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“Republicans Are The Ones Hiding Behind ‘Political Correctness'”: Dismissal Of Facts And Opinions They Don’t Want To Hear

The Republican presidential candidates and the far-right echo chamber have made “politically correct” an all-purpose dismissal for facts and opinions they don’t want to hear.

Take Donald Trump’s claim that when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, “I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

The Post’s Fact Checker columnist, Glenn Kessler, found no evidence to support Trump’s claim and gave him Four Pinocchios, reserved for the most baldfaced lies. PolitiFact gave the statement a Pants on Fire rating, denoting extreme mendacity. But when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed the GOP front-runner to explain himself, noting that “police say it didn’t happen,” Trump resorted to what has become a familiar dodge.

“I know it might not be politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down,” Trump said.

Ben Carson, running second in the national polls, is even more fond of the political-correctness allegation — so much so that it could be considered a central theme of his campaign. It is unclear whether he actually knows or cares what “political correctness” means. The phrase is just more verbal romaine to add to the word salad that is Carson’s discourse.

He used it when challenged on his stance that a Muslim should not be president, even though the Constitution explicitly states there can be no “religious test” for public office. “Political correctness is imposed by the secular progressives and those who wish to fundamentally change our society,” he said. “Therefore, they make things off-limits to talk about, but you know what? I’m going to talk about it anyway.”

In other words, he considers the framers of the Constitution a bunch of “secular progressives,” since they’re the ones who put a candidate’s faith off-limits. That’s not the loopiest thing Carson has said (his attempts to discuss financial reform are in a class of their own) but it’s in the top 10.

The renowned neurosurgeon took the same route Sunday when Stephanopoulos — who had a busy morning — asked him to react to Trump’s call for the United States to resume harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding.

“I agree that there’s no such thing as political correctness when you’re fighting an enemy who wants to destroy you and everything that you have anything to do with,” Carson said. “And I’m not one who is real big on telling the enemy what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”

But Carson is a medical doctor who took an oath to heal and alleviate suffering. Or maybe he believes that Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, was just another PC lemming, blindly following the secular progressives who are leading us to our collective doom.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, asked about his view that the United States should accept no Syrian refugees, said we should not bow to “political correctness, the elites in Washington or the editorial pages of major newspapers.” Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), asked this summer whether he thought the term “anchor baby ” was offensive, told reporters “we need to stop this politically correct nonsense.” Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, after making a joke about transgender people that some found offensive, responded that “everybody wants to be politically correct, everybody wants to be loved by the media and loved by the left and loved by the elitists.”

And it’s not just GOP candidates who have the anti-political-correctness bug. Many conservative commentators have been quick to condemn the “politically correct” Princeton University students who demand that the school remove symbols honoring Woodrow Wilson — a onetime Princeton president — because of his racism.

These critics ignore the historical fact that Wilson was racist not just by today’s standards but by those of his time. He wrote that African Americans were an “ignorant and inferior race.” He lavishly praised the Ku Klux Klan and pined for the Confederacy. As president of the United States, he ordered that integrated federal government workplaces be segregated; NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of one black clerk who “had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions.”

Yes, I’m being politically correct. But also truthful.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 23, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

“Far Nastier Than Anything Revealed By Gates”: Cabinet Officials Going Rogue, A Brief History

Washington is predictably hyperventilating about the swipes against the Obama White House delivered by his former secretary of defense in a new memoir, but the fact that a cabinet official had differences of opinion with a president is hardly a shocking development. Pick any history book about a presidential administration, and you will find loads of palace intrigue, bruised egos, grudge matches, and sharp words from those who lost internal arguments.

Furthermore, battles between presidents and cabinet members have been known to be far nastier than anything revealed by Gates.

You may recall that President George W. Bush was wounded when Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill unloaded to reporter Ron Suskind. O’Neill accused the White House of systematically putting politics ahead of policy, revealed the blind obsession of some officials with invading Iraq, and quoted Vice President Dick Cheney defending tax cuts for the rich by saying “deficits don’t matter.” O’Neill’s revelations became the centerpiece of Suskind’s 2004 book The Price of Loyalty, which helped shape the narrative of the Bush presidency, even though it failed to derail his re-election.

Ronald Reagan’s second term was famously hit with a double blast of vengeful books from former cabinet members. People Magazine observed at the time that “Ronald Reagan is the first president in the nation’s history to suffer — while still in office — such opportunistic vivisection by former associates.”

His first budget director David Stockman published The Triumph of Politics: Why The Reagan Revolution Failed in 1986, which popularized the terms “rosy scenario” and “magic asterisk” to explain how budget gimmicks were deployed to mask the failure to cut spending. Later, former Treasury Secretary and Chief of Staff Donald Regan slammed the White House in For the Record, which revealed how Nancy Reagan sought to control the White House with the help of astrology.

Indeed, fierce scraps between presidents and key cabinet officials are par for the course, if not always well known or remembered.

President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, the wildly popular war hero George Marshall, told him to his face that if he recognized the new state of Israel he would vote against him for re-election, an implicit threat to sandbag his campaign. Truman was stunned, but he held firm and Marshall backed down, kept his opposition to himself, and rebuffed suggestions he should resign in protest.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an ugly tangle with his first budget director Lewis Douglas. In 1933, Douglas, horrified by Roosevelt’s plans to take American currency off the gold standard (he privately deemed it “the end of western civilization”) began leaking to the press that some administration officials considered the monetary strategy to be unconstitutional. But Roosevelt thought Dean Acheson, then undersecretary of the Treasury, was the leak and fired him instead.

The following year, Douglas resigned in protest of Roosevelt’s decision to increase public works spending to fight the Depression instead of ending all “emergency expenditures.” Once out of the White House, Douglas publicly lashed out at the New Deal as having a “deadly parallel” to Soviet communism, and campaigned for the Republican presidential nominees in 1936 and 1940.

President Woodrow Wilson perhaps dealt with the harshest rebuke from a cabinet member when his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a huge political force in the Democratic Party, resigned in protest of Wilson’s handling of Germany during the run-up to World War I. Bryan proceeded to travel the countryside, rallying support against any moves toward entering the war and threatening a fatal split in the party. Yet Wilson’s own barnstorming in favor of military preparedness kept the Democrats unified, allowing him to win re-election and steer Democratic Party foreign policy away from isolationism for the next 100 years.

Compared to the above, the Gates memoir — with its reported mix of praise and criticism — seems like a gentle ribbing.

More importantly, the history of cabinet tensions reminds us that the view from one cabinet member can’t give a full picture of a president and an administration. It is only one account, and needs to be reconciled with several others, and assessed alongside the final outcomes of presidential policies, before it can be properly analyzed. The Gates memoir is sure to be an important artifact of the Obama historic record, but it’s unlikely to be the Rosetta Stone.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, January 9, 2014

January 10, 2014 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Patient Deliberation, Not Imperialism”: On Syria, President Obama Is More Like Woodrow Wilson Than George W. Bush

As President Obama moves toward launching military strikes against the Syrian regime, some have been quick to charge him with hypocritically following in the footsteps of the president he long sought to repudiate: George W. Bush.

Ron Paul kicked things off two months ago with a baseless charge of “fixing the intelligence and facts around the already determined policy.” More recently, a leading Russian legislator claimed Obama would be “Bush’s clone” because “just like in Iraq, this war won’t be legit.” Fox News columnist and strident U.N. critic Anne Bayefsky declared that Obama will be seen as a “hypocrite or a fraud” for not pursuing a U.N. Security Council resolution after “bashing” Bush on similar grounds.

The Bush swipe is a cheap shot. It also misses the far more relevant historical parallel. Obama is not walking in Bush’s footsteps, but Woodrow Wilson’s.

As World War I raged in Europe and civil war erupted in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916 on the slogan “He Kept Us Out Of War.” But Wilson’s slogan proved ephemeral, and his strategy of “armed neutrality” finally gave way in the face of German aggression.

Similarly, Obama won the presidency in no small part because of anti-Iraq War sentiment, and was re-elected at least in part for following through on withdrawal. Now Obama faces his own second-term Wilson moment, as Syria’s genocidal tactics severely test President Obama’s foreign policy goals of facilitating democracy, strengthening international institutions, and avoiding “dumb wars” that sap American lives, resources, and global influence.

The similarities do not end there. Both Wilson and Obama sought to turn away from the imperialism of their predecessors while embracing the use of American influence to spread the right of self-determination abroad. Both expressed restraint regarding the use of military force, yet both pushed back on pacifist constituencies in their political bases and kept their options open. Both were charged with vacillation, and both suffered the occasional rhetorical misstep, as they walked those fine lines in the run-up to military action.

Obama was knocked for drawing a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons without being prepared to follow through, arguably giving Syria license to go farther. Wilson quickly regretted saying America was “too proud to fight” in May 1915, three days after Germany sunk the Lusitania and killed 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. Seven months later, Wilson recalibrated. During a speaking tour promoting a new policy of military preparedness, Wilson made a clear break with his party’s pacifist wing: “There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect.”

Still, Wilson’s restraint continued through the 1916 re-election campaign. Then less than three months after Election Day, Germany secretly cabled Mexico, proposing an alliance and offering three American states upon victory. Britain intercepted the code and fed it to Wilson, who publicized it and then took another two months before concluding it was time to enter the war.

Wilson risked being portrayed as a hypocrite, or even an outright liar, considering his campaign slogan. But as it turned out, his patient deliberation and clear reluctance for war buttressed his credibility when the moment for intervention came, helping to bring along a reluctant public.

Most importantly, Wilson did not betray his core principles. He did not flip from isolationism to imperialism. He had been seeking to play the role of peace broker, and end the war in a fashion that would move the world away from colonization and toward self-determination.

Shortly before he knew of Germany’s Mexican machinations, he laid out his vision in his “Peace Without Victory” address. Instead of a harsh peace in which the victor punishes the defeated, claims new territory, and sows the seeds of future conflict, Wilson saw a compromise settlement between belligerents, moving the world towards democratic governance and establishing a new “League of Nations” international body to prevent future world wars.

Wilson stuck by this vision even after he picked a side in the war, rejecting calls from both allies abroad and Republicans at home for an “unconditional surrender.”

Here too does Obama overlap with Wilson. Military action in Syria is not a betrayal of Obama’s foreign policy principles.

This is not a repeat of Bush-style neo-conservatism. There is nothing from the Obama White House that suggests a desire to handpick Syria’s leaders, establish permanent military bases, or claim natural resources. While Obama may not seek a U.N. Security Council resolution as he did to oust Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, he is also not suddenly snubbing international law, as he reportedly sees justification in existing treaties such as the Geneva Conventions and the Chemical Weapons Conventions.

The administration’s emphasis on limited strikes makes clear that President Obama still wants to do all he can to avoid ending his presidency with a “dumb war” that would mire the United States in a hopeless quagmire.

The White House has even stated that the military strikes will not be designed to spark “regime change,” instead stressing that “resolution of this conflict has to come through political negotiation and settlement.” In other words, it anticipates some sort of power-sharing agreement between Syrian factions, leading to a government that is fully representative of all Syrian people. This policy objective harkens back to Wilson’s “Peace Without Victory.”

Of course, none of the above guarantees that Obama’s vision will triumph. Wilson learned that the hard way.

Wilson did succeed in accelerating the end of the war and jump-starting a negotiated settlement. But after long multi-party negotiations that he personally undertook, Wilson reluctantly accepted harsher terms for Germany’s surrender than he deemed fair. And a debilitating stroke in 1919 muddled his thinking and warped his ability to compromise with the Republican-led Senate, dooming ratification of the treaty and America’s entry into the League of Nations.

But Wilson’s inability to close the deal doesn’t mean he was foolish to try. He came pretty close, and a healthier Wilson with a stronger foreign policy team could well have pulled it off. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt’s team did just that, proving Wilson’s wisdom correct with the founding of the U.N. after World War II. We have not suffered world wars since.

Obama may be taking a mighty gamble, but it is in pursuit of self-determination and an international order intolerant of genocide, not an ignoble quest for empire.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, August 29, 2013

August 31, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The First Progressive Revolution”: It Did Happen And It Will Happen Again

Exactly a century ago, on February 3, 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, authorizing a federal income tax. Congress turned it into a graduated tax, based on “capacity to pay.”

It was among the signal victories of the progressive movement—the first constitutional amendment in 40 years (the first 10 had been included in the Bill of Rights, the 11th and 12th in 1789 and 1804, and three others in consequence of the Civil War), reflecting a great political transformation in America.

The 1880s and 1890s had been the Gilded Age, the time of robber barons, when a small number controlled almost all the nation’s wealth as well as our democracy, when poverty had risen to record levels, and when it looked as though the country was destined to become a moneyed aristocracy.

But almost without warning, progressives reversed the tide. Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901, pledging to break up the giant trusts and end the reign of the “malefactors of great wealth.” Laws were enacted protecting the public from impure foods and drugs, and from corrupt legislators.

By 1909 Democrats and progressive Republicans had swept many state elections, subsequently establishing the 40-hour work week and other reforms that would later be the foundation stones for the New Deal. Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 presidential election.

A progressive backlash against concentrated wealth and power occurred a century ago in America. In the 1880s and 1890s such a movement seemed improbable, if not impossible. Only idealists and dreamers thought the nation had the political will to reform itself, let alone enact a constitutional amendment of such importance—analogous, today, to an amendment reversing Citizens United v. FEC and limiting the flow of big money into politics.

But it did happen. And it will happen again.


By: Robert Reich, The American Prospect, February 3, 2013

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Income Gap | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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