Flawless is coming soon...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barack Obama's Pastor

I initially chose to remain silent over the controversy surrounding the sermons preached by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. However, after thoughtful consideration and after seeing the unfair way that this has played out in the media, I feel compelled to address the subject. For those who have not heard his comments, I direct you to a two-minute clip that has been showing on You-Tube (click here). In it, he claims that the cycle of drug addiction and incarceration in the black community has been made fertile by the U.S. Government, and because of this, God will not bless America, but God will damn America:

“The government gives them the drugs; builds bigger prisons; passes a three strike law; then wants us to sing God bless America. No. No. No. Not God bless America; God damn America. It’s in the Bible for killing innocent people, God damn America for treating her citizens less than human [comments by Reverend Jeremiah Wright].”

We can argue the merits of Wright’s remarks; however, it only takes a casual look at history to see the long, harsh list of egregious acts that America has fostered upon its non-white citizens and people of color around the world. I will not bore you by recounting dozens of instances of injury that has been sustained by people of color at the hands of white people. However, I will name just a few to demonstrate that the "so-called" rants of men like Pastor Jeremiah Wright are not really that far fetched: Slavery; the Dred Scott decision at the U.S. Supreme Court; the Tuskegee Study, the Scottsboro boys, COINTELPRO; the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which annihilated hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; and Jena Six.

These examples, with the exception of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities and Jena Six, are epic in regards to their impact on blacks and demonstrate the total disregard that America has had for its people of color. I mention Jena Six to demonstrate that Jim Crow is still alive and well in America. I also reference the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show that the United States is committed to its own preservation even at the expense of more than a quarter-million innocent lives.

The public reactions to Wright’s sermons show the deep racial divide that still exists in America: While many blacks can relate to most of what Wright has said, many whites are shocked that black people can demonstrate this type of “anti-American” sentiment. Although I am convinced that the timing of the media blitz regarding Wright was politically calculated to weaken Obama during his campaign for president, it graphically demonstrates the need to have a serious, national discussion on race relations. It reminds me of the racial divide during the trial of OJ Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman: while 90 percent of blacks believed that OJ was innocent, 90 percent of whites thought he was guilty.

One hundred years later, the words of W.E.B Du Bois still rings true that race would be an enduring problem for America – “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line…”

Notwithstanding the appalling treatment that blacks have suffered at the hands of white people, it would be difficult to quantify how that treatment has impacted the black community to this day. However, it is safe to say that the Wrights of the world are speaking out of their own experience, the experience of their predecessors, and the experience of their ancestors. Consequently, I was troubled to see Obama repudiate Rev. Wright's comments, because it demonstrated his lack of courage to face an issue that is inherent to the Black Church and family.

Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, asserts that all white people sometime in their lives go through what Psychology 101 calls “denial.” They seek to convince themselves and others that they are innocent of any blame for creating and perpetuating the misfortunes of the black community:

At one time or another, all of us have refused to admit certain truths about ourselves. By engaging in what Psychology 101 calls “denial,” we seek to convince others – and ourselves – of our innocence of blame. All white Americans regardless of their political persuasions, are well aware of how black people have suffered due to the inequalities imposed upon them by white America. As has been emphasized, whites differ in how they handle that knowledge. Yet white people who disavow responsibility deny an everyday reality: that to be black is to be consigned to the margins of American life. It is because of this that no white American, including those who insist that opportunities exist for persons of every race, would change places with even the most successful black American. All white Americans realize that their skin comprises an inestimable asset. It opens doors and facilitates freedom of movement. It serves as a shield from insult and harassment. Indeed having been born white can be taken as a sign: your preferment is both ordained and deserved. Its value persists not because a white appearance automatically brings success and status, since there are no such guarantees. What it does ensure is that you will not be regarded as black, a security which is worth so much that no one who has it has ever given it away. This helps explain why white conservatives so vehemently oppose programs like affirmative action. They simply do not want to admit to themselves that the value imputed to being white has injured people who are black (Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, page 60).

Not only are white people aware of the historical perspective of Wright’s scathing words, but so is Obama. However, this subject is taboo, because few white people want to address the harm that they or their ancestors have inflicted on blacks and other non-white people, and the effect that those injuries still have on people of color today, and it is obvious that Obama doesn’t want to make those historical wounds part of his national platform.

Okay, okay…I can feel some of you saying that he is doing what is necessary to become the president, and that includes maintaining an arms length relationship with his own ethnic community. Perhaps, but preserving the courage of one’s conviction speaks to leadership and integrity, and if Obama is unwilling to defend what he knows to be an authentic grievance by blacks, one must consider, what other compromises he is willing to make to become president or how far will he bend to satisfy a certain constituency after becoming president. If Obama is the uniter that he claims to be, then the repudiation of Wright was a poor way of demonstrating it. It ‘kinda’ reminds me of a previous candidate for president that told us he was a uniter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part III

This is the final article of a three part series that is examining the theories of Samuel P. Huntington’s two most recent books - The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and its sequel Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity

Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity picks up where the final chapter of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order ends. This sequel describes Western Civilization as a society on the threshold of implosion due to the self inflicted wound of multiculturalism and Hispanic bilingualism. He maintains that if America is to survive as the pioneer of human achievement, then it must revive the ideal of its American identity and core culture, and foster this identity/culture on the new wave of immigrants that is flooding the country’s borders. He paints an ominous portrait for the future of this country if this does not happen.

I attended Huntington’s book signing in the Washington area after the publication of Who Are We, and I challenged him on something very disturbing that he wrote in the book. He predicted the response of Americans to the prospect of losing its current national identity, which he defines as a European cultural heritage and by extension, a Western heritage. This heritage, he cautions, should motivate the United States to strengthen its cultural impersonation of Europe instead of divorcing it through a melting pot of international assimilation.

After Huntington discussed his book, and during the question and answer period I expressed my alarm and concern that every book that he has written seems to portray people of color as the villain in society whose freedoms should be curtailed or eliminated altogether. In Who Are We, he gives his analysis and prediction of four possible outcomes regarding the loss of America’s national identity. I read to him and the audience the outcome that he seems to suggest in the book is the most likely to occur:

[T]he various forces challenging the core American culture and Creed could generate a move by native white Americans to revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity and to create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Historical and contemporary experience suggest that this is a highly probably reaction from a once dominant ethnic-racial group that feels threatened by the rise of other groups. It could produce a racially intolerant country with high levels of intergroup conflict (Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2004, p. 20 – emphasis mine).

I asked Huntington, after reading the above passage, if he actually believed that native, white Americans would revive old forms of racism and embark upon a new social structure that would “exclude, expel or suppress people of other racial, ethnic and cultural groups? He claimed that he really did not hold much faith in that outcome. His response is a vivid example of hypocrisy and a dramatic demonstration of how simple it is to perjure oneself when your back is against the wall. Huntington had no clue as to my motivation for extracting one of the more controversial components of his book; consequently, his response appeared to be more of an effort to divert attention away from this ugly passage.

If David Duke or some other avowed racist said the things that Samuel P. Huntington promotes, he would be castigated and his views discredited. However, Huntington has been able to peddle his less than favorable view of people of color since the 1950s, and he does it without the notoriety and scrutiny that they merit. As controversial as his books are, they are rarely discussed within the black community. This is significant, because Huntington is not a right wing zealot, spewing a message of hate from the margins of society. He is a respected Harvard professor whose views on race have been cleverly insulated within a social theory of European excellence, and this theory has currency within the conservative, white community.

One of the oldest forms of politics known to humans is “scapegoat” politics. It is the classical effort to gain the support of one group of people by demonstrating to them that their social ills are the result of another group of people. This propaganda usually fuels aggression towards the “scapegoat.” Adolf Hitler did a masterful job in Germany, with his brand of scapegoating, which lead to the Holocaust. The South African government practiced this social system during its Apartheid regimes and Communist countries thrive on “scapegoat” politics.

Propaganda is a particularly useful tool for scapegoating during times of social stress. Of course, Hitler seized the opportunity to turn the Jews into the German scapegoat by claiming that the Jewish bankers were the cause of the hyper inflation that placed the country on the threshold of financial ruins. He also declared that the high “German” unemployment rate was because the Jews were holding the best jobs. This Third Reich propaganda implied that if the Germans could remove the Jews, then that would solve the financial and employment crises. Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on January 30, 1933 and before the end of the decade, his propaganda machine convinced the German population to participate in the annihilation of 6 million Jews.

America is now showing classical signs of a society prime to begin its own version of scapegoating: financial instability; high unemployment in entire segments of the workforce; and the degradation of the state of mind of the nation’s youth. In fact, I suggest to you that the scapegoating has already begun. Not only does Huntington’s books play the blame game for what he sees as the erosion of European values in America, but Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, has written The West’s Last Chance, Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations, Alvin Schmidt, professor of sociology at Southern Wesleyan University, has written The Menace of Multiculturalism, and conservative commentator, Patrick Buchanan has written The Death of the West, How Dying Populations and Immigration Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, to name a few books that seem to blame people of color for the ills of Western society.

In the famous words of Rodney King – “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Well, there is a cadre of influential thinkers who cannot imagine that “we all just get along.” In reality, America has never been able to “just get along.” If race wasn’t the demarcation, then it was age. When it wasn’t age, then it became class; and when class warfare ended, it became race again. Huntington’s message resonates deep into the fabric of American culture and if he had his way, he would “create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic, and cultural groups,” in order to rescue the country from the “patriotic treason” of other ethnic groups.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part II

On September 10, 2001, I met a federal official at L’Enfant Plaza, who worked for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The security was so tight, it took about 30 minutes before I was permitted to see the official. I commented to him how strict security was at the facility, and he advised that the government didn’t want to take any chances on a terrorist attack. I said, “No terrorist organization would have the guts to strike in the heart of the nation’s capital.” Well…that wasn’t the first time I’ve had been proven wrong in an assessment on a particular subject.

A little less than 24 hours after my meeting with this federal official, Samuel P. Huntington’s phone began to ring off the hook, because his bestselling book, The Clash of Civilizations predicted the inevitability of September 11th. He predicted that new patterns of conflict would emerge in the post-Cold War era, and they would be battles over the survival of civilization and not over ideological disagreements that plunged many nations into protracted wars during the 20th Century.

If the thesis of Huntington’s book is correct, then 21st Century conflicts are simply a continuation of wars that have destroyed many civilizations; some as influential in their time as America is today. Carroll Quigley, in his book Tragedy and Hope, offers an explanation into the life cycle of civilizations. According to his analysis, civilizations go through a process of evolution from its birth, which is followed by a period of vigorous expansion, at the expense of its neighbors and possibly other civilizations. Once the civilization is recognized as such, it becomes stabilized and eventually stagnant. This period of stagnation is often accompanied by a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, where internal crises arise, and the question of the civilization’s ability to defend itself from outside forces come to bear.

If new ideas – modes of thought and action – become incompatible with its founding principles, the civilization will grow steadily weaker through internal conflicts until it is submerged by outside enemies and eventually disappears. These are not hypothetical notions, but time honored observations into the life and death of a society. Quigley traced the lifecycle of sixteen civilizations dating back to 6000 B.C., and he demonstrated that Europeans, bearing various names, including Western Civilization, have destroyed twelve possibly fourteen civilizations. This is so significant, I feel compelled to repeat it: Quigley traced the lifecycle of sixteen civilizations dating back to 6000 B.C., and he demonstrated that Europeans, bearing various names, including Western Civilization, have destroyed twelve possibly fourteen civilizations since the time of the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C.

Quigley goes further to say, “When we consider the untold numbers of other societies, simpler than civilizations, which Western Civilization has destroyed or is now destroying, societies such as the Hottentots, the Iroquois, the Tasmanians, the Navahoes, the Caribs, and countless others, the full frightening power of Western Civilization becomes obvious (Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1966, pp. 7-8).”

In Tragedy and Hope, Quigley discloses an Anglo-American conspiracy for World Empire. He doesn’t place a value judgement on it as being right or wrong, but he makes it clear that its role is so important that it should be acknowledged:

“There does exist and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in a way the radical right believes the Communist act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other group, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments...[I]n general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known (ibid, p. 950).”

Quigley seems to encourage this furtive expansion of Western Civilization; however, he would rather see it be more open. Huntington, on the other hand seems to be concerned that this expansion will not occur if the United States continues to divorce itself from European culture with multiculturalism and multilingualism. Consequently, Who Are We is the roadmap to reclaiming America’s Anglo-European culture.

If Quigley in the 1960s and Huntington more recently realized the stakes that are at risk for Western Civilization, then there is no reason for me to doubt that many of our political, social and corporate leaders, along with Islamic scholars and political leaders see the same thing – the destiny of human civilization. According to Quigley, each time the Western world went through a stage of expansion, it caused the death of someone’s way of life.

Now this brings me to the question that has been debated since the destruction of the World Trade Towers – Is the current War on Terror a conflict of civilizations between Western Christendom and Islamic Civilization or is it simply America’s response to September 11th? When you consider that people who have identified themselves as “Christian” have been fighting Muslims since the Crusades, and if you consider that the Western world has intervened in Middle Eastern affairs in ways that have harmed Muslims since the turn of the 20th Century, this conflict certainly looks like a continuation of war between the West and Islam.

President Bush denied that the wars in the Middle East are conflicts of civilization, but he also denied that they were not about oil either. He’s probably right about the issue of oil, but I believe that he is twisting the facts to reject the idea that the war is a conflict between Western Christendom and Islam. He claims that we are defending our right to be a free nation: Do you remember the “They hate our freedoms” comment? If you buy that explanation, however, I humbly suggest that the standard of proof will be on you.

The war planners on both sides know the motivation for war, and although the Saudis, Jordan and other U.S. allies in the Middle East are continuing their public show of support for this war, they understand that this war could determine the fate of Islam. Although the war is not about oil, oil continues to be the commodity that runs the world; literally, so the unsavory relationship between the U.S. and its Middle East allies will only be as strong as the flow of oil to the West.

The United States knows a thing or two about strange bedfellows. It was allied with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s when he was engaged in war against Iran; however, as soon as that war was over, he became a villain. And the irony is not lost on anyone who studies Middle Eastern politics: America scripted Saddam’s overthrow and execution and did it under false pretenses. This country’s relationships with non-Western nations are purely for American self-interest, and once that self interest has been satisfied, the relationship will be severed. Self interest was why the U.S. sent the CIA to Afghanistan to train Osama bin Laden during the conflict between al Qaeda and the Soviet Union. However, after that war ceased, America rejected its ties with him as well and years later, bin Laden finds himself at war with his former lover.

Last week it was reported that after a meeting in Vienna, OPEC refused to boost production, although President Bush suggested that it would be a mistake if it allowed the U.S. economy to slow down as a result of higher energy costs. OPEC President told reporters that there was sufficient supply of oil, so there was no need to increase production. He went on further to say that world markets were reacting to “the mismanagement of the U.S. economy.” However, one must consider if this OPEC decision is the economic equivalent of launching a Tomahawk Cruise Missile at the United States. If anyone understands what’s at stake in the current volatile situation in the Middle East, the OPEC nations do.

…to be continued

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part I

I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, the movies they watch and the music they listen to. That is why if I am engaged in conversation with someone who I recently met, within 15 minutes I will know these things about them. In the interest of full disclosure, you can find these things out about me by clicking on the “View my complete profile” under the “About Me” section to the right.

Books, movies and music can inspire people to act in ways that they ordinarily would not. This does not necessarily mean that these actions will be constructive, because they too often are destruction. Take a rap artist who inspires young people to spew hate out of their mouths by mimicking the lyrics of a popular song that debase women. Conversely, look at the patriotic songs that had Americans swelling with pride as they were repeated after September 11th. Or in an extreme 20th century example, how did Germans, who were otherwise at the pinnacle of Western culture and understood that murder, theft and adultery were actions of the depraved, come to believe that it was permissible to commit genocide?

I recall as a junior high school student when Roots was shown for the first time. It instilled a sense of black pride in me and most of my friends who attended the majority white Lord Baltimore Junior High in Fort Washington, Maryland. However, just like the rude youngsters who impersonate the latest hatemonger lyrics from a rap star, we were headed down a similar path to destruction. Me and about 10 friends were going to show white people that we were no longer going to be abused, so we challenged the white guys to a fight after lunch under the stairwell next to the metal shop class.

Expecting a dozen or so white guys, there were at least 100 of them; some not quite sure why they were there. Now five minutes before the black guys arrived, we had conjured notions of victory over what turned out to be more than half of the 8th grade, male population at Lord Baltimore. Of course, after seeing 100 or more white guys, discretion became the better part of valor; consequently, at the first opening, we bolted.

The point that I make in all of these examples is that social influences shape our thinking and motivate our actions to a large degree; notwithstanding that in some cases, like the Holocaust, people’s actions are influenced by propaganda, whether it be in the form of a book, a speech or a pamphlet. In fact, the most influential instrument throughout history has been a book – the Bible (the Old and New Testaments). It has contoured the mode of thought and actions of generations back to the BC period of the Pharaohs, and to this day, the Gospel message is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is beamed non-stop around the globe through satellite television.

Unfortunately and ironically, the Gospel has not always been used as a tool of virtue. History is littered with examples of evil men using this book to peddle wicked schemes: The Holocaust, slavery and the Inquisition are examples of how the Bible has been used as a propaganda weapon.

There are numerous books that have helped chart the course of American history. Of course, the Bible and the United States Constitution have had the greatest impact. However, when one considers influential books in American history they must consider Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; Henry David Thoreau’s work on Civil Disobedience; Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom; Albert Einstein’s Relativity; Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; and Sigmund Freud’s The Ego and The Id to name a few. I believe 25 years from now The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and its sequel Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity by Samuel P Huntington will be considered two of the most influential books of the last past half century.

The Clash of Civilizations was initially published as a magazine article in Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1993. According to the editors of this distinguished journal, this article generated more discussion than any other article ever published. Three years later the article evolved into the book that cast a mark of distinction on Huntington as the most quoted authority on the events surrounding September 11th. In the post-Cold War world, he predicted, conflicts will no longer run along ideological – political, economic – fault lines, but along cultural – religious, language, ancestry, and customs – fault lines. Conflicts along these fault lines will create a clash of civilizations. This clash, in some instances, will be the result of long standing grievances that Muslim countries have with the Western world.

Many third world nations have developed the type of revenue, mostly through oil and manufacturing that is allowing them to purchase sophisticated military weapons. Although these same countries are not prepared to face any Western nation in a conflict, they are less likely to be intimidated by them. Huntington warned America of the potential for conflict with Islamic nations who believe that many of their difficulties are the result of American intervention into their domestic affairs. According to Huntington, these nations have a special incentive to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver them, because it will give them a shortcut to becoming a regional, military power and it will give them the means to deter intervention into their region and country by the United States. It is believed by many scholars if Saddam had waited to invade Kuwait until after he developed a WMD program, America would not have interfered with his incursion.

After September 11th The Clash of Civilizations became a best seller and Huntington emerged as one of the most insightful scholars in the country.

…to be continued

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Threat to America's National Security

I had not seen a movie at the theaters for 13 years until I broke my drought with JFK in 1991. JFK was Oliver Stone’s re-enactment of what some say is the greatest conspiracy of the 20th Century – the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is one of those movies that you don’t want to see if you have faith in the purity of human government. Granted, the movie is a cinematic version of the events immediately preceding Kennedy’s death and a determined prosecutor’s effort to prove that his assassination reached into the highest levels of the American Government. However, Stone brings to bear enough information to make most reasonable people take a pause and consider, whether for a fleeting moment, the possibility of an American coup d’état of the 35th President of the United States.

An American coup d’état? Whether it is true or false, it is a heavy indictment to suggest that the United States military was behind the assassination of its own commander and chief.

This article is not about the JFK assassination or JFK, the movie; however, I want to use a discussion between Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland as my spring board to talk about a gap in our national security: New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, played by Costner, is approached by X, a former military officer, played by Sutherland to help him solve the mystery of the Kennedy assassination. He informs him that Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, which basically would have ended America’s involvement in Vietnam. However in less than two months Kennedy was dead and President Johnson signed NSAM 273, which effectively reversed NSAM 263. These top secret memorandums are pointed to by conspiracy theorists as evidence of a grand scheme to remove a sitting president.

Perhaps, but Sutherland also tells Garrison something that most American citizens either take for granted or have never considered – “The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison……is for war. The authority of a state over its people resides in its war powers.” Now this social theory could certainly be debated; however, one thing is for sure – any society that does not develop a national defense or has gaps in its national defense stands in peril of destruction from outside forces with sufficient strength to destroy their way of life. It has happened throughout history and will continue to happen as long as men with insatiable appetites for power have an influence in society.

This brings me to my related point: The United States is investing $100 billion in the space station, and within two and a half years we will no longer have a spacecraft to transport astronauts and supplies to and from the station. As a result of safety concerns and the 2003 destruction of space shuttle Columbia, NASA plans to retire the remaining three shuttles by September 2010. Consequently, the American space program will have to rely on Russia and the technology of other countries to reach the station until a shuttle replacement is available; projected to be sometime in 2015.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin regrets that his agency is in this dilemma and has said, “we will be largely dependent on Russia and that is a terrible place for the United States to be. I am worried, and many others are concerned.” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA, seems to be more troubled about America’s dependency on Russia – “This is a very serious betrayal of American interests. This will be the first time since Sputnik when the United States will not have a significant space superiority. I remain dumbfounded that we’ve allowed this serious threat to our national security to develop [emphasis mine].”

The space station, it must be understood, is first and foremost a national security post. Whatever other purposes it will serve, its primary objective will be a military outpost for the United States to develop and maintain military supremacy of outer space. And the notion that this country will have to depend on Russia for transportation puts us in a position of weakness where we must rely on the goodwill of the gangsters in Moscow. This is like a chess game where you see your vulnerability and your opponent sees it as well and will make every effort to exploit it.

What will the shakedown be in this instance? Will it be a doubling or tripling or even a quadrupling of the transportation fees? Or God forbid will it be the financial extortion plus political quid pro quo for transportation in exchange for American complicity in a Russian scheme? Who knows what it will be, but certainly the Russians understand their advantage for that five year period, and I have no doubt that they will take advantage of it.

Isn’t it ironic that President Bush campaigned on his national security experience and his ability to protect America from imminent dangers during his 2004 re-election campaign, but has permitted this threat to our national sovereignty? This is a serious lapse in executive responsibility, and for a country that has been at war since 2001, it could be argued that it is an impeachable offense. When Americans line up at the polls to elect a President, they cast their vote for the candidate who personifies courage, leadership, foresight and although he does not have to be the valedictorian of his graduating class, he must have a certain level of intelligence. And this failure of foresight certainly forces Americans to question whether they elected the most qualified candidate to lead and protect this great nation.

We live in a very complex world today, and the President of the United States sits in an office that imposes an unfair standard of responsibility on him (or her). As parents, as spouses, as employers, as pastors, etc., we are always faced with generally giving allowances for human frailty, because no one is perfect. However, the President has to deal with some of the world’s most complicated situations and he has to always respond correctly and efficiently, with no allowance for his own imperfection. And if not, he is excoriated severely by the press, the public, the opposing political party and sometimes by members of his own party.

The reason the President is held to such a high standard is because one error in judgement could bring the end of this society; or as we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of an entire American city. This is the dilemma that the President must face on an almost daily basis. During the Bush administration, we have witnessed some of the most colossal blunders ever from an American President: the poor planning for Hurricane Katrina; the Iraq War, which will cost America thousands of young lives and more than $1 trillion; the reckless spending binge that has increased the federal debt by nearly $4 trillion; the illegal, domestic spying; the multiple violations of the Geneva Convention; this nation’s fall, in the eyes of many world leaders, as a spectacle of unprecedented mismanagement; and now the national security gap.

Regardless of whether the organizing principle of any nation is its war powers, as X told Garrison in JFK the movie, America has a flank that will be defenseless to a formidable foe like Russia or China, or an oil-rich, Arab coalition that is able to ally itself with either of these communist superpowers.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Monday, March 3, 2008

An Appraisal on the Bush Presidency - Part IV

In my examination of the presidency of George W. Bush, I looked at his record on the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and the Iraq War; I compared the nation that he inherited in 2001 with the nation that he will deliver to his successor in 2009; and I explored his candor to the American public during his tenure. In my effort to render a verdict on his presidency, I have attempted to capture the essence of the last seven years, and sadly Bush fails miserably, with some historians wondering if he is the worst American President that this country has ever seen. There is no arguing that we have seen some of the most colossal blunders to ever come out of the White House during both Bush administrations: the lethargic response to Hurricane Katrina; the irresponsible venture in Iraq; Domestic Eavesdropping; torturing POWs; authorizing a mercenary army; the refusal to disclose the Energy Commission’s final report; the reckless spending binge that has increased the federal debt by nearly $3.5 trillion; the lack of fiscal policy leading to the current recession; and the list goes on.

Despite serving out the final 10 months of his administration with the prospect of unfavorable historical reviews on several fronts, Bush’s appointments to the Supreme Court have received mixed reviews. Conservatives see the appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito as one of the bright spots of the Bush presidency, while liberals look upon Roberts and Alito with suspicion; and for good reason: Neither one of them were willing to give too much information on their legal theories during the confirmation hearings. Consequently, they were mostly judged on their affable demeanors.

Looking at how the President has added two more conservative justices to the Supreme Court, gives the country a reason to take a pause and consider what long term implications this presents. In June 2007 the Court restricted the ability of public schools to use race to determine which schools students can attend. This ruling did two things: It showed the aggressive nature of the court in usurping state’s rights, and it demonstrated the Court’s willingness to turn its back on previous Supreme Court rulings, known as precedent. In one of the most celebrated cases, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that state laws that established separate public schools for blacks and whites denied black children equal educational opportunities.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 5-4 majority which included Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Anthony Kennedy cast the deciding vote, but only signed on about half of Roberts’s 41 page opinion.

Meredith v. Jefferson County Public Schools and Parents Involved in Community Schools v Seattle School District is one of a number of 5-4 court rulings that are slowly chipping away at a half century of social progress:

· In Ledbetter v. Goodyear, the Court severely limited the ability of victims of pay discrimination under Title VII to recover wages unfairly denied to them, leaving thousands of workers who have suffered pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion or national origin with no legal recourse;

· In Bowles v. Russell, the Court ruled that a litigant who trusted an order from a federal judge giving him 17 days to file an appeal was prohibited from appealing because the judge had given him the wrong deadline (a statute allowed only 14 days), a blow to anyone who puts faith in the promises of the judicial system.

Despite what may be a trend on the court to restrict individual rights, what concerns me even more is that the addition of Roberts and Alito gives the Supreme Court four justices whose legal theories and rulings tend to be ultra-rightwing – Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito. These justices consistently rule in favor of big business, expanded executive powers and restrictions on individual rights. This combination does not bode well for “little people” seeking redress at the top court in the land.

The notion of expanded executive power or the unitary executive doctrine is most troubling, because this legal theory holds that in the time of a national emergency, the President is not accountable to Congress or the courts. The idea of the unitary executive, which forms the core dogma of the ultra-right-wing Federalist Society, to which Judge Alito belongs, is more properly identified by its modern historical name—the Führerprinzip, authored by German jurist and political theorist, Carl Schmitt, who was also involved in the Nazi Party. Schmitt's doctrine, that the head of state is the law, and can assert absolute dictatorial authority during periods of emergency, has been used to legitimize every totalitarian regime in the West, from Hitler, through Gen. Francisco Franco in Spain, through Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile. *

George Bush has pushed the limits of his authority as President, seemingly disregarding Congress and the courts. I have addressed in previous articles how Bush has consistently operated off the grid in areas that have questionable constitutional implications: preemptive strikes; the One Percent Doctrine; violations of the Geneva Convention, including torturing prisoners of war; domestic spying; entering into International Treaties without Congressional approval; and the National Energy Policy Development Group, also known as the Cheney Energy Task Force, which the vice-president refuses to make public.

The Supreme Court’s shift to the right is alarming; however, the idea that Bush could stack the court with a fifth vote to uphold his furtive grab for power is even more troubling. Many Americans take their freedom for granted, despite the fact that a war was fought to attain it. If we are not vigilant, all it will take to lose it is one more right wing appointment to the Supreme Court.

Notwithstanding John McCain’s liberal tendencies, I do not believe that the Constitution can survive eight more years of compassionate conservatism.

* http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2006/3302alito_fuehrerprinzip.html.