In the last critical hours before the American people decide their new leadership, the hyperbole will mount into near hysteria. Much, if not most, of what is said is either irrelevant or grossly inaccurate. Even the descriptive monologues of The Talking Heads are either exaggerated or dead wrong.
No, it is not certain this is the most important election in history, even recent history. That would have to left to historians with a more dispassionate view decades if not centuries from now.
No, it is not the most dramatic or controversial presidential election ever. Greybeards will remember when a dashing, young, handsome utilities executive organized the balconies at Philidelphia in 1940 to wrestle away the convention from the floor and domination of the historic Taft family of Cincinnati. [In many ways he set the style for the Kennedy brothers a generation or so later.]
No, not the most drama ever? going to work an early November 1948 morning on an overnight shift through an empty Time Square bereft of its NYC Democrats only to find a few minutes later that Harry S Truman had won a victory that surprised almost everyone included the professional politicians.
American presidential campaigns have always been as much show and tell as serious electoral proceedings. The parties were one of the few major governing features the Founding Fathers did not envisage. But even the otherise untouchable George Washington complained to his Thomas Jefferson follower, soon to be president himself, that Democratic-Republican critics were out of hand in their fight against they saw as the royalist Federalists around the first president.
None of this is to minimize the importance of the decision coming in next week’s voting booths. [Early voters by mail or whatever as a new innovation not to be discounted]. The voters are being given a choice of two candidates who may represent more differences than usual. They are not reflected in the policy arguments – which have been few and far between. Hillary Clinton, despite her enormous reliance on the Baracl Obama Presidency’s support, would likely drift quickly away from many of his policies, the disastrous Obamacare and the American overseas withdrawal where she is quietly much more hawkish.
But it is the tone that sets the two contenders apart, not their differences on policies. One has to take Donald Trump’s more flamboyant throw-away proposals with more than a dash of salt. Yes, Washington and the American people have tired of bearing what they consider an overload for the maintenance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But the argument, like all policy conundrums, is complex: is the solution in an expansion of European forces in thegface of new Russian aggression in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine. There are the complicated payments for resident American forces [which in any event would have to be maintained if in North America]. It’s an old and complicated argument, as old as the Treaty itself. But as the most successful alliance in history, NATO won”t be abandoned overnight whatever Trump’s throwaway suggestion.
But what Trump is adding to the political mix is a sense of the amateur, the non-professional political – one he rides to success on and cherishes. He may know, as he claims and which seems likely, that as a successful big businessman he has more than the novice’s share of understanding of how the system operates. That makes him, he claims in an interesting argument, the one to best tackle and reform it.
But what really sets this election apart – if, indeed, it is that unique – is that that the amateurism which Trump represents and the knowledgeable if tarnished professionalism of Hillary introduce a new and basic “feel” to the contest. There’s little doubt that Trump has reversed the traditional party roles, the mystic that the Democrats since at least Franklin Roosevelt’s time that they represented the little people and their Grand Old Party opponents were the creatures of Wall Street. We may never see those speeches Hillary gave at enormous fees for the corporations [nor Bill gold auxiliary speaking tours from the Clinton Foundation] but her ties to big capital are now well known.
The big policy questions may indeed be how much Trump could and would change major trends in the U.S. economy with his “amateurism”. Some of his [and Hilary’s] economic promises are downright foolish. Neither can nor would “return” the “jobs” they are promising. Washington’s actual contribution to the economy – even with such expensive outlays as FDR’s and Obama’s – has minimal effect. In fact, what business craves at the moment is the withdrawal of Washington’s bear hug. Meeting the demand for jobs against a tsunami of technology which is routinely eliminating them would be an enormous feat; America’s economy even traveling at its current slow rate demonstrates that new phenomenon.
So what’s at stake in a few hours is not thoughtful contradiction of ideas but the contest between a rank if talented amateur and a gifted is tarnished politico.
Category Archives: Clintons
In the last critical hours before the American people decide their new leadership, the hyperbole will mount into near hysteria. Much, if not most, of what is said is either irrelevant or grossly inaccurate. Even the descriptive monologues of The Talking Heads are either exaggerated or dead wrong.
There is a disputed old argument that extensive air travel causes pgysical injury and distorts cognitive thinking. [Stewardesses did remark that during the changeover in mid-20th century from internal combustion and jet-prop engines interrupted their menstrual cycle.]
Perhaps that is the explanationof a recent responses by Secretary of State John Kerry to a group of University of Chicago political science students. Kerry, like his predecessor Sec. Jillary Clinton, is in constant motion, most of it to foreign parts.
Kerry was presenting his case for the success of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
Syria, he said, had actually proved that Pres. Obama’s famous red line had been drawn and was a success. He said it had ushered in a program of the export of chemical weapons of the Assad regime. The fact is, of course, that statement would depend on your definition of chemicals since it is certain Assad and his Russian and Iranian and Hezbollah allies continue to use tear gas in abundance. Nor can the Russian delibe air attacks on civilian air targets including medical facilities – nothing as barbaric seen since the 1930s—be ignored.
Obama’s “deal” with Iran to postpone their introduction of nuclear weapons, however, effective it may be, is another of Kerry’s victories. Again he ignores that within weeks Tehran had boasted of developments in intercontinental ballistics missiles tests – their only utility, of course, would be to transport weapons of mass destruction including nuclear. Nor is their any elucidation if the accusation, quietly confirmed by Washington, that billions in payments to Iran at the same time as the release of American citizens would go to fund the world’s number one state terroruist campaign.
Kerry skirts completely the March 2009 highly staged gift of a badge marked “reset” in English and Russian to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in n March 2009 U.S. The red button Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had the English word “reset”. But the Cyrillic transliteration was “peregruzka”, Russian for “overload”, perhaps a significant mistake!What the Obama Administration believed was to be the beginning of a new cooperative era turned into Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea, his sponsorship of of the Russian-speaking minority toward the destruction of Ukraine, and hints at similar operations in the Baltic states. That was after Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia [while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation]. This was supposed to be another clever maneuver to halt Moscow’s expanding its own production of uranium as a fuel for nuclear weapons.
Kerry claimed the U.S. had preserved freedom of the seas by what must be described by others as a tepid response to China’s claims in the South China Sea. Beijing, despite a fimr denunciation of its sovereignty claims by the Permanent Coiu of Arbigration in the Hague, has moved now from an unsubstantiated claim to negotiations with Washington on how its claims are to be compromised.
Perhaps most egregious of Kerry’s maneuvers has been his courtship of the Vietnamese Communist regime. Ignoring its persecution of Cthe religious and other political prisoners, the argument that a stronger Vietnam in tacit alliance with the U.S. against China’s encroachments in Southeast Asia might be sustained. But the elaborate courtship of the chairman of Hanoi’s Communist Party rather than its government figures reminds us of Kerry’s past. He was, after all, a flamboyant supporter of the cutoff of military aid to a South Vietnam army which had performed well after the American withdrawal. He and his friends assured us there would be no human castrophe. Tell that to the families of a million South Vietnamese who went into fetid political pisons, tens of thousands never to exit, the thousands who lost their lives trying to flee by sea from the new regime and the murder of prominent anti-Communist leaders without trial.
The Mad Hatter told Alice that the truthfulness of his statements was of his own choosing. Kerry obviously has taken that advice.
In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.
Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.
The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.
However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.
In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.
Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them
As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.
Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.
The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.
There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.
It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?
Sec. John Kerry played hooky from the final session of a North Atlantic Treaty Organizationn meeting in Warsaw to attend “Hamilton” in New York City. Apparently seeing with his family and entourage the original cast of the musical was more important that concluding a NATO meeting in one of the central European states increasingly menaced by Russian Tsar Valdimir Putin. The slight to our NATO allies comes at a critical time when both Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, and other politicians and security experts, are calling for a remodeling NATO.
The Kerry escapade puts the finishing touch on a routine that begs the question of what are the responsibilities of the secretary of state and how does he fulfill them. Kerry, following in the airflow of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, is almost always on the road. His brief touchdowns are only exceeded by the flow of state press releases which clutter the same airways.
It is ironic – and a bit perplexing – that at a time when digital communications permit contact in almost every conceivable way [except touch and that is probably coming!] that the secretaries think their mission involves constant foreign travel.
This travel routine is revolutionizing the whole American diplomatic process. And there is good reason to believe that it is not for the better.
The old method of maintaining foreign relations had its flaws, of course. Political appointments handed out by newly elected presidents for elections support often went to unqualified or inattentive candidates. But, for the most part, these were to the major European fleshpots – London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc. – which had long and intimate relations with Washington and important lines of communication through business and cultural interests.
Then, too, there was the often arrogant attitude of the U.S. Foreign Service, the professionals in the State Department, recruited, first, through highly touted formal written examinations as well as personnel scrutiny. In the past, too often this had been a coterie from elite families and the Ivy League schools, isolating the service from the American public, and even from elected officials. Too often they became part of an international elite with interests and sometimes even attitudes closer to their foreign colleagues than to the American public they were supposed to serve.
But more recently, Madeleine Albright, who because of her foreign birth and her father’s role as a Czechoslovak diplomat and American professor of foreign affairs, already was a member of that international diplomatic elite. Albright, with the coming of faster jets and more accessible routes began to set the pattern of increasing personal visits abroad.
This Secretary-on-the-stoop role has elbowed out the ambassador on the spot, supposedly either a career professional steeped in the local political culture, or a political appointee with his own relationships. We have a strong suspicion that what happens, naturally enough, is that the local ambassador’s knowledge and reporting, gets drowned out by the parachuted-in secretary’s horseback judgments.
We can’t believe, either, that the secretary doesn’t have enough to keep him busy at home rather than gallivanting around the world. With a budget of $65.9 billion [FY 2015], 13,000 Foreign Service Officers, 11,000 Civil Service employees, and 45,000 local Foreign Service Local employees, the secretary of state has an enormous bureaucracy to police. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development [overseas economic aid] with 3,797 U.S. employees and a $35.6 billion budget [FY 2014] reports in to the Secretary. Having gobbled up the former U.S. Information Service [to its functions detriment according to many media observers], the flow of paper out of Foggy Bottom is endless and requires some supervision at the highest level.
That’s why we think there is a growing necessity for the secretary to stay home and attend his knitting rather than the near hysteria of constant foreign travel. [Those weekends in New York could, by the way, be better managed from Washington than Warsaw.]
It was inevitable, of course, that when The Digital Revolution spawned The Information Revolution, it would simultaneously open up The Misinformation Revolution.
If anyone, anywhere, anytime – except perhaps in China – can gap on the internet and pontificate, a great deal of what is there is bound to be even worse than nonsense, but poisonous. The only defense is a resort to history, which seems to have gone out of style as an academic discipline, and common sense.
Here are cases in point:
The CN-NPR war against the candidacy of Donald Trump, whatever your own views about The Donald, constantly harps on the theme of the minority vote which they conclude he will not receive. Mebbe. But it is well to remember that in the past – with the enormous exception, granted, of 2008 and 2012, and for obvious reasons — was never a major factor in elections. Even registered black voters notoriously did not vote, and the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, less half as much as they. It remains to be seen if Pres. Barack Obama’s face, and the incredibly honed digital machine his supporters built, has reversed these historic trends.
Speaking of Hispanics. There are none. There are Americans who language in their household – or perhaps their only language in parts of the Southwest – is Spanish, properly Castellano. But, for example, antagonism between Mexico and Cuba in the Spanish Empire was the feud to end all feuds. That carried on among their progeny in the U.S. The Florida and New Jersey Cuban minorities, because of the flight of many of them and their antagonism to the Castro regime, have in the past been Republican with notable exceptions, e.g. Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey (2006–Present), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 13th district [993-2006]. The flirtation with Raúl Castro of the Obama Administration is likely to end the erosion which was taking place among younger Cuban Americans in recent years. Puerto Ricans is the largest Spanish-speaking minority in Florida; they cannot vote in federal elections in Puerto Rico. They tend to be Democrats because of the long affiliation the first popularly elected governor of the Rican Commonwealth Luis Muñoz Marín local social democratic party was tied to the Democrats’ New Deal on the Mainland. California Mexican-Americans, when they vote tend, to be indeed solidly Democratic, but the Bushes and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has cut heavily into their formerly Democrat base. By the way, all speak Spanish but most Mexicans will admit – unless they come from their own Caribbean coast, e.g. Tampico – that they have great difficulty understanding Cubans and Puerto Ricans’ Spanish.
The Trump campaign keeps trumpeting a “fact”; the candidate earned more votes than any GOP primary candidate in history , they argue, in his primary race with 17 opponents whom he liquidated [or did more or less so until Ted Cruz’ ghost showed up at the third day of the Republican convention]. The “fact” is indisputable, but in no small part explained by another fact: the current estimate of the U.S. population is 322.48 [not counting an unknown number of illegals], more than double the 163.03 million estimated in 1954. Obviously, what is considered the minority political party – kept under an Electoral College handicap by the huge and continuing Democratic majorities in New York and California – has gained spectacularly? With an unprecedented number of candidates all salivating at the possibility of running against a “third Obama administration masquerading as Hillary Clinton, that impetus would have been even stronger. There was large numbers of Democrats and independents, in the states where registration can be changed easily, switching their party affiliation to Republican to take part in the free-for-all.
The CNNers and NPRers are trumpeting the divisions of the just ended Republican Convention, again, as the first time ever, etc. In fact, in the modern era both political parties have been coalitions of regional forces – often at ideological loggerheads with one another but both more interested in power than more egests. The Talking Heads ignore, for example, the fact that the Democratic Party which ruled [under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman] for two decades was a coalition of segregationists [“The Solid South, Dixiecrats, etc], highly personal urban political “machines [Tammany in NYC, Hague in Jersey City, Daley in Chicago and Pendergrass in Kansas City – from which Truman, himself emerged], the AFL-CIO unions, socialists and Communists, and FDR’s “kitchen cabinet” of academic advisers. Furthermore, vice presidents – to “balance” ticket geographically – virtually disappeared with FDR’s firing of Henry Wallace, an Iowa and agricultural society icon, in 1936. [I know; I was writing editorials in my hometown weekly supporting Wallace and the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee!] So-called platform committees in both parties have been irrelevant in terms of influencing the candidates’ policy but simply a combat ring for battling. Party apparatchiks.
So what’s the lesson here? Obviously, don’t believe everything The Talking Heads say with great authority. [It’s something of a delight to listen to one noted female star that has suddenly blossomed into an expert on the Mideast!] Remember, — at least for the time being –Google, and there are dictionaries, the Britannica, to check them out. But most of all maintain your own skepticisms – everything on the Internet is not The Word!
Hillary Clinton is the stormy petrel of American political life. Arguments about her and her ideas and position in the current scene are virtually endless. They also are argued generally at a high intensity in the greatest heat of conflict. But in the breach, a relatively common sense approach to her and her reputation has been lost.
The question of Hillary Clinton’s role in American society even exceeds her attempt as the presumptive Democratic Party candidate for America’s highest elected office in November. As the first female with the possibility of reaching the highest office in the land is a landmark in the long fight for equal rights for women in the U.S. and throughout the world. That attention will be again enhanced by a newly announced investigation of her use of e-mail correspondence by the Department of State, and the threat of Congressional Republicans to continue similar hearings.
Many, perhaps most, Americans might well be tired and bored with the discussion of how Clinton used her e-mail service during her years as secretary of state, and ready “to move on” as her supporters have asked. But, in fact, the tedious arguments over the e-mails are at the heart of the examination of Clinton’s personality and her role in American life.
The technicalities of the discussion, however, sometimes ignore common sense considerations of the whole environment in which it is held. For example, the importance of an e-mail addressed to the secretary or one emanating from her office or her assistants to others, may well exceed their nominal importance. In the complicated world of international relations and America’s relationship to its allies and its adversaries, it can well be argued that any subject is important which reaches the eyes of the fourth in line for succession to the U.S. presidency in time of emergency. Whether, for example, the secretary is aware of an incident or a subject in a foreign country could be of utmost importance to that or another country.
Whether Clinton’s disregard for the sanctity of secrets in classified documents was studied or “reckless neglect” is in the legal context irrelevant. The law which attempts to protect state secrets or portions of them warns that penalties for violation of it are similar, whether executed consciously by the violator, or whether something done without specific regard. That argument is an important part of the reasoning by FBI Director John Comey in closing the agency’s investigation of Clinton’s e-mail issue. He emphasized that there would be no call on the Justice Department prosecutors to initiate an indictment or a to presen it to a grand jury whether to return an indictment.
One of the most controversial issues in any official investigation – such as that conducted by Comey and the FBI – of Clinton is to what extend her public statements are to be included in any final analysis. Comey was adamant that Clinton had not lied in her testimony to the FBI contradicted earlier statements, although it is something of a puzzle why the Director himself was not involved in the several hours of questioning. But he was equally clear that the FBI had not considered the hours of testimony and reams of printed coverage of her statements.
Politicians, in the American political arena, are given a certain amount of leeway in defining what is truth and exaggeration. This is less than a formal cynicism as a part of what most Americans have always regarded as the “show business” aspects ot their political process. It is perhaps what has helped Americans – with the notable exception of the Civil War and with its huge loss of life — avoid the bitter extended political conflicts which have characterized European politics and brought on centuries of continual warfare.
Ultimately, if as now seems probable, Clinton is her party’s candidate for president in November, it will be the voters who will decide on her character not excluding the many contradictions in her statements which Comey and others have laid out in detail.
One of the most ancient parables in Western culture is the tale of Caesar’s wife. For those who have forgotten or escaped a classical education, the story goes that after the death of his first wife in childbirth [when he also lost his son], Caesar chose to marry again. Having reached the heights of the Roman Republic as Pontifex Maximus, the elected chief priest of the state religion, Caesar’s new wife would play a collateral role.
To acquire the necessary helpmate, Caesar turned to Pompeia, whose family like his had fought on the losing side in the Roman civil war of the 80s B.C. Following protocol for the Roman gentry, Pompeia was honored with a banquet and celebration as the “grand goddess”, a celebration attended only by women of high ranking families.
But a young male patrician named Publius Clodius, apparently in an effort to seduce Pompeia, managed to enter the charmed circle disguised as a woman,. When he was discovered, he was put on trial. But he was not convicted despite all Caesar’s efforts.
However, Caesar refused to accept the verdict He divorced Pompeia, declaring publicly that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” Caesar’s call on the appearance as well as the reality of stringent morality has given rise to the daily proverb, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion!”
Leaving aide for the moment all the other accusations of corruption and perfidy thrown at Hillary Clinton, the fact that she is running for the highest office in the land requires the invocation of “Caesar’s law”. A corollary to Caesar’s law is that the higher an individual in public life reaches for office, the more stringent should be the requirements that he fulfill the appearance as well as the proof of incorruptibility. Public morality, even with all its inadequacies through the ages, remains the bulwark of democratic government and its institutions.
There is no doubt that former Pres. Bill Clinton has further muddied the waters – whether with or without the collaboration of Attorney-General Loretta Lynch. Both as lawyers and current or former holders of high public office, would have had to know that any contact between them would be open not only to scrutiny but to condemnation. That Ms. Lynch now publicly acknowledges that it was a mistake to have met with the spouse of a subject of FBI investigation, and that she would not do it again [were she given the opportunity]. It is further complicated by the possibly Bill Clinton may become a co-defendant in the affair of the Clinton Foundation and its donors and, again, the appearance of their attempts at influence the affairs of government through the Clintons. It is more than conclusive that neither courted nor abided by Caesar’s Law.
It will take a Solomon, to invoke another icon of Western jurisprudence, to know where adequate and correct public policy now leads. As Ms. Lynch has said publicly, her meeting with Bill Clinton has cast a shadow over the whole process of investigation of Hillary Clinton’s activities. The refusal, thus far, of Ms. Lynch to exclude herself from participation in the whole investigation as a minimal step in the right direction, is incomprehensible. The Clintons’ defenders who point to the fact Ms. Lynch’s deputy is also an Obama appointee is beside the point.
Indeed, one of the first steps toward righting this sinking moral and legal ship is the appointment of a widely accepted public figure with a judicial background to take on the role of special prosecutor in this affair. Nothing less would remove it from the nest of intrigue and conflicting interest which this Administration has brought to it.
Back in 1887 the famous poet and storyteller Oscar Wilde quipped: ‘We [English] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’. We got another example of this malediction in the blah-blah-blah which has attended Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. What is most apparent to all but the Talking Heads is that London’s negotiating a two-year exit from the EU will result in a revival not only of the vestiges of empire – as much legend as reality – but a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the Special Relationship”
Like so much of traditional diplomacy, Pres. Barrack Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave that relationship short shrift. Obama, imbued with the Left’s religion of anti-colonialism – a view of the world which is not only unrealistic but ignores the actual relationship of the Metropoles of Britain, France, Italy, and once Germany, to their 19th centuries acquisitions. True, they were exploitive relation ships but they also accelerated the arrival of at least portions of modernism to pre-industrial societies.
As Obama’s attempts to “transform” American foreign policy have either miscued or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the U.S. and Britain has also gone astray. Common language, shared democratic values and concepts, special interests throughout the work, have made a working relationship between Washington and London an irreplaceable part and parcel of U.S. internationalism.
The combination of Obama’s war on this tradition, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters on withdrawal from the EU which boomeranged, and the U.S.’ expanding interests in the post-World War II world have tended to eclipse that relationship. That illusion was enhanced when London seemed to be throwing in its lot with the movement for a united Europe, one which had been a special project of American strategy for a half century, but not always with its final destination in view.
Now, the latter project is in deep trouble. Few Europeans want to face the reality of German domination as by far the largest and economically the most powerful of the EU states. That will halt the perfectly “logical” calls by Berlin that the EU must go forward to further political integration or collapse. But the French, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, in a miraculous and real transformation, are for the first time abandoning dirigisme, French promotion of economic planning and control by the state, under the pressure of the competitive drive of “globalization” is being abandoned – and that under a socialist government! The concept had defined the distinctive character of French politics, inherited in part from its royal and multi-republican past, and which it had passed on to the Brussels Eurocrats it had largely supplied and still dominated.
London ‘s withdrawal — although it will continue to bargain for special trading and other economic rights inside the EU, whatever it means in the short-term — means a return to Britain’s diminished but continuing role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s now faltering monetary union means that once again, in parallel with the dollar, sterling will resume an stronger international character.
London’s City, which was ceding its role to Frankfurt and Zurich, will be reinvigorated in the longer term by the British withdrawal. That role of London as the world’s second financial center after New York will be felt all the way through the Middle East oil countries [with their traditional ties to the Colonial Office] to Hong Kong and beyond. [What the Japanese will do with their heavy investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU remains to be seen. But it would not be the first time that Japanese business has had to make major adjustments to its successful formula for being the only non-European power to have made it to First World status].
The revival of the Special Relationship will have new and totally different aspects – again, despite Obama’s original high-priced energy policies, the U.S. and its Shale Revolution has put a new floor under world energy prices. It is one the Mideast producers can meet, of course, but not without cutting back on their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. It could well be that Special Relations II will see the U.S. as Britain’s major supplier of energy and energy technology for development of its own shale resources, environmental freaks notwithstanding.
Prime Minister David Cameron may have to go as a sacrifice on the altar of City business interests and the universal “internationalization” panacea which has dominated both U.K. and U.S. politics under his Conservatives – as well as the Democrats in Washington. And that may introduce new uncertainties along with some disturbing personalities.
But the dye is cast: Special Relationship II has begun with the British voters’ decision that they wanted autonomy and not collaboration at too high a price in cultural values with a Continental bureaucracy and its economy That bureaucracy, too, is now fatally wounded and events will lead to new and likely unpredictable changes in Paris, Berlin,.Brussels and the other EU capitals.
The schizophrenic nature of the Obama Administration continues to run amok.
Polls, for what they are worth with liberal media sponsors, say the President’s approval rating is high; over 50% of the population admires him. But the Administration’s failures are becoming more apparent with each day.
It’s early but there are strong indications that the horrendous Orland mass shooting attack was a product of Mideast terrorism. And while the Administration claims gains in its declared war against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], the organization continues to expand its influence throughout the Moslem world. Inevitably, that means recruits will emerge among American Moslems for such attacks.
The Administration has failed to root out terrorist sympathizers among our native Moslem population, abandoning methods used so successfully by the New York Police department after the 9/11 attacks. Politically correct nostrums in and out of the Administration defy the logic that hidden terrorists exist in the community. Those who would reveal suspects are intimidated by some muddled-headed Moslem imams and pure and simple threats to their own lives. Nor has the Administration tackled the problem that our ostensible ally, Saudi Arabia, permits its closely aligned Wahabi Moslem fundamentalists to finance mosques and Moslem centers in the U.S. and around the world. Their doctrines reinforce traditional Islamic beliefs in forced conversion, the exclusion of other religious practices, and even political jihad and death to nonbelievers.
To examine and to argue against these beliefs among American Moslems and even foreign Moslem communities is not Islamophobia, a prejudiced and irrational attitude toward that religion and its followers. The truth is that Islam has never had its Reformation and Counterreformation and many of its adherents today nominally at least believe in concepts incompatible with American democratic values.
Any campaign to destroy Daesh and other manifestations of internationally organized Islamic terrorism has no alternative but to examine and openly discuss this problem. An ancillary is, of course, to provide security and protection to those American Moslems willing to speak out against misbegotten interpretations of their religion, or those which glorify instances of Moslem Jihad in its long struggle with the West. [The Crusaders, incidentally, were not a prejudiced aberration of the West as so often presented in arguments today, but an effort to defend native Christians and their sacred places in the Middle East.]
But living up to the requirements of its own declared war on Daesh is not the only problem of conscience for those in the Administration and its supporters.
Pres. Obama has now endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the next presidency. He does so with a host of contradictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its highly respected chief, James Comey, confirms that it is directing a criminal investigation of Ms. Clinton. Comey is somewhat protected from the narrower politics of Mr. Obama’s Democrats with his nine-year tenure. There is already enough evidence in the public record to charge Ms. Clinton with irresponsibly in using her private e-mail account. Such a charge has cost other public officials their careers. Much worse apparently is to come when more is known of why Ms. Clinton went to such effort to use nonofficial communications for official documents
It will be Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who must decide whether a prosecution goes forward. Ms. Lynch received the approval of Republicans as well as Democrats when Mr. Obama nominated her for the post because of her considerable record as prosecutor. But she is a member of the President’s cabinet and subject to his oversight and decisions. A decision not to prosecute Ms. Clinton, whether now, after her nomination, or after the election, would be a violation of the trust and duty demanded by her office.
These are issues which should be if they are not on Mr. Obama’s conscience. And they, more than his minimal legislative and administrative accomplishments, will be the historic legacy he seems so eager to advance in his last months in office.
Not a lot that is being said by The Talking Heads makes sense in the case of Hillary Clinton’s E-mails.
First of all, everything would tell us that any domestic or foreign political figure would be interested in the very fact that a specific subject had reached the Himalayan heights of the Secretary of State’s eyes. She is, after all, in addition to her vast power and influence as the decision-maker after The One in foreign relations matters, one of the most powerful figures in government.. And, of course, the secretary of state is the fifth in line to the presidency in the event a catastrophe eliminates the vice president, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the house, and the pro temp leader.
It may well be, as many government officials have long argued, that too many documents are “classified”, said to be of lesser importance than their originator believed when he accorded them a secret status. But, as is obvious, that decision must be left with the originator of the document, not to be trifled with by the recipient. And as some of the released e-mails indicate, not only did Clinton disregard the classification, but she instructed subordinates in the State Department to remove the classification, acknowledging that she knew their significance even if she did not agree with its evaluation.
It is probably impossible for third parties, unless they are directly involved and know the subject matter, to evaluate the damage done by Clinton’s purposefully declassification. It is not even self-evident why she did it. But one has to assume that there are such things as state secrets, many of them in fact, and the necessity to prevent their disclosure to enemies foreign and domestic is an obligation all government employees or political appointments take on in their oath of office as well as the commonsensical performance of their duty. This, Clinton did not do.
Again, a good deal of speculation has gone on about whether the continuing inquiry into the matter of her e-mails will result in an indictment by the Attorney General of this Administration. It is, of course, possible that Loretta E. Lynch., who after all was confirmed with a bi-partisan vote based on her record for judicial perspicuity and balance, will proceed to authorize a prosecution after the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] inquiry is completed with evidence for an indictment of Clinton. Its results according to all the speculation in Washington would seem to lie in that direction.
But it appears for her to do so would require great political bravery, and probably self-sacrifice, judging from the President’s TV interview April 10. In that interview, he made it clear that he already has taken a decision that nothing in the investigation would incriminate Clinton. It bears noting, of course, that for a former supposed university law professor – of course, he was instead a part-time instructor and then a rather poor one by all accounts – the President has violated one of the principal axioms of executive conduct. That is that no executive should offer a public appraisal of a future verdict while any judicial or police inquiry is under way. He has done it, of course, repeatedly. Sub judice in the law, means according to the dictionary, “under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere”. That would include, and above all, by the president of the United States as the chief executive officer and enforcer of our laws.
Last, and perhaps most important, for some time the Mainstream Media have been talking about the Attorney-General’s office and the Justice Department as another branch of what has until now been considered a three part government, executive, legislative and judicial. That still remains the case. The Justice Department and its head under Pres. Obama remains, as it has always been, a part of the president’s cabinet – not mentioned in the Constitution. And, therefore, it is under his jurisdiction and control. Given his now infamous public statement, it seems unlikely that any justified prosecution of Clinton will be pursued for whatever miscarriage of justice. At least not until 2017 at the earliest.
True enough, the world might come to a sudden end at any moment. Scenarios aplenty have existed in our fiction for a long time, and in the more serious speculation of many learned gentlemen and ladies scholars.
But a “contested” Republican presidential nominating convention is not the end of the world despite what you have heard from many if not most of The Talking Heads. Nor would this honored exercise in electoral procedure signal the selfdestruction of the Republican Party. In fact, it was until relatively recent times dating from the mid-19th century the way the process of choosing our presidents ran. As late as 1976. for example, Pres. Gerald Ford – seeking popular election after replacing the disgraced Richard Nixon after his Watergate resignation – came into the convention with more delegates. But he was challenged by Ronald Reagan. “Reagan’s Raiders”, an enthusiastic and determined Texas delegation almost persuaded enough to come over to him but Ford beat them off by promising government benefits and sinecures.
Our hunch – and like everybody else we have been so wrong so many times in writing him off – is that Donald Trump will not enter the convention in Cleveland in mid-July with the required 1237 delegates in his pocket. Now that is only one more than is necessary for a majority of the 2,472 delegates from the various states [the Distrct of Columbia and associated territories].
It does include, of course, a certain number of professional GOP politicians, what the Trumpeters keep calling “The Republican Establishment”. But, by the way, that is a term that confuses us no end: is that the Republican National Committee? The RNC in 1952 was expanded to 145 members. [It now actually has 168.] It includes the state party chairmen, if that state voted Republican in 2012, or has a Republican majority in their congressional delegation [both House and Senate], or has Republican governors. That is a pretty wide bunch of politicos, certainly not the Wall St. Republican Eastern Establishment so long associated with the Bushes and other “moderate” Republicans.
Then there is the complicated test of the first vote. Most states require their delegations to vote for the candidate who either won their primary [or their caucus] in the proportion of their victory – or all that state’s delegation if it is a state with a rule a majority vote for one candidate takes all the state’s delegation.
Marco Rubio is said to have lined up 171 delegates who originally supported him, but under some state rules, have now been “freed” in the first ballot, to continue to support him. His aim is obviously to block Trump. The Alaska GOP, for example, that allocated Rubio’s five delegates in their 28 delegation to Trump and Cruz, but has now announced that since the actual delegates have not yet been chosen, they will now go back to Rubio. Speculate! Speculate! Speculate” Can Rubio hold on to their loyalty, especially after the first vote when most delegates will be unleashed, and if so what will he do with them?
By the way, the state Republican Parties, either through their own rules, or the rules of primary [or caucus] set up by state law, govern the selection of delegates. And while they may at times hiss and cajole, the RNC can’t do much about the individual state’s process. Although, again, there have been times, in the worst of cases, when there was a fight on the convention floor to block a state’s delegation for what the other delegates saw as good and sufficient reason.
But there is nothing sinister, nor for the most part for those who want to follow the game [although the Mainstream Media’s poor reporting isn’t helping], is there anything g underhanded. Talk of “stealing” delegates is ridiculous. Electoral democracies – and nobody has yet invented a better form or are they likely to do so any time soon – are always an expression of loyalty and desire and sometimes compromise to achieve political objectives.
It’s important, however, to understand that this convention – if it does open with no candidate with the majority of delegates – is not going to be “brokered”. If the digital revolution and social media have given us nothing else, it is the end of cabals in which a few highly skilled [and often corrupt] politicians smoked their stogies and drank their Bourbon [or Scotch] in smoky backrooms and traded huge blocks of delegates under their aegis.
No, if Trump doesn’t make it, it will be one grand political free-for-all. It may even bring back some interest and sympathy for the whole process, now being negated by a lackluster leading Democratic candidate and a much too low-level GOP debate.
As it enters its seventh year the enormity of the disaster of the Obama Administration’s effort to solve American health care problems continues to grow.
Nor will it be that easy to untangle its effects on the whole medical industry as statements from some of the presidential candidates indicate.
First of course are the astronomical costs which Obamacare has incurred.
The latest Congressional Budget Office report, released last week, estimates that over the next ten years Obamacare will add $1.4 trillion to the nation’s debt — were it to continue to exist.
Much of the discussion about the cost of the whole medical scene is totally unrealistic. Candidate Hillary Clinton, for example, after proposing new and expensive additions to Obamacare – while criticizing her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders for suggesting expansion of Medicare to all as unrealistic – proposes a completely nonsensical solution. She would put a 4% tax on millionaires to pay for the increased costs she acknowledges would occur. Unfortunately that would yield only about $150 billion over ten years, a tiny fraction of what her proposed additional new tax credits under the plan would require.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last May that the ill-fated Obamacare website, the heart of the new regime, cost $834 million to build. But Bloomberg Government, put the total cost at $2.1 billion. It continues to be a hazard for any medical progress, or even to fathom what is happening.
Obamacare’s central skeleton, the coops of insured which were intended to inject competition and therefore lower prices into medical services, have been another disaster. All but 12 of the original 23 have failed and Congressional critics doubt that the $1.2 billion loaned them will be repaid.
Obamacare’s principal intent, to bring into the insurance fold the vast numbers of Americans who had no health insurance, is also dubious. Of the more than 11 million who signed up by the end of enrollment in 2015, three million had dropped out by the end of the year and all told 25% either didn’t buy into the plan or dropped out according to the Heritage Foundation. Although Obamacare spokesmen claimed they had been successful in enlisting non-insured persons in the program, only 10 states have more insured on the Obamacare rolls.
One of the most quoted of the promises by the President for the program has evaporated. Insurers are drastically reducing your choice of doctors and hospitals to cut costs. Among the industry stalwarts it is called “narrowing networks”. The average insured person can expect even fewer choices in the future, according to the Heritage Foundation..
Politically, perhaps the worst aspect of Obamacare is the constant call by its opponents – and the taunts of its few remaining supporters, even in the Administration – for the critics to come up with an alternative plan. But to do so would without doubt create another and equally crippling disaster.
The fact is that resolving the complexities of the American medical scene in one “comprehensive” program has always been an invitation to debacle. The medical complex accounts for one-sixth of the American economy. And, of course, an even more perplexing problem is that it is constantly changing, in no small part because of the progress of American medicine in many fields which however requires new and expensive technology. The often quoted comparisons with medical programs in other countries – especially by those advocates of government “single payer” systems – often ignore the statistics on health problems in the U.S. A good example is the survival rates for breast cancer which are so much better here than the most advanced European health systems.
That does not mean that strenuous effort should not be made, first to repeal most of Obamacare, and secondly to proceed with some individual relatively simple common sense solutions. Obamacare ignored the cabals that exist in most states between legislatures and favored insurers which prohibit buying insurance across statelines. Simply removing that barricade would go a long way toward beginning the kind of competition that could reduce health costs. Let’s take it one step at a time.
Robert Heron Bork was a renowned American legal scholar, serving as a Yale Law School professor, U.S. Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Bork was also in his time the foremost advocate of “Originalism” – an interpretation of the Constitution as fixed in the time of enactment. Originalists insist the constitutional meaning can only be changed by the procedures for amendment set out in Article Five . Bork saw this interpretation as the only way jurists could be prevented from creating new law without a popular consensus through legislation. Bork’s Originalism with its delving into origins is sometimes confused with another school on the right, Textualism, which holds to a narrower interpretation that the law’s meaning can not go beyond its stated language. Scalia saw himself as a Textualist.
The current dispute over the naming of Scalia’s replacement on The Court, recalls an earlier dramatic conflict. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court. The almost immediate violent opposition from the left to his elevation never questioned his credentials, neither his scholarship nor his practical experience on the bench. But less than an hour after Reagan’s announcement, Ted Kennedy eviscerated him in a nationally televised speech from the floor of the Senate. “Robert Bork’s America,” Kennedy said, “is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”
Although the views as well as the credentials of nominees to the courts had been questioned all through U.S. history, the controversy over Bork’s appointment marked a departure in which his political/judicial leanings would be a test. Then Sen. Joseph Biden presided over a committee hearing of Bork’s nomination, generally considered fair despite the uproar in the liberal media which had left no charge unmade. [It was, ironically, during a period when Biden’s own campaign for the presidency was falling apart.] On October 6, Bork’s nomination was rejected in committee by a 9–5 vote.
Despite the fact that a committee rejection made a negative vote by the full [Democratic controlled] Senate almost certain, Bork continued what had become a losing battle on principal. He maintained that “xxx there should be a full debate and a final Senate decision. In deciding on this course, I harbor no illusions. But a crucial principle is at stake. That principle is the way we select the men and women who guard the liberties of all the American people. That should not be done through public campaigns of distortion. If I withdraw now, that campaign would be seen as a success, and it would be mounted against future nominees. For the sake of the Federal judiciary and the American people, that must not happen. The deliberative process must be restored.”
But Bork’s political support went mum. Bork even complained of Reagan’s lukewarm continued endorsement. And on October 23, 1987, the Senate rejected his confirmation, with 42 Senators voting in favor and 58 against. The vern “Bork” entered the dictionaries. New York City. Feminist Florynce Kennedy later would lead a movement to defeat the nomination of Clarence Thomas, saying, “We’re going to bork him. We’re going to kill him politically. … This little creep, where did he come from?” But Thomas, perhaps in no small part because of the color of his skin, was not Borked, but confirmed after a contentious confirmation hearing.
It now remains to be seen whether “turn-about is fair play”, whether Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, again a justice with the proper credentials but unacceptable for his political beliefs to the conservative majority in the Senate, will make the grade. Or will he be Borked.
It is a sad fact that both sides bear responsibility for a dramatic violation of freedom of expression – perhaps the most important of our liberties – in Chicago this past week.
Despite his pretended role as martyr, played as skillfully as a concert violinist which has marked Donald Trump’s courtship of an all too cooperative media, the leading candidate for the Republic presidential nomination bears much of the responsibility. Repeatedly, in his stream of consciousness remarks — as often as not incessantly, uncritically reproduced by the media he has alluded to the possibility of violence. Indeed he has endorsed it as part of his exploitation of antagonism and anger at the current U.S. scene, his stock and trade. He has talked of punching opponents in the face, carrying them out on stretchers, paying their insurance costs for injuries, etc. That is hardly a contribution to a measured and intelligent debate on the current political issues.
That of course is not meant to condone in any way the determined effort of an organized opposition to silence Trump, Instead of answering his arguments, it was determined to halt his speech and attempt to disperse his political rally. The discussion on the moveon.org website — with its implied ownership of so-called “protestors” determined to shut down Trump — is about as onerous as any other undemocrastic movement in America today. If, as charged, it is true that so-called protestors were paid to attack Trump’s following, it as much a threat to U.S. democracy as exists. If, as seems likely, moveon-org did organize the attempt to shut down Trump, how about our intrepid jouirnalists giving us a few names and more information. And, of course, our lagging media still haven’t come up with who, if that is true, paid the bill. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera
It is hard to believe that in 2016 there is any confusion about the basic right of all sides in any political debate to have their say. Or the corollary, that there can be no tolerance of any effort to suppress that expression of opinion.
The biographer of the French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, the Englishwoman Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it best in her 1906 book [an aphorism so often falsely attributed to Voltaire himself]:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
It is astonishing that the old axioms always held in high esteem in our democracy, is no longer understood by some of our most politically active young people. But even more frightening, that some of their professors – refugees from th 1960s — are, indeed, advocates of just such views as contradict everything held sacred in this democracy.
All of this takes place, of course, in a media that is less than professional. Trump exaggerates the numbers at his rallies, even 10 times but the media doesn’t report that the police and fire departments have a more accurate [and much smaller] count. You wouldn’t know if you read most of the media that Trump long hankered after running for the presidency but backed over several times because he was not considered serious by his peers. Trump makes the outrageous statement that huge numbers of people have approached him revealing that they never ever voted until he came along to bestir them. Is that really a questionable suggestion, given the numbers he claims from whom he heard this claim? The Trumpeters hang out that old and so often misused cliché that there has never been anything like the current Trump entourage. But one has only to think back to 1968 and to George Wallace’s mob, not the most illustrious example but a recent one. It’s fascinating to see who jumps on the Trump bandwagon, if that is what it is, an old and important element in propaganda. That even includes interviewing his son at length which hardly confirms the hypothesis that it is Trump DNA which carries magic unto new generations.
Oh well! We guess what we are saying in a nutshell is that tired, worn old cliché, which nevertheless is as valid as it has always been: the devil is in the details!
Something very ugly is happening in the public arena.
The level of vulgarity has fallen so low that we have candidates for the presidency of the United States, our highest ikon demanding knowledge and shrewdness, sparing in schoolyard expletives. The media no longer flinch at using curse words which once were forbidden to any kind of polite conversation. Displays of sexual promiscuity are badges of honor for our celebrities.
Vulgar taunts and attempts at personal humiliation are replacing any discussion of issues and problems of government. It isn’t necessary to name those most guilty of such vulgarity. The use of it by any one individual, as we have seen, almost inevitably attracts others to the same low level of communication.
Those of us – granted, sometimes hypocritically – who protest this dissent into the depths of the worst of styles are called prudish, outdated or simply not a part of the current scene – “not with it!”. But it is time to blow a whistle and call a halt to what is demeaning not only to public discussion but which too often substitutes for real logical discussion and a measured discussion of the conflict of ideas.
It is hard to now how to call a halt to this trend.
The old guardians of propriety – pastors, priests and rabbis – seem to have lost their once vast influence on public life. That perhaps comes with a growing secularization of American life in which religion and those who practice it appear to be a smaller and smaller part of the population. But it also comes from a misconstrued understanding of what liberty and freedom, the hallmarks of American life and our democracy, mean.
The one place left for setting an example and calling a halt to the debasement of the public discourse is, of course, through our elected leaders. The president of the United States has always had at least three different roles – that of chief executor who administers and polices the law, that of politician who heads — at least temporarily –the majority opinion as expressed by voters, and another, hard to define, role as the symbol of the nation and its aspirations.
We are now deep in the process of selecting the next person who will hold that high office and try to meet all its heavy requirements. The contest this year is unusually complex since on the one side we have a veteran of many political wars with all the baggage that necessarily entails and on the other a bitter rivalry among a number of contestants fighting for their party’s nomination The sheer volume of discourse provides, alas!, an opportunity for infringement of the standards which we would uphold for an educated discourse.
But it might be important if, at this very moment, we turn out attention to the style and courtesy of the debate. We would not eschew, of course, a discussion of the major issues. Indeed, that is most necessary.
But we would also like to see one or more of the candidates turn his back on the vulgarity which has recently characterized this discourse. Prim and proper as it might seem, how about a candidate who makes it clear that he will rise about the kind of exchanges we have recently had, and return to more formal and discreet discussion for the highest office in the land. Let’s make it known that that too, proper behavior, is going to be rewarded in this political contest.
A frightening wave of suppression of freedom of expression has swept the U.S., and most concerning of all, it is occurring in our universities and schools. If the university has meaning at all in democratic societies, it is as a stage on which ideas – all ideas – are permitted to compete for the considerzation of both student and teacher alike. Alas! in the current infringement of free speech, it is too often the faculty, products of the hectic 60s now arrived at the lectern, who are participants and even sponsors.
- A Palestinian human rights activist opposed to the anti-Israel BDS movement was threatened, and eventually forced to cancel a talk during a tour of Chicago-area universities.
- Students at California State University, Los Angeles, barricaded entrances to a theater where conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was to deliver a speech, ironically, about censorship and diversity on college campuses.
- A Florin High School Sacramento, CA, sophomore was suspended for recording a video showing her principal getting body slammed with the rationale she had put it on Facebook, and then, that it was a security concern.
- South Carolina’s Trumbull High School Principal Marc Guarino tried to cancel a student production of RENT, calling it too controversial, until more than 1,500 signatures and growing national media coverage forced an acknowledgement of freedom of school drama and musical theater companies.
- New Hampshire parents have limited what their kids learn in school under state law even if the material is deemed educationally valuable by the faculty and sometimes has led to the removal of material for other people’s kids as well whose parents want them to be taught that material.
- One in six colleges impose “free speech zones” that restrict liberty and violate First Amendment rights, as for example, Colorado Mesa University, where the administration provides only a thumbnail freespeech patio for a student body of nearly 10,000.
- Despite teachers’ efforts to highlight the value of thw award-winning book, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, it has been banned from the Sweet Home School Districtin Oregon in 8th grade classrooms.
- Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg School District Middle School English teachers were told that books from a National Council of Teachers of English conference could not be added to their classroom libraries before they were “checked”.
- The Kansas Board of Regents’ failed to revise a policythat says a university chief executive officer can discipline employees, up to termination, for “improper use of social media,” and to restore an art exhibition at the Dykes Library titled “Tom Gregg: Unsold – Grenades, Cute Animals and Bad Apples.”
- Georgia’s Kennesaw State reinstated an article about lynching from an opening exhibition at the new Bernard A. Zuckerman Museum of Art, after recognizing that the potentially offensive content could provide an opportunity to discuss the complexity of historical figures.
“The role of a university is to promote the clash of ideas, to test the results of research with other scholars, and to impart new knowledge to students,” as the last British governor of Hong Kong and former European Union commissioner for external affairs has written. “Freedom of speech is thus fundamental to what universities are, enabling them to sustain a sense of common humanity and uphold the mutual tolerance and understanding that underpin any free society. … [T]he irony today is that some of the most worrying attacks on these values have been coming from inside universities.”
In the end, society must take a certain risk if the fundamental right of freedom of expression in a democracy is to be maintained. That so many of the recent flagrant violations of free speech have taken place in an academic environment is the most worrying of what is, of course, a continuing battle between concerns for public safety and the state of mental health.