August 20, 2011
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Norman Rockwell is dead. So is his America.
Scandalfest continues. Official Washington is still flitting from one minor controversy to another, with the news media breathlessly reporting the latest leaked email or unsubstantiated accusation. Clearly, the chattering classes have declared the jobs crisis ended and the economic recovery complete.
The political party of Abraham Lincoln is in trouble, threatened with irrelevance, even extinction. Its weaknesses are legion.
Can President Barack Obama put out the brush fires that are sucking the air out of his second-term agenda? Can he stop the spread of mini-scandals that are consuming Washington?
After a rural Kentucky family suffered an unspeakable gun tragedy late last month, that sad story, unfortunately, became new fuel for the scorching debate over gun control. When news broke that 5-year-old Kristian Sparks had shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle he had been given as a gift, opposing factions latched on to either defend rural America’s gun culture or to denounce it.
Sometimes the absurdities of an official policy or action are so clear that they need not be elucidated. Such is the case with the Obama administration’s maintenance of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a grotesque place that only the novelist Franz Kafka, who wrote brilliantly of nightmarish milieu, could adequately describe.
Marco Rubio, Florida's junior senator, is pushing immigration reform because he needs a major legislative accomplishment to cement his credentials as a rising GOP star.
You might have thought that the mangled bodies of 20 dead children would have been enough to overcome the crazed obsessions of the gun lobby.
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Last week, 35 former Atlanta educators were forced to take a perp walk, reporting to law enforcement authorities for arrest in connection with the nation's biggest (so far) academic scandal. It was a disturbing spectacle. Once among the pillars of metro Atlanta's middle class, they've been reduced to pleading that they don't belong in jail.
Familiarity breeds ... acceptance. That's why the battle for full equality for gays and lesbians is already won, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides.
Ten years ago, on March 20, 2003, the administration of George W. Bush launched its disastrous invasion of Iraq. It’s a war most Americans — including many Republicans who enthusiastically supported it — are working assiduously to forget.
Here's hoping that Stewart Parnell goes to prison. The former president of the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp. of America, Parnell ran a filthy Georgia processing plant contaminated with salmonella that injured more than 600 people in a 2008-2009 outbreak, killing nine. Last month, federal prosecutors charged Parnell and three others with criminal offenses, claiming the executives intentionally shipped out contaminated peanut products.
If you want to stare into the ugly face of racial resentment, take a good look at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His frank, if stunningly injudicious, remarks about a key portion of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) laid bare the bitterness that so many hyper-conservatives still harbor toward black progress
Eighty-seven years ago — when about half of households owned an automobile, women's suffrage was new and black Americans were still terrorized by lynching, especially in the South — black historian Carter G. Woodson had a simple but powerful idea: Designate a week to celebrate the contributions that black Americans had made to their country. Woodson chose the second week of February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Any credible account of the career of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, must acknowledge this salient fact: He is conservative. He’s no maverick who managed to win a powerful office in a crimson state despite staking out positions that challenged the beliefs of his base.
Chuck Hagel has committed unpardonable sins. He has violated the GOP commandment — popularized by Ronald Reagan — against criticizing his fellow partisans. Worse yet, in the eyes of those partisans, he has castigated the warmongering imperialists who dragged the nation into a disastrous invasion of Iraq.
Thanks to an ultraconservative congressional faction, many Americans now view the Republican Party as extremist, petty and irresponsible. You need look no further than the ridiculous, drawn-out drama over the so-called fiscal cliff to see the GOP’s inability to negotiate reality.
Have you ever seen the holiday film classic “A Christmas Story?” Set in 1940s Indiana, it’s the charming tale of young Ralphie, whose only wish for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun. Poor Ralphie is constantly rebuffed by the adults in his life, who warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
In 2000, John McCain seemed a respectable political figure -- admired for his wartime heroism, well-regarded for his refusal to kowtow to partisan dogma, liked by journalists for his refreshing candor. He failed that year in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, but he ran a decent campaign, sticking to the high road even when he was waylaid by offensive personal attacks.
Apparently, some of my fellow Americans want to secede from the union, undaunted by the disastrous result of that infamous attempt back in the 19th century. They are likely congenital cranks, destined to be dissatisfied.
We Americans are easily titillated by the suggestion of sexual scandal, so it’s no surprise that the news media have been obsessed with the escapades of David Petraeus and those in his inner circle. But the narrative is misleading and superficial. It focuses on the wrong seduction.
Last week, 18-year-old Christopher Berry, who is black, stood in line for an hour at a suburban Atlanta polling place to cast his very first ballot. He voted for President Obama because, he said, “I really like his stance on health care (and) I feel like he is a president for all the people of the United States.”
Among Latinos, President Obama’s broken promise to fix the nation’s dysfunctional immigration system remains a bitter reminder of the limits of politics. The president shored up his support among that critical demographic with his DREAM Act Lite, a presidential directive that could give about a million young undocumented persons work permits for two years.
The Mitt Romney who showed up on a debate stage at the University of Denver last week was a commanding figure — warm, engaging, polished and smart. He was the missing Mitt, the one little seen since the Republican primaries began.
Clint Eastwood’s memorable appearance at the Republican National Convention quickly inspired a meme: Conservatives are angry with an invisible President Obama, a man whom most voters simply don’t see. That explains their insistence that the president is a socialist, a Muslim, a weak and cowardly apologist for American strength.
The bands played, the confetti flew and the pundits pronounced on Bill Clinton's folksy wonkiness, Jennifer Granholm's YouTube-ready theatrics and President Obama's "workmanlike" acceptance speech. I'm consumed, however, by the less-expected star turns by understudies at last week's Democratic National Convention.
Even as Mitt Romney worked to clean up the mess left by Todd Akin, GOP activists made sure that his ludicrous comments about rape would continue to hound the Republican presidential ticket. Last week, those activists endorsed extreme language on abortion -- indicating no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother's life -- in the Republican Party's platform.
Last week, I walked by an Atlanta Chick-fil-A crowded with customers.
Last week, the GOP-dominated House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- or "Obamacare." As expected, the vote fell largely along party lines.
With his surprising vote to uphold the core of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John Roberts may have salvaged the legitimacy of his court. A lopsided majority of Americans has come to see the court as just another partisan institution, according to a recent poll, and the chief justice probably doesn't want that as his legacy.
Last week, GOP operatives gloated over the defection of Artur Davis, a former Democratic member of Congress and one-time Obama supporter who announced that he had become a Republican. The GOP had every right to cheer. In making his announcement, Davis posted an online spiel that came right out of the Republican playbook.
Poor people are useful during political season.
I came to this motherhood business late, after my friends' children were all off to college. My energy, heaven knows, is limited but my resources more plentiful than they would have been had I adopted a child 20 years ago rather than three years ago.
It has been 46 years -- nearly a half-century -- since Charles Whitman, a troubled ex-Marine, climbed atop the iconic University of Texas Tower to use it as a staging zone for a shooting spree. He killed 16 people on and around the campus, including his wife and mother.
For nearly four decades, advocates for reproductive rights have been stuck fighting an ugly, expensive and sometimes dangerous campaign to ensure that women have access to safe and legal abortions. It's a Groundhog's Day sort of battle in which both proponents for choice and the opposing camp -- rigid anti-abortionists -- trot out the same arguments over and over, with neither side persuading the other.
When Ronald Reagan spoke those words, the American economy was still a colossus astride the globe -- its workers unchallenged by the Chinese, undaunted by the Japanese and South Koreans, barely aware of low-wage Mexicans. American factories still hummed with the hustle of well-paid workers assembling automobiles, stitching garments and making reams of silver halide film.
It’s tempting to simply forget Ron Paul’s unfortunate history on racial issues, especially since he seems to be trying to forget it himself. He won’t be the Republican nominee, and his years in Congress have done little to popularize his out-of-the mainstream views. The nation won’t be returning to the gold standard any time soon.
Actually, 2011 wasn’t such a bad year.
In 2009, when a staunchly conservative and visibly angry group of American voters launched a new political movement they called a “tea party,” I was more than a little confused by the association with a seminal moment in the early history of this country. The Boston Tea Party grew out of American colonists’ fury at a tax imposed by a faraway British Parliament whose members they did not elect.
I don’t want to talk about Newt Gingrich’s many marriages. I really don’t. Nor do I want to talk about an alleged extramarital affair that Herman Cain may have carried on for 13 years. There are so many better reasons to doubt the leadership skills of both men — sound, practical grounds to resist their claims of fitness for the nation’s highest office.
I was never one of the airlines’ pampered passengers. A few years ago, before motherhood and a recession slowed me down, my annual flight mileage allowed me the perquisite of early boarding — before all the baggage bins were full. But I rarely saw first class except when passing through it on my way to steerage, ah, coach.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the trial heats of the Republican presidential contest, you’ve noticed an alarming trend: the conflating of ignorance with authenticity. Herman Cain’s fans, for example, seem to believe that his profound lack of knowledge about most of the world is one reason to support him. It makes him a regular guy, more trustworthy than those hated “elites” and longtime Washington pols.
There are sound reasons for the scarcity of black tea partyers. A fight-the-federal-government philosophy doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of black Americans, who have depended on federal intervention to save them from the tyranny of state law and the violence of local custom — especially in the Deep South. Furthermore, even a handful of tea party protesters holding up overtly racist signs — President Obama dressed as a witch doctor, for example — would be enough to persuade most black voters that the group isn’t serving any tea they’d like to drink.
After President Obama gave a stem-winder of a speech that drew a standing ovation from most of the crowd attending a Congressional Black Caucus gala last month, his most vociferous black critics among the liberal elite should have been temporarily quieted. But they were not. They distorted his remarks as an excuse to keep up their volley of disrespect, disparagement and blame.
When I was a kid, rich people were just, well, rich people. They weren’t endowed with superhuman traits or placed on pedestals to be worshipped by the lumpenproletariat. They weren’t believed to hold special keys that turned the universe.
Once upon a time, taxes were higher and unemployment was lower. People prospered. The federal treasury overflowed. The deficit disappeared.
Is President Obama privately rooting for Rick Perry?