Monthly Archives: July 2007

>REACT: Passports from hell.

>One of the few efficient government services was the issuance of passports. In my company’s frequent duty to obtain passports for our clients, we found the lines short and the turn around time a matter of a day or two (for the expedited service).

Well … leave to the government to find a way to screw up works. In over response to post 9/11 hysteria, the State Department issued new requirements. Now, you many need a passport just for thinking about leaving the country. Okay … that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, there are no more friendly-neighbor policies with Canada, Mexico and a few other foreign destinations. These ill-conceived requirements put millions of people on the passport request list. The result is a back log stretching back months. Caught in the snafu are millions of Americans who have missed vacations, weddings (and worse, honeymoons), were no shows at business meetings, etc., etc., etc.

Well, at least the government official in charge accepted full responsibility for the decisions and policies that caused so much heart break and cost a lot of people a lot of money. She is Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty (pictured).

While it is nice to see a bureaucrat actually take responsibility, it is of little consolation to those who have fallen victim to the new policies. In the fight against terrorism, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

I say Maura Harty would receive a gold medal for accepting responsibility. Yes, indeed. She deserves it. Then she should be summarily fired for gross incompetence. Yes, Indeed. She deserves that, too.

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>REACT: Columnist Greeley can’t cannonize Jack Kennedy

>Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Rev. Andrew Greeley, is a successful novelist. It is unfortunate he applies his knack for fiction to his editorial writings. He is a man who knows no limit to his rich imagination, whether writing fiction or supposed fact-based commentary.

His latest lapse into creative wishful thinking centers on his July 6 column offering a Catholic influenced revisionist look at President John Kennedy. He uses an off-handed remark by the Kennedy, “All war is stupid,” to suggest that the late President was restrained in his use of the sword of war.

Contrary to Greeley’s wish and opinion, Kennedy was a warrior president of the first magnitude. Rather than shrink from the expansion of American Democracy into the authoritarian world of the day, Kennedy committed the United States to “go anywhere and pay any price” to advance freedom. His Inaugural address was, from beginning to end, a warning of the United States willingness to use military means to defeat the enemies beyond our borders. Like Roosevelt before him, and Bush after him, Kennedy believed that it was better to fight overseas before the enemy arrived on the U.S. shoreline.

Rather than show restraint in the Cuban Missile Crisis, as Greeley proffers, Kennedy was prepared to face nuclear war rather than to appease the advancement of the Communist Kremlin into the Western Hemisphere. He showed a firm willingness to back up the Monroe Doctrine (no Eastern Hemisphere influence in the Western Hemisphere) is military action. It was his resolve, not his restraint, which caused the Soviets to step down. More recent revelations show that Kennedy manipulated events and information to prepare for war as much as Roosevelt and Bush.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco was the result of a president willing to provide American encouragement and resources to a paramilitary invasion of Cuba. Unlike Bush, who sought the approval of Congress, obtained United Nations’ resolutions of authority, and assemble a significant coalition of other nations before invading Iraq, Kennedy authorized the invasion of a sovereign nation without so much as advising Congress in advance.

Kennedy also demonstrated a willingness to play footsie with organized crime to assassinate Fidel Castro. He approved the coup plan that led to the overthrow and assassination of Vietnam’s first president, Ngo Dinh Diem, by a bullet to the head. Speculation that Diem’s murder would place the Kennedy White House in jeopardy ended just days later, when Kennedy, himself, was assassinated by a bullet to the head.

Of course, the most notable example of Kennedy’s militarism was the enormous escalation of the Vietnam conflict. Upon leaving the presidency, Dwight Eisenhower warned against committing American troops to a ground war in Vietnam. Ignoring that warning, Kennedy went head long into the U.S. escalation — shifting America’s participation from a military advisory role to a full combat engagement.

Most egregious, however, is Greeley’s fraudulent contention that it was Kennedy’s mythological military restraint that brought down the Soviet Union and not “President Reagan’s grandstanding at the Brandenburg Gate” nearly thirty years later. In this, Greeley’s visceral animosity for Reagan appears to exceed his knowledge or his professional integrity – perhaps both.

There is a saying that so aptly applies to Greeley. As a columnist, he “is entitled to his own opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts.”

>REACT: Cindy Sheehan breaks pledge … arrrrrgh!

>Alright! Who removed the wooden spike from Cindy Sheehan’s political heart?

Apparently, those of us who celebrated the self-imposed retirement of the self-appointed and self-destructive numero uno America hater were a bit premature in our revelry. Seems the loony lady’s letter of resignation was just another publicity stunt, or a reversible moment of rationality from an otherwise psychotic personality.

She is currently hoofing it in a “march” from George Bush’s homestead in Crawford, Texas to Washington, D.C. — yet another anti-war ritual of little significance beyond the world of the ragtag column of marchers and campers.

Before she even hit the Texas border, Sheehan issued a public threat that if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (seen here with Sheehan — smooch, smooch) does not introduce articles of impeachment against the President by the time Miss Cindy arrives in the nation’s capital, she will run against the Speaker in the next election – and, according to Sheehan’s own assessment, will give Madam Speaker “a run for her money. “

Sheehan is angry at Pelosi, and the whole damn Democrat party, for breaking their campaign promises. (Personally, I am pretty pee oh’d at Sheehan for breaking her promise to retire. So, who is she to talk about breaking promises … eh?)

I doubt Pelosi is breaking into a sweat over the prospect of running against Sheehan. However, I have to lean back and relish the sight of Pelosi being bitten by one of the rabid dogs of peace she and her fellow travelers let loose on the public.

Unlike Sheehan, most of us knew that the Democrats were making every imaginable promise to get elected without much consideration to the problem of keeping those promises. The promises were extravagant because most pundits and politicos did not think the Dems would take control of both houses of Congress, anyway. They never expected to be called upon to fulfill the exaggerated campaign pledges. Once in office, however, the Dems were in a bind. There was no way they could, or should, keep the simplistic campaign pledges to end the war immediately. It would take an obsessed maniacal fool to have expected otherwise.

Oh! Well … that at least explains Sheehan.

>OBSERVATION: Obama is a’bombing

>Barack Obama, the supernova of political candidates, is starting to look like a “white dwarf.” (Okay, for you who got your education in public schools, a white dwarf is what remains after a star bursts on the scene as a spectacular supernova, and then collapse into a tiny mass. We are not making racists allusions here.)

Just a few short months ago, there was a general public and pundit consensus that Obama was about to trounce the field of Democratic candidates. He was afforded Paris Hilton-level coverage in the press – even more and better coverage than the woman whose name sounds like a French Hotel. Without any discernible positions on issues and a obvious inadequacy of experience, Obama was declared to be the perfect candidate – a compassionate reformer without political baggage. It appears that impression is going up in smoke. (Had to find an excuse for the smoking Obama pic.)

That was the national image – carefully crafted. Those of us closer to the wellspring from whence Obama rose were not so convinced. Perhaps it was our awareness that the political “wellspring” of his advancement is more like a cesspool – arguably the most corrupt political environment in America. If you do not believe that, just start counting the number of public servants and office-holders doing time in the hoosegow. One does not rise from the muck of Illinois politics with pristine garments.

The association with indicted wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko clings to Obama like a Pit Bull with lock jaw. Though Obama once described his relationship with Rezko in distant minimalist terms, it has become increasing clear that the association was long and deep. As the candidate, and his spin meisters, trivialize each newly revealed dealings between Obama and the indicted influence peddler, a new and more damaging revelation appears on the horizon. Most problematic for Obama-the-White-Knight (ß not racial) are the news stories making it appear – almost beyond any defense – that Obama has been … ah …fibbing.

Obama says the purchase of land from his new neighbor (Tony Rezko) was foolish. Just a mistake. Obama ‘fessed up some questionable campaign donations in the few thousand range only to have it revealed that Rezko has funneled hundreds of thousands into the campaign.

Then there is the issue of the real estate development. Obama says he never helped Rezko in any deal. Ooops! The emergence of a letter from then State Senator Obama begging for government assistance for a Rezko real estate project shows that Obama did use his political influence to get Rezko and his partners a lucrative deal – a deal that later lead to accusations of massive taxpayer abuse.

Obama’s self praise as a citizen activist for public housing is not only disputed by the grassroots activists in positions to observe the significance (or in this case the alleged insignificance) of his contributions, but it turns out he was associated the guys accused of being slum landlords and bilking the public. Obama initially confirmed his participation in the business, but claimed ignorance of the abusive and illegal practices. Later evidence indicated that he was much closer to the controversial projects than he would have us believe.

All of this is doubly damaging because of an early decision to make Obama the candidate of reform. He preaches reform. He is the point man on reform in the Senate. This was a strategic mistake. His credibility was immediately compromised by his participation in, benefit from, and the ignoring of the massive home town corruption of the Illinois Democrat machine. He floated his political future on the cesspool of corruption best personified by Rezko. Lacking the ability to turn his reform spotlight on his Illinois buddies, he became a strident partisan, seeing only GOP corruption. This will not fly with an electorate which has a bipartisan disdain for corruption in both parties.

His glowing autobiographical works have come under scrutiny, and it appears he has taken license with some of the facts – even to the point of his carefully crafted transformation from a cultural and social white guy of privilege to a gritty in-the-‘hood African-American activist. Many candidates re-invent themselves, but not usually their ethnic, social and cultural background. Experientially, it was said that Bill Clinton was the first “African American” president. If that is so, then Obama comes to office in the tradition of such Brahmans as Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and the almost John Kerry.

Obama indignantly deflects questions of his religious background, from his early Islamic schooling to his participation in a strident left-wing Christian church. But like the Mormon affiliation of George Romney, the “beliefs” are causing concern. This is not the type of issue that will be challenged in open public by a society claiming tolerance, but it will have its negative influence in the darker corners of the electorate’s heart. Religious radicalism from the left is canonized in the press, but not so with the grassroots citizenry. (Don’t you just love the Saint Obama treatment on the book cover. I mean, really!)

Obama has entered into the “what next” portion of his descent, where the unrevealed future casts ethereal shadows over his candidacy. With federal blood hounds bringing down his closest associates and political patrons, the voters are wondering if there will be more bad news in the future. It is a reasonable suspicion, and one that provides its own drag on the campaign.

Not all of Obama’s problems are sordid. He is the least experienced and most ill-equipped of the national candidates, and it shows. His performance in the debates was not good. Under the glare of national attention, he showed his lack of political credentials. His rise to prominence was on the hot air of empty rhetoric. That can rise only so far. Debates success requires more than slick comforting phraseology. Among his presidential peers, Obama appear like a high school debater who accidentally got put up against the Oxford team.

Some note that even if Obama is not successful this time around, his youth gives him many opportunities in coming presidential years. The theory sounds good, but the history of such candidacies is much drearier. Chuck Percy and Ted Kennedy were presidential contenders in their politically youthful years. Their early near misses, however, where as close as they ever got to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Harold Stassen was a real contender as the youngest governor in America. His subsequent runs were Quixotic.

Politics is full or surprises. If you play the odds, however, Obama could well wind up as a foot note in political history, along with Gary Hart, Jack Kemp, Gene MaCarthy, and all the other early front runners. His one distinction is that he is the first almost African American candidate to be in the senior ranks of contention, and to actually have led the field in polls not taken by his won campaign.

At the early stages, when Obama’s rise to the presidency was spoken of in inevitable terms, I predicted in this very blog that he was foredoomed. The public finds him fascinating as a candidate, but not convincing as the President. He is not the first to be blind to the distinction.

>OBSERVATION: Roosevelt in review

>

Just attended the induction of Franklin Roosevelt into the Radio Hall of Fame founded by my good friend Bruce DuMont. There were many praising commentaries by such notables as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Newsweek magazine’s Jonathan Alter and syndicated columnist David Broder, and a re-enactment of Roosevelt’s 1932 nomination acceptance speech by actor Robert Vaughn. It was also a tribute to the 75th anniversary of that speech.

As with any tribute, there were glowing interpretations of Roosevelt’s presidency – some even true. The somewhat geriatric Rooseveltian liberal audience were in full delight, often interrupting Vaughn’s reading with hearty applause – especially when his attack on Republicans could be construed as having relevancy for their contemporary animosity toward George Bush, modern-day Republicans and evergreen conservative issues. The audience was salted with government workers thanks to a generous donation of 500 tickets to a cadre of teachers and professors (Yes Virginia, teachers ARE government workers). What could be more appropriate, since taxpayer payrollees were the greatest benefactors of Roosevelt’s big government policies and programs? The sentimental journey into the past even came with street vendors hawking the Communist Party newspaper outside the theater.

The audience made no expression when the history modestly exposed Roosevelt’s less noble actions. For the most part, the real Roosevelt was no more evident in the tribute oratory than the real Abraham Lincoln could be divined from the old Raymond Massey classic movie. It was public relations puffery, as tributes are intended to be.

While the audience applauded vigorously at every mention of civil rights contained in Roosevelt’s public remarks, it was largely unnoted that he never proposed or supported any significant civil rights initiative. He even refused to support anti-lynching legislation opposed by his southern Democrat congressional colleagues. Throughout his long tenure as America’s Chief Executive, Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, segregation, lynchings, and the reign of terror of the Klu Klux Klan were unchallenged by the White House. In fact, they reached new heights of virulence on Roosevelt’s watch.

Roosevelt’s executive order that cast Japanese citizens into U.S. concentration camps without due process was minimized. For the those forcibly removed from the homes and relocated to harsh remote camps, he was an American Hitler. No action committed by the Bush administration, so reviled by current day liberals, comes close to the racial insensitivity and contempt for individual rights of Roosevelt, himself. His confinement of innocent Japanese Americans was among the lowest points in American history. There was an irony watching the liberal audience applauding the fiction and turning deaf ears to the awful reality.

David Brody seemed to bring out a collect audience squirm when he fearlessly noted that Roosevelt’s policies had done nothing to end the depression or to avoid war. He united the people by charismatic rhetoric. His only indisputable accomplishment, however, was the establishment of the welfare state. He took a nation of fiercely independent citizens and turned them into subservients of government.

In the tribute, there was no reference to the oft stated belief that Roosevelt was an in satiable power monger, and the closet thing this nation has ever had to a dictator. Fortunately the democracy was stronger than his lust for power. Despite his control of Congress, he was not able to pack the Supreme Court by adding more members. His third and fourth elections violated tradition established by George Washington. However, a man willing to trash the Constitution would have no difficulty violating tradition. His abuse of power, over so many years, lead the Democrat Congress to constitutionally establish the two term limit. This country was not about to suffer another Roosevelt.

It is true that Roosevelt created a new majority in American politics. He pandered to fear to create the welfare state that now threatens the foundation of the American democracy. Like street drugs, welfare at first provided a sense of well being, but prolonged use exposed the destructive nature of the beast. As he seemingly ended one national crisis, Roosevelt planted the seeds of the nest. Ronald Reagan came to power on the promise to end the 50-year Rooseveltian culture – and he did. Of course, there was no mention of the man who dismantled much of the Hyde Parker’s big government legacy.

In terms of war, Roosevelt was determined to bring the significantly pacifistic United States into the global war. He believed that it was better to fight the enemies of America on their soil, rather than ours. The liberal audience did not applaud this particular similarity to current events.

As for his induction to the Radio Hall of Fame, nothing could be more appropriate. For whatever one thinks of Roosevelt, it is indisputable that he used the new technology to remarkable advantages, and proved is skill as a charismatic communicator. Radio was critical to the establishment of the Roosevelt mystique that his “fireside chats” are immortalized in his national monument. He was to radio what John Kennedy was to television.

Much has been written about Roosevelt, and his manifest shortcomings and failures are in the record. But for many, much of the record remains sealed from public expression. Like all dictators – Mao, Stalin – there is a charade that keeps the rapt attention of a decreasing number of zealots. In China and in Russia there are still elements of the old guard who gather together to celebrate, uncritically, the fictional lives of their heroes, offering tributes from their own inexplicably fond memories. Such was the occasion I attended.