more responsible for their own security and save our forces and our global initiatives for international hot spots like North Korea, Iran and Israel.

It is time for us to realize we are stretched too thinly across the world and our effectiveness is waning as we toss too many balls in the air at one time. This policy will be more economically beneficial and help restore domestic confidence in the government by cutting back worldwide obligations.

Since World War II ended we have been trying to be the country that is all things to all peoples and it just cannot be done. We are not interested in empire building like the British in the 19th Century so our international obligations are voluntary. Let us employ our best traits as technological innovators and economic dreamers towards peaceful goals and stop worrying about the welfare of every dismal corner of the globe.

The simple fact is that we are now a debtor nation and cannot continue to be the world’s sugar daddy for poor nations. It cannot continue. So when we have false friends like Pakistan and Afghanistan who are often worse than enemies, we must cut them loose and use our international clout to work with real

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

By Don Klein

The Democrats are behaving like lost sheep in the wilderness. They are starting to panic with ill advised comportment. Instead of trumpeting the good they have accomplished during the last year and a half and contrasting that with the bleak future we will face if the Republicans take over, they are publicly scolding their followers.

Instead of proudly itemizing that which is in their favor, they seem to cower at the prospect of certain defeat. The Democrats have lots to crow about, even if they did not match up to President Obama’s promises, even if they have had disappointments along the way.

They have two important elements in their favor. 1) the social and economic advances accomplished since they took over the White House in 2009, and 2) the gloomy prospects every working class person faces with a Republican victory. Those two should be enough to bring in enough votes for them to hold power in Washington.

But so far they are ineffectively saying little about these important matters. If they loose in November by sitting in the corner and contemplating defeat while allowing the opposition take the political initiative from them it will be their own fault.

With a mere five weeks left before election day, rather than rebuking their justly disappointed following, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden should spend their time exhorting the countryside with positives -- not negatives.

Since they seem unable to come up with a program of their own, I offer them the Klein Plan for Victory on November 2.

++ Remind the voters of the good aspects of the health plan despite the lack of the preferred public option. There are many good elements in what the GOP likes to call Obamacare yet they make it sound like the plan is an abomination. Let the people know all the facts and how it helps many who are now at last covered.

++ Tell the public which has been badly stung by the shenanigans of Wall Street that the Obama program to reactivate regulations on the financial industry, although not perfect, will restrict the behavior of the robber barons in the near future.

++ Let those with short memories be reminded that a children’s health bill was passed over Republican objections as was the bailout which saved millions of jobs, a regenerated infrastructure is in the works and Obama kept the recession from declining into a full blown depression.

++ Cue them in on the near collapse of the auto industry and how it was saved by Obama’s quick action and how the automakers are on the road to health and will repay all that the government invested in them with interest.

++ The most effective argument for retaining the Democrats in power, however, will be to expose what the Republicans plan to do if they win. They promise to reduce the federal budget, but will not touch military funds and social security. What is left? Medicare, unemployment benefits, education, environmental programs, and the like. This should immediately turn off the senior citizens, couples with young children, and the unemployed.

++ The Republicans would disband the Health Care Law to the disadvantage of millions and continue to hamper any effort to effectively restrict illegal immigration to the consternation of those living in states bordering on Mexico.

++ A victorious GOP would maintain the tax cuts for the wealthy at a tremendous cost to the rest of us further plunging the country into deeper debt and would encourage the continuation of outsourcing and other programs to benefit corporations at the cost of American jobs. They already have apologized to BP for being forced by Obama to underwrite oil spill losses to individual Americans.

++ The Republicans just offered a Pledge to America which was short on specifics but long on generalities. They offered not a single new idea and in effect have suggested that if they get their way they will close down the government to set themselves up for a 2012 presidential victory.

The latest polls have shown signs of improved standing for Democrats and with more than a month to go this upward trend should continue and make the election not the runaway some have predicted, but a close battle. That is providing the Democrats show a lot more gumption then they have so far.

Talk about what is still left to do, about the continued Democratic agenda for change. They should be parroting Al Jolson’s old line: "You ain’t seen nothin’ yet." All the GOP offers is back to the dormant Bush years.

As long as they act like losers they will probably end up proving the proposition. For decades I have watched the Democrats act like they were ashamed of doing the right thing. Recently they put off a vote on the allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire until after the election. What a bunch of craven back alley mice.

The more I talk to people about their preferences in national elections the more I hear them sound off with the same thoughts even though they might express it differently. It comes down to the saddest of all conclusions for a great people who invented the concept of free elections of government leaders. Too often the beautiful ideal is corrupted by the election of unresponsive and callous legislatures.

What is that thought they all have? "I vote for the lesser of two evils." Although neither party is worth a goat’s derriere, the difference this year is that one evil – the Republicans – is a lot worse than the other. And the Democrats should speak out about it or we all loose.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rally for moderation and fear

By Don Klein

Blame it on Martin Luther King. He started the prevailing concept of the epochal political march on Washington. We’ve gone the entire route, from taxpayers rights and abortion rights, to gay pride and black pride, to Tea Party bombast and the Glenn Beck orgasmic ritual of tearful claptrap last month.

Now we finally reached the apex with the planned Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert marches on October 30. Stewart named his movement the "Rally to Restore Sanity" or simply the "Million Moderate March." Colbert wants his gathering to be known as "March to Keep Fear Alive."

Now there are a couple of marches I think I would like to join.
In case you are not up-to-date on such matters, Stewart presides over "The Daily Show" on the Comedy Network where he cleverly spoofs the lunacy of public figures who claim to speak for the people. Colbert prances around mocking conservative blowhards like Bill O’Reilly and others on "The Colbert Report" on the same network.

All the previous marches tended to replicate the historic "I Have a Dream" assemblage back in the summer of 1963 in which Dr. King gave his famous speech. An estimated 400,000 people attended and ever since groups espousing a cause have organized similar marches.

Unlike King’s masterful accomplishment none of those that followed made a lasting impression. The Stewart and Colbert attempt to mix comedy with stark reality perhaps will succeed where others failed.

All "march" promoters choose the site in front of the famous Lincoln Memorial, attempting to slather some of the reverence of the sixteenth president of the United States on their particular issue. The famous David Chester French sculpture is an impressive backdrop for any rally.

Dr. King choose the location because of the relationship the Great Emancipator to the black race in particular. However, there are no such connection with those who have massed there since. As far as anyone can tell Lincoln had no strong positions on abortion rights or taxpayers’ complaints or the rights of gun owners.

We can assume without quibbling that Honest Abe would not have endorsed Glenn Beck’s unfounded political accusations and his chronic disregard for the truth.

There is a chance, however, Lincoln might have wanted to attend the Stewart "march" on Washington. Who wouldn’t be in favor of a rally to restore sanity to this country at a time when the nation is being torn apart by greed and self interest? Wasn’t that part of the conflict Old Abe faced during his lifetime?

The country seems to be divided in two camps these days – maybe even three. A current New York Times\CBS News poll revealed that most of the country still prefers the Democrats in power. Party favorability tips towards keeping the Democrats in control of Congress by 27 percent to 23. That same poll shows 40 percent of respondents feel the Democrats have a better handle on problems than the Republicans, who have 33 percent.

As far as helping the middle class, 55 percent of the electorate favor the Democrats and only 33 percent like the Republicans, and in helping small business the lead the Democrats have over Republicans is 49 percent to 41.

None of these are breathtaking figures and some are so close that they just emphasize the wide split in the nation. America has had similar divides in the past and has survived. The trouble today is that there is a death wish towards opponents by too many politicians. The comity that once existed on Capitol Hill is no more.

What we have instead is virulent opposition of the minority party towards anything the majority attempts to do. In essence gridlock. The goal seems to be, either we are in control or –- governmental chaos. There are even threats by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leading Republican, of shutting down the government if the GOP does not win in November.

There are other insinuations to take over the country by force of arms if not at the polling booths by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann

It is attitudes like this that makes the Stewart "Million Moderates March" less of a comic reaction than a realistic and necessary destination. It is especially important at this time with the emergence of the Tea Party as a cannibalistic element within the Republican Party, eating its own in a drive to exorcize all moderates from the party. It seems just right of center is no longer acceptable among the angered Palin partisans.

It is easy to despair and moan there is nothing we can do about it as we grit our teeth waiting for the destruction of our country. This will not necessarily become our fate. Up to now there has been no wide scale, multi-party opposition at the voting booths to Tea Party extremists. They can be beaten down by a solid rejection in November.

In the meantime we need people to cool down and not let the incendiary rhetoric overwhelm us. That’s why we should be thankful there are opportunistic comedians who have taken on the challenge of rallying the moderates to Washington. They no doubt recall the famous Lincoln line which could be directed at today’s empty talking Right Wing:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bring Aleve into the voting booth

By Don Klein

Barack Obama is coming under a great deal of criticism lately and to a large extent he deserves it. His popularity is way down. Even on the campaign trail this critical year, Democrats are opting for former President Bill Clinton to campaign for them rather than the current president. To many it seems his usefulness is waning.

Obama’s major flaw seems to be his inability to make any noticeable progress with the weak economy which appears to be getting even weaker with every statistical report. His victories in health care and stricter Wall Street regulations are pyrrhic – no Democrat in a tough race this year mentions either if they can be avoided.

He also has run into and unexpected flaw. You would think someone with Obama’s oratorical skills would be able to reach out and transmit his thoughts effectively to ordinary people. Many have the feeling he is too cerebral in determining and explaining policy as well as being too oblivious to outlandish criticism. He is not effective with rank and file voters.

At times he seems to be a replica of Adlai Stevenson with the inclination to speak over the heads of grass roots types and at other times he behaves like another Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, during his disastrous 2004 campaign in not explaining with clarity where he stands on issues. There isn’t that fire in his personality that so many admired during the last election campaign.

Let it be clear that I reject all the off-the-wall criticisms hurled at Obama by what I call the lunatic fringe. Glenn Beck can call Obama phony names and weirdos can question where he was born and whether or not he is a Muslim. These facts do not enter into my political equation. I am looking at the real Obama, not the false one painted by mean-spirited political morons.

Evaluating his real problems, there are the times when Obama stubs his toes making totally unnecessary statements about circumstances that have no bearing on his office nor reflect on his moral responsibility. Many of Obama's off-the-cuff remarks make people cringe. The minute he entered the Cambridge brouhaha without fully understanding what went on between the professor and the police officer, nor having any definable presidential purpose, everyone but he knew it was a serious error.

Experts in public relations and those who toil for years in government service know that there are times you don't have to express an opinion, especially if it has nothing to do with your job.

There are a number of other incidents like that where we find Obama plunging into issues he doesn’t have to. At present I think of the New York mosque dispute. He propelled it into a national scene when in essence the matter was solved by the people of New York city. Now it is being used by a looney Florida pastor as a bargaining chip in his Qur’an-burning threat.

Personally I do not like the advice he is getting on many levels. To push so hard for health care reform all of last year and to settle for a washed down version when the major problem in the country was jobs is another misdirected effort. He seems to be more concerned about how history will treat him as the first president to succeed on health care than solving urgent current problems.

The only thing that keeps Obama in good stead is the outrageous GOP policy of obstructionism, and its love affair with the kooks of the Tea Party. This disastrous Republican strategy will save Obama from defeat in 2012 and might even mitigate the likely, or potential, losses of Congressional Democrats in this November's off year elections.

The trouble with American politics is that on one side we have an inexperienced and spontaneously miss-speaking president and on the other side a callous, leaderless and abusive opposition. One could conclude the nation is on the brink of chaos as a result.

During the primary campaign I supported Hillary Clinton on the grounds she had the experience and the balls to do what a president sometimes has to do. I supported Obama when Hillary was eliminated in the primaries. There was no choice in the general election since McCain-Palin was a joke ticket that would appeal only to rock-ribbed Republicans and simpletons.

I also supported Obama because I had the hope that he would deliver the country from the madness of the Bush-Cheney years. The added attraction was that I liked Obama. He was the kind of man I could vote for. But he has degenerated the upbeat support I once had for him to what has become the norm for me in past general elections – the choice of the lesser of two evils.

Now the question is what do we do about it? Given that the GOP appears ready to oppose Obama in 2012 with Gingrich or Palin, the choice is clear. I will swallow a handful of Aleve and vote for Obama.

To me, the Republicans are the most demoniacal of political parties. First they gave us the village idiot, George W. Bush. No need to go into specifics about him. Then by offering the senseless choice of McCain-Palin in 2008 and very likely Gingrich or Palin in 2012, they have almost guaranteed a second term of an inexperienced and often misdirected Obama.

Talk about history. It looks like we are standing on the precipice of the fateful end of the American reign of world power. The chill up my spine is caused by not knowing which budding foreign power will pick up the reins of leadership when America drops it. I see no qualified candidate for the job.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Obstinance and demagoguery

By Don Klein

The strange outburst of invective over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque not far from ground zero in lower Manhattan is unlike anything we should expect to hear in an American city, especially one so liberal as New York.

Religious institutions are usually given wide berths in the United States, the land where freedom of expression – and in this case, religious expression, is considered a sacred birthright. It is such an important aspect of American law that the first line in the Bill of Rights states:

"Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What could be clearer. The government must keep hands off religion.

But instead of clarifying this knotty problem, the religious admonishment which is so dear to the hearts of most Americans, has created a dilemma that has engrossed too many people for too long. It has invited headstrong obstinance on one side of the issue as well as ugly political demagoguery on the other.

It is not the fact that the proposal has to do with a religious structure. No not at all. If it were a proposed synagogue or church or even a Shinto temple there would be little, if any, objection. The problem is that it is a Muslim center.

It is too soon for people to forget the violent destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers almost nine years ago in which more than 2,700 New York workers, firemen and policemen were incinerated by the act of hate-driven Muslims who carried out their deadly act in the name of Allah, the Muslim deity.

It is irrational for people to believe that all the world’s 1.5 billion plus Muslims were of the same ilk as the radicals behind the slaughter. And certainly the overwhelming majority of American-Muslims are not of that violent persuasion. Granted there are pockets of anti-Western thought among some Muslims even in this country but few have manifested into attacks.

The world has heard time and again that Muslims are peace lovers and are not fairly represented by terrorists groups as al Qaeda or the Taliban or Hamas or Hezbollah. What disturbs most Westerners is the silence of so-called moderates in the Muslim world. They have been mysterious mute as one Muslim organized terror attack after another is reported.

There is a large number of Westerners who wait in futility to hear these moderates speak out against the violence generated by Muslims around the world. There seldom is anyone with the courage to do so. This becomes a true silent majority and often that is equated with approval of the ugly acts.

That is why so many otherwise reasonable thinkers in this country have raised objections when the thought of building a Islamic center close to the site of the worst foreign attack on the United States since the War of 1812.

The silence of the American Muslim community for whatever reason is often cited as the grounds so many non-Muslims object to the location. Sensibilities of many Americans, especially New Yorkers, are being frayed by the idea.

Westerners recall the wild overreaction to the publication by a Danish newspaper of a carton featuring the prophet Mohammad. It was explained to have offended the sensibilities of Muslims everywhere. Other western publications refused to run the pictures in order, they claimed, not to further pique Muslims.

Now we come to the mosque situation in New York. Many Americans are offended by the thought that this shrine would be built so close to the now hallowed ground of the 9/11 tragedy. Many feel that it would be wise for Muslim-backers of the plan to show the same kind of respect to the feelings of injured Westerners. Back off as many Western institutions did in the Mohammad cartoon matter. Move to less sensitive locale, they urge. The Muslims will not.

That’s the obstinate part. Now let’s look at the demagoguery taking place. We don’t have to look far. Newt Gingrich, in an attempt to appeal to the lowest elements in society, has hocked his title as a Republican intellectual, and started sounding like the village idiot.

On Fox News he suggested that building a mosque near the WTC site was like putting a Nazi emblem adjacent to the Holocaust Museum in Washington or a Japanese memorial at Pearl Harbor. Gingrich no doubt is hoping to gain the title of baron of inflammatory remarks.

Statements like that just diminish the justifiable feelings of those opposed to the mosque-cultural center. I can see both sides of the argument and nothing has anything to do with the Nazis or Tojo's Japanese of World War II vintage.

Personally, I would bow to the sensitivities of those who lost loved ones in the WTC attack and hope that the mosque-cultural center would move somewhere else. But in the end it doesn’t really matter that much where the center goes. It is up to the people of New York to decide and wherever it is acceptable to them is all that matters.

Actually the only thing that interests me right now, and I suspect many other people around the country, is for the story to go away. I feel it is a tempest that is getting more attention than it deserves. We have too many really important issues to be concerned with relating to the poor national economy and wide scale unemployment to be tangled up in this controversial nonsense.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Eating their own, GOP style

By Don Klein

Are the Democrats really headed for a fall at this November’s midterm elections? At lot of pundits seem to think so, which makes anyone who thinks differently subject to heaps of ridicule.

I may be putting my crystal ball in mortal danger but I am going to tell you why I think Obama’s party will not only retain control of both houses of Congress, but could actually improve their numbers in one or both of them.

There are four reasons skeptics contend the Dems will falter this election:

1. The party in power traditionally loses seats in off-year elections.
2. The economy is bad, joblessness is rife and the public thinks a change in the Washington power grid will work wonders.
3. The Republicans have played a callous anti-Democratic routine from the first day of this administration thwarting many positive programs with their negative stance, especially in the Senate.
4. There is a not too subtle campaign on the part of his bottom feeding detractors to appeal to the lowest possible denominator to smear Obama with ugly racial innuendoes.

I have a slightly different take on these assumed undeniable political consequences. I think at least three of these four maxims are refutable.

To begin with, the economy is bad and lots of people are out of work but I doubt if the public is so simple-minded they hold Obama to blame for the fiasco. Everyone who votes this November was around during the 2001-2009 period when the country was handed over to the big money people.

It was during the Bush administration that Wall Street was given an unregulated hand in doing whatever it pleased to make a profit no matter what it cost the rest of us. They took the regulatory policeman off the beat during that time and, in doing so, induced the horrendous financial meltdown with which we are still suffering.

By the same token I doubt if the majority if Americans are satisfied with the disreputable behavior of the GOP in the Senate by threatening endless filibusters on every piece of corrective legislation offered. The Democratic majority was ineffective in overcoming the maneuver requiring 60 to pass anything in the Senate as long as every Republican stood shoulder-by-shoulder shaking their heads "No."

It is clear the Republicans, also known now as the "Party of No," wished to sabotage every measure designed to improve circumstances for ordinary people during this period of strife. Despite that the majority party passed a health care bill and put badly behaving Wall Street under stricter financial regulations.

With a few exceptions the Party of No put a crimp in numerous bills designed to help ordinary Americans while at the same time announced they are determined to keep alive the preposterous Bush tax cuts for the two percent of the wealthiest in the nation.

They blocked the extension of unemployment checks to those who have been out of work so long their payments had expired. They supported the Arizona immigration laws and even proposed rescinding that the 14th Amendment to the Constitutional guaranteeing citizenship to anyone born within American borders.

In those two acts alone they have antagonized two large blocs of American voters – the 25 million who either are out of work or are employed at reduced hours and the 40 million Latino population. They also ticked off that large number of first responders to the World Trade Center attacks by denying them necessary extended health coverage.

But the worst damage the Republicans have done, was to cannibalize its own. It used to be that the Democrats were such a rebellious assemblage of independent minded people that they ate their own. Now it is the GOP that seems determined to devour all Republicans who stand this side of Ivan the Terrible.

The vicious internal battle to purge all moderate Republicans (non Tea Party types) and at the same time to paint Obama as some kind of Black tyrant in charge of a "gangster" socialist government is bound to backfire. The best polls give the Tea Party bunch only 25 percent of the Republican mass. Obama’s national popularity will take care of the ugly smears. You cannot win elections with only a smidgen of your base behind you.

Also you cannot win elections by always being against something. You need a positive plan and most of all you need an acceptable leader. The GOP has neither, unless you consider Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as standard bearers. We have yet to hear a single notable Republican reject any of the grotesque off-the-wall comments made by these two Right Wing gargoyles.

Finally the Dems can point with pride to the passage of the first Health Care bill in history, the avoidance of a serious depression by massive bailouts, the salvaging of the automobile industry and the enactment of legislation to control Wall Street from onerous behavior. All with little help from Republicans.

The Republicans by their deliberate action (or inaction) have made the first two years of the Obama Administration a one party show. They can claim no victories. They did nothing for the public. Anything positive that occurred was accomplished by Democrats.

With all this, the acclaimed political factor that the party in power always takes a hit during the first mid-term election is the only thing that stands in the way of a solid Democratic victory this year. But thanks to Republican intransigence on so many important issues, even that principle may go by the boards. We will see soon enough.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Too big to manage?

By Don Klein
In recent discourse we have heard lots about businesses that are too big to
fail. That was why the government charged in with billions of bailout funds
to help foundering enterprises on Wall Street and in Detroit. I am beginning
to wonder if the emphasis is in the wrong direction.

I get the impression there is a much worse problem. Could it be that this
country is too big to manage. It seems that America is too overblown in every
way and too diverse, for any administration to be supervised skillfully.

Take an objective look at the country. It stretches from the Atlantic to the
Pacific over a multitude of miles of mostly fertile land and is the home of 310 million people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicity. Russia has twice the land mass with half the population and a population density of 8.2 per square
kilometer. Canada has slightly more land than the US with merely ten percent
of the population .

The US stands third among land masses on Earth with 9,629,091 square
kilometers and a population density of 31.6 per square kilometer. The
average population density for the entire world is 13.1. And it will worsen as
the US gets bigger, and we will because we have the largest expanding
population among the world’s industrialized countries.

In a mere 40 years the United States Census Bureau projects the country’s
population will be 440 million, or a 46 percent increase over today. It appears
to be impossible to run the country today, how are we going to handle 130
million more residents?

A growing population in a finite land area puts all kinds of strains on
government. People need water, food and space to live comfortably. We
already use a larger space footprint per person than any country in 2010, what
can we expect in another few decades?

Another problem, if you can call it that, is the tradition of freedom that exists
in America. The population may be derived from different backgrounds but
the ultimate goal of most people is doing what they want, where they want to do it and when they want to do it. How is that going to be possible when we will be falling all over each other in the not too distant future?

Twenty-five years ago I was in China departing a Hangchow to Shanghai
passenger train and stepped onto the platform of the busy station. All I could
see was an endless mass of Orientals streaming to the exits. I was with a
small group of Americans heading for our chartered bus and had to walk
against the flow of human traffic to get to our awaiting vehicle.

It is impossible to describe the feeling of smallness in that situation. The
crowd was hardly belligerent, just curious at the sight of us, as they
maneuvered by. The impact of the shear multitude in such a small area made
me feel intimidated. It was a dreamlike vision, even frightening to share such
a small space with so many others.

The thought of that as the future of the United States, even on a smaller scale,
is enough to provoke nightmares. But that seems to be where the country is heading.

We don’t have enough roads, nor enough bridges and tunnels to traverse our waterways, there are times we don’t have enough water for all our needs, and who knows how long our food supplies will keep us all fat and happy.

There are forest fires that burn down homes, floods that wash away our
towns, hurricanes that damage our cities, tornadoes that level our villages. All
have a human element. The forest fires are often caused by careless campers,
floods are caused by the lack of trees cut down to make room for expanding
home sites and hurricanes and tornadoes wreak much of their damage
because population density results in the inability of people to escape their paths.

But the failure to manage the country lies in the inability to get things done in
Washington. It has become not a question of governance, but the challenge to govern at all. Gridlock in Washington is monstrous as the minority party
votes as one against anything the majority party sponsors.

Recent examples: The unemployed lose of extended benefits, the ailments of
first responders to 9/11 attacks go untreated. But there are worse signs of
mismanagement. Reportedly about 6,000 graves at Arlington National
Cemetery are misplaced, the Department of Defense routinely cannot find
billions of dollars of its budgeted funds, and there are times the government
cannot even deliver a letter in reasonable time and without great expense.

We heard about wounded veterans not getting proper treatment at Walter
Reed Hospital, the icon of American military medical facilities, and we learn
that suicides among fighting forces are higher than ever and specialists in the
field blame the military for not recognizing the problem early enough and
treating the people in need.

Then there is the two worst aspects of US government. One is the outlandish
corruption of officials. Every year there is another series of scandals
involving present and former congressmen and senators. Then we also have
the endless problem of protecting the country from illegal aliens entering
across our borders. We don’t seem to have the gumption to do anything about

They say they can save billions of dollars if they rid Medicare of its
inefficiency. The same is true of every government function. The military
wastes more money than any other agency because it gets more. There is
Social Security fraud and mismanagement, and other entitlements that could
be trimmed without reducing benefits, and education funds go astray, but
government thrives on waste and incompetence.
Is there another country with all these problems ? I don’t know , but I doubt
it. The problem is size and wealth. America is simply too big and getting
bigger every year, and too wealthy, even though it is a debtor nation.

They used to say New York city was too big the manage. That’s peanuts
compared to the nation. Places with the largest population are the hardest to run. Think of California’s money problems. Maybe we should not worry about that and just amble along in our incompetence.

I was fortunate to live through the Golden Years of America – from World
War II through the end of the 20th century. I am glad I will not be around to
see what’s in store for the people the next half century.

Monday, July 26, 2010

When the White House acts badly

by Don Klein

The Shirley Sherrod case is a perfect example of what happens when society becomes politically truculent. Somebody ends up tripping over his own feet. Nobody escaped this incident with clean skirts. But there were two kinds of disgrace citations to be awarded to those involved.

On one side we had the predictable underhanded troublemakers and on the other side we had the botched up stupidity of the do-gooders. I am not sure which is more harmful to the country in the long run.

I cannot image a single mentally sound person being surprised to learn that Fox News broadcast a phony, abridged video designed to discredit the NAACP and the Obama Administration. That’s their bread and butter. Their mother's milk. Lying and distorting news which defames their most favorite designated scapegoat is as natural to Fox as bananas are to monkeys.

Does anyone expect honest reporting and fair handling of news from a corporation whose owner is Rupert Murdoch, the Australian news mogul who makes his money selling trash wherever possible? His London tabloid, The Sun, for example, carries a daily page of naked young women to boost circulation and sadly tons of Brits plunk down their hard-earned moolah for this version of the "news."

He ruined the once liberal New York Post and now is on the way to infusing the erstwhile Wall Street Journal with his kind of questionable "journalism." When Murdoch is finished with it, the WSJ will be less than a shadow of its former self, much to the sorrow of all journalists and readers.

So there is no great surprise to learn that his television news network would sink to its lowest and portray in edited tape a decent government employee as a racist, especially since the record showed she was just the opposite. That’s the way Fox plays the news – hit someone below the belt, watch the confusion it creates and run for cover when the facts finally come out.

Then we have the other side of the controversy. It was more damaging, and to me very disheartening, the way Sherrod was treated by her superiors in the Obama Administration. Without a question, without a review of the phony tape, without even a second thought, she was asked to resign. They couldn’t even wait for her to get to her office. She was forced to fall on her sword on the side of the road while enroute to her destination.

Now let’s be clear. If a federal employee was found stealing paper clips and reams of stationery they would be hauled up before superiors and asked to explain their actions. Sherrod, a mid-level specialist in the Department of Agriculture, was denied that routine procedure expected by all employees. She was booted onto the sidewalk like an unruly drunk thrown out of a saloon.

Why? Allegedly because they expected Glenn Beck to feature her story on that evening’s broadcast on Fox. Her bosses wanted to get ahead of the story. So there was no time for her side to be told, nor was there time to review the entire video which exonerated her from any wrongdoing.

Slam dunk. She was out on her ear with not so much as a howdy do. That was worse than anything Fox did or Beck could have done (Beck did not mention the story that night). The Secretary of Agriculture violated this woman’s employment rights by dismissing her without a hearing on grounds that proved to be erroneous.

Shame. Is that what we should expect from our government? It is said she was asked to resign on the insistence of the White House. If that is true we need some house cleaning there. We have a bunch a nervous Nellies more concerned about what Beck might say than being fair with a longtime employee.

I never cared much for the people who surround Obama and provide him with advice. I often wonder if they were the ones who managed from behind the scenes the attempt to get bipartisan support for the Health Care bill by watering down its provisions. I wonder how much influence these people had in convincing Obama to accept a nearly toothless Financial Reform bill.

I will never forgive these opportunists on the Obama team for unjustly branding Bill Clinton a racist during the 2008 primary campaign. I know politics is rough and hard, but I viewed Obama as principled leader, a man who sought the higher plain of political participation.

But someone in his office gave the agriculture people reason to believe that Sherrod had to be jettisoned to avoid further conflict with Fox commentators. What crap. What cowardice. Loyalty requires that you stand up for you people and get the whole story before acting like jittery mice approaching a cheese-laden mousetrap.

I would hope that Obama, a decent man with honorable goals, will find out who pushed for Sherrod’s resignation and take that aide to the woodshed for a sound spanking. This incident did more harm to the Obama gang than anything they’ve done previously. This is not the act of an upfront, straight forward administration we thought we elected almost two years ago.

Obama should get rid of his overprotected adjutants (or at least reject their advice) and start being a pacesetter. As a Constitutional scholar he knows when a person’s rights have been violated. To have his administration guilty of such antics is a letdown to all his supporters.