Monthly Archives: May 2013

School For Scandal

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the scandals that the Obama administration has created and I’ve been hearing “We told you so” from a lot of Republicans.  Right wing columnists and pundits have been saying that “things have never been this bad before.”

Oh really?

Let me see what I can remember just off the top of my head from previous administrations.  With Bush we had:president-bush-conspiracy

The Valerie Plame spy scandal

The Medicare scam

Jack Abramoff’s lobbying fraud and tax evasion

Abu Ghraib prison torture

Manufactured evidence and false intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq

Enron

Tom Delay’s criminal fundraising

Ashcroft’s violations of campaign finance laws

The Halliburton loopholes

Cheney’s secretive Energy Task Force

______________________

Clinton had his pre-presidency scandals (Paula Jones, etc), Travel-gate and Monica-gate, which consumed more ink than Watergate.  Even the junk press (The National Enquirer, The Globe, Fox News) made its bones on every birth-marked inch of Clinton’s public and pubic life.

______________________

President Reagan trumps them all with Iran/Contra, but let’s not forget the Savings and Loan scandal, or the Department of Housing and Urban Development grant rigging….or the Inslaw Affair that alleged that top-level officials of the Department of Justice were involved in software piracy and then failed to appoint an independent counsel to investigate it.

By the end of his second term,138 Reagan administration officials had been convicted, had been indicted, or had been the subject of official investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations.

reaganWhat we really can’t forget, as the Benghazi controversy rages, is Beirut in 1983.  President Reagan, over objections from his secretary of defense, ordered that American servicemen be sent into a war zone, as part of an international peacekeeping force, but, under strict presidential orders not to load their weapons.  Reagan was attempting to make it clear that we came in peace, but, terrorists killed 299 essentially defenseless American and French servicemen.

_____________________

And today Republicans are in a bunch over what was known, or not known, concerning Benghazi and an alleged bias within the IRS.

Benghazi was a horrible tragedy, and I am all for accountability, but, in that light, it’s important to remember that in 2012 Republicans voted to remove $331 million from security budgets at international consulates and embassies.  Should a glaring spotlight of accountability be aimed there, as well?

As for the IRS….Dr-Evil-IRS-300x239we all hate the IRS so they become a pretty easy target, but with regard to the Obama “scandal” there are some important points to consider.

First of all, the commissioner at the time of the “targeting” was a Bush appointee, so that should be a head scratcher, but most interesting to me is the genesis of the targeting.  Four years ago the IRS was facing an explosion of newly formed 501(c) 4 groups claiming tax exempt status.  That tax classification is only for groups that primarily promote education or social welfare, and not electioneering, but a wealth of applications came from tea party related groups.  Red flags started flying toward any group applying for this status with names containing “Tea Party.”

Although the majority of Tea Party related organizations complied with tax guidelines, the scrutiny had begun.  Not exactly the Controversial Scandal to End All Scandals that the right-wing is trying to make it; not when you put it in its historical context.

Furthermore, this is not even a new controversy and it originally played out the other way around.

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” said California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff.  “I found only one Republican that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”

Double standards, anyone?

I remember someone saying less than 6 months after Obama took office in 2009 that he was going to be “the worst President in history.”  And he was only echoing what the right-wing media blitz was already saying.  Given that no policy had taken effect and that we were mired in a recession set into motion nearly two years earlier, that would indicate nothing but a predisposition to see Obama fail, and not a measure of any action or policy that he had taken.

And now I am even hearing some Democrats start to question President Obama’s ability to get things done and to question his integrity.  That does not come from anBarack Obama awakening or enlightenment, but rather it is the inevitable result of a constant beating of a right-wing drum that has questioned everything about this President from day one, using a media conspiracy formed by Fox News, talk radio and a conservative blogosphere frenzy.

The President’s faith has been questioned and attacked, as well as his citizenship, and even his patriotism, in a never ending maelstrom of misinformation, fanned by the REAL bias in our political arena:  Hatred.

With a Republican agenda of 100% obstructionism and billions of lobbying dollars, how was a new gun control measure to pass?  Or a job’s bill.  Or necessary financial reforms.

Yet, under President Obama we have seen a stock market rebound and reach a new high, troop de-escalation in the Middle East, health care reform that was talked about since Eisenhower become a reality, and unemployment is below where it was at the beginning of the worst recession in 80 years.

smallimgSo, Democrats—buck up!  This man has been nothing short of remarkable.

Republicans—shut up!  Your Herculean efforts to bring down our President may turn against you as you spend your time creating scandals to define him, while failing to do what you should be doing; cooperating in Washington to further the best interests of the American people.

In the wind of change

“Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of
tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change.”

So proferred Scorpion.  Perhaps, a dated, pseudo-anthem from only a marginal metalScorpions-band-pic band from Germany, but….well I only had so much time to think of a quote, so that’s the one you get.

It is relevant, however.  As immigration continues to be hotly debated, there is change in the wind from what was once hardline rhetoric from the right.  Republicans, still smarting from President Obama’s decisive victory among Hispanics (71% in 2012 and 4% higher than 2008), have had a come-to-Jesus (hay-soose) awakening.

Governors, including Jan Brewer of Arizona and Alabama’s Robert Bentley have avoided discussing their get-tough approaches on immigration in recent months as the party seeks to soften its position. Republicans are looking for a way to reshape their image with the fastest-growing block of eligible voters.

At least that is what Republican leadership is saying. As for the rank and file, right wing voter…well, not quite so much.  As I nodded off to sleep the other night I was watching the viewer mail segment on CNN and some of it addressed immigration and cited the Arizona immigration law as being the template America should follow.  All but one condemned the Federal Government for filing law suits against Arizona to question the legality of the law.  One said: “Obama does not listen to the will of the American people and continues to force his liberal agenda onto us.”

An interesting irony may reveal itself soon as these voters inflict their will onto their own party leadership who, for survival (and relevance) may have already succumbed to the “winds of change.”

Perhaps, if there could be a better understanding of what it is that leadership is supposed to do, within a Republic, we could move in a more cooperative direction.  What I hear over and over is that the role of the President (and government) is to do the bidding of the majority; to be their proxy.  It isn’t.

This is actually a rather simple concept to grasp, but it seems to fall on deaf ears:   Simply because a majority of people feel one way does not mean that it is a realization of truth or justice.  Once upon a time a “majority” of people thought the world was flat.  So…was it?
Did it only become a sphere when most people agreed that it’s so?

I use the next example often, but once upon a time most people didn’t think women had the necessary acumen to participate in politics. Did that false assumption only become untrue when more people came to realize that women were entitled to the same participation as men?  These aren’t just misguided mistakes from the distant past either; guaranteeing the civil rights of minorities, contrary to the will of a majority, happened in my lifetime.

Truth is not determined by the opinion of a majority.

Democracy can be as misunderstood as Lindsey Lohan, and as prone to addiction.  We use it as a blanket description of what America stands for and the freedom we embrace, but it’s actually only a component of the Republic for which we stand.  The concept of freedom set forth contends that Inalienable Rights extend equally to even the quietest among us, the smallest voice, the minority, as well as the majority.

So what’s this have to do with the Arizona Immigration Law and what appears to be a majority opinion in favor of it?

Simple:  We live in the United States of AmericaWe are not a police state- Our freedom extends to every citizen and that means that we are not required to carry our Citizenship Papers in order to pass freely. We cannot be subjected to random profiling.  To acquiesce to that “protection” is the sharpest turn toward tyranny, oligarchy, plutocracy, anarchy (name your “y” form of repression) we can possibly make.

There is a price to the freedom we embrace and defend. Freedom is vulnerable and it can even be dangerous.  The realization of freedom can lead to consequences that are unfavorable even to a majority, but we have to accept those risks in order to maintain its strength.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t vigorously try and correct flaws, but we must do it judiciously, compassionately and legally. Once we begin to allow our fears to confine the reach of freedom and justice, we take steps toward minimizing what it means to truly be free.

Illegal immigration does cost states a lot of money as services are provided for people who are not fairly contributing to the system and I have no argument with the fact that it must be curbed, but immigration processes should be examined and amended to allow for better “legal” immigration.  “Profiling” cannot be used to enforce these laws.  We cannot defy our own Constitution and the application of justice in order to combat the problem.  We all lose that way.  The Arizona law offends what is clearly outlined as our Constitutional protection of freedom, no matter how effective (or popular) it might be.

It is not the President’s duty to blindly support the will of a majority, but, rather, to challenge any act that offends America’s promise of Freedom.  It’s OUR job to hold the President, and all elected officials, accountable, but, that only works when we know what it is that America stands for.