The Second Term Curse

You have to go back to January 20, 1961 to find a US President who didn’t screw the pooch in his second term. Nixon had Watergate and resignation. Reagan had Iran-Contra and taped testimony that made him look old and feeble (foreshadowing the Alzheimer’s that would eventually take his life). Clinton had Monica Lewinsky and an impeachment trial. George W. Bush had Hurricane Katrina and a financial meltdown that at least for the time being puts his presidency among the ranks of Buchanan, Harding and Hoover.

I can’t speak for all liberals but both times that I voted for Barack Obama I never dreamed his second term would melt down like those before him. There are two schools of thought about Obama. One claims he is an evil thug (turn to Fox News for that story). Another says he is asleep at the wheel. I tend to believe the latter. This is a man who, for reasons that escape me, still has not learned that the presidency is about leadership. It’s about knowing what the hell is going on around you. It’s about activity, not just passively relying on your daily briefing. As a non-sports fan, I’ll risk using a sports metaphor and say that Obama seems to think the MVP on the basketball team is the dude who can pass the ball to the best shooter. Obama never seems to go for the slam dunk himself. He passes to Pelosi (look at ACA) or he passes to Biden (gun control). Now he’s got three “scandals” on his hands that he needs to take the lead on if he is to maintain any credibility.

Benghazi up until this week was a tragedy exploited for political gain. Then a memo from one of Hillary Clinton’s flunkies surfaced that spelled out the petty politics at the heart of the matter. No, contrary to the opinion of Republicans who are in permanent denial about the implausibility of a Mitt Romney presidency, there was no attempt to tamp down the terrorist aspect for the sake of Obama’s reelection. The memo from Victoria Nuland (which has been in the hands of Congress for some time but strangely only surfaced this past week) spells out the reason for sanitizing the CIA talking points. She wanted to save face for the State Department. So the American people were lied to over petty office politics. Not even big stakes electoral politics. The equivalent of the software development team spinning the bad message from the testing team about the lousy code they produce.  Had the GOP proceeded with moderation, the memo could have seen the light of day sooner and Nuland could have been fired as the appropriate sacrificial lamb for the lie perpetrated on the American people. Bottom line, despite the overplay by the GOP, the truth about the Benghazi talking points are a supreme insult to the memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The IRS is caught targeting right-wing groups for added scrutiny. Something right out of the Nixon playbook, although as I said earlier, I doubt this goes as far up as Obama. I think Obama is innocently or willfully ignorant of the shenanigans going on around him. Now let’s be perfectly clear, some of the groups targeted ARE full of horse manure, applying for tax exempt status as a community service when they are a pure political organization. The problem is that they were targeted based on profiling. It’s like pulling over the black guy cos you think he’s more likely to have committed a crime. It’s immoral. It’s indefensible.

The Justice department is caught listening in on the calls of the Associated Press, encompassing the conversations of some 100 journalists, at least some of whom are talking with confidential informants. The excuse is that Eric Holder and company were cracking down on leaks that could endanger national security. But let’s be honest here. Washington is hardly leak proof when it comes to national security, particularly if the leak makes the administration look tough on terrorism. Where I come from, conservatives intimidate the press, not liberals. But then again, where I come from conservatives drone-kill innocent 16-year-old boys, not liberals.

What the hell is going on?

And the best my beloved news source MSNBC can do is say “all the presidents have done it” or “Nixon did it” or “Bush did it and where was the Republican outcry then?” Are you kidding me? The best you can do in defense of this presidency is say he is just like every lousy president before him? Didn’t we hope for more?

I don’t know where we go from here. Obama clearly needs to fire a few folks. Credibility needs to be restored. And MSNBC needs to catch up with the rest of the press who are not so enamored of our historic President right now. We need to be honest and say this stuff stinks to high heaven and we need to clean it up. Stop making excuses. Stop covering up. One common theme to the second term curse is that the cover up is always worse than the crime. Obama better wake the hell up and start managing his administration or he will find himself right down there with Bush, Buchanan, Harding and Hoover.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Nixon

To paraphrase the old Christmas chestnut, it’s beginning to look a lot like Nixon, at least if you watch Fox News, read the conservative press or pay attention to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The furor is over Barack Obama’s decision to declare Executive Privilege and not release documents requested in a congressional probe of the botched drug war operation Fast and Furious. Because the botched operation touches upon one of conservative’s hottest of hot buttons, gun control, speculation has spun out of control and we now seem to have a Watergate in the making, except instead of a failed two-bit break-in we’ve got a lot of dead bodies including one US border patrol agent name Brian Terry.

As with so many Washington “scandals” it is hard to separate fact from fiction. I’ve watched a good number of talking heads and read columns including The National Journal’s Major Garrett and The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson. These are the facts I can piece together:

  • Dating back as far as 2005, we have run operations out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) under the Justice Department, to track illegal gun sales and attempt to trace them back to the big players at the receiving end, typically drug cartel warlords in Mexico. The approach is to allow the gun sale and then see where the guns go.
  • The first such attempt was called Operation Gun Runner.
  • The second attempt was called Operation Wide Receiver. These first two operations were conducted during the Bush administration. The inventory of guns allowed to slip through the cracks was limited, carefully tracked, and coordinated with the Mexican government.
  • The third attempt initiated under the Obama administration was called Fast and Furious. What made this attempt stand out was the lack of control over the inventory and the higher volume of inventory allowed to be illegally sold. Damning the program to utter failure were the fatalities traced back to F&F weapons.
  • Depending on which source you read, border patrol officer Brian Terry was killed by one of the guns in F&F. Alternative reports indicate that no F&F weapon was definitively tied to Terry’s death by any ballistic test.

The operation was shut down by the Justice Department, and folks were fired or reprimanded. Despite that, the botched operation attracted the attention of a congressional oversight committee led by California Representative Darrell Issa (R) and a year’s worth of investigation has resulted in the recommendation of a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder.

While Holder’s department did what it was supposed to do in shutting the program down and punishing those negligent, Holder made life difficult for himself by telling the oversight committee that he had no knowledge of F&F when documents later surfaced that contradicted that assertion. So are conservatives simply in an uproar over an Attorney General who might have lied to save face? No, it runs deeper than that. Deep enough that we get into very paranoid territory. On her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow spells out the origin of the F&F controversy and one of the main players who sparked concern about the operation, a crackpot named Michael Vanderboegh who in 2010 advocated vandalizing Democratic headquarters across the nation to protest “Obamacare”.

So the story goes that the Obama administration deliberately fed an out of control gun sale in the hopes that enough folks would get killed to turn American opinion in favor of greater gun control. As shown in the Maddow piece, the attitude of conservatives toward the Obama administration vis-a-vis gun control is outright irrational. In a “woman on the street” interview, an Alaskan woman tells Maddow “I don’t have all the facts but I know that [Holder is] anti-gun.” Of course this flies in the face of the fact that the gun control advocacy group The Brady Campaign gave Obama an “F” on gun control. But don’t let his poor record fool you. Wayne LaPierre declares that Obama has done nothing on gun control in order to lull the American people into a comfort zone so that he can steal their guns in his second term. Sadly, a number of otherwise intelligent Americans are buying this paranoid nonsense wholesale.

If we come back to reality for a moment, the current American statistics are sober enough that no intentional out of control gun running scheme is necessary to convince America of the need for gun control. According to Demos Fellow Bob Herbert (in a subsequent interview by Maddow) three people will die from gun violence in the next hour. That comes to about 30,000 gun fatalities a year. Folks who misread the second amendment do not care about these statistics and no increase in dead Mexicans or a dead US border patrol agent will change their mind. Instead it’s easier to simply say Obama and Holder killed Brian Terry so we all can willingly give up our second amendment rights. Absurd.

So where does this leave us with the Executive Privilege claim by Obama? Even Darrell Issa said today that he has no proof of a concerted effort by the White House to mislead Congress on Fast and Furious. Yet Executive Privilege claims smell fishy more often than not. My guess is that Obama did this as a power play to spit in the face of what he views as an overzealous prosecution by Congress. My personal recommendation, as if Obama listens to me, would be to withdraw the Executive Privilege claim and supply all requested documents. That way you don’t look like you have something to hide and you don’t feed the loonies and their conspiracy theories.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Photo mashup originally appeared on The Drudge Report.

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Who the Hell is Saul Alinsky (and Rachel Maddow Jumps the Shark)

Who the Hell is Saul Alinsky?

Last week, I had two choices for blog topics in my head. One was a pros and cons of Barack Obama and the other was asking who the hell is Saul Alinsky. I chose the former. Then the following Friday night, not one but two left-leaning TV personalities asked essentially “who the hell is Saul Alinsky?” I chuckled to my wife that something must be in the air. What’s putting this Keyser Söze of politics into everyone’s head are the ramblings of GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich who drops Alinsky’s name with the frequency of a thirteen year old girl citing Justin Bieber. According to Gingrich, President Barack Obama is a slave to “Saul Alinsky” and we all must be afraid, be very afraid of “Saul Alinsky liberalism”. These warnings are usually greeted with whoops and hollers from Gingrich’s adoring fans, an ignorant lot who have no better idea of who Saul Alinsky is than I did, but will clap for anything anti-Obama.

So who is this Saul Alinsky? Bill Maher’s summary biography states that Alinsky liked black people, and hence is an enemy of current day Republicans. Of course that greatly oversimplifies things. Alinsky identified with the disenfranchised of all races. He essentially invented community organizing. Of course, Obama having been a community organizer must have inherited all of Saul’s evil traits. To make matters worse, about a year before he died, Alinsky wrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. Alinsky believed that you had to do (or threaten to do) outrageous things to get the attention of the establishment. According to the Wiki article on him, he planned to stage at various times in his career, a fart-in and a piss-in. In the former, a mass of baked bean-filled protesters would disperse themselves among a concert audience and unleash a torrent of offensive odor and sound. In the latter, well dressed black men would occupy public urinals and simply refuse to leave until demands were met. Just the mere threat of these shenanigans got the attention of the powerful.

What I don’t get from the little I’ve read about Alinsky is any sense of violence. The dude saw what he thought were disadvantaged people and rejoiced in pissing off their perceived oppressors. He was clearly an enemy of the status quo when the status quo put its heavy foot on the throat of a powerless minority. This, by the way, extended to Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”. He was just as concerned about disenfranchised whites and their vulnerability to wrong-headed leaders who would offer them the politics of hate disguised as hope.

In the context of Newt Gingrich, as Bill Maher ably points out, Alinsky is just another boogeyman designed to make you fear, distrust or outright hate Barack Obama. Nothing more, nothing less.

Rachel Maddow Jumps the Shark

Let me state two things up front. First, I like Rachel Maddow. Second I do believe in dog whistles. With that out of the way, my friend Ms. Maddow took a leap too far last night in her coverage of the Florida primary. During Newt Gingrich’s “concession speech” (Newt never actually concedes) in Florida last night, he suggested that Barack Obama stop singing, stop being the “entertainer-in-chief” and actually do his job. Out of any context, the comment would seem at least nonsensical and at worst some veiled reference to the stereotypical  “singing dancing black man” so adored (and simultaneously ridiculed)  in our pop culture. But, as always, context is everything.

A couple of weeks ago during a fund-raiser, President Obama sang the first line of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. I got a major kick out of it. I thought it greatly humanized him particularly when he so often comes across as remote. But let’s be honest here. When you let your guard down and show a frivolous side to America, your opponents will exploit it. Just go back to 1968 and Richard Nixon’s brief appearance on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in” where he said “sock it to me?” It was funny. But Nixon haters certainly like to use it in their “laugh at Nixon reel.”  The fact of the matter is Obama DID sing. So for Gingrich to tell him to stop singing and do his job was at worst evidence of Newt having no sense of humor or appreciation for a human moment. It was NOT some example of racism. It did not conjure up images of the minstrel show (as Maddow put it) in any but the most racially paranoid minds.

Former Gingrich spokesperson and current leader of the “not coordinated with Gingrich” Super PAC, Rick Tyler, bless his soul, did battle with Maddow and Al Sharpton last night. To my surprise, Tyler who once wrote the immortal words “But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich”, ably defended his candidate and made Maddow and Sharpton look pretty pathetic.

You know something? As a black man, every now and then I get a little tired of white folks defending black folks … because sometimes they just don’t know when to quit while they’re ahead.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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