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“The Junk Politics Of 2015”: You’re Getting A Sugar High, It Feels Good, It Won’t Last, And Ultimately, It’ll Make You Sick

When you eat a bowl of Simply Granola in the morning, you may think you’re making a healthy start to the day, courtesy of Quaker Oats. But you’re taking in the amount of sugar in almost four Oreo cookies.

When you listen to the politicians who want to lead the United States through the treacherous early 21st century, you may think you’re doing your job as a citizen of this clamorous and vulgar democracy of ours. You’re not. You’re getting a sugar high. It feels good. It won’t last. And ultimately, it’ll make you sick.

I’ve been trying to eat healthy, metaphorically, for the month of August. But it’s been a bust. There’s just too much bad stuff to binge on. We have a pending deal with Iran that could imperil Israel, or make the Mideast safer for a decade. We have an approaching visit of a transitional pope. We have a fledgling health care plan that’s given coverage to 15 million Americans who never had any — and one party wants to take it away. And we’re muddling through the hottest year on record, so far, surpassing the last warmest one, 2014.

And yet, what are the leaders-in-waiting talking about? Roll the highlight reel of our junk politics, starting with the also-rans:

At least one Republican wants to sic the Internal Revenue Service on his political enemies. So promised Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in a remarkable statement overlooked at the kids’ table debate last week. “I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the I.R.S. and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”

Other Republicans think we should be living in a theocracy. “It’s time we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, testing the latest version of his church-lady demagogy. He wants to ignore the high court on both gay marriage and abortion — breaking the law while waving his Bible.

Huckabee would also use the force of government to intervene with any woman seeking an abortion, claiming a constitutional right, the 14th and 5th Amendments, to protect a zygote. When he mentioned this Brave New World idea in the debate, no one challenged him. Instead, other candidates were equally extreme, refusing to make abortion exceptions even when the life of a woman is at stake. This is junk women’s health care, driven by religious fanaticism.

More empty calories: Scott Walker, the governor whose foreign policy experience is limited to breakfast at the old International House of Pancakes, threatens to start at least two wars upon taking office. He promises to use military action if necessary to coax Iran into doing what he wants it to do. He also wants to pick a fight with Russia, sending weapons to Ukraine and erecting a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Walker’s home state of Wisconsin ranks 35th in private sector job creation. But New Jersey is worse, suffering nine credit downgrades and ranking near the bottom in job growth. Even the governor of the state, Chris Christie, would not rise to Jersey’s defense after fellow candidates described Atlantic City as something akin to Baghdad on a hangover.

Those governors want to apply their ruinous models to the rest of the country. In the same vein, a failed former chief executive officer, Carly Fiorina, having fired 30,000 employees and driven her company’s stock price into the ground, feels more qualified than ever to be president. She’s never held elective office and rarely voted while living in California. A junk comeback.

Which gets us to Donald Trump, who boasts of four company bankruptcies, and paying people to come to his wedding. He is “a very smart person” and will be “phenomenal to the women” just like “the blacks.” It’s hard for women to attack him, he says, “because I’m so good-looking.”

Normal politics can’t explain Trump. For that you need Freud. Trump fits the classic definition of narcissistic personality disorder, as Marc C. Johnson, an astute observer of American politics, noted in a recent blog post. Everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is junk, but at least it fits a pattern.

Finally, to the Democrats. A 73-year-old socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is getting lots of attention because Hillary Clinton’s email story is boring, by Clinton scandal standards. When a noisy intruder, an African-American, jumped to the podium and refused to let Sanders speak, it was widely interpreted as a big problem for the candidate and race relations.

Wrong. The censor with the mouth was, it turns out, a self-described “extremist Christian,” from a family that once backed Sarah Palin. Some members of Black Lives Matter distanced themselves from her.

How did this stunt become a thing among the national press corps? Junk media. Sadly, the sugar high goes two ways.

 

By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, August 14, 2015

August 17, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Primary Debates, Presidential Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Chief Mess-Maker As A Consultant”: Can Jeb Bush Ever Escape His Brother’s Shadow?

Jeb Bush has firmly established himself as the Republican to vote for if you wish his brother were still president. Best of luck with that.

In what was billed as a major foreign policy speech Tuesday, Bush proposed inching back into Iraq, wading into the Syrian civil war and engaging in much the same kind of geopolitical engineering and nation-building that George W. Bush attempted. So much for the whole “I am my own man” routine.

He finally understands that to have any credibility, even amid a field of uber-hawks (minus Rand Paul), he has to say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But judging from his actions, that’s not what he seems to believe. Why would someone who thinks the war was wrong include Paul Wolfowitz, one of its architects, among his top foreign policy advisers? Why would someone who sees the Middle East as an unholy mess reveal that he consults his brother, the chief mess-maker, on what to do next?

Bush says “we do not need . . . a major commitment” of American ground troops in Iraq or Syria to fight against the Islamic State — at least for now. But he proposes embedding U.S. soldiers and Marines with Iraqi units, which basically means leading them into battle. He proposes much greater support for Kurdish forces, which are loath to fight in the Sunni heartlands where the Islamic State holds sway. And he wants the establishment of no-fly zones and safe havens in Syria, as a way to battle both the Islamic State and dictator Bashar al-Assad.

That all sounds like a “major commitment” of something . And none of it addresses the fundamental problem in Iraq, which George W. Bush also failed to grasp: the lack of political reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Bush 43’s vaunted “surge” was a Band-Aid that masked, but did not heal, this underlying wound.

Like the other Republican contenders, Jeb Bush opposes the Iran nuclear deal and promises to undo it — although he is equally silent about how the “better deal” that critics say they want could be achieved.

In general, as one might expect, Bush blames President Obama and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for basically all that is wrong with the world. Voters may have short memories, but I think they’ll remember it was Bush’s brother who shattered the Iraqi state and created the vacuum that the Islamic State came to fill. Voters might also recall that when Bush’s brother took office, Iran had no operational uranium enrichment centrifuges; when he left, Iran had about 4,000.

Jeb Bush tends to rush through his foreign policy speeches as if he’s checking boxes on a job application form. He becomes much more animated, and seems on more solid ground, when he’s talking about domestic issues. But remember that George W. Bush intended to have a domestic focus, too, before history decided otherwise.

Can Bush ever escape his brother’s shadow — or, for that matter, his father’s? I have serious doubts. For now, however, he’s busy enough trying to get out of Donald Trump’s wake.

Jeb! might think about adding more exclamation points to his logo. He’s running an utterly conventional campaign in an unconventional year, and frankly he seems to be putting a lot of Republican voters to sleep.

While other contenders for the nomination compete with front-runner Trump to say the most outrageous things and draw attention to themselves — a battle they’re not likely to win — Bush plods along. He made it to center stage at the first debate, right alongside Trump, but his performance was unexciting. If Bush declines to throw red meat to the activist Republican base, he’ll be better positioned to win the general election. But he’ll have a worse chance of making it through the primaries.

Recent state-level polls might not be enough to send Bush and his advisers into panic mode but definitely should make them pay attention. In Iowa, the Real Clear Politics polling average puts Bush at 7 percent — behind Trump, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, and tied for sixth place with Marco Rubio. For a candidate with Bush’s thoroughbred pedigree and overstuffed bank account, that’s embarrassing.

And in New Hampshire, the Real Clear Politics average has Bush in second place behind Trump but just one point ahead of John Kasich, who suddenly seems to be challenging Bush for the “reasonable conservative” vote.

His brother’s name is already hurting Jeb Bush. His brother’s policies will hurt him more.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sad, Dispiriting And Potentially Disrupting”: How Israel May Be Damaging The Alliance Between Blacks And Jews

“Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

— A June 21 tweet by Judy Mozes, wife of Israeli interior minister and vice prime minister Silvan Shalom.

Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, a well-known Israeli radio and television personality, deleted the tweet and later apologized after drawing criticism for what she called a “stupid joke.”

Those who regard the Iran nuclear deal as a grave threat to Israeli and U.S. interests have a moral duty to vigorously oppose it, just as those of us who view the deal as the best way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon should work for its adoption. Vilifying the president of the United States with slurs and insults, however, is out of bounds. Except, perhaps, in some places and with some people.

U.S.-born Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has done his own anti-Obama number. Citing President Obama’s upbringing, Oren suggested in a series of recent articles in Foreign Policy that the president’s “abandonment” by his mother’s “two Muslim husbands” created in him a desire for “acceptance by their co-religionists” that has now influenced his foreign policy. Conspiracy theorists and birthers could hardly have said it better — Obama’s Christianity notwithstanding.

This is beneath the Michael Oren I thought I knew.

It has come to this: racially charged affronts to the president of the United States from, of all places, Israel.

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, a high official of the ancient kingdom of Persia, sought to annihilate the Jewish people. A few months ago, Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, a West Bank settlement, likened Obama to a scourge on the Holy Land, telling an audience, “The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews.”

Riskin wasn’t the first rabbi to dub Obama a reincarnation of Haman.

In 2012, Dov Lior, then chief rabbi of another West Bank settlement, Kiryat Arba, also compared Obama to Haman, according to Israel’s Army Radio. But Lior stooped lower. He labeled Obama a “kushi” of the West, which, the Jerusalem Post reported, is a modern-day derogatory term used to describe people of African descent.

It’s not only the name-calling and insults hurled at Obama that grab the gut. Behavior sends signals, too.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress drew rave reviews from his Republican hosts and most — but not all — of Israel’s supporters. Many members of the 46-member Congressional Black Caucus were outraged that Netanyahu would go behind the back of the White House and arrange with Republicans to use the U.S. Capitol as the stage to challenge the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations. Several chose to stay away.

U.S. representative and caucus member James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said he regarded Netanyahu’s speech as an “affront to America’s first black president.”

In an interview with USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, Clyburn called Netanyahu’s White House end run “a real in-your-face slap at the president, and black folks know it. . . . [Netanyahu] wouldn’t have done it to any other president.” Pressed as to why Netanyahu would disrespect Obama, Clyburn responded, “You know why.”

Should it come to a search for 40 Democratic votes to join the House’s 247 Republicans in voting to override a possible Obama veto of legislation blocking an Iranian deal, don’t look for help from the Congressional Black Caucus. Hostility to the current Israeli leadership is real, and not just among caucus members. Many of their African American constituents are quietly seething, too.

Clyburn’s “and black folks know it” speaks volumes.

To no surprise, Republicans are trying to exploit the situation.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a petition urging people to sign and “[t]ell Obama it’s now time to stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Are the petitions being circulated in Zip codes where large numbers of blacks reside? It would be wasted effort.

There is a larger concern. While the jury is still out, the argument over the Iran deal could well stress the long-standing and largely fruitful political alliance between blacks and Jews in this country.

It would be a pity if the nuclear arms debate shapes up as a dispute between U.S. supporters of Netanyahu’s policies and Americans who respect and trust Obama’s judgment. And it would be a sorrow to those of us who still look with favor upon an alliance that has stood the test in the hardest of times.

That may explain why the “Obama Coffee” insult, the rabbinical slurs and the below-the-belt punches of Israeli officials are so sad, dispiriting and potentially disrupting in ways that once seemed unimaginable.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 24, 2015

 

July 29, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Israel, Jews | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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