Act Like a Dick, Get Called a Dick

Another short post from a hotel in an undisclosed location:

Mark Halperin got suspended from MSNBC yesterday for saying the President acted like a “dick” during his recent news conference. I’ve got to tell you when I saw Obama compare congress critters unfavorably to his ten and twelve year old daughters I thought to myself  “wow, that was pretty nasty and unproductive.” That’s long-hand for “acted like a dick.”

Halperin actually gave early warning he was going to use “salty speech” and Joe Scarborough egged him on expecting the seven second delay to give the producer time to bleep any offensive language. The producer pressed the wrong button and “dick” flew over the airways. So was Halperin sanctioned for using the term or because the term made it on air? If everyone had heard “bleep” instead of dick, would there have been a ruckus?

Bottom line, Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary took a page out of the Nixon enemies list handbook and called MSNBC to complain. I say to Jay Carney and President Obama, grow a pair. Far worse things have been said about Obama than his acting like a dick when he did indeed act like a dick.

Oh yeah … Jay Carney … I just said it. President Barack Obama did indeed act like a dick. Now call up WordPress and take my blog down. Or maybe spend time on better things like helping the President communicate a plan that avoids economic Armageddon on August 2, 2011.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

Diplomacy and Torture

It’s understandably difficult to calibrate proper diplomatic behavior when your best idea of how to treat your enemies is to waterboard them.

Just in case you don’t know what waterboarding is, here is a refresher. You force your enemy to lie on his back. Then you place a sponge or some other type of porous cloth over his nose and mouth. Then you pour water onto the sponge or cloth so that your enemy cannot breathe. It’s called simulated drowning. Journalist Christopher Hitchens has undergone the procedure so that he could write about it authoritatively. He says there is nothing simulated about it. You are being drowned for 20 seconds at a time.

With that as our cozy backdrop, let’s discuss the latest offense Obama has given the far right, for whom he can do no right. He actually shook hands with Cesar Chavez! Oh my! He didn’t read Daniel Ortega the riot act after Ortega ranted about America for 50 minutes. Treason!

The problem conservative are having is that Obama takes quaint phrases like “disagree without being disagreeable” and puts them into action. He really means it. As a result, he behaves like a gentleman with leaders of other countries, even leaders with whom we strongly disagree. Anyone watching the body language of Obama when Chavez handed him an anti-American book as a “gift” could see that the President was basically saying “thanks for the book, now go back and sit the hell back down in your seat and stop wasting my time.” Did he need to actually say that? No.

As for Ortega, why should Obama stoop so low as to go tit for tat with a thug leader? I hate to break it to you folks but this is not the playground behind the elementary school where you have to prove you can’t be bullied around. By not dignifying Ortega’s attack with a similar  response, he left the Nicaraguan President looking like a silly extremist. The only folks upset about this are your macho swagger guys, Scarborough, Buchanan and Cheney.  Obama’s only response to Ortega showed how foolish the 50 minute tirade was:

To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. We’ve all heard these arguments before.

via Obama Endures Ortega Diatribe – First 100 Days of Presidency – Politics

Putting aside some historical inaccuracy (Ortega referenced the Bay of Pigs which occurred before Obama was born, not when he was three months old), Obama said all that needed to be said.

So, admittedly after eight years of acting like cowboys, the Obama approach to diplomacy may be a bit hard to swallow. Now the question is how do we deal with one of the consequences of our former shoot-first-ask-questions-later style of international relations? If you think the economy and two wars was a major turd left on our door step by Bush, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We are now getting details on how the former administration framed a legal defense of torture so that the savage practices could go on unchallenged.

Let’s first deal with the criticism that Obama’s decision to release the legal briefs “allowing” for torture has made us vulnerable. What baloney! The fact that the primary cheerleader in this meme is Dick Cheney tells you what hogwash it is. For starters, the legal memos don’t tell us anything all that new. They just tell us how premeditated all of these shenanigans were. Secondly, are we really so naive to think that Al Quada did not know our interrogation techniques? You don’t think there were communication networks that allowed for leaks out of Gitmo to the terrorist community? Do you really think Osama and his henchmen were telling their followers, “we have no idea what will happen to you if you fall into the hands of the infidels. Don’t worry, it won’t be too extreme.” Come on! Get real folks. I have to laugh when I see the likes of Cheney and Joe Scarborough acting like we’ve given away major secrets to the enemy. And in this case, does knowing that you’re going to be waterboarded make the experience any less terrible? It still sucks to be drowned for 20 seconds at a time whether it’s a surprise or not.

Then of course there is the whole debate on the effectiveness of torture. Many experts on the subject say that we don’t get reliable information from the practice. If we compare the practice to what was done to US airmen during the Korean War, we see one of the fundamental problems with our approach. In the Korean War, a form of water torture was used to force airmen to lie. It was NOT used to get the truth out of them. Hence there is a strong likelihood that waterboarding will get the prisoner to say anything that will bring him relief, not necessarily the truth.

President Obama has himself in a bit of a pickle right now, not because he released the torture memos (which would probably have been requested by an international inquiry anyway) but because he has been inconsistent on how we should move forward. His initial stance was that he wanted to end the practice of torture and then move on. He wanted to look to the future and not punish people for the past mistakes. Of course this had the far left apoplectic. This stance reached its most unequivocal point this past Sunday when Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told George Stephanopoulos that neither the practitioners of torture nor the architects of the program would be prosecuted. But within the past forty eight hours, Obama has backpedaled on this, now saying that those who were “just following orders” should not be prosecuted but the folks giving the orders might be subject to scrutiny by the Justice Department (i.e. Eric Holder). Of course the list of  folks giving the orders could extend all the way up to the former occupant of the Oval Office.

This leaves us on the precipice of a situation far more divisive than our current economic or foreign relations policies. I am not sure this country can handle the prosecution of our former Vice President and potentially our former President for war crimes. In 1947 we prosecuted and convicted a Japanese officer for the very acts that the recent legal memo disclosure details. We have committed acts that we once felt were criminal when committed by our enemy. With that said, I have to say that I liked Obama’s original stance on this. We stop doing the wrong thing and we move on. The far left says that if these crimes go unpunished, we will have learned nothing and history will eventually repeat itself. That may be true but my greater fear is that our country currently in so much distress, cannot afford to immerse itself in years of  self recrimination. And while I would lose no sleep over Dick Cheney going to jail, my heart would go out to George W. Bush. As I’ve stated in other posts, Bush will receive his reward or his punishment from the judgment of history and that judgment is profound and long-lasting.

If the international community chooses to prosecute us, so be it. But we, as a nation have a lot of healing to do.  I don’t see how we can heal if we open the wounds of our former criminal activity and potentially make George W. Bush the first former President to be tried, convicted and sentenced for crimes against humanity.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

Why Can’t Black Folk Just be Happy?

Update: The evening after this piece was written, the New York Post issued what could best be called a defiant apology:

But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism. This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

via New York Post’s Cartoon Apology.

It goes to show that in some small way it is a new day in America. When the black man you insult is the President of the United States, an apology, however begrudgingly, will be made.

Within minutes of Barack Obama’s inauguration, nix that, Barack Obama’s election, there were whites and blacks alike who declared the United States post-racial. I knew better and two events this week have confirmed my opinion.

Yesterday, speaking to the Justice Department about Black History Month, Attorney General Eric Holder said,

One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul.

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by “American instinct” and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character.

And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago.

This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle, it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

via Atty. Gen. Eric Holder sees U.S. as ‘a nation of cowards’ | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times.

The host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Joe Scarborough said he was “flummoxed” by these comments. How could the Attorney General of the United States say such things when he is the first black to hold this position and he was appointed by the first black US President? Joe was beside himself. Haven’t we made progress? Pat Buchanan then piped in that self-segregation is part of social freedom.

What does having a black President and Attorney General have to do with racial conditions within neighborhoods across this country? Is it progress that enough white people were willing to vote for a black man that he could become President? Certainly. Does it solve all of our racial problems? Certainly not. Buchanan’s comment as an excuse for segregation is nothing new and does nothing to advance race relations. People self-segregate as much out of fear of “other” as it is comfort among their own kind. The fact that many whites and blacks spend time together when “they have to” in the office or business-related social events, but don’t during their free time indicates that we truly have not come to accept one another. It comes down to the phenomenon of the black or white liking the guy that works in the adjacent office but wouldn’t be caught dead having the guy date his daughter.

The other reminder that we are not yet post-racial came in the form of a tasteless cartoon on the editorial page of  the New York Post yesterday. The cartoon combined the two totally unrelated events of a chimp being killed by police in Stamford, CT with the signing of the stimulus bill. The cartoon shows two police officers looking down on the wounded dying chimp whom one of them has just shot. The one cop says to the other one holding a freshly fired gun, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Who is the stimulus bill most associated with? Barack Obama. What animal have blacks in this country been caricatured as for centuries? Apes. The editorial staff and the cartoon’s author, Sean Delonas deny any implication that the chimp was supposed to represent Obama. Rather than issue an apology they chose to attack their critics, in particular saying that Reverend Al Sharpton’s public complaint was just a grab at attention.

Even if we give the cartoonist and his paper the benefit of the doubt that the chimp represented Nancy Pelosi, or Congress, or as one apologist said, “any ape could have written the first stimulus package”, the incident makes clear that our racial wounds are still fresh. The incident confirms Eric Holder’s assessment that even the suggestion of outrage at a perceived racial slight brings judgement upon the wounded party, not the offender. “We know, by “American instinct” and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character.” Such was the case with Sharpton. Why make a mountain out of a molehill? Our President is black, we’re post-racial so surely the New York Post could not have made a racial faux pas. We’re past that. Aren’t we?

No we’re not. A black President, a black Attorney General and forty acres and a mule for that matter aren’t going to fool blacks into thinking that everything is just peachy. There is still lots of work to be done and Holder is right in saying that the only way we can do the work is by talking to each other with compassion and empathy.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance