Steven Jonas (211)
As a lifelong Secular Humanist of the Jewish persuasion, it is very difficult for me to admit to the title of this Commentary, but I have finally become convinced of its truth. The events of the last few days have been the culmination of a series of them that began with the election of George W. Bush. And so, there is simply no way around the recognition of the fact. I just want to briefly share my thought process and reasoning with you.
You Can't Tell the "Cut-and-Runners" Without a Scorecard
Even as Bush (wonder if Cheney went along with this one) announces an agreement "in principle" with the Iraqis to withdraw American forces by some given date (2010? 2011? 2012? it's not quite clear, but by some sure date, McCain proclaims over and over again that while the "surge has worked," unlike the policy of his lily-livered, politically opportunist, unpatriotic opponent, his approach will have the U.S. staying in Iraq until "victory is achieved." (Except that McCain too might order a withdrawal, of some sort, at some time not exactly certain but certainly not uncertain, but certainly in less than 100 years, too). The little details of how exactly "victory " is to be defined and how much it, whatever it is, will cost in American lives and borrowed money, is left unstated by the McCain campaign.
Consider the following. A new Mexican government decides to revisit the "Spot Resolutions" offered in 1847 by the then soon-to-be-one-term Congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had challenged President James Polk's claim that Mexican troops had killed several Americans on U.S. soil, a claim Polk used to start the Mexican War. Later, historical research showed that indeed the shootings occurred on disputed territory, to which Mexico had laid a long-standing claim. And so, this new, nationalistic Mexican government decides to take military action to take back some small bits and pieces of the land that the U.S. took from it in that war, which included much of the Southwest and California. The bits and pieces include such places as Brownsville and El Paso, Texas, home to many Mexicans, significant numbers of whom are being subject to increasing harassment by forces of the U.S. "Homeland Security" Department.
Since he secured the Democratic nomination for President, Sen. Barack Obama has been moving rapidly to organize, re-organize, and expand his policy staff. One feature has been the increasing presence of "Clinton people" such as Robert Rubin and Madeleine Albright. The response to this from an increasing number of progressives and leftists has ranged from raising caution flags to expressing outright horror: "what's he doing on Israel?" "what's he doing on FISA?" "what's he doing on campaign finance reform?" "what's he doing on 'free trade'?" There are three principal issues to consider here. First, do these appointments indicate any major changes in Sen. Obama's principal campaign theme of "Change We Can Believe In?" Second, whether yes or no, were they predictable? Third, what should the progressive/leftist response be?
In December 2000, Jim Baker, Republican Controller Extraordinaire, lead the engineering of the prevention of any recounts in the Florida "election" so GW Bush could take over (not "win") the Office of the Presidency by the width of one vote on the Supreme Court. In December 2006, Jim Baker, by now the leader of the "Thoroughly Disillusioned indeed Disgusted with GWBush" sector of the Republican Power Elite produced the final report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, created by Congress. The timing of the Report's publication had been conveniently arranged so it would appear after the 2006 Congressional elections. While the Group was indeed bipartisan, its unanimous report was endorsed by, among others, its two most right-wing members, former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, whose greatest claim to fame has been as the shepherd of the early career of Dick Cheney, and former Attorney General Ed Meese, under Ronald Reagan easily the most partisan Attorney General this side of John Ashcroft and Al Gonzales.
So we have had Charlie Black's comments about how useful for the GOP another terrorist attack on the U.S. would be, preferably if it came before the election. "Certainly it [such an attack] would be an advantage to us," he said. The quote first surfaced a couple of weeks ago in a leak of a Fortune magazine interview with him. It got a bit of play last time. Let's hope that it gets more now, for it is really worth while looking at and evaluating.
by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
When Princess Diana was tragically killed in an automobile accident on August 31, 1997, I was vacationing on Prince Edward Island, Canada. (One does have to note that at least it is likely that the crash was accidental, although some sources believe that it wasn't. What is virtually certain, I have to say as a public health physician, is that if the Princess had been wearing a seat-belt, it is very likely that she would still be with us, unless another accident would have befallen her in the interim.) Watching television that morning and for several days afterwards, one had to be taken with the genuine outpouring of sadness and sympathy that flowed forth all around the world, from people in many, many countries. She was treated as some sort of heroine. And who was Diana? An acknowledged beauty with a marvelous smile, married to the English Prince of Wales, with two even-then handsome sons, one of whom would be a future King of England if the monarchy were to last long enough.
Obama and FDR
Numerous observers and possibly even more numerous wishful thinkers are comparing Barack Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They do so in the sense that they are hoping that if elected, he will make major changes in American policy (in FDR's context, primarily domestic at the time; in Obama's case, obviously both foreign and domestic.)
On the evening that George McGovern was nominated for the presidency by the Democratic Party in 1972, I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. EDT to see and hear his acceptance speech on television. (Why so late? Because a representative of every single identity group that had supported him for the nomination insisted on getting podium time before he would speak. That was only the first disaster of that ever so badly run campaign. But that's another story.) Sen. McGovern gave a brilliant speech on a) the necessity of getting the U.S. out of Vietnam with all deliberate speed and b) on the necessity of returning to traditional American values after four years of Nixon. (Sound familiar?)
Why the Coverage of Wright was Wrong
Rachel Maddow is the number one (and number two and three) star of Air America Radio. She is now appearing regularly on the (in U.S. terms) left-leaning MSNBC, and even sat in as host for Keith Olbermann on May 16, 2008. To my ears, she is generally correct in her analyses. But she was wrong when asked what was wrong with the Rev. Wright "debate" that went on and on and on, on the mainstream media (with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" talking about little else over a two-week period). She said the problem was lack of balance on dealing with toxic Reverends. That was there surely, and it will likely continue throughout the campaign, as McCain's toxic Reverends never or perhaps barely make it to the radar. They did make a blip last week when McCain unceremoniously dumped two of them. But courtesy of Rove/McCain, you can be sure the Rev. Wright will be back full-time in October. After all, the Republicans have nothing else to run on.