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“No Longer May It Wave!”: If It Were Up To Me, This Emblem Of Treason And Racism Would Be Pulled Down, Permanently

So there’s a reason for the grotesque fact that even as the US and South Carolina flags were lowered to half-mast in recognition of the murderous terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church, the Confederate Battle Flag in front of the Statehouse continued to fly at its full height (per Schuyler Kropf of the Charleston Post and Courier):

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War.

So it would take a full act of the legislature to bring the Confederate flag down.

I tell you what: If I were in charge of the Statehouse grounds, I’d be real tempted to bring down that flag to half-mast and defy anyone to do anything about it. But then if it were really up to me this emblem of treason and racism would be pulled all the way down, permanently, and consigned to a museum. We’ve just witnessed another deadly data point for burying the Lost Cause beneath a mountain of opprobrium so high and so heavy that it will be no more acceptable an emblem for gun-toting “loners” and “drifters” than a swastika.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is demanding that step as a small token of historical honesty in the service of long-delayed justice for African-Americans. I’m demanding it even more basically as a gesture of southern self-respect. No, we cannot ensure that people like Dylann Roof won’t find inspiration in the Confederacy for the evil in his heart. But we can deny him respectable company. That’s particularly important in South Carolina, where the disastrous moral and material failure of the Confederacy began.

UPDATE: WaPo’s Justin Moyer adds two details to the flag story: (1) the law protecting the Confederate Battle Flag stipulates that it can only be repealed by a two-thirds vote (!); and (2) the flag on the Statehouse grounds is not raised and lowered daily on pulleys, but is permanently affixed to the flag pole.

This doesn’t move me much. Just as the flag was attached to the pole at some point, it can be unattached, and if the whole rig doesn’t allow for half-mast displays, the people of South Carolina can do without a Confederate Battle Flag for a few days or weeks.

As for the law: again, who’s going to enforce it if Nikki Haley orders the flag down? There’s also something inherently screwy about legal protections for a symbol of rebellion and lawlessness.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Emanuel AME Church, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The State Of Republicania”: GOP Senators Appear Set On Their Own Breakaway Nation

The New York Daily News branded Senate Republicans “TRAITORS” in large type across its cover Tuesday, saying, “GOPers try to sabotage Bam nuke deal.”

That’s not quite right. It’s true that 47 Republican senators did their level best to bring us closer to war by writing a letter to Iran’s mullahs, attempting to scuttle nuclear talks with the United States. But Republicans aren’t exactly subverting the United States. It’s more as if they’re operating their own independent republic on Capitol Hill. Call it the State of Republicania.

Its prime minister, John Boehner, invited his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to criticize U.S. foreign policy last week before a joint meeting of the Republicania parliament. The American president wasn’t consulted.

Mitch McConnell, the Republicania home secretary, wrote an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader explicitly urging states to refuse to implement a major new power-plant regulation issued by the U.S. government.

And now we have Tom Cotton, Republicania’s young foreign minister, submitting “An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” counseling Iran’s leaders that any agreement reached by the United States but not ratified by Republicania could be undone “with the stroke of a pen” (assuming the next president comes from Republicania).

But why stop there? Ted Cruz, serving as Republicania’s justice minister, could instruct the sergeant at arms to apprehend administration officials who testify on Capitol Hill and lock them below the Capitol crypt until they agree to more suitable policies. Jim Inhofe, Republicania’s environment minister, could undo recent efficiency improvements at the Capitol Power Plant, and the Capitol Police could become Republicania’s military, under the command of John McCain as defense minister.

Darrell Issa could serve as Republicania’s own J. Edgar Hoover, and Orrin Hatch could become its spiritual leader (the breakaway republic could abandon church-state separation and everything else in the Bill of Rights except for the Second Amendment). Thus could Republicania become a happy little city-state — a Luxembourg on the Anacostia.

There is a potential problem with this model, because Republicania would refuse to levy any taxes. But it appears that Cotton, the recently elected senator from Arkansas, has figured this out, too: He’ll get military contractors to bankroll the new nation.

On Tuesday, the day after his letter to Hezbollah’s masters became public, Cotton provided a clue about his motives: He’d had a breakfast date with the National Defense Industrial Association — a trade group for Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and the like.

You’re not allowed to know what Cotton said to the defense contractors. The event was “off the record and strictly non-attribution.” But you can bet it was what Dwight Eisenhower meant when he warned of the military-industrial complex.

The defense industry contributed more than $25 million in the 2014 election cycle and spent more than $250 million lobbying over that time period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For the defense industry, this is a good investment: If Senate Republicans blow up nuclear talks, it makes war with Iran that much more likely — and nobody would benefit as much from that war as military contractors.

Alternatively, Republicania could raise revenue for their city-state by charging visitors for tours. That’s a viable option, because nothing at the National Zoo is quite as exotic as Cotton, who after just two months on the job has led his colleagues to break with more than two centuries of foreign policy tradition.

Cotton, appearing on CNN on Tuesday morning, maintained that his effort was not political. “Nor do I believe this letter is unprecedented,” he said — although the Republicania national archivists have not found a precedent.

Perhaps they will come up with an open letter from American legislators written to King George III in 1783 warning him that the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams might be undone with the stroke of a quill. They may uncover an 1898 cable from American senators to Maria Christina, the Spanish queen regent,cautioning her that many of them would remain in office “decades” after President William McKinley was gone. Or maybe they will uncover a letter from senators to Joseph Stalin in 1945, educating him on the constitutional separation of powers before he negotiated with Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta.

But Republicania archivists are unlikely to locate such documents, because they were never written.

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), one of just seven Republican senators not to sign Cotton’s letter to the ayatollahs, said she thought it “more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president” and U.S. negotiators.

Spoken like a true American — which, in the corridors of Republicania these days, is nigh unto treason.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 10, 2015

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Iran Nukes? Thank Neocons”: The No-Diplomacy Posture Is Exactly What Has Brought Matters To This Point

I have probably written many times in the past that Republicans hit a new low, but as of this week you can toss all those. This Senate letter is the definite low of all time. I didn’t think these people could shock me, but this one genuinely was shocking in so many ways—not least the dishonor it brings on the United States Senate—that every other nutso thing they’ve done drops down one notch on the charts.

Treason, as the Daily News blared? I don’t know for sure about that. But I know to a certainty that if a group of Democratic senators had done this to a Republican president, Republicans and conservative pundits would be screaming the T-word and demanding the Justice Department investigate the senators.

Imagine if, say, 47 Democratic senators had written an “open letter” (a moral cop-out that permits the senators to say that it wasn’t “really” a communication to Ayatollah Khamenei) to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 assuring him any treaty Ronald Reagan signed with him could and quite possibly would be altered or abrogated by them. Or worse still—imagine that 47 Democratic senators had written an open letter to Saddam Hussein in the fall of 2002 reminding him that only Congress could declare war and that most of them would long outlast President Bush, while closing on the breathtakingly cloying note of being happy to have enriched Saddam’s “knowledge of the constitutional system.” There seems to me no doubt whatsoever that some Republican senators and members of Congress would have been baying for Logan Act prosecutions.

Much as part of me might savor it, I don’t think we ought to go there. A far better punishment for these disgraceful intriguers would be for the letter to backfire and increase the likelihood of a deal being struck. And it might well have that effect: If the mullahs genuinely want a deal, then surely a threat like this from the Senate would make them more anxious to pursue one while they can, and then hope that Hillary Clinton, who’s indicated she’d support a deal, becomes the next president and can make it stick.

Let’s hope that’s the effect—but let’s never forget the intent. These Republican senators, says Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, an advocate for a deal, can’t block a settlement; “but they can get the Iranians to think that it’s impossible to trust the United States,” he says. Thus, “the intent of the letter was to show the United States to be untrustworthy.”

It’s pretty amazing that members of the United States Senate would want to do that to their own country—not just in the eyes of Iran, but in the eyes of the five other powers involved in the negotiations. Three are some of our closest allies (Britain, France, and Germany). The other two are the not inconsiderable nations of Russia and China. All five have had negotiators sitting at the table with us and the Iranians for a year and a half. Wonder what they think of this.

It’s a disgrace, but only another in a long history of Republican-conservative disgraces with respect to Iran. Indeed these go back to 1953, when Dwight Eisenhower green-lighted the coup that Harry Truman had blocked. And they extend up to 2003, and the now largely forgotten but suddenly rather timely story of the Bush administration’s rebuff of an Iranian diplomatic overture that could have made the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship a very different one from what it has been.

It was all widely reported then; this Washington Post article provides a good rundown. In sum, it was a point in time when the (Shia) Iranian republic had been cooperating with the United States in tracking down some (Sunni) al Qaeda men; through a Swiss intermediary, Iran passed a letter to the White House feeling the Bush administration out on broad-ranging negotiations—possibly curtailing its nuclear ambitions, cutting back on its support for (or maybe even disarming) Hezbollah, and most strikingly of all, indirectly recognizing Israel’s right to exist—all in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions.

The offer was real. Whether it had Khamenei’s blessing, no one in the West really knows. Still, some elements in the Bush administration wanted to pursue it. But guess who won? As that Post story reports it, “top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative.”

We can’t know what might have happened. “But we do know one thing,” Parsi says. “When diplomacy is rejected, as it was under Bush, when the official U.S. policy was for regime change in Tehran, you give the Iranians every incentive to do everything they can to prevent the United States from pursuing regime change.” That means spreading its talons across Iraq, and it chiefly means, of course, pushing ahead full-speed with its nuclear ambitions.

Here’s part of what that rejection of diplomacy has done for us. In 2005, Iran put an offer on the table to the Europeans calling for it to keep 3,000 centrifuges. But that was rejected, because the United States wasn’t willing to talk to Iran. So what did Iran do? While we were refusing to negotiate and rattling the saber, they were building centrifuges to beat the band.

So today, Parsi told me, Iran has about 22,000 centrifuges, of which 9,400 are operational. Any deal is going to let Iran end up with around 6,000 centrifuges. That’s twice the amount it was asking for in 2005, when we could have struck a deal at 3,000. But we weren’t talking to Iran then, because it’s weak to talk to terrorists and because the regime was on the verge of collapse anyway, see?

Our years of resistance to diplomacy, a product of neocon doctrine and pressure, has thus made the situation clearly and tangibly worse. The Obama administration, and the other five powers, are trying to stuff back into the tube the toothpaste that Dick Cheney and his confederates squeezed out. And for its attempt to repair the gaping wound the neocons and their friend Mr. Netanyahu inflicted on the world, the administration is now subject to this poisonous and quasi-treasonous attack that is designed to increase the likelihood of war with Iran (Senator Tom Cotton, the letter’s author, spoke openly at the recent CPAC conference in support of regime change).

I applaud the seven Republican senators who did not sign the letter, even if it is a little like applauding the members of the Manson family who didn’t actually kill anybody. And for those who did sign, eternal shame. The only silver lining is that the right’s track record on Iran suggests strongly that the result will be the opposite of that which they desire.


By: Michael Tomasky, The daily Beast, March 11, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Neo-Cons, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bibi’s U.S. Senatorial Negotiator”: Representing Netanyahu In A Communication With A Hostile Foreign Country

It’s bad enough that Republicans are beginning to treat Bibi Netanyahu as their fantasy President. It’s getting a lot worse when 47 Republican senators basically choose to represent him in a communication with a hostile foreign country with whom our actual president is in sensitive negotiations.

From informal comments I’ve heard elsewhere, I was not alone in reacting to the news of this Republican letter to Iran basically telling them not to rely on any diplomatic commitments from the United State government by thinking: Can they do that? Is there any precedent for this?

I gather the only clear analog was a series of actions taken by Republican senators to undermine European trust in Woodrow Wilson’s position during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. So it’s not unprecedented but it’s been a while, and history has not been kind to Wilson’s senatorial tormenters.

It’s depressing to note that of the handful of senators who did not sign this letter three (Alexander, Coats and Cochran) are likely in their final terms, and a fourth (Murkowski) was last elected as a write-in candidate running against the GOP nominee. Whether it’s true or not, the perception among Senate Republicans certainly seems to be that “the base” demands this.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2015

March 11, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Hates Obama More Than A Nuclear Iran”: Republicans Will Reap What They Have Sown

That letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Republican senators could well destroy critical bipartisanship in U.S. foreign policy for years to come and treacherously undermine the bargaining power of the person constitutionally authorized to conduct American affairs abroad—the President of the United States. On top of what House Speaker John Boehner did by unilaterally inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, this letter seriously points to one terrible conclusion: a formidable number of Congressional Republicans hate President Obama more than they love America.

These acts go entirely beyond legitimate criticism of presidential actions abroad. They are not like a few legislators wandering in foreign lands and expressing their disagreement with their government. They surely exceed the usual congressional resolutions of disagreement with presidential policy.

What the 47 did was not a trivial matter or “a tempest in a teapot,” as Senator John McCain has described it. It could well affect possible Iranian concessions in the end game. The ayatollahs could well conclude from that letter that concessions they might have made just aren’t worth it politically, as the agreement would go nowhere anyway. They’d be taking political risks for nothing.

Beyond these negotiations, the effects on our national security may well be profound and lasting. Just look at the future implications of what these Republican senators said in their letter. They maintained, in effect, that this thing a President of the United States has been negotiating will either be thrown out by Congress or discarded by the next president, so don’t waste your time. Did the 47 even consider how future Congresses would apply such words to future presidents?

For one moment, did these senators think about how their actions could affect the ability of President Barack Obama to protect the safety of America? Did they consider how their insistence that he doesn’t matter affects his power to protect American interests and lives in the Middle East or NATO countries? These noble legislators were saying Mr. Obama doesn’t speak for Congress or the American people, and bad guys of the world, you can defy him and thus the United States however you wish.

And don’t think for a second that Democrats will forget these acts of near treachery to a sitting president of their party when a Republican president takes the helm. Don’t expect the Democrats to be saints and models of self-restraint given the behavior of Speaker Boehner and these 47 Republicans. At some critical time, in some critical place, Democrats will exact revenge on a Republican in the White House and, alas, on US national interests. At some point, the Republicans will reap what they have sown.

Seven sitting Republican senators fully realized the consequences of what their colleagues were doing and refused to sign the letter. Those with such good sense merit mentioning: Bob Corker, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Dan Coats, and Thad Cochran. At least some senatorial Republicans put their country above partisanship, blind ideology, and hatred of the duly elected President of the United States.

Many Republican worthies who have conducted U.S. national security policy in the past and who may do so in the future know well that the agreement being negotiated with Iran by Mr. Obama is not another Munich or a sellout, as Israel’s prime ministerial hit man intoned to Congress. Putting all the baloney aside (and boy there are mountains of it this time), in the simplest terms this agreement extends the time for an Iranian nuclear breakout to a bomb and enhances our knowledge of what’s going on with nuclear programs inside Iran through greater inspections.

It’s surely not heaven, and the Iranians surely can’t be trusted, but it’s surely better than the idiotic alternatives. These would be forgoing the agreement and letting Iran simply get to a bomb quickly, as the severest critics fear they will, or going to war with Iran to delay that day.

Those who argue that Iran will be brought to its knees by enhanced economic sanctions ignore history. Look at North Korea, Pakistan, Cuba and so forth. Look at the fact that a large majority of Iranians feel they should have peaceful nuclear energy capability. Look at the fact that all the countries partnering with the U.S. in negotiating with Iran (Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) back the current negotiating track, which includes a gradual lifting of economic sanctions. And stare at the reality that if we stiff our own sensible negotiating track with Tehran, then our negotiating partners will lift their own sanctions from Iran without an American “OK.”

The White House was right on the mark in saying that the only ones who rejoiced at the Republicans’ unintelligible rant were the hardliners in Tehran. They don’t want the agreement either. Have these 47 Republican senators ever wondered if they might be green-lighting those in Tehran who yearn for Iran to be a nuclear power?

The House Republicans who invited a foreign leader to Congress to attack the President of the United States and the 47 Republican senators who undermined U.S. national security with their letter can’t be expected to repent. Anyone who would do these things may well be beyond redemption. But Republican leaders who have effectively and nobly carried out US foreign policy in the past and may do so in the future must step up now to protect America’s future.


By: Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast, March 10, 2015

March 11, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran, National Security, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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