Cairo, Egypt - Then and Now

When asked for my opinion on what is going on in Egypt, I had to answer honestly that I know too little.  I learned long ago that what I don’t know won’t kill me, but to pretend to know may be dangerous.  So rather than opine on what it all means or debate the importance of picking a side in a situation a world away, I’d rather remind others that President Obama spoke at Cairo University on June 4, 2009.

President Obama’s Cairo Speech was listened to intently by many citizens of many countries, including those in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt.  In his speech,  President Obama stated:

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere. Continue reading Cairo, Egypt – Then and Now

'Taco Wars' May Indicate Widening Crack in GOP

The recent controversy sparked by a class-action lawsuit filed in a federal court in California against Taco Bell has wafted all the way to Washington DC, where according to one observer, “… it’s polluting the chamber of the Republican caucus.”

Apparently, the majority party of the 112th Congress is at odds over the relative importance of ‘substance’ versus ‘results’, and some are even having obvious trouble digesting the possibility of a relationship between an American fast food icon and a spike in illegal immigration.  According to Newton Toomey, a senior staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity, “With all the blasts of hot air flying in every different direction because of this taco thing, the atmosphere inside the chamber has become almost unbearable.”

National Republican Campaign Committee chairman Pete Sessions told reporters earlier this week that he doesn’t, “… see what the problem would be even if the allegations leveled against Taco Bell proved to be true.”  The Representative from Texas further elaborated, “What we sold the American people in the 2010 campaign had absolutely no meat — no substance — in it whatsoever.  But look at the results.  The people loved it, they ate it up, and they came back for more.  We had the most successful Congressional campaign in American history, picking up 63 seats and winning back our rightful majority.  If you give the people what they want and it’s obvious they like what you’re giving them, then what’s the difference if there’s any meat in it or not?”

House Speaker John Boehner, however, while not directly addressing Mr. Sessions’ comments, let rip with a scathing attack on any use of false or misleading advertising.  Mr. Boehner, whose face coincidentally matches the ‘Flamin’ Hot (R) Fritos(R)’ currently featured in Taco Bell’s ‘Beefy Crunch Burrito‘ was quoted in an interview with The Daily Tanner newspaper as saying, “Transparency is equally important in both government and advertising.  It has no place in our beef.” Continue reading ‘Taco Wars’ May Indicate Widening Crack in GOP

Friday Talking Points [153] -- SOTU-palooza

The past week in politics was, quite obviously, dominated by President Obama’s “State Of The Union” speech to Congress. For those of you who may have been in a coma, here is a quick recap of the messages of Obama’s speech, the official Republican response from Representative Paul Ryan, and the unofficial Tea Party Republican response from Representative Michele Bachmann:

Obama: “We can make the future so bright that O.S.H.A. will require us all to wear shades to view it.”

Ryan: “Be afraid. Be very afraid! The Day of Reckoning is at hand!”

Bachmann: “Which camera? That one over there?”

This is only a slight exaggeration, I should mention. Ryan actually did use the phrase “Day of Reckoning” in his speech, believe it or not. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Of course, the public mostly noticed Obama’s joke about fish. Sigh. You can’t make things like that up, either.

After the speech ended, the news media pronounced themselves bored by it. Some of the media (notably, broadcast television) mostly ignored the Michele Bachmann part of it, and some of the media (notably, cable television) focused on it, but most failed to come to the obvious conclusion: the Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war with itself.

Now, when these factional disputes arise within political parties, historically the Republicans have been much better at conducting such bickering far from the eyes of the media, and far from the eyes of the public. They normally have a period of intense, behind-the-scenes disagreement — and then they all appear before the cameras with smiles and identical soundbites to describe the agreed-upon stance on policy.

This time, though, it may play out a bit differently. The Tea Party Republicans don’t seem very disposed to follow this script. To be honest, they seem to want to follow a different script: have the dispute out in the open, in full view of the cameras, in order to leverage their crowd appeal to cow the establishment Republicans into doing things their way.

It’s easy to feel sorry for the establishment Republicans (or, to take a page from Speaker Boehner, to shed a tear for them), because this is normally the way Democrats conduct their intra-party arguments — instead of holding a sober and respectful intervention behind closed doors, you throw furniture at each other out on the front lawn while screaming at the top of your lungs. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [153] — SOTU-palooza

The State Of The Children's Union

I have always tried to live my life by the words of Jackie Kennedy, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”  Turns out, if I’m any measure, you can do quite a bit of bungling and still have some pretty decent kids. As the President took the measure of the nation Tuesday night, he necessarily devoted some attention to the country’s children, but if we’re to heed the words of Jackie Kennedy, a closer look is merited. While there is no doubt that the President and First Lady have made great strides in improving the lives of our children, the state of their union is still a mixed bag.

Of course, in the United States we can be grateful that we have tackled some of the most heinous abuses to children that still exist worldwide.  We have diligently enforced laws against child labor, child pornography and other forms of human trafficking.  Every one of our children has access to education, however unequal in its implementation. And since LBJ’s war on poverty, we don’t generally find children rummaging for food in landfills or completely abandoned to their own survival. Thankfully, we have rarely seen the problem of using children in a military capacity, and no longer do we have a culture that indoctrinates children in race-based violence,  although some of the militia encampments could arguably fall into that category.

Still, you might be surprised to know that Traffick911 called on the Super Bowl XLV host committee to take a stand against child sex trafficking in Dallas/Ft. Worth during Super Bowl weekend. It turns out the Super Bowl, an event that brings most families together, is a hellish weekend for thousands of kids, many as young as 11 and 12, who are not lucky enough to have anything resembling a nurturing home.

But these kids didn’t arrive at such a tragic end without the social and educational systems failing them as surely as their families have. Ultimately, this is what a children’s agenda is all about, providing as stable a foundation as possible so that our children can thrive and find their talents and fulfill their dreams.  As the President frequently says, “We know how to do it,” but as with most other issues, “We simply have not had the leadership to make this a priority.”

Fortunately there has been some movement in the leadership department under President Obama.  Clear progress on children’s issues has been made in the last two years, most notably in health care with the passing of SCHIP, the Affordable Care Act, and Let’s Move, Mrs. Obama’s childhood obesity campaign. Continue reading The State Of The Children’s Union

Arizona Birther Bill Gets It Wrong, Again

Birther state Rep. Judy Burges (R-AZ), joined by almost thirty other Arizona House and Senate Republicans, has introduced a more focused version of last year’s failed Birther legislation:

The New York Daily News reported yesterday:

This new legislation is extremely specific, seeming to target each of the issues “birthers” have continued to raise regarding President Obama.

Members of the fringe group who believe Obama is not eligible to be commander in chief have argued he was not born in Hawaii, has dual citizenship, or is simply not a “natural born citizen.”

Burges’ HB 2544 would address each of these concerns by requiring any and all candidates to provide “an original long-form birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and the attending physician and signatures of the witnesses in attendance.”

“Birthers” have argued that despite the fact that the Certification of Live Birth the Obama campaign provided in 2008 is a legally recognized document, they want him to release his long-form certificate.

Last year’s bill gave the Secretary of State responsibility for determining citizenship status of a presidential candidate:

2010—HB 2441: C. The secretary of state shall review the affidavit and other documents submitted by the national political party committee and, if the secretary of state has reasonable cause to believe that the candidate does not meet the citizenship, age and residency requirements prescribed by law, the secretary of state shall not place that candidate’s name on the ballot.

In an improvement, this year’s version requires the Secretary of State merely to ensure that certain documents related to Constitutional requirements for a presidential candidate be filed with a sworn affidavit:

2011-HB 2544: C. IF BOTH THE CANDIDATE AND THE NATIONAL POLITICAL PARTY COMMITTEE FOR THAT CANDIDATE FAIL TO SUBMIT AND SWEAR TO THE DOCUMENTS PRESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION, THE SECRETARY OF STATE SHALL NOT PLACE THAT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE’S NAME ON THE BALLOT IN THIS STATE Continue reading Arizona Birther Bill Gets It Wrong, Again

Dems and GOP to Also Mix at SOTU After-Party

After a week which has seen a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill in which members of Congress have scrambled to secure the most attractive and prestigious dates for Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, leaders of both parties announced on Monday that the celebration of bipartisanship would continue throughout the rest of the evening — namely extending to the traditional gathering which always follows the more formal festivities, or as it is known among Capitol insiders, “The Kegger”.

At a Monday night joint press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined forces to emphasize that this year’s parties, normally held separately by senior members of both the Democrats and Republicans at cheap roadside motels in the DC area, would be combined into, “The Kegger to end all Keggers.”  They also provided a word of warning to junior members of both houses regardless of affiliation, with McConnell saying, “So long as you’re cool, you’re welcome.  I think you all know who you are, but just to clarify — if you show up tomorrow night with a freshman whose name is not Marco Rubio, don’t bother trying to get in.”

Ms. Pelosi further added, “Formal invitations shouldn’t be necessary — I think pretty much everybody’s clear on who sits at the best tables in the cafeteria and who hangs out with who, and where, during recesses.”

Mr. Rubio, the popular new freshman senator from Florida, has impressed many of his colleagues with his ability to reach across the aisle, dealing equally well with members of both the Republican and Tea parties.  In what is regarded as a major coup, senior Florida Senator Bill Nelson landed Rubio as his date for the evening. Continue reading Dems and GOP to Also Mix at SOTU After-Party