Of all the criticisms the President has received, the fact that he golfs during various world crises has to be one of the most inane. And yet the jabs keep on coming. Frankly, I think it's because his opponents can't think of anything more substantive.
The President was criticized for his "failure" to meet with one of a number of new revolutionary leaders overthrowing a dictatorial country. It wasn't all that notable. The fact that the meeting occurred with the Vice President was entirely appropriate, fitting diplomatic norms. But he was seen golfing, and so a certain biased media outlet played it up. The President is too busy playing around to handle diplomacy. He "snubs" a new leader.
A putting green in a small corner of the White House grounds has attracted inordinate attention. It seems squirrels have been tearing it up. The reasonable action is to remove the squirrels. So, naturally, opponents come to the defense of the poor innocent squirrels. Senator Neuberger of Oregon has invested a great deal of energy on the matter, calling on the President to leave the poor rodents alone. Partisans are setting up a Save the White House Squirrels Fund. Amazing.
The most cutting attack has been that the President has indulged in the game while the nation fights in war-that-is-not-called-war. You would think that it would be a little embarrassing to an opposition party that conflict inherited by the current President is successfully winding down. But no. They are willing to go after his golf game. The President of the Augusta Tournament? Give me a break.
Politicians tend to veer toward the sly at times. "He invented the 36-hole work week," says one political wit. The day the President came back to Washington from a day of golf at Cypress Point, another slammed the President, hoping he "has time to face some of the realities of our diminished stature in the world and lost opportunities at home and when I speak of 'lost opportunities', I don't mean on the putting green." Ha-ha-ha. Clever that! The quickest response came from the New York Daily News, with an editorial about the "prissy little jabs" at the President's golf.
I have to agree. As criticisms go, it's pretty pathetic. Presidents have been playing golf since William Howard Taft. Taft was criticized for many trivial things, even his weight: "Taft is the most polite man in Washington. One day he gave up his seat on a streetcar to three women." But, except for a few religious nuts who considered fun to be immoral, critics left his golfing alone. The country has been pretty much in one crisis or another every day since. Demands that the President hunker down in the White House until the universe has run out of emergencies are delusional.
Golf is not really my cup of tea. I go along with Mark Twain, who characterized it as "a pleasant afternoon's walk, interrupted." But, to some, it is a way of relaxing. And I think it is obvious, even to the extreme partisan, that the job of President of the United States is stressful. When the leader of the free world needs a break, lets allow it without the carping.
It's been more than forty years since Taft brought golf to the Presidency. Golfers have been in the Oval Office ever since. The game will undoubtedly continue through the rest of the 20th Century and, I suspect, into the 21st. Right now, in 1953, I think it's time to let President Eisenhower play his game in peace.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the lobby of the Department of Labor headquarters building in Augusta.
In addition, the LePage administration is renaming several department conference rooms that carry the names of pro-labor icons such as Cesar Chavez.
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt says the mural and the conference room names are not in keeping with the department's pro-business goals and some business owners complained.
I have decided to grant you your request.
Gay marriage: as I am sure you are aware, civil unions and marriages are not the same thing, so calling them the same thing to please your sensibilities will not restructure reality. If you want to hog the term marriage up to yourself, I am fine with it, but we must obliterate the concept of a secular legal contract first. If you want marriage and civil unions to be identical, then you can also have your precious term back. However, then we must recognize a civil union as a marriage at the federal level. Your religious institutions have the right to be as backward as they need to be, so long as they do not spill their goo into secular law.
“Banking needs more regulation?” I understand your faith based argument and I respect your right to your faith. Therefore, there is nothing to dispute.
“Deficit reduction absolutely must be done or the dollar will become extinct like the ruble. At least a 10% cut across the board for all government agencies is a good start along with the abolition of those departments and agencies that are unconstitutional, redundant, corrupt, or grossly inefficient.” Keynesian vs. Austerity and other religious debates are not something I can agree with or dispute. Economists who study the “correct” approach their whole lives have been unable to reach consensus primarily because not enough waiters and truck drivers have chimed in. We will get there, but economics is an extremely complex soft science and it is not easy to sort it all out and also drive a truck or server soup for 14 hours per day.
“Needy sure we can help. I have no problem with taxpayer dollars helping those that are incapable of helping themselves. I do have a problem subsidizing a dependent lifestyle just for the sake of doing so though.” Hey, we agree. If you can solve this problem, I am totally on board. Your solution is not to help the needy so you don’t accidentally help the lazy opportunist. I reject that plan, but I will consider any future ideas you may have.
“SCOTUS and corporations: I am with you on this one. Corporations should not have the personhood to vote with their money; neither should unions or PACs. Only individual U.S. citizens alone should be able to exercise that right, in my opinion.” Number IV! And by the way, I have no problem with abolishing unions if we have other solutions to diminish corporate power (which we don’t right now). My hands, once again, are dripping with blood.
“Wisconsin/Ohio public unions: I don’t know if Scott Walker’s intention was to try and bust public unions or not, but I sure hope so.” Number V! I hope so also. Anything Walker can do to end his career pleases me, no matter how corrupt his ultimate intentions are.
“Mr. Myste, I expect you to add to your previous three points of agreement with me with at least two more from the above list, sir!” Done! 1. Down with corporate power. 2. We both want to Walker to end his career.
It was actually easier than I thought, once I put my mind to it, Mr. Paine.
In the midst of any national disaster, the suggestion arises that citizens have an emergency plan in place and, even better, that they practice disaster preparedness. Apparently most people think that's silly (or that they'll never be in a catastrophe), because you rarely see anyone doing the prep work.
Unfortunately, cable news in this country is just as lazy . . .
Gay marriage- nope. Call it "civil unions" or whatever term you prefer and I am fine with it; however, marriage is a religious sacrament and not something to be misappropriated for political reasons or to make a statement.
Banking needs more regulation: I don"t think so. The current laws need to be enforced and oversight must be done with diligence. More laws and regulations will not fix the existing problems. Most of the banking mess would not have occurred had laws already on the books been adhered to in the spirit in which they were written.
Deficit reduction: absolutely must be done or the dollar will become extinct like the ruble. At least a 10% cut across the board for all government agencies is a good start along with the abolition of those departments and agencies that are unconstitutional, redundant, corrupt, or grossly inefficient. The Departments of Energy and Education immediately come to mind and can be handled better on the state level anyway. The same is true for HUD and the EPA. Hey, if I have to make cuts in my own personal budget, it is high time that Washington learn to do so too.
Needy: sure we can help. I have no problem with taxpayer dollars helping those that are incapable of helping themselves. I do have a problem subsidizing a dependent lifestyle just for the sake of doing so though.
SCOTUS and corporations: I am with you on this one. Corporations should not have the "personhood" to vote with their money; neither should unions or PACs. Only individual U.S. citizens alone should be able to exercise that right, in my opinion.
Wisconsin/Ohio public unions: I don't know if Scott Walker's intention was to try and bust public unions or not, but I sure hope so. Walker was looking out for the taxpayers on this one. The public union employees are paid their salaries via taxpayer dollars by definition. Why the heck should I have to pay a typically higher wage (not to mention benefits) to a public employee than I make in a corresponding private sector job? That does not even make sense. If such were allowed to stand, everyone would want to work for the government and eventually there would be no one left in the private sector to tax in order to pay for those jobs.
Mr. Myste, I expect you to add to your previous three points of agreement with me with at least two more from the above list, sir!
I'll hold your coat:
When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here. You don't expect it from the other journalists.
- - Nic Robertson, CNN Reporter, March 21, 2011
Regarding false Fox News Reports on his kidnapping in Libya
In the good old days, Democrats used to form circular firing squads. These days, Republicans hunt their own. DINOs, Democrats in Name Only, have been supplanted in purge accounts by RINOs (take a guess).
"We need to purge the Republicans of the weaklings, and we’re on a...RINO hunt. And we’re going to drive them to extinction," said conservative activist Mark Williams last year.
This is an important process for those of us who hope for the fulfillment of a wonderful vision: the dissolution of the Republican Party. Whether by purge or by simply leaving, those who are not in the most extreme wing of the GOP must depart. If they don't, or if moderate conservatives find their way back, the entire phenomenon will collapse and Republicans will be with us for as far as the eye can see.
Even more important is the divide between the general voting population (I'm tempted to call them the General Electorate. Has a ring to it, don't you think?). If the Republican Party, in the hard fisted grip of what we can hope will be an increasingly extreme base, nominates candidates just on the borderline of crazy, that will be only half the battle. The nightmare scenario would be candidates from the land of Oz who are generally regarded as the voice of sweet reason. Only if the voting perception is that Republicans are from over a dark rainbow, can the collapse of the party be ensured.
If the country is somewhat conservative, on the verge of moon-howling radical, then all is lost. The mainstream perception is that the nation is, in fact, a center-right country. Poll after poll reveals this truth. Ask Americans whether they tend toward liberalism or conservatism, and more will say the C word. Our hope is in the details, rather than the labels.
For example, a majority of Americans now favor marriage equality for gay couples. That wasn't true just day before yesterday. But support has been inching up for years. Half a decade ago, lunching with an Associate Pastor, we talked about gay marriage. Did I think it should be allowed? I thought about it briefly and said no. It shouldn't be allowed, it should be encouraged. He reached over and shook my hand. He and I were exceptions then. We aren't now. The acceptance of gays will increase as time goes on. Should this be considered a conservative trend? Is it shared by the Republican base?
Should banks be subject to increased regulation? Most Americans emphatically say yes. Republicans, not so much.
How about deficit reduction? I'm opposed to it until economic recovery, as it picks up steam, produces jobs. Most Americans disagree. Rats! But how do they want to reduce the deficit? Republicans propose cuts to Social Security, and Medicare. Slashes to education, Head Start, and other programs. Most Americans reject that in favor of increasing taxes on the extremely wealthy.
The public goes for the idea that those in need should be helped by the government. This is a growing trend, a trend not shared within the GOP, where such efforts provoke bitter anger.
How about the Supreme Court ruling that corporations should have no limits in how much they spend on elections, and should not have to disclose what they spend? You guessed it.
On issue after issue, bread and butter stuff, kitchen table stuff, voters are for liberal issues, all while embracing the conservative label.
I'm hopeful that Wisconsin and Ohio are the tip of the titanic crushing iceberg as voters react to actual Republican policies. The General Electorate will continue to call itself center-right. In 2012 and in successive elections, the GE will become CRINO.
The standing prediction here is that the Republican party will disappear before the decade is over. It is an admittedly bold statement amid apparent Republican ascendency.
Every long term political party goes through cycles similar to that of today's GOP. The base becomes more extreme, less extreme members are driven out or leave as they feel unwelcome, which makes the base more extreme. But parties in the past eventually pulled back for a very simple reason. Multiple election cycles resulted in continuous losses, as only extreme candidates were able to survive the primary process. Election loss is the cold shower of mainstream politics. Painful re-evaluation has always followed years of loss, and parties modified their positions, their approaches, or both.
This hasn't happened in the GOP for nearly two decades. As Bill O'Reilly pointed out in his amazing scientific analysis, although in another context, the tide goes in, the tide goes out. Victories for the GOP have been short lived, defeats more common, and the margins have trended away. Each victory is by less, each defeat is by more. 9/11 and economic circumstance muddy the curve, but the trend has been clear. The GOP base has continued to shrink, becoming more extreme, even in good political times. For some reason, this shrinking process has not been happening to the Democratic Party (or the Democrat Party as my less literate friends like to call it).
What analysts have missed is that this recent trend is fueled by technology. Cable joins the internet in providing a cocoon for conservatives, a sort of alternate reality in which re-evaluation is unneeded. It is not a political strategy gone wrong. It is a sociological phenomenon. The train has not simply been directed onto the wrong track by an inept engineer. It is an out-of-control runaway with no engineer. The GOP is doomed.
Three fellow bloggers take issue with this analysis. Conservative T. Paine of Saving Common Sense relies on his own personal experience. Since he sees liberals as unreasonable and extreme and conservatives as the very soul of reason, he does not see the trend as real. John Myste at Mysterious Things and Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot disagree because the analysis violates their sense of symmetry. If it is true of Republicans, must it not also be true of Democrats? As I see it, all three of these friends present arguments that are so elegant, they provide enormous temptation toward willful blindness to actual evidence.
However, two writers at Politico.com propose an alternate future, one in which the Republican Party may not only recover the growth of their base, but may thrive. Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen suggest that the Republican base is already on its way to a rebirth. They suggest that a new direction, one that does not easily track as extreme or moderate, has taken over Republican ideology.
The new formula can be seen in the big policy fights gripping the nation - and in the political figures leading the charge.
Republicans in Congress, key states such as Wisconsin and around the country are all consumed with one thing: cutting spending at the federal, state and local levels. The shouts of most activists have changed from “Show me your birth certificate” in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency, to “Show me your budget cuts” today.
They suggest that the bombast of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are becoming supplanted by the budget oriented arguments of Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Paul Ryan.
It is an interesting analysis: deficit reduction accomplished by draconian cuts in spending will revitalize the Republican Party, as conservative independents are brought back into the fold. The emphasis will be on jobs. I am, as might be suspected, skeptical.
First, the authors fail to see the Republican 20-year lurch to the right as what it is, a sociological development. Rather, they see it as a strategy: "The defining question for the GOP is simple: can Republicans maintain this focus on spending without going too far, too fast or getting spooled up with conventional fights over social issues – and turning off the swing voters it won over in November?" If tacticians can thread the needle, all will be well. This flaw in their logic is not necessarily fatal to their prediction. It is possible the "strategy" they envision will develop as en masse enlightenment throughout the conservative base.
In fact, they present interviews with several strategic conservative leaders as evidence that this is happening. Christie, Daniels, and Ryan are not the sum total of their evidence. If they are cherry picking on purpose it is not apparent. But their interviews reflect a top down system of decision making. Actual evidence is that the base, not any elite leadership, is choosing direction for the GOP. And those closest to the electorate, conservative representatives in Congress, are not at all ignoring culture-war issues. Redefining rape, so that minor children who are "willing" are not considered victims, was abandoned only after a public outcry. The idea was to restrict abortions to "unwilling" rape. Women who actually are raped will still be subject to IRS audit if they rely on insurance to pay for abortions. That part hasn't been dropped. DOMA, the anti-equality in marriage act will be defended in court by Congress. If the deficit-jobs argument was advanced by a recent resolution moving "In God We Trust" from its history as a 1956 motto to a founding document, I miss the connection. The base demands culture war without the cease fire Vandehei and Allen envision.
Reducing deficits is pretty much universally seen as a good idea, as long as it is done after economic recovery is complete. The argument presented by Vandehei and Allen relies on two assumptions. First, the public will be convinced that economic recovery, and a surge in jobs, will be ensured by sucking money out of the economy when the things are still shaky. Second, the controversy about deficits will be active when the economy is roaring once again, and everyone will be in favor of bringing back the budget surpluses. An issue kind of needs an opposition, doesn't it?
Perhaps Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen are prescient, apart from evidence. If so, the evidence will follow in time. For now, the evidence shows a continued shrinking of the Republican base. Before the decade is out, the GOP base will be so extreme, Republican candidates will no longer be able to maintain a presence on the national political stage. The party will,in fact, be dead.