The GOP and Truth, Like Oil And Water

During our formative years, as we are being acculturated through education and family experiences, we are taught about the difference between the truth and a lie.  In school we are taught the glorious history of the founding of our country and the heroism that made it possible.  Of course the “facts” of history are in the hands of those who write it and tell it.  Just as three eyewitnesses to a crime will provide three, sometimes conflicting, accounts of the same incident, so it is with the “facts” that comprise our history.  It is therefore very difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, and truth from lies when viewing history.  However, when viewing recent events, those that we have the opportunity to experience in real time, distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from lies, is considerably easier.  While there may be varying interpretations of an event, the objective facts are visible.  Yet the Republican candidates and leadership continue to say things that are clearly untrue without regard to the facts.

GOP lies

The blatant disregard for the truth that the GOP has exhibited is astounding.  It is not difficult to pinpoint the lies.  Whether the issue is immigration, gun control, pay equity, voter suppression, minimum wage increases, health care, marriage equality or a host of foreign policy issues, listening to them is like being Alice In Wonderland looking through the looking glass.  When the facts don’t fit they simply ignore them or, even worse, they manipulate them or make up their own facts to fit their narrative.   We have all heard that the word history when broken into two words is “his story”.  That is why the history that we learn in school requires more than just a cursory review.  However, current events must not meet the same fate as history.  Fact must be gleaned from the mass of information and misinformation.  However, to do that we must be well informed, well read and engaged in the issues our nation and the world are confronting. Jefferson observed that in order for democracy to succeed there must exist an informed electorate.  He understood that most of us do not have the luxury of focusing on the issues of the day to the exclusion of our own personal issues.  It is a fact that despite the myriad methods and mediums available to us to receive the news of the day, we are an incredibly ill-informed electorate.  Sadly, many of those who do make an effort to be informed tune into either Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, etc.  Thus, while they think that they are getting the unvarnished facts, they, in fact, are getting an incredibly lopsided version of the truth, a version that has been shown to be lacking truth on a regular basis by neutral and objective observers.    The tragedy is that these people vote on the basis of this misinformation.

That’s the problem, now what is the solution?  Frankly, it is time to take the gloves off.  The Democrats have been incredibly weak at challenging the untruths and outright lies of the Republicans.  We have seen too often the results of this “Swiftboating” technique that the GOP has used often and to great success.  The facts don’t lie and they are not a part of history left open to interpretation.  They are contemperaneous and we must hold those facts up for all to see in as many venues and outlets as possible.  This isn’t the time for debate.  Not when untruths are put out there as if they are facts.  This is the time to yell loudly and use every outlet at our disposal to expose the lies and spread the truth.

The GOP has depended on and actively promoted the ignorance of the electorate through the use of right wing media such as Fox News.  They really want us to believe that up is down and in is out.  Their policies, while claiming to support the needs of the middle class, are clearly directed at the perpetuation of the wealthy.  While they talk about the need to protect constitutional rights, they do everything they can to restrict them and interpret them narrowly.  While they talk about the need for peace and stability in the world, they are always too ready to commit the lives of our young to die at war.  It is time to call them out on all of this and expose the true face of the GOP.

Are Netanyahu And The GOP Laying The Groundwork For A Preemptive Strike At Iran?

Conspiracy theories abound about everything imaginable.  They have become a part of our culture.   While most conspiracies that we see and hear about come from the realm of fiction, some do reside in history.  Of course among the most famous was the successful assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  But as we know, history is replete with palace uprisings, coup d’etats and revolutions, all of which began with some kind of conspiracy.  The dictionary defines conspiracy as, ” an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated by two or more persons; plot.”  Naturally, evil is in the eye of the beholder.  As we are aware, conspiracies have been implemented throughout history to defeat that which the conspirators perceived as evil. While we have grown to view conspiracies as something sinister, they may in fact be inspired by fundamentally well-intentioned individuals trying to achieve something that they truly believe in, regardless of how misguided. Yet I believe that this is only part of what we are seeing in the behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and the GOP leadership and members in both the house and the senate.

It is the motives behind their behavior that I am most concerned about.  We have a long history of individual senators or congressmen disagreeing with a foreign policy position of an administration.  The right to disagree is one of the hallmarks of our system.  Open and honest discussion regarding any policy leads to a stronger result.  Yet, throughout our proud history of dissent and discussion and compromise there have been accepted and expected parameters of behavior from those we elect to represent us.  First and foremost they adhere to the prerogatives constitutionally afforded each branch of government.  The Executive Branch has always been responsible for the negotiation of treaties and agreements with other nations.  The Legislative Branch, while given the opportunity to agree or disagree with the ultimate result of those negotiations, has always remained silent during the negotiating process.  They have always understood that to interfere at this time can create confusion and ultimately impact negatively on the end result.  Yet their behavior during the negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program has disregarded all of this.

For the House of Representatives to formally invite a foreign leader to speak to a joint session about an issue currently being negotiated with a foreign power by the Executive Branch without first receiving agreement from that branch is both reckless and unconscionable.  For the GOP leaders of both the Senate and the House to visit that same foreign leader in his home country during those negotiations to voice agreement, contrary to the position currently being negotiated is simply beyond anything seen in our past diplomatic history.  It has every appearance of the GOP leadership conspiring with the Israeli leader to destroy any chance of the negotiations with Iran being successful .  During this same period, our group of loyal Neocons have made their dire predictions right on cue.  There has been a chorus of statements that raise serious questions regarding any chance to contain the Iranian nuclear capacity through negotiation using such potent analogies as Chamberlain’s agreements with Hitler.  It is clear that the only solution the Neocons see to the Iranian threat is war.  In fact, despite general GOP denial that they are calling for war, they have presented not one alternative to that eventuality.

Israeli jets

It is always important to be able to match behavior with the words.  I believe that Netanyahu and The GOP leadership would love nothing better than to destroy any chance for a successful result to the negotiations with Iran.  They see a negotiated settlement as not only inadequate to the perceived danger, but also an Obama victory that would not play well for them in the 2016 Presidential campaign.  I believe that there is no result that they would accept other than the complete destruction of Iranian nuclear capacity.  At this time they believe that the Obama Administration is incapable of negotiating an agreement that they can live with.  I believe that they are purposefully doing everything they can to make these talks fail.  The big question is, are they going to do something that would create a fait accompli to effectively scuttle the negotiations?  Are Netanyahu and the GOP leadership laying the ground work for a preemptive attack on Iran?

America’s New Civil (Rights) War?

Our first contact with people outside of ourselves is our family.  They are charged with not only feeding, sheltering and protecting us, but with teaching us right from wrong and other basic lessons of life.  As we go through the socialization process provided by our school system we learn basic facts and values about our country.  We are taught that people came here to escape discrimination for the way they worshipped or thought or spoke.  We learn all about the abundant freedoms bestowed upon us by this great and special nation of ours.

Over time, and with additional education, some of us begin to ask questions and develop our own opinions, attitudes and interpretations of what America is and how it either coincides with or conflicts with our values.  Certainly, the most serious example of this kind of conflict is our own Civil War. Clearly, this war was the result of two distinct sets of values, hopes and dreams at odds with each other.  There were, in fact, two different visions of what America should be.  Since the resolution of that costly and tumultuous war, our country has once again moved onto the path towards universal freedom and equality, although progress has at times been uneven, hotly contested and slow.  We are all familiar with the various movements from Civil Rights, to Gay Rights, to Women’s Rights to the Anti-War Movement, etc. that have focused our attention during recent decades. While it is undeniable that there is still work to do, it has felt as though we were on the right track up until recently.  A variety of actions over the last few years leads me to question that we are still on that progressive path.  It feels that we are once again, as a nation, at war with ourself.

Pens

We have all become accustomed to the marches, demonstrations, newspaper ads and the many other conventional methods utilized by political action groups over the years to get their point across.  At times there has been violence associated with particular movements such as  “Bloody Sunday”.  However, our right to “free speech” has enabled many ideas, opinions and perspectives to come into view and be heard.  As a nation we have always celebrated this fact and held it as an example for the world.  But something has changed.  At first it was subtle and often under the radar.  But now it is in front of us and we need to understand how the tactics of those who want to limit our freedoms and narrow our choices have changed.  In a blog that I posted on February 28, 2014, entitled “The Battle To Rebrand America” I pointed out that the most important and potentially damaging action wasn’t taking place in Washington D.C. but rather in state legislatures.  My point was that these state legislatures are impacting on abortion rights, voting rights, gun control, pay equality, immigration, marriage equality, health care, minimum wage, religiously based school curricula, climate change and a host of other issues that impact on freedom, quality of life and health in ways that the Federal Government is not.  As an example I need only mention the latest attempt by a state to allow discrimination against individual groups through Indiana’s recently passed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”.  They continue to say that it is identical to the federal law of the same name passed in the 1990s.  However, if you have been following the news, you are well aware that there are significant differences in Indian’s law that expose any minority group to discrimination.

This kind of action is not unique to Indiana.  The legislation passed by dozens of state legislatures under conservative control are equally contrary to what I believe our nation represents.  There has been action in all of the areas I listed above that are damaging to our way of life and the freedoms and opportunities we have come to expect.  This is not a small insignificant movement or even a large boisterous movement.  It is rather a significant portion of our population in a majority of our states that are quietly and insidiously infringing on the rights of other citizens.  It appears that there is a true conflict regarding our vision of what America is and should be.  America seems to once again be at war with itself.  It isn’t violent, but the destruction it will cause to the lives of countless Americans is no less horrific.  It is time for those who care to become active and work to change the political makeup of our state legislatures.  This is, no doubt, the most important battlefield of our day.

The “Clown Car” Is On The Road – First Stop Liberty University

Welcome to the official start of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. The “Clown Car” is the best way to describe the incredible collection of demagogues, extremists and ignoramuses that appear to be staking out their positions for the 2016 Republican nomination, however Ted Cruz was the first to make it official. He made his announcement this morning in a speech before a packed house of students at the very conservative Liberty University,founded in 1971 by evangelist Jerry Falwell.  Certainly nothing he said was surprising.  His message, heard many times before,was one of anti-establishment conservatism that took not only the Obama Administration to task, but the Republican establishment as well.  In doing so he continued to separate himself both from the Beltway and his own party. However,if anyone thinks that his candidacy should be taken lightly,they had better think again. Cruz may ride in a “clown car”, but his intent, his message and his campaign are deadly serious and potentially deadly dangerous.

Evil Cruz

We sometimes make the mistake of listening to someone like Cruz and writing them off as extremist crackpots.  They say things that we believe are so extreme that we can’t imagine anyone taking them seriously.  It appears to us that his words are spoken just to create a reaction, but they lack both substance and believability.  We know that his statements are often based on erroneous facts and on numbers that simply don’t add up.  His actions, often taken alone, appear as if he is simply grandstanding just to get into the spotlight. We can’t imagine that anyone could possibly listen to him and view him as a viable candidate for the Presidency of  the United States.  However, are we making the dangerous mistake of writing him off just because we believe he belongs in the “clown car”?

No doubt, Cruz has many challenges ahead of him, first and foremost fundraising. He needs to raise an enormous amount of money just to compete in the primaries.  Will he find enough supporters willing to put their fortunes behind this “true believer”?  He wouldn’t be the first candidate to start off with a bang and fizzle early on because of lack of funds.  If he should be able to sustain himself for the duration of the primary season, he will have to pull a high enough percentage of the votes in the primaries to be invited to participate in the debates.  Right now he is polling only 4%, too low to earn an invitation.  However, if he succeeds and participates in the debates, be aware that all bets are off.

Cruz is a talented orator with the ability to dominate the stage and set the tone.  He will not hesitate to say things that will place his opponents in a rhetorical box and squeeze them into submission.  He will force his opponents into taking positions that they would rather avoid articulating.  He will not hesitate to flamboyantly break the rules and dare the moderator to shut him down.  In fact, he would love nothing more.  His goal will be to become the lead story coming out of each debate, and he knows exactly how to achieve that.  When you are a demagogue and a true believer, all rules are made by the people who are trying to keep you, the purveyor of truth, down.  If you have to break those rules to get that truth out, then so be it.

I have no doubt that I will enjoy the spectacle presented by the debates and the speeches and absurd statements made by Cruz and the other candidates.  No doubt Cruz and others will pull all of the candidates further and further to the right, making their positions unpalatable to the general electorate.  It will be easy to laugh them off as wholly unworthy of becoming the GOP candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  Yet one of them will.  If 2012 has taught us nothing else, it has to have taught us that we can laugh if we want, but we had better not forget to vote.  While the spectacle will be fun and amusing, the game is deadly serious.  Let’s make sure that we win.

Though Victorious The Right Is Dead Wrong On Israel

The result of yesterday’s Israeli election is extremely disturbing to me personally, but more importantly, potentially devastating to the US – Israeli relationship, Israel’s position in the world and American efforts to negotiate a successful end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  The end result of the election gave Netanyahu a commanding lead of 30 seats in the Knesset, and a viable pathway to the 61 seats necessary to control the government.  Most troubling are the choices that he made to achieve this electoral victory.  He chose fear over hope, isolation over cooperation and xenophobia over integration.  His warning that the “Arabs were voting in droves” and that he would not allow a Palestinian State while he was in office spoke volumes and frankly made me cringe.  Let me be clear, while Netanyahu claims to speak for the Jewish people around the world, he does not speak for me nor most Jews that I am in contact with.  In fact, despite the election results, he does not even speak for a majority of Israelis.  However, due to a complex parliamentary system of government he will be the face and voice of Israel at least until the next election.

While the White House has been very clear about its unhappiness with the election results, the GOP has been swooning in pure joy.  What is very evident is the common thread that runs through the American and Israeli right wing.  Of course we saw this played out before of our eyes when Netanyahu came to speak to Congress a couple of weeks ago.  However, that was only the first thrust at this Administration’s heart. The next will come when after more than 25 years of bipartisan support for a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict the GOP turns towards support for Netanyahu’s “not on my watch” proclamation.  There is no doubt that the right wing GOP will support Netanyahu’s position and the prospects for any peace settlement in for the foreseeable future will fade in a puff of right-wing extremist smoke.

isolated Israel

By positioning itself this way Israel opens itself up to an endless round of accusations and actions taken by both individual nations and world institutions.  Israel has always been able to depend on the US to buffer and protect them when these actions take place.  However, the poisonous relationship between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu places all of that in jeopardy.  There is no doubt in my mind that the US will continue to stand beside Israel when it comes to security issues, however when it comes to the world of international politics, Israel may find itself hanging alone.  While the boisterous blowhards of the Republican-controlled Congress may yell and even demand diplomatic support, they cannot implement it.  That is the role of the Executive branch.  Netanyahu’s actions will marginalize and isolate Israel on the world stage.  It will get very lonely.   Netanyahu can only hope for a Republican Presidential victory in 2016.

The negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program has reached a very sensitive stage.  It is a moment when perceived national strength and resolve are of great importance when working toward a positive resolution.  The ill-conceived and naive letter sent by the 47 Republican Senators in combination with the rousing response to the Netanyahu speech before Congress places these talks in jeopardy.  Now that Netanyahu can claim electoral victory and therefore support for his fearmongering the future is cloudier than ever.  The only thing that is clear is the fact that there is a significant group both in Congress and Israel that see war as the only viable solution to this threat.  To them, it makes no difference that an almost unanimous sense from those military and security experts who have been asked feel that there is no military solution to this problem .  But, those who gave us Iraq, including the vocal encouragement of Netanyahu, would like to bring us another chapter in what will surely be seen as the most egregious foreign policy decision ever made by this country besides the invasion of Iraq.

While my support for Israel’s right to exist as a free and secure nation will never diminish, I am dismayed at the path being advocated by its current leader.  Just as I have been at odds with decisions taken by my own government, I am at odds with the path taken by Israel.  As I have worked to change the path taken by America, I will work to change the path currently being taken by Israel.

When GOP Arrogance Turns to Irresponsibility

There are times when I simply find it necessary to react to an event that is so incredible that it screams at me to write.  This is one of those times.  As you must be aware, 47 United States Senators of the Republican majority took it upon themselves to write a letter to the Iranian leadership warning that any agreement with the United States under this President would be vulnerable to Senate modification or  rejection as well as modification or rejection by a future President.  Their obvious intent is to destroy any chance of an agreement on the future of the Iranian nuclear program. It is hard to select which part of this action I find most objectionable. I was appalled at the invitation by Speaker Boehner to Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress without the concurrence of the White House.  But that action pales in comparison to this letter sent by 47 Republican Senators.

It is clear to anyone who has studied basic junior high school civics that foreign policy is within the purview of the Executive Branch.  This is why the State Department was created, and why the Secretary of State is part of the President’s cabinet.  The Logan act of 1799, most recently amended in 1994, forbids any unauthorized private citizen from negotiating with a foreign government. This action is considered a felony and punishable by up to three years in prison. It is simply unheard of for a Senator, without clearance from the White House, to communicate with the leaders of a foreign country.  Their behavior is not only illegal and reprehensible, it is damaging to the institution of the Presidency and this President in particular. It exhibits a complete lack of respect for this President in the international arena, an act that is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. There is no possible excuse or explanation for this behavior that is acceptable.

Shame On GOP

The body of the letter itself is incredibly patronizing in its assumption that the Iranian leadership is not aware of the way in which our government works or the contents of our Constitution.  The authors of the letter not only diminish our President, but insult the very leaders they are trying influence.  However, they have underestimated both our President and the Iranian leadership.  Our President has reacted with humor and irony to this affront.  He said that it is interesting that the extreme right-wing of the GOP has seen fit to attempt to create an alliance with the extreme right-wing of the Iranian leadership.  This just a week after the visible alliance they created with the right-wing of the Israeli leadership.  The desire for war makes strange bedfellows.  However, the Iranian Foreign Minister in his response to the letter from the 47 Senators saw fit to school them in the way of international law and the operation of the American system.  He was clear in his statement that he feels that this letter is of no importance and that the negotiations will continue.  He further stated that should an agreement be reached, international law will dictate the manner in which this law is applied and maintained.

The behavior of the GOP on both the Senate and House sides is simply unacceptable.  They are turning our system of government on its head and destroying accepted procedures, processes and protocols that have been in place for centuries.  We cannot sit on our sofas and simply shake our heads.  That is what we have done as they encroach on voting rights in 36 states. That is what they are expecting.  They are changing the nature of our country one move and one state at a time.  They have proven that they are incapable of governing and that they do not respect our Constitution.  They are not only an embarrassment, they are a danger to our Union.

Netanyahu And Boehner: A Study In Arrogance

I have been privileged to witness many historic events over the years.  In most cases these were moments of pride and national exhilaration.  However, in some instances the events were tragic and were reminders that we still had a great deal of work to do on the road to fulfilling our national destiny.  Even when it seemed that the very fabric of who we are was being stretched to the limit, we showed resilience and cohesion and on all but one occasion this nation remained whole and united.  Certainly, from the outside looking in, while we had our disagreements, we were a strong and united nation.  However, a recent event endangers this perception. Never in our history has a branch of our government conspired with a foreign leader to impose its will on our foreign policy.  After all, that would be incredibly arrogant on the part of all parties involved.  Yet as noted by Jon Perrfollow in the Daily Kos on March 1, 2015 …”Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming at the invitation of one political party to sabotage the foreign policy of the sitting president of the United States”. It is, additionally, a break in the decades-old tradition of bipartisanship in our relationship and policy towards Israel.  The hubris and arrogance required to make this decision in the absence of White House concurrence by both Boehner and Netanyahu are breathtaking and remarkably destructive.

Now I, an American Jew and lifelong supporter of Israel, certainly appreciate the existential threat faced by the Jewish State.  I have been on every border and traveled throughout this tiny country, the size of New Jersey, many times. Though arrogance may be a necessary posture for survival among your enemies, it is a recipe for failure among your friends.  While John Boehner was foolhardy in issuing the invitation to Netanyahu, the Prime Minister was foolish in accepting it.  They have both behaved in a manner not befitting a head of state or a Speaker of the House.  They have both played raw politics in an arena that requires diplomacy, patience and intelligence.  Despite the platitudes that come out of their mouths, they have shown themselves to be self-serving politicians first, and national and international leaders second.

Boehner and Netanyahu

As Netanyahu spoke before the joint session of congress, we all listened to a well constructed speech effectively outlining the threat faced by his nation.  It is a fact that an Iranian nuclear capacity would impose an existential threat to Israel.  There is no disagreement on this point.  However, from there he rejected the American negotiating posture in a manner that felt as if he saw the need to provide a tutorial on proper negotiating tactics.  This from a man who has been nothing but an incumbrance to peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.  He questioned the President’s judgement in the approach being taken in the negotiations.  This from a man who strongly advised Bush to invade Iraq on the expectation that it would be good for the Middle East. Finally, he provided no solution or guidance other than to reject the current negotiations.  All the while his Republican hosts were cheering him and giving him standing ovations.  This from the group that gave us the Iraq war and has obstructed every legislative initiative taken by this administration to the point of shutting down the government.  Both Netanyahu’s and Boehner’s track record of success is a sad commentary on their leadership.

I, along with most Americans, am deeply concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear capability.  However, it is clear that a military solution, though blindly advocated by the neocons, is not viable.  Therefore the only solution is to negotiate an agreement that will provide us with access, control and information to enable us to impact on this development.  The GOP and their right-wing partner, Netanyahu, have once again ignored precedent, protocol and common sense to blunder into areas outside their expertise.  The President made his position clear long ago.  He will not allow Iran to attain nuclear capability as long as he is President.  I take him at his word.