Total Pageviews

Friday, September 23, 2011

From TruthDig: "The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Recalls Obama’s Fall From Grace"

This piece by Chris Hedges is an important contribution to our understanding of President Barack Obama.  In his interview with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, many of the President's basic instincts, his fundamental values, are revealed.  Yet, Hedges paints a picture of the President as one who sold out his pastor.  It was Hedges who provided us with Cornel West's demeaning characterization of the President.  Hedges is to be applauded for his principled progressive ideas when it comes to "the system."  On the other hand, it must be recognized that the ideas he promotes, in their unadulterated form, are not compatible with pragmatic politics.  
Obama did not sellout Reverend Wright.  When Fox News went on its campaign to discredit Obama's candidacy, in an endless loop of video clippings,  Fox displayed Wright with his rant to "goddamn America" as Obama's pastor and close confidant.  In response to Fox's determined and racist efforts to derail his candidacy, Obama was so committed to maintaining his relationship with Reverend Wright, he gave what was considered to be a historic speech on race.  In essence, that speech was in defense of Wright, whose relationship he in some ways maintained to be as important as that of his grandmother.   
On Sunday April 28, 2008, I attended Detroit's NAACP Freedom Fund dinner at which Wright was still a hero in the Black community.  Later that week, he appeared on the Bill Moyers show in which Moyers allowed Wright to show is allegiance to America  by presenting the record of his military service and an opportunity to explain to the nation the precepts on black liberation theology.   But then Wright made a mockery of himself at the National Press Club on that following Monday, leaving Obama no choice but to distance himself from Wright.  Obama did not sellout Wright.  Wright's behavior was an embarrassment.  He discredited himself and his theology at that press conference.
What is revealed in this interview is Obama's integrity and commitment to the American people and the black community.  The Hedges, West/Smiley and Wright criticisms of the President have more to do with America's economics and politics than Obama's personal commitment, or lack thereof.  Wright discusses an Obama who did not want to run for the Illinois senate if Carol Mosely Brawn was going to run.  Wright also pointed out the Obama being brought to tears when he came to understand the limitations of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Wright pointed out as well, Obama's commitment to the poor as exemplified by his community organizing to combat poverty in Algelt Housing Projects.  Wright pointed out this essence of Barack Obama, a person of compassion, integrity, and fairness.  
Yet Hedges uses Wright and West criticisms as examples of Obama having "squandered ...[his] soul" through "cowardice and moral bankruptcy."  These personal attacks are disgraceful because they lie about the man.  It was his decency that got him elected.  The attacks ignore the fact that Obama must perform the role of president in a hostile white nationalist America and obstructionist Republican party.  He is not a dictator.  Obama was elected to the "institution of the AMERICAN presidency."   Any major deviation from his "responsibility" as president in protecting "American values" would lead to his being discredited and delegitimized.  As Obama said on the night of his election, he was elected to be the president of "even those people who did not vote for me."   To not recognize that is naive at best or nihilist, at worst.  These attacks make it hard to hard to distinguish which is which.  RGN

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Recalls Obama’s Fall From Grace 

Barack Obama’s politically expedient decision to betray and abandon his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, exposed his cowardice and moral bankruptcy. In that moment, playing the part of Judas, he surrendered the last shreds of his integrity. He became nothing more than a pawn of power, or as Cornel West says, “a black mascot for Wall Street.” Obama, once the glitter of power fades, will have to grapple with the fact that he was a traitor not only to his pastor, the man who married him and Michelle, who baptized his children and who kept him spiritually and morally grounded, but to himself. Wright retains what is most precious in life and what Obama has squandered—his soul.
The health of a nation is measured by how it treats its prophets. When these prophets are ignored and reviled, when they become figures of ridicule, when they are labeled by the chattering classes and power elite as fools, then there is no check left on moral decay and the degeneration of the state. Wright, who spent 36 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side, since the 2008 presidential campaign has endured slander and calumny and weathered character assassination, misinterpretation and abuse, and yet he doggedly continues Sunday after Sunday to thunder the word of God from pulpits across the country. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fascism's American Expression in Century 21: Tea Party Reveals Itself to the World

Paul Krugman

The Tea Party has revealed itself for the fascist movement that it is.  The NAACP provided ample research that the movement was racist.  Among other things, the Nazis were racists.  But their racism was just one indicator of their backward misanthropic beliefs.  They don't just hate people of color. They don't like people who are not "  just like" them.  They have no humanitarian compassion.  They are selfish. But more importantly, they believe that might is right.  An essential characteristic of white supremacy is its "iron fist" fascist tendencies.  How else could lynching and Jim Crow be explained?  Being intolerant is not limited to the issue of race.  At the CNN-Tea Party debate this past week, the audience cheered at all of the wrong times.  They cheered when Governor Rick Perry defended the 235 executions that have taken place during his tenure as Governor.  Even more, they cheered when Congressman Ron Paul, in response to a question about what should be the fate of a young (white) male in a coma but no health insurance?  Should there not be a safety net, provided by the government?  Should he be just left to die??? Congressman Paul said the young man had made his choice and that the government had no role in providing him support.  To the amazement of host Wolf Blitzer, the cheers from the audience were in enthusiastic support for the notion that he was "free to die!!!"   Columnist Paul Krugman explores the real meaning of Ron Paul's and the Tea Parties' stance on Americans being "Free to Die."   RGN
Free to Die
Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.
But that was then. Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”
I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.
The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Attacks on Obama are Wrong Headed: Right and Left

The racist Tea Party has been on a constant vicious attack since the summer of 2009 beginning with their town hall attacks on the health care legislation.  Mitch McConnell, following Rush Limbaugh's declaration that he wanted Obama to fail, stated his commitment to make the President a one-term president.  McConnell and his Republican legislators oppose everything Obama proposes for two reasons: 1) he's a Democrat and 2) he's black.  More recently, this chorus has been joined by members of the left.  Unlike the Republicans, the attacks on the left are that the President is not black enough or not committed to helping black people.  This is the position of  Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. Likewise, Clarence Lang, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education  has been very critical of the Obama for not addressing the major economic disparities facing the black community. 

Like his right wing counterparts, Cornel West has called for the President's defeat.  His was a plea for Senator Bernie Sanders to challenge the President in the primary elections would, like Ted Kennedy's challenge of President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 campaign lead to his defeat in the general election.  

In his analysis Jonathan Chait (below) provides an analysis of why the left is wrong and short-sighted in its attack on the President.  What the left does not realize is that the President is up against a racist right wing opposition that is committed to his defeat and secondly he is not a dictator that can command his every policy desire.  Consequently, Chait argues that the highly partisan right and its polar opposite the highly partisan left are both wrong headed in their attacks on the President.  RGN

What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama
Published: September 2, 2011

This has been the summer that liberal discontent with Obama has finally crystallized. The frustration has been simmering for a while — through centrist appointments, bank bailouts and the defeat of the public option, to name a few examples. But it has taken the debt-ceiling standoff and the threat of a double-dip recession to create a leftist critique of the president that stuck.

Obama’s image as a weakling and sellout on domestic issues now centers on his alleged resistance, from the very first days of his presidency, to do whatever was necessary to heal the economy. “The truly decisive move that broke the arc of history,” wrote the Emory professor Drew Westen in this newspaper, “was his handling of the stimulus.” Just as the conservative repudiation of George W. Bush boiled down to “he spent too much,” the liberal repudiation of Obama has settled on “he didn’t spend enough.”

There’s truth in that. President Obama underestimated the depth of the crisis in 2009 and left himself with bad options in the event the economy failed to recover as quickly as he hoped. And yet the wave of criticism from the left over the stimulus is fundamentally flawed: it ignores the real choices Obama faced (and the progressive decisions he made) and wishes away any constraints upon his power.

The most common hallmark of the left’s magical thinking is a failure to recognize that Congress is a separate, coequal branch of government consisting of members whose goals may differ from the president’s. Congressional Republicans pursued a strategy of denying Obama support for any major element of his agenda, on the correct assumption that this would make it less popular and help the party win the 2010 elections. Only for roughly four months during Obama’s term did Democrats have the 60 Senate votes they needed to overcome a filibuster. Moreover, Republican opposition has proved immune even to persistent and successful attempts by Obama to mobilize public opinion. Americans overwhelmingly favor deficit reduction that includes both spending and taxes and favor higher taxes on the rich in particular. Obama even made a series of crusading speeches on this theme. The result? Nada.

That kind of analysis, however, just feels wrong to liberals, who remember Bush steamrolling his agenda through Congress with no such complaints about obstructionism. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald recently invoked “the panoply of domestic legislation — including Bush tax cuts, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement — that Bush pushed through Congress in his first term.”

Yes, Bush passed his tax cuts — by using a method called reconciliation, which can avoid a filibuster but can be used only on budget issues. On No Child Left Behind and Medicare, he cut deals expanding government, which the right-wing equivalents of Greenwald denounced as a massive sellout. Bush did have one episode where he tried to force through a major domestic reform against a Senate filibuster: his crusade to privatize Social Security. Just as liberals urge Obama to do today, Bush barnstormed the country, pounding his message and pressuring Democrats, whom he cast as obstructionists. The result? Nada, beyond the collapse of Bush’s popularity.

Perhaps the oddest feature of the liberal indictment of Obama is its conclusion that Obama should have focused all his political capital on economic recovery. “He could likely have passed many small follow-up stimulative laws in 2009,” Jon Walker of the popular blog Firedoglake wrote last month. “Instead, he pivoted away from the economic crisis because he wrongly ignored those who warned the crisis was going to get worse.”

It’s worth recalling that several weeks before Obama proposed an $800 billion stimulus, House Democrats had floated a $500 billion stimulus. (Oddly, this never resulted in liberals portraying Nancy Pelosi as a congenitally timid right-wing enabler.) At the time, Obama’s $800 billion stimulus was seen by Congress, pundits and business leaders — that is to say, just about everybody who mattered — as mind-bogglingly large. News reports invariably described it as “huge,” “massive” or other terms suggesting it was unrealistically large, even kind of pornographic. The favored cliché used to describe the reaction in Congress was “sticker shock.”

Compounding the problem, Obama proposed his stimulus shortly after the Congressional Budget Office predicted deficits topping a trillion dollars. Even before Obama took office, and for months afterward, “everybody who mattered” insisted that the crisis required Obama to scale back the domestic initiatives he campaigned on, especially health care reform, but also cap-and-trade, financial regulation and so on. Colin Powell, a reliable barometer of elite opinion, warned in July of 2009: “I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president — and I’ve talked to some of his people about this — is that you can’t have so many things on the table that you can’t absorb it all. And we can’t pay for it all.”

Rather than deploy every ounce of his leverage to force moderate Republicans, whose votes he needed, to swallow a larger stimulus than they wanted, Obama clearly husbanded some of his political capital. Why? Because in the position of choosing between the agenda he came into office hoping to enact and the short-term imperative of economic rescue, he picked the former. At the time, this was the course liberals wanted and centrists opposed.

The full article