Saturday, June 6, 2015

Santorum wants to pick the pope's positions

Pope Francis is soon to release what is being described as a "groundbreaking encyclical" on climate change.   It's widely believed that the pope will make his position clear that we have a moral and religious imperative to fight climate change and take care of our planet.

This document will probably be released before the pope's historic visit to the World Meeting of Families being held in Philadelphia this September.

This presents a problem for aspiring Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum:   A former senator from Pennsylvania, he is a devout Roman Catholic and he disagrees with the pope on climate change.

Santorum is trying a pre-emptive ploy, telling a Philadelphia radio host that the pope should "leave science to the scientists. . . . The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off  leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality. . . .  When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is not as forceful and credible."

Pope Francis earned a master's degree in chemistry before he entered the priesthood.    So it's quite likely that he can evaluate the overwhelming support that scientists give to the role human actions play in climate change, as opposed to the miniscule number of scientists who raise doubts.    He will take the science as a given -- and his encyclical will likely read more as a "moral and religious" imperative than a scientific debate.

Francis is a gentle shepherd for his flock, and he will no doubt be kind to Rick.   But he is also firm in his convictions -- and everything he has said and done suggests that he is not likely to take Rick Santorum's suggestion on this issue.


[Note:   In an earlier post on this, I mistakenly referred to the pope as "Benedict" instead of "Francis."   I regret the error, especially since there is such a difference in this pope and Benedict, his predecessor, on many issues I care greatly about.]

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hillary comes out swinging -- for voting rights

In the first major policy speech of her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton called for automatic, universal voter registration, as well as a national standard that would require each state to offer at least 20 days of early in-person voting.   She also called for Congress to give the federal government the power to review changes in state voting laws before they go into effect.

She also called on Republicans to "stop fear mongering" about the bogus issue of  so-called voter fraud.

The occasion was Clinton's being awarded the Barbara Jordan Public-Private Leadership Award at Texas Southern University in Houston.    

For those too young to have known her, Barbara Jordan was this magnificent African-American Congresswoman from Texas, with a voice like God, whose rhetorical thunder and moral authority could make strong men quake.   Jordan had a first rate legal mind that made her (in my opinion) the star of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Nixon impeachment. 

Unfortunately, she died much too young of multiple sclerosis -- but not before she gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and was mentioned as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter.    Bill Clinton later said that he would have appointed her to the U. S. Supreme Court if her health had permitted.   Instead, she returned to teaching ethics at the University of Texas School of Public Affairs.

Jordan was lesbian and had a partner of 30 years.   This was well known to close associates but had not been a subject of public discussion during her time in Congress, which was well before the Barney Frank era.

Back to Hillary Clinton.    Voting rights was a good choice for her to take on as her first big campaign speech as a first order issue;   it also fit well in the context of receiving the Barbara Jordan Award.   And, thinking politically, it doesn't hurt for Hillary to be associated with the memory of one of the most powerful and admired women in Washington history:  Barbara Jordan.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The freedom of not expecting to win

"Bernie Sanders's quest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is very unlikely to succeed, but his campaign has become an unlikely internet sensation, with Sanders content dominating social shares and driving coverage decisions. He's changing the conversation in American politics with an unusual — and effective — brand of politics."
They point out that the attention he's attracting does not indicate that he has a chance to win but, rather, "from the fact that he isn't even trying. Most politicians are trying, on some level, for mainstream influence. . . . "

"Sanders isn't like that. He's not going to win no matter what, and he knows it. After all, he is an avowed socialist with zero interest in big-dollar fundraising who's not afraid to say he thinks the US should fundamentally transform itself into a different kind of country.

"That leaves him free to just come out and say things that nobody making a serious bid for national office would say. Case in point: his recent exchange with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos. Here, Sanders praised the Nordic social model. When Stephanopoulos said it would be impolitic to say America should emulate foreign nations, Sanders said he didn't care. Sanders isn't going to be president no matter what he says to George Stephanopoulos, so he might as well say what he thinks."
And that is what makes him really stand out.   It's so refreshing.   People sit up and take notice.   And some of those people will agree with him and wonder why our liberal politicians haven't already been saying the same thing.

According to Yglesias and Posner, they haven't because they're afraid they can't say those things and win.   And I think they're right.

No, I doubt that Bernie Sanders will actually win.    But he's going to attract a lot of attention.  He's going to make a lot of people think about a single-payer health care system and other progressive ideas.  And he may have a powerful effect on Hillary Clinton's positions.    In fact, he already has. 


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"They're all still lying about Iraq"

This important article in the internet blog Salon is titled"They're all still lying about Iraq The real story about the biggest blunder in American history -- and the right wing's obsessive need to cover it up."    It was written by Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson, author of several books, including To Make Men Free:  A History of the Republican Party."

I'll do some condensing.   For anyone wanting to read the entire article, the link is:
"Republicans’ verbal gyrations over the Iraq War . . . .  provide an important window into a larger, crucial story. They reveal that Movement Conservatives remain rooted in a worldview that has been outdated for so long it is now delusional."
Richardson then reviews the Megyn Kelly/Jeb Bush interview that started all the "if you knew then what we know now" furor.    Richardson continues:
"But Bush’s first answer was not an errorIt revealed his continuing loyalty to a series of principles to which he actually put his name in 1997. With those principles, a group of elite white men set out to revive the Cold War world that had given men like them control of the rest of humanity. Those principles dictated the Iraq War, and — although they are completely obsolete — they still animate Movement Conservatives. . . . "
Richardson explains the history of the Movement:  Following the collapse of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet empire, the bilateral contest between two superpowers shifted to a more multilateral view of world power, with all the complexity we now see in various conflicts around the globe.

At that point, in Richardson's view, Movement Conservatives were left adrift, no longer in a world of easily defined forces of good/evil, us/them -- with the  simplistic goal of wiping out communism.   Instead world power was a complex calculus, with shifting multi-national links and interests -- more in need of skilled diplomacy than of guns and bombs."Movement Conservatives refused to recognize that what they saw as weakness and incoherence was an international adjustment to the realities . . . .  This was not the world Movement Conservatives knew. They wanted back the world they had controlled. . . .

"In [1997], political commentators William Kristol and Robert Kagan launched the Project for the New American Century. . . called for dramatically increased defense spending to . . . 'shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests' . . . 'challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values,' and 'promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad.'   America had a responsibility, the signatories to the statement said. The nation must 'accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.'  Dick Cheney, Francis Fukuyama, Norman Podhoretz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz were among the original signers of the documentSo was Jeb Bush. . . .

"When George W. Bush became president, 10 of the 18 men who had signed a letter urging Clinton to take out Saddam Hussein went to work in his administration. Donald Rumsfeld became defense secretary; Paul Wolfowitz was the assistant defense secretary. John Bolton became an undersecretary of state. Dick Cheney, an original PNAC supporter, became vice president.
"Only eight months after Bush took office, 9/11 offered an opening to effect the new American foreign policy PNAC members so desperately wanted. . . . [A]s soon as he heard of the carnage, Rumsfeld asked his aides to see if there was enough evidence to 'hit' Saddam Hussein as well as Osama bin Laden. When it turned out there was not, the administration created it, cherry-picking evidence or even falsifying it to justify a war in Iraq. So convinced were they that their worldview was right, they refused to acknowledge reality.

"Twelve years later, the war has cost more than $2 trillion and 4,500 American lives. Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and more than two million have become refugees. The vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam Hussein strengthened Iran and created the conditions for the rise of ISL. By any standard, the Iraq War was an error of colossal proportions. But Movement Conservatives cannot surrender the idea of a Manichean world in which they rule America and America rules the world.

"Rather than recognizing that their misguided attempt to recreate a bifurcated world in which America is preeminent created disaster in Iraq, Movement Conservatives are blaming the Iraq crisis on everyone else. Mistakes were made. . . .  laid directly at the feet of our intelligence agencies. This argument has been demolished by observers and participants both . . . .  The job of blaming bad intelligence got harder . . . when . . . Bush’s CIA briefer Michael Morell said that administration officials had lied about the intelligence the CIA had presented to them.

"With that avenue of excuse closing, Republicans turned to blaming President Obama for the debacle in Iraq. . . .  [T]he problems in Iraq were not 'because of President Bush’s strength, but rather have come about because of President Obama’s weakness. . . .   William Kristol insisted that the war in Iraq was a success until President Obama 'threw it all away. . .'

"This loophole has let Republican presidential hopefuls deny accountability for Iraq while still embracing the same principles that drove the decision to start that war in the first place. . . . 

"And where does Jeb Bush really standHe was an original signatory to the 1997 PNAC statement of principles. . . .  That worldview establishes that a small group of elites can simply dictate reality, no matter how out of touch with the real world they are. It is the last-ditch fight of an aging group of white men who cannot accept that their supremacy was not because of their extraordinary worth but because the vagaries of history aligned, very briefly, to make men like them supreme. Those historical circumstances were unique, and they are long gone."
So says Professor Richardson.   But there is a risk.   Still considered by many as the most likely Republican presidential nominee for 2016, Jeb Bush not only was an original member of the Movement Conservatives, but he has named some of the others as foreign policy advisers, including the scary Paul Wolfowitz -- and his own brother, George W. Bush.


PS:   In a comment yesterday, while talking about the need to raise the Social Security retirement age, Jeb Bush revealed that he doesn't even know that it is already up to 66 (not still 65) and that it is already set to go to 67 next year.     So -- don't vote for Jeb Bush on foreign policy grounds or on domestic policy grounds.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The myth of the missing black fathers

The most commonly cited cause of poverty and delinquency in the African-American community is the lack of fathers and stable families in the lives of their children.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) actually studied this and found that this is a myth.   In fact, black fathers are overall more involved, not less.

Wouldn't it be great to live in a country where public policy was based on actual social science data rather than on myth?    Try Norway.   They believe in science.    They believe in social benefits to give everyone a better life.   And they beat us on most measures of health, education, well-being, and happiness.  Public policy is not the servant of big money.  The majority of their parliamentary representatives are women.

Think about it.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Republicans -- a dying breed ?

Daniel J. McGraw political writer for Politico says that the "old" in  "Grand Old Party" has become descriptive, not just historic.

McGraw writes:
"The Republican Party voter is oldand getting older, and as the adage goes, there are two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Right now, both are enemies of the GOP and they might want to worry more about the former than the latter. . . .  [In 2016] Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.  The party’s core is dying off by the day. . . . 

"[F]ar more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. . . .  [T]he trend could have a real effect in certain states, and make a battleground states like Florida and Ohio even harder for the Republican Party to capture."
McGraw calculated from 2012 exit polls and mortality rates that roughly 453,000 more Republican voters have died than have Democratic voters.

William Frey of the Brookings Institute points out that, "millennials (born 1981 to 1997) now are larger in numbers than baby boomers ([born] 1946 to 1964), and how they vote will make the big difference.   And the data says that if Republicans focus on economic issues and stay away from social ones like gay marriage, they can make serious inroads with millennials.”

McGraw says that's not too promising, given that about 6 million new voters will be eligible in 2016;  and exit polling in the last two presidential elections indicate that this age group splits about 65-35 in favor of Democrats.  
"If that split holds true in 2016, Democrats will have picked up a two million vote advantage among first-time voters. These numbers combined with the voter death data puts Republicans at an almost 2.5 million voter disadvantage going into 2016."
Hold down the excitement, though, and don't back off on the hard work of campaigning.    Demographic numbers and the issues are important factors;  but there's a long way to go until 2016, with many opportunities to screw up, as well as obscene amounts of money for negative ads -- plus the debates.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Political strategy -- who owns the "trust" issue?

Republicans are going to try to make "You can't trust Hillary Clinton" a major theme of their campaign.   But, as Marty Kaplan pointed out in his column in the Jewish Journal, this could backfire on the Republicans.

They are relying on examples of Clinton changing her position on some issues.   Two examples:  voting to authorize the Iraq War and the current TPP, which she supported in the early stages but has become more cautious about as the agreement has been formulated.  These are honest evolutions of thinking with new information or changed circumstances.   And then there's all the baloney about emails and about Benghazi, to say nothing of leftover trash-talk from Bill Clinton's White House days.

BUT:  The truth that this meme will bring up -- and the Republicans don't seem to realize -- is that the Bush administration were the ones feeding false information about WMD in Iraq that led to the war.   They are trying to finesse this by blaming it on "faulty intelligence."   But it was Dick Cheney and his minions that shaped it the intelligence the way they wanted it. 

Kaplan writes, "this can boomerang. . . .  'faulty' is the wrong wordThe right word is 'fraudulent.'  If the intelligence justifying the invasion was later found to be unsound, well, that's unfortunate, but people aren't perfect. But if the intelligence was manipulated, concocted, cherry-picked, distorted, falsified, rigged -- if we were lied to -- then it's not a matter of knowing then what we know now.  It's a matter of what we were bamboozled into believing then.   As [RNC Chair] Priebus would say, 'it's a matter of trust.'" 

So maybe the Republicans shouldn't go down that road of talking about trust.

Kaplan continues:  "So the Republicans risk being caught in a trap of their own devising. The master narrative they're going with -- dishonesty -- is as dangerous for them as they want it to be for Hillary Clinton. They want the 2016 election to turn on the question 'Can you trust her?' But Democrats can use jiu-jitsu and make the election turn on the question 'Can you trust the people who duped you into Iraq?'

"Republicans may cling to the "faulty intelligence" story, but each day brings new evidence of deceit. Michael Morrell, the former CIA deputy director and acting director who gave George W. Bush his daily intelligence briefings, has now acknowledged that Dick Cheney was lying when he told us in 2003 that Saddam Hussein 'has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.' Cheney and the neocons (who've now set up shop in Jeb Bush's inner circle) told us there was a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but Morrell told Chris Matthews that that's 'not what the intelligence community' concluded. . . .  the factory for manufacturing the phony case for war was headquartered in the vice president's office.  Cheney, not W., is the real albatross around the neck of the Republican presidential field."

*   *   *
Let's hear it for the jiu-jitsu team ! ! !    And let's hope the Clinton campaign is getting all geared up to use the opponent's momentum against them.    This could make for some great debate responses to any jabs about honesty.