Call me an American Dissident. I believe in democracy and government of, FOR, and BY the PEOPLE. I do NOT believe in the plutocratic corpocracy this country is today, wherein government is made and administered of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. I believe in wealth which is HONESTLY attained through hard work and merit. I do NOT believe in wealth attained by means of deceit, exploitation, or leverage. There is enough for all in this world. Greed is the major cause of poverty, and both are totally unnecessary.
"Ignorance is not bliss - it is oblivion." - Philip Wylie -
If we look at the four men pictured here, we see they were all Republicans, and 3 of 4 were Presidents. They were, however, nothing like those who currently refer to themselves as Republicans. No, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were economic liberals, who believed that government power trumped that of big business, and that excessively concentrated capital was undesirable and must be regulated by government. Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller were economic and social moderates who understood that organized labor and government must both have a valid role in bettering peoples' lives. All of these men would be thoroughly rejected outright by the GOP of today. For the shrinking, increasingly bitter and intolerant current Republican Party has very little in common with its great predecessor in earlier days. That is precisely why it has lost power and fallen into such great disfavor. I dare say that, barring an unforseen miracle or radical makeover, it will soon die and fade into history, as did the Federalist, Whig, and Know-Nothing parties in prior history when they lost relevance with voters and became too doctrinaire and too limited in focus.
The switch to the Democratic Party by long time Republican Arlen Specter proves there is no longer any room for moderates or progressives in the GOP. For conservatives now exert a stranglehold over the party. They do not mince words when chastising those who dare to drift from their rigid orthodoxy. Specter was roundly criticized by them for his opposition to their obstructionism, which he exhibited by voting for President Obama's recent economic stimulus plan. He, and other long time Republican moderates like Colin Powell and Susan Eisenhower, have all decried the vicious and uncooperative demeanor the party has taken on. It has become a party of bigots and bullies. Just yesterday, conservative Republican commentator Rush Limbaugh instructed his hard core followers that the loss of Specter was a good thing, and wished that Specter would "take McCain and his daughter with him." Limbaugh, like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michele Bachmann, Dick Cheney, John Cornyn, John Boehner, and the rest of their ilk, are each clueless as to the current needs of the overwhelming majority of the population, who are hurting from massive unemployment, ever-rising health care costs, and frozen wages. They repeatedly and uniformly call only for more tax cuts as the one action needed to turn the economy around. They stand as a solidly immovable bloc, opposed to changes that people want. This has not, and will not, gain them voter support.
The current conservative-controlled Republican Party does NOT share the wishes or values of the vast majority of people. Most people are opposed to free trade deals that send American jobs overseas, but the GOP still supports those free trade agreements. Most people want universal health care for citizens, but the GOP and shadowy conservative groups are already mounting an ad campaign in an effort to prevent passage of such legislation. A large majority of Americans favor the right of workers to organize into labor unions for collective bargaining purposes to raise wages, but the GOP hates unions and wants them to wither away altogether. Most people do not want the filthy rich or major corporations to receive any more tax breaks or subsidies, but the GOP is still pushing its beloved tax-cut philosophy. Most Americans do not favor pre-emptive war, the use of war as an ongoing profit center for arms merchants and huge weapons manufacturers, or the use of torture as a tool of policy, but here is the GOP advocating military force over diplomacy, and endorsing "the ends justifies the means" philosophy when it comes to using torture, at every opportunity. Americans want cooperation in government and a united front in our effort to restore prosperity and secure the country from terrorism. Yet here is Rush Limbaugh saying he hopes President Obama will fail, Sarah Palin saying he "pals around with terrorists", Dick Cheney saying his policies are leaving the country less safe, Michele Bachmann questioning how pro-America he is, and the rest of the far-right contemptuously criticizing him, liberals, progressives, and anyone else who isn't a modern-day conservative Republican. Senator Olympia Snowe, one of only two remaining moderate Republican Senators, was quoted recently as saying "Ultimately, we're heading to having the smallest political tent in history, the way events have been unfolding. If the Republican Party fully intends to become a majority party in the future, it must move from the far right back to the middle." She is absolutely correct.
I predict, though, that the Republican Party will never again be the majority party. For many decades, when given control of the White House and Congress, they have delivered legislation beneficial only to special interests representing the rich and powerful, not the majority of the country. They have implemented economic policy which has neglected or hurt the poor and those on fixed incomes. They have actively supported union-busting and outsourcing American jobs. They have tried to socially and culturally force this diverse country into artificially rigid and narrowly restricted confines of their own authoritarian social and religious right beliefs. In doing all of these things, they are running contrary to America's will and to her very nature. Majority parties do not behave in such a manner.
Arch-conservative Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas recently complained about how the Federal Government in Washington, D.C. was trying to run everyone's lives, and that if things didn't improve soon, Texans may wish to secede from the Union again, as they did in 1861. He was offered philosophical support from a number of far-right pundits and mainly fellow southern conservative Republicans. This, too, runs counter to what the overwhelming majority of Americans believe. But perhaps Perry and his cohorts SHOULD be allowed to follow through with their desire. America and its people would be far better off without a conservative power base obstructing progressive legislation and continually enabling corrupt, big business interests. Go set up a modern-day Dark Ages nation of serfs with masters, and and feel free to restore feudalism. Populate it with all the Rush Limbaughs, Sarah Palins, Joe the phony Plumbers, Glenn Becks, and John Boehners you can find.Just don't let our door hit you on the ass on your way out. Good riddance - the rest of us want to get something constructive accomplished!
"When defeat is inevitable, it is wisest to yield." - Marcus Fabuis Quintilianus -
"I think everyone should experience defeat once in their career. You learn a lot from it." - Lou Holtz -
A current Star Tribune Minnesota Poll published in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune shows that nearly two thirds of Minnesota voters (64%) believe that Republican Norm Coleman should accept the decision of his recent court trial and concede defeat to Al Franken for the unoccupied Minnesota US Senate seat. This, of course, the stubborn and self-centered Coleman will not do, though. He filed an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, but indications are they will not even take the case up until at least June 1, nearly SEVEN FULL MONTHS after last November's election. Only 28% felt that Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court was "appropriate."
73% polled believe Coleman must give up if he loses his Minnesota Supreme Court appeal, as is almost certain he will. Less than one in five (only 18%) believe if he loses there, he should file an appeal in Federal Court and continue his pursuit.
Take THAT, Texas Senator and troublemaker John Cornyn, and kindly mind your own business! And, if you will, please note that Coleman's approval rating with Minnesota voters now stands at only 38%, while his UNfavorable rating now stands at 55% and growing. Did you hear me, Cornyn?
Face it, Norm. You lost. Even your state is against you, Norm. CONCEDE! Your state deserves their Senator, even though it will not be you. Just listen, Norm: Minnesota voters have spoken. Twice.
I never thought a person as eccentric, narrow-minded, flippant, or controversial as the late Tammy Faye Bakker would ever get elected to the U.S. Congress, not even from the ultra-conservative so-called "Bible Belt". Yet Tammy Faye has apparently been reincarnated in the form of one Michele Bachmann, the current 2nd term Congresswoman. That she hails from the purportedly well-educated, "good government" state of Minnesota comes as an even bigger shock. It is a testimonial to the effectiveness of Republican gerrymandering that she was ever elected at all in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. For that district used to include parts of north Minneapolis and its northern inner-ring suburbs which have a heavier concentration of Democratic voters. But today's 6th District skips north Minneapolis altogether and instead includes the more rural and developing bedroom communities to its northwest and far north, as well as curving around to the northeast, where it picks up some more conservative and wealthier northernmost St. Paul suburbs which extend all the way to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Thankfully, I do not reside in this district.
Oddly enough, the ultra-conservative Michele Bachmann began her involvement in politics with Democrat Jimmy Carter's successful 1976 presidential campaign. No doubt she and future husband Marcus (now a Christian guidance counselor) were attracted by his evangelistic "born again" theme. But, like many ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christians, they abandoned Carter and the Democrats for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and have never looked back since. A graduate of the Coburn School of Law (an affiliate of the Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma), Bachmann received a Juris Doctor law degree there and a subsequent LL.M tax law degree from William and Mary College. As one might expect, she is today very pro-business and a strong social and economic conservative.
As a member of the religious right, Bachmann has no time for gay rights or government aid to the poor. She very much supports privatizing Social Security, drastically cutting back on corporate taxes and those of the wealthy, government deregulation of business, and the neocon doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes against any nation she considers a threat. She opposes stem cell research and increases in the minimum wage level.
One would expect a person with her schooling and background to be precise, articulate, factual, and thoughtfully-reasoned in her public pronouncements, but such has not been the case with Michele Bachmann. She has a regular habit of making wild, off-the-cuff, false, distorted, unsubstantiated subjective statements which always seem to land her in hot water. She repeatedly makes controversial and/or offensive remarks and has a clearly established pattern of denying she made the statements at all, blaming the media for misquotes, or suggesting that she was unfairly set up by liberals and was taken out of context. None of these claims are ever true. The fact of the matter is that she has a loose-cannon motor mouth and babbles excitedly and irresponsibly, often embellishing her wild rants with misstatements and pure manufactured fiction. She is a darling of the hard core far-right, because as we all know, they don't seem to care much about accuracy anyway. So long as any speaker spouts their pro-military/industrial complex, pro-big business, pro-intolerance, pro-authoritarian, and anti-tax ideology, that speaker is held in high esteem. And so it is with Michele Bachmann.
But for most of us progressives and independents, and the majority of the population, truth and fact trump rigid conservative ideology. Below are a number of examples of Bachmann's highly controversial and ridiculously distorted statements over the years. These are direct quotes straight out of her mouth, and have not been misquoted or fabricated in any way. They are easily verifiable in numerous YouTube video and many audio clips found all over the internet. This woman is unbelievable.
(At the recent CPAC convention, loudly directed at new African-American GOP Chairman Michael Steele) - "You be da man! You be da man!" (This use of black street slang was improper and unprofessional, and it was certainly not cute). ------------ ((On a fictional claim that President Obama will redistrict all congressional districts to favor Democrats, when in fact redistricting is done by each individual state legislature) - "...the have-nots will be the Republican districts that are left, pouring money into Washington D.C. to be redistributed out to the Democrat (sic) districts which will suck up the money. I don't know where they're gonna go to get all this money, because we're running out of rich people in this country...under Obama, big evil is now anyone with a joint income of $100,000 or more. I truly believe that's probably gonna lower to $65,000 or more will be considered big evil and be taxed to the hilt." (For one who decries the shrinking numbers of rich, she conveniently ignores how her support for free trade has lowered American wages and exported millions of American jobs overseas. She also conveniently ignores how Obama's tax plan LOWERS taxes on all incomes below $250,000 and does NOT raise them at $100,000 or $65,000). ------------ (On where funds are going for the Obama stimulus plan) - "ACORN is under federal indictment for voter fraud, but the Stimulus Bill gives ACORN $5 billion." (This is utter nonsense. ACORN is NOT under fedreal indictment, nor did the stimulus contain ANY funds for ACORN)! ------------ (On health care provisions in the stimulus plan) - "...also contained in the stimulus is socialized medicine. Now we'll have a National Review Board, and your doctor will no longer be able to make decisions with you. Now a National Review Board will be making those decisions." (It is impossible to tell where this bit of science fiction in her brain came from. There are NO provisions for a board of this sort, nor does the stimulus establish "socialized medicine" in any manner, shape, or form. The nightmarish scenario Bachmann is describing seems to more closely resemble our current state of for-profit-only health "care" being heavily influenced by insurance companies acting as excess-baggage, greedy, profiteering middlemen. For it is insurance companies dictating and/or strongly influencing hospital stay lengths, medication dosages, and lab test frequency, not doctors). ------------ (On raising the Minnesota minimum wage rate a few years back, before she was elected to the U.S. House) - "Literally - if we took away the minimum wage, if conceivably it was gone - we could potentially wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level." (Riiiggghhhttt, Michele. I can imagine millions of happy workers eagerly standing in line 10 deep to apply for one of your $2 per hour or $4 per hour non-minimum wage jobs. For anybody with half a brain knows that, were minimum wage to be discarded, wages across the board would DROP, not rise. Perhaps we taxpayers should set YOUR salary at $4 per hour since you apparently think that is such an acceptable and livable wage. And I don't hear you advocating $4 per hour salaries for billionaires or CEOs whose taxes you want to cut even further than they already have been). ------------ (On Democrats and environmentalists) - "This is their agenda...they want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities...live in tenements, take light rail to their government jobs. That is their vision for America." (Preposterous. No such agenda has ever been proposed by any Democrat OR environmentalist. This is pure irresponsible supposition and hyperbole on her part). ------------ (On Iran's supposed involvement in Iraq) - "Iran is the troublemaker...because they want America to pull out. And do you know why? It's because they've already decided that they're going to partition Iraq. And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called 'the Iraq state of Islam', something like that..." (When pressed by the national media as to exactly where she got this secret information, Bachmann first denied the statement, then said she was misquoted, and then finally issued a full retraction. It was a bald-faced and irresponsible lie to begin with). ------------ (On drilling fr oil in the pristine Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve) - "Some suggestions are that we would see an advancement of wildlife expansion because of the warmth of this pipeline. [It] has now become a breeding ground and 'coffee klatch' for the caribou." (Utter nonsense, and not in the least bit cute or humorous. Not only that, there has there no basis in scientific fact clearly establishing the Alaska oil pipeline has been responsible for an increase in wildlife). ------------ (On the Serve America Act, an extension of the successful AmeriCorps program) - "...and the real concerns (sic) is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go to get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go work in some of those politically correct forums." (Bachmann is clearly hysterically reading things that aren't there into this highly beneficial program, which, incidentally, was co-sponsored by long time conservative Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. A rash and reckless statement resulting from very poor homework on Bachmann's part). ------------ (On her support for a same-sex marriage ban she supported while in the Minnesota state legislature) - "It's not just some gay will get some rights. It's that everyone else in our state will lose rights. For instance, parents will lose the right to protect and direct the upbringing of their children. Because our K-12 public school system, of which ninety percent of all youth are in the public school system, they will be required to learn that homosexuality is normal, equal, and perhaps you should try it. And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality." (This wild allegation had no basis in fact at all. It was far more indicative of Bachmann's ignorance, intolerance, insensitivity, and her deep-rooted homophobia than it was of reality). ------------ (On the removal of six Muslim Imams from an airplane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2006) - "The Imams, the Imams, were actually attending, ah, Congressman Keith Ellison's victory celebration, when he won as a member of Congress." (Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, spoke briefly at a national Imam convention being held in Minneapolis that the six were attending, but they were not there celebrating his election celebration. This is a completely false allegation very revealing of Bachmann's religious right bias against Muslims. Yet another in a long, steady line of constant unfounded allegations). ------------ (On resisting Obama's cap and trade plans for limiting harmful greenhouse gas emissions) - Minnesotans should be "armed and dangerous." ------------ (On the "Americanism" of fellow Congresspersons, from the "Hardball with Chris Matthews" show of October 17, 2008) - "The news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look, I wish they would...I wish they would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would be, would love to see an expose like that." (Shades of Joe McCarthy! What's next---loyalty oaths? Sorry, Bachmann---we do not share the same view of America. Yours is intolerant, for the rich, and authoritarian. Mine is not).
This is merely the tip of the iceberg concerning Michele Bachmann's many, many controversially irresponsible and delusional statements. There is an obvious common thread of fear and mistrust running through nearly all of them. She evidences herself as a reckless and impulsive individual, one who shoots first, and never, or very much later, asks questions. Such crazed impulsiveness is not limited only to her words. I will never forget her impetuous grabbing of President George W. Bush's shoulder right after his 2007 State of the Union Address. She forcibly turned him around and then planted a long, wet, sloppy kiss right on his lips. I was shocked beyond belief at such undignified and outrageous behavior by an elected official from my state!
Michele Bachmann does not think or articulate like a well-educated person. There is an unflattering naivete and immaturity to her rash behavior. She often looks like a deer caught in headlights and then spontaneously bursts out with some ridiculous remark. Her speaking style gives little evidence of deep and careful reasoning. Her attacks on and allegations against opponents and those in society she looks down on are not borne of intellect and sound logic, but rather of bias, delusion, and fear. She grew up in the very northernmost Minneapolis suburb of Anoka, MN. That city houses the Anoka State Hospital, a home for the mentally ill. After seeing the repeated controversial, delusional, and fictional statements being made by Michele Bachmann, one can only believe she belongs in THAT house rather than the U.S. House of Representatives. For she truly is the craziest woman in the House!
This is an open plea to the Republicans of Minnesota's 6th Congressional District: PLEASE DUMP MICHELE BACHMANN! She is a major embarrassment to your party, the district, the state, and the entire nation. She is a buffoon and a laughingstock. Next time, PLEASE replace her with a conservative family-values type Republican who is NOT unbalanced and delusional. Elect one with character, brains, and civility, in the mold of, perhaps, a George F. Will or Chuck Hagel. Your district and our state deserve the best they can get, and Michele Bachmann is clearly not that! Thank you.
"If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." - Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, 1945 -
President Obama did something very good today in making public 4 documents from his predecessor's Justice Department which clearly authorized illegal acts of torture on foreign nationals we suspected of being terrorists. But he also made one of the most grievous mistakes ever made by a U.S. President when he had his own Justice Department declare it would not prosecute the individuals involved in implementing that torture, on the grounds that they were only following orders. In so doing he let stand unpunished flagrant U.S. violations of the Geneva Convention and effectively reset a precedent originating in the administration of the lawless George W. Bush administration. Yes, he effectively reinforced the notion that the U.S. government and its executive branch can engage in war crimes and ignore international treaties it signed and previously followed, whenever and wherever it feels like it. That is unconscionable.
Obama, to his credit, said publicly his administration would not engage in such actions in the future. That is fine and dandy. But this failure to prosecute the guilty perpetrators of heinous crimes, and his stated intention to not even investigate or prosecute their superiors, is unforgivable and foolish. By sweeping these offenses under the rug, Obama has done nothing to ensure a future administration will not repeat or expand on them. And he has effectively told the world that the United States will basically thumb its nose at international law whenever it wants. How, then, can he expect other countries to follow international law, or refrain from torturing American prisoners? He has shown very, very poor judgment with this decision, and we can only hope he will reconsider and let justice prevail as it should. For by this twisted logic, no Nazi should have been convicted or punished at the Nuremberg Trials, as they were all merely "following orders." That defense did not work then, and nor should it now.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann presented an especially accurate and eloquent "Special Comment" on this matter tonight which I repeat below. He does a far better job than I could ever hope to of presenting sound, reasoned logic on the errors of Obama's action today.
------------------------------ "As promised, a Special Comment now on the president's revelation of the re"mainder of this nightmare of Bush Administration torture memos. This President has gone where few before him, dared. The dirty laundry — illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destroying — is out for all to see.
Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but half-way. And, in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still. Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging these science-fiction-like documents, you said that:
'This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke.'
'We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history.
'But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.'
Mr. President, you are wrong. What you describe would be not 'spent energy' but catharsis. Not 'blame laid,' but responsibility ascribed. You continued:
'Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.'
Indeed we must, Mr. President. And the forces of which you speak are the ones lingering — with pervasive stench — from the previous administration. Far more than a criminal stench, Sir. An immoral one. One we cannot let be re-created.
One, President Obama, it is your responsibility to make sure cannot be re-created. Forgive me for quoting from a Comment I offered the night before the inauguration. But this goes to the core of the President's commendable, but wholly naive, intention. This country has never 'moved forward with confidence'.without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past.
In point of fact, every effort to merely draw a line in the sand and declare the past dead has served only to keep the past alive and often to strengthen it. We "moved forward" with slavery in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And four score and nine years later, we had buried 600,000 of our sons and brothers, in a Civil War.
After that war's ending, we 'moved forward' without the social restructuring — and protection of the rights of minorities — in the south. And a century later, we had not only not resolved anything, but black leaders were still being assassinated in our southern cities.
We 'moved forward' with Germany in the reconstruction of Europe after the First World War. Nobody even arrested the German Kaiser, let alone conducted war crimes trials then. And 19 years later, there was an indescribably more evil Germany and a more heart-rending Second World War.
We 'moved forward' with the trusts of the early 1900s. And today, we are at the mercy of corporations too big to fail. We 'moved forward' with the Palmer Raids and got McCarthyism. And we 'moved forward' with McCarthyism and got Watergate. We 'moved forward' with Watergate and junior members of the Ford administration realized how little was ultimately at risk.
They grew up to be Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. But, Mr. President, when you say we must "come together on behalf of our common future" you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.
That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration's torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal punishments, or merely new laws. Your only other option is to let this set and fester indefinitely. Because, Sir, some day there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and this country's moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush. Or what you did not do.
And he will see precedent. Or as Cheney saw, he will see how not to get caught next time. Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn. Merely by acting, you will deny a further wrong — that this construction will enter the history books: Torture was legal. It worked. It saved the country.
The end. This must not be. 'It is our intention,' you said today, 'to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.' Mr. President, you are making history's easiest, most often made, most dangerous mistake — you are accepting the defense that somebody was 'just following orders.' At the end of his first year in office, Mr. Lincoln tried to contextualize the Civil War for those who still wanted to compromise with evils of secession and slavery. "The struggle of today," Lincoln wrote, 'is not altogether for today. It is for a vast future also.'
Mr. president, you have now been handed the beginning of that future. Use it to protect our children and our distant descendants from anything like this ever happening again — by showing them that those who did this, were neither unfairly scapegoated nor absolved. It is good to say 'we won't do it again.' It is not, however...enough." ------------------------------- Brilliantly stated, Mr. Olbermann. President Obama had the golden opportunity to fully repudiate and overturn a seriously immoral Bush administraction action. But he failed to do so. Instead, he reset a very, very bad precedent.
Norm Coleman, Republican FORMER Senator from Minnesota, is indeed a very hollow man. He has a long history of molting to opportunistically benefit from the prevailing political tide, but, at long last, it looks like his political career may be drawing to a close. For a three judge panel hearing his attempt to overturn Democrat Al Franken's 312 vote victory in last November's Senate election has ruled against and rejected Coleman's arguments. They further stated that Franken should be certified as winner, and that they found no flaw in the way the state of Minnesota had conducted the election or its subsequent recount. As one who has been disgusted with the chameleon-like nature of Coleman's politics, I was delighted to see him defeated, and here is why.
Norm Coleman was born in 1949 and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He was an anti-war activist against the Vietnam War during his college days in the late 1960s-early 1970s. He had hair down to his shoulders and even organized anti-war marches. We could have been best buds back then.
Coleman studied law at Brooklyn Law College and then moved west, obtaining his law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law. At that point, he shed his first political skin by cutting his hair and moderating his politics, proclaiming himself a Democrat and moving to heavily-Democratic St. Paul, MN. Here, he worked for a time in the state Attorney General's office, before running for mayor as a moderate Democrat and winning in 1994. He was a good mayor, beginning a massively successful revitalization program for the city which greatly restored its lustre and prominence relative to its old competitor across the Mississippi River from it, Minneapolis. Coleman shed his second political skin in 1996, and declared himself a moderate Republican. The GOP had regained total control of Congress for the first time in 50 years two years before, and ol' Norm wanted to catch and ride that rising tide. He won re-election as mayor, and led a successful drive to return an NHL hockey franchise back to Minnesota and locating it in St. Paul. The Minnesota North Stars team had left for Dallas, TX a few years earlier, so Norm's success in attracting a new franchise, as well as his revitalization of St. Paul, gave him well-deserved accolades and statewide recognition. He used this as what he thought would be a springboard to the state governorship in 1998. But Coleman was mistaken. He ran an uninspiring and lackluster campaign and was defeated in a three-way race by Independent Jesse Ventura. He was deliberating about running for governor again in 2002, but then he once more shed his political skin to become a CONSERVATIVE Republican. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, hard core social and economic conservatives, had sucessfully stolen and were occupying the White House, and, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, the nation seemed to be in a more conservative mood than it had for many years. So ol' Norm thought he'd hitch a ride on that wave too, and use it to propel himself into national office, namely the U.S. Senate. His opponent: Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone, unabashed liberal and champion of the working man and average citizen. Wellstone was highly critical of the increasingly threatening Bush/Cheney language and posture concerning Iraq, so both they and the national Republican Party frantically wanted Wellstone defeated and out of the way. They lavished lots of money on Coleman and he began gaining ground on Wellstone.
On October 25, 2002, Paul Wellstone died in a mysterious plane crash in northern Minnesota. Local polls showed he had a 2 to 3 point lead over Coleman at the time of his death. Less than two weeks before the election, the Democrats had lost their incumbent Senator and had no ready replacement in the wings. After a short delay, the elderly and long-retired former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale came forward to try and save Wellstone's seat. But the younger, better financed, and more energetic-looking Norm Coleman won a narrow victory in the election, sneaking in by a squeaker.
It didn't take Coleman long to exhibit his new colors, marching in lock step with every Bush/Cheney economic, social, and foreign affairs initiative. He strongly supported Bush's ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation efforts, increased subsidizing of corporations (including OIL COMPANIES, and the last time I checked, I never saw a single oil well in the entire state of Minnesota), and the invasion of Iraq. The very same Coleman who had lambasted the Nixon administration for its imperialistic war in Vietnam 30 years earler was now actively supporting Bush's carbon copy. He became such a suck-ass to the Bush administration that a website was set up about him called "Bush Boy" featuring him sitting as a dummy on Bush's knee. Yes, ambitious, opportunistic, ladder-climbing Coleman had come 180 degrees and was everything he had fought in college. Wellstone had not even been dead 6 months, when, in April of 2003, Coleman coldly declared he was "a 99% improvement" over Wellstone because he had a closer working relationship with the Bush White House than had Wellstone. Norm Coleman had finally emerged as a full-blown chameleon political lizard. But he wasn't done transforming himself and shedding political skin yet.
By 2006-2007, the nation was beginning to see how inept and corrupt the Bush administration had been. They were getting angry at the cost, duration, and lies surrounding the Iraq war. They were also sick of Republican favoritism for the rich and for corporations that were freezing wages and exporting jobs. Minnesotans saw that, during his tenure as Chairman of the powerful Senate Subcommittee on Investigations from 2003-2006, whose job is to investigate fraud and waste in government contracts, Coleman had not called even one hearing on the billions in cash that had supposedly gone into non-bid Iraq reconstruction projects that had actually never produced anything. Nor was a hearing called to examine whatever had happened to the pallets of bundled cash that mysteriously "disappeared" in Baghdad. Instead, ol' Norm held hearings on how federal employees were ripping off taxpayers by flying in business section instead of coach. Minnesotans also saw Coleman oppose a windfall profits tax to be placed on greedy oil companies at a time those oil companies were ripping the public off with $4.00 per gallon gas. As the economy tanked in the fall of 2008, people began losing their jobs and Coleman began to try to shed his political skin once more, to a more populist hue. But it didn't work.
On election night, November 4, 2008, it appeared Norm Coleman had squeaked out another very narrow (725 vote) victory (out of nearly 3.9 million votes cast) over his this-time Democratic opponent, Al Franken. The very next day, Coleman was out publicly shooting his mouth off urging Franken to concede defeat, saying "the prospects of overcoming 725 votes is extremely, extremely, extremely, extremely remote...if you ask me what I would do, I would step back...my hope is that we would begin the healing process today." But ol' slick Norm didn't know that in an election with a vote margin that close, Minnesota law mandates a recount. So the long, drawn-out recount-each-ballot-by-hand process began. After many weeks, it finally showed FRANKEN the victor, by 225 votes! Would Coleman accept defeat like a man, or fight it like a little boy? Would he do as he had said he would do, and "step back"? Not Normie. Instead, he shed political skin again and this time became "Crybaby Norm." He filed suit and challenged recount procedure and ballot-authenticity, and even paraded a very less-than-credible (even embarrassingly contradictory and laughable) group of voters who claimed their votes had been unfairly disallowed. The judges agreed to examine several hundred rejected ballots. They allowed some of those ballots to be counted and entered into the total. End result? Franken's margin of victory GREW from 225 to 312 votes! The judges unanimously declared Franken the winner. That's where the process stands at this moment. Coleman has 10 days to appeal, and says he will do so. Hard core far-right Republicans like Texas Senator John Cornyn are advising Coleman to sue on a federal level and even take the case to the national Supreme Court if he loses his state appeal. This is not out of benevolent concern for Norm Coleman, of course. It is just a thinly-veiled attempt by an obstruction-happy Cornyn to deny Democrats one more seat, which would put them closer to a 60 seat filibuster-proof number. John Cornyn should SHUT UP and mind his own damn business! We don't run elections up here the way they do down where he's from, thank God.
But meanwhile, the self-centered, hollow man named Norm Coleman is keeping the citizens of Minnesota in limbo, denying them full representation, and placing an unfair burden on Minnesota's other Senator, Amy Klobuchar. Nice job, Norm. Perhaps if you had paid more attention to the needs of real people and less attention to corporations, the wealthy, and the very UN-Minnesotan conservative Bush crowd, the state's voters would not have rejected you. But reject you they did, so it is now time to end this childish nonsense and foul play, and accept defeat like a man. HANG IT UP, NORM - YOU LOST!!!
Some of my Republican friends have correctly noted that I have seldom criticized Democratic officeholders or the Democratic Party itself in this blog. The reason for this is simple: for much of the past 30 years, it has been the Republican Party in control of the White House and, since January, 1995, they have had de facto control of Congress for all but the past 27 months. Republicans have framed the country's political debate and have directly or very influentially determined national policy. In that time, they have successfully shifted the American political paradigm so very far to the right that it would make relative moderates like Dwight Eisenhower or Nelson Rockefeller blanch in utter shock. For the Republicans have nearly eradicated labor unions and have triumphantly pushed through numerous deregulation and free trade measures which have effectively frozen workers' wages here and resulted in the shipment of millions of good paying jobs out of this country. They have effected a secretive and authoritarian form of governance which has eroded social freedom and trampled all over the first and fourth amendments to the Constitution. They have succeeded in packing the Supreme Court (and many lesser courts as well) with justices who are hard core anti-labor, pro-corporate, and pro-authoritarian. The GOP's laissez-faire, 1920s-style approach to economics has blatantly favored the rich and big business while seriously neglecting the poor and eroding the middle class. In practicing this theory, they have wiped out all the economic gains made by the non-wealthy over a 70 year period, from the mid-1930s onward. Their policy has shifted wealth from the large, lower economic strata to a very small and narrow group of economic elite at the very, very top. In so doing, they have ruined our economy and brought us to the brink of another Great Depression. Our overall standard of living is dropping, not rising. So there has been much to criticize the Republicans for, and I have not hesitated to do so.
But the Democrats have not been blameless either, so in this blog, they will be deservedly chastised as well. However, it will probably not be in the way my Republican friends may have hoped for (they should be careful for what they wish).
The Democratic Party loves to describe and market itself as the party of the common man; the worker; the disadvantaged and deprived; the party of fairness and inclusion. Yet on numerous occasions they have failed to live up to those attributes. They were at their best, and achieved their strongest following and influence, when they actually DID measure up to their description. In the 1930s-1960s, the party was heavily dominated and influenced by progressives and therefore much broadly beneficial social and economic legislation was enacted. Unemployment insurance, Social Security, the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, labor unions, Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights and consumer-protection laws were all passed. The country experienced the growth of a prosperous middle class, and many rose out of poverty. Labor as well as business made money. This was achieved because the Democratic Party put forth a bold agenda which benefitted the vast majority of citizens. But by the 1970s, the party began to become less responsive to the everyday, average American and thus began its long and gradual decline. The party became complacent after many years of nearly uninterrupted power and control. It slowly and increasingly became tainted with corporate and special interest money. When it stopped putting forth bold initiatives for the majority, it became almost indistinguishable from the rival Republican Party. People began to refer to the parties as "tweedledee" and "tweedledum", both ineffectual and irrelevant. This enabled economically conservative corporate America and the socially conservative religious right to become allied and begin promoting different proposed solutions to the nation's problems. They gained political traction and completely conquered the Republican Party starting with the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980. We have been paying the price ever since, in economic favotitism for the rich and increasing social intolerance and disunity. Democrats stood by meekly and allowed this conservative bloc to not only dominate the political agenda, but push our whole country far to the right and definitely off-center. In fact, many weak Democrats even aided and abetted these conservatives by acting in collusion with them. By the time George W. Bush took over the presidency in 2001, many timid and wimpy Democrats capitulated altogether, voting for unnecessary tax cuts for the rich, not opposing ridiculously one-sided free trade measures, and even supporting the GOP in enacting unconstitutional aspects of various "national security" bills. The once-progressive Democratic Party had allowed conservative Republicans to steamroll it into submission. Their compliance and lack of political backbone has cost us all dearly. The Democratic Party has failed us miserably by beicoming a variety of "Republican Lite".
When it became starkly obvious that the Republican economic and foreign policy miscues of the Bush administration were proving disastrous, the Democratic Party finally began to wake up. Voters were becoming fed up with dropping standards of living, secrecy in government, rising and unchecked executive power, and favoritism for the rich. Calls for an end to a costly and fraudulent war in Iraq, coupled with the growing economic distress of the population seemed to refresh the party and progressive voices and ideas started again to spring forth in abundance. Democrats recaptured control of Congress in the 2006 elections, and control of the White House in 2008. President Obama was elected by promising massive change for the benefit of average Americans and for a new openness and transparency in government. But will the Democrats truly fulfill their lofty campaign pledges this time around? Will they regain the boldness and progressivism they displayed in the 1930s and 1960s? There are disturbing signs of late that they may once again fall short of the mark they need to hit.
Obama's new Attorney General, Eric Holder, made a disheartening claim of "sovereign immunity" a few days ago, inferring that the government cannot be sued for practices like illegal wiretapping. This was just a warmed-over version of the Bush claim of "executive privilege" for the executive branch, meaning that a President can do damn well whatever he or she wants without having to answer for it. Holder's apparent endorsement of this unconstitutional nonsense is VERY disturbing and not progressive in the least. The mumbling and grumbling recently heard coming from conservative, "blue dog" Democrats concerning Obama's budget is also an unnerving sign. Our faltering economy needs boldly increased spending to get it back on track. Republican refusal to increase government spending deepened the depression in 1930, and their pressure on FDR forcing spending cutbacks did the very same thing in 1937. The country needs universal health insurance for all citizens. NOW. Failure to deliver in these important areas will be a disaster. That is why Democrats cannot stand in defensive fear by acting in collusion with conservative Republicans, but they may unless strongly prompted otherwise.
The Democratic Party is the only realistic power bloc voters can rely on to get a progressive and badly-needed new bold agenda passed. Republicans will NEVER enact legislation beneficial to working people or the needy. Therefore, the Democratic Party must be pressured, by independents as well as the apolitical and nominal Democrats, to throw off their fear and inaction and start to once again produce and pass legislation directly beneficial to average Americans, like jobs and infrastructure programs and national health insurance. I strongly urge EVERYONE to call, write, and enail your Democratic officeholders, and let them know in no uncertain terms that you want progressive action taken NOW! For there is starting to be a few unstable signs in Democratic ranks. Independents and average citizens must do all they can to keep the Democratic Party performing properly. Collusion with Republicans kills good legislation. There is uncertainty and instability which MUST be shored up. Such is the state of the Democratic Party today.
President Obama, in his first major economic summit, did remarkably well at the recent G20 conference in London. His honesty, humility, and clear grasp of the situation at hand were well received by the leaders of the 20 nations in attendance. His knack for consensus-building and his powers of persuasion were in strong evidence. To get European countries like France and Germany to agree to pool into a massive $1.2 trillion global New Deal-type effort to stave off a world depression was no minor accomplishment. For France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Prime Minister Angela Merkel were both expressing major reservations to this approach at the conference's outset. Indeed, Sarkozy even threatened to go home early if he perceived it to be a fruitless gathering.
Many of the participants were publicly and correctly blaming the United States and its disastrous Republican-sponsored economic policies of the Bush years for the current crisis: deregulation and mammoth overspeculation. Obama honestly acknowledged our contribution to the problem but deftly shifted the focus from blame on America to a common and united effort to stimulate economic recovery throughout the world by channeling more resources into the International Monetary Fund and increasing developmental funding in individual countries.
Such true consensus-building is becoming a hallmark of Obama's leadership style. Even his ability to mediate was evident early on. When Chinese President Hu Jintao and French President Sarkozy got into a heated exchange over tax havens which could have torn the conference apart, Obama took direct action in speaking individually with both leaders and then eventually pulling them together for a successful compromise. With his direct leadership and one-man-among-peers demeanor, Obama has restored America's credibility in economic and foreign affairs and has successfully demonstrated that his will be no Bushian "my way or the highway" approach to governance and diplomacy. Such a change is a very welcome breath of fresh air for foreign leaders and was thus received extraordinarily well.
These displays of global cooperation and response to reason are very encouraging. But consensus can only be achieved in an atmosphere of honesty and desire for universal benefit. I contrast President Obama's success in consensus-building abroad with the difficulties he has had here at home with the opposition Republican Party. Such figures as John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, Mark Sanford, and Michael Steele all pale in comparison with the vision, grasp, and pragmatism shown by Obama, the UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, France's Sarkozy, and all the rest of the G20 attendees. Because the forementioned Republicans are so petty and of limited vision explains why they are becoming increasingly irrelevant and are in a shrinking and uninfluential minority status. My advice to them: start going along, or get out of the way of progress! Standing alone as a stupidly immobuile, stubborn, and uncooperative band of nay-sayers clinging onto the past is accomplishing nothing.
President Obama did an outstanding job at the G20 conference. He rekindled the world's belief in and love for America on many levels. We were undeniably well-served by him the past few days, and we were, and continue to be, definitely getting our money's worth!