Mubarak to Succeed Gates as Defense Secretary

In a move that came as a surprise to virtually every Washington insider, President Obama tabbed newly deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to succeed Robert Gates when he steps down later this year as Defense Secretary.  Mubarak, who according to a spokesman was attending to family matters this weekend, is expected to be formally introduced at a White House ceremony on Monday as the nominee to become the 23rd man to hold the office since it was established in 1947.  If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Mubarak would also become the first non-American despot to hold such a senior position in the United States government.

Initial reaction on Capitol Hill has been mixed, particularly within the ranks of the Republican Party.

House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly expressed his support for the proposed move when briefed personally by the President during their lunch last Wednesday, told reporters, “I think Mr. Mubarak, once confirmed, will make a fine Defense Secretary.  First of all, his familiarity with the Middle East is probably second to none — he knows the players, he knows the culture, and he has a firm grasp on the threats posed by those in the region who would seek to harm us.  Secondly, what has been lost — in my mind — about recent events that have transpired in Egypt is the positive side of the role Mr. Mubarak played.  Both the protesters, most of whom were under 30 years old, and the military conducted themselves in a most exemplary and peaceful manner.  What that shows me about his 30 years in power is that Mr. Mubarak — perhaps more than any national leader in recent memory — really had his people whipped into shape.  That’s why during the game of ‘Truth or Dare’ that ensued after about the third or fourth martini at our White House lunch, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and I forced the President to make the phone call which I believe probably hastened Mr. Mubarak’s departure from Cairo.”

But not all Republicans share Boehner’s point of view.  Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl has vowed to do all within his power to block Mubarak’s confirmation by the Senate.  “While Mr. Mubarak has been a trusted and valued ally of the United States during his 30 years in power, let’s not forget the man is a Muslim,” a visibly irate Kyl told the crowd he was addressing at a weekend rally in support of gun rights for convicted sex offenders.  “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of having a Muslim Defense Secretary running the Pentagon while serving under a Muslim Commander-in-Chief.  On top of that, Mr. Mubarak’s government, all along, has cooperated with our government’s ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ program — the same program under which we have sent prisoners offshore to countries where they can legally be tortured.  I find it absolutely abhorrent, at this time in our history, that our government would find it acceptable to outsource torture overseas when there are plenty of qualified, unemployed American torturers who could be filling those positions.” Continue reading Mubarak to Succeed Gates as Defense Secretary

Community Organizing & Social Media once again change the World

In the last few weeks, in a country ruled by a 30-year dictatorship, a modern revolution was born and televised…

The tactics used included community organizing, young people, large, energetic crowds, forceful inspiration for positive change, the belief that the once-impossible could happen, and some 21st Century tools.

Some may recall seeing those same tactics utilized with success during the 2008 American presidential election.

As a now-famous community organizer once said:

“To live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.”

“Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.”

“For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.” Continue reading Community Organizing & Social Media once again change the World

Friday Talking Points [154] -- Egypt Rising

The stunning news today of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak stepping down has all but eclipsed the other political news of the week. Who would have thought, a month ago, that a government that had oppressed its own people for over three decades would fall simply because a bunch of people marched in the streets and refused to give up?

American politicians are still trying to figure out how they should react. Although shocking to some, this is entirely normal. The people of Egypt have spoken, and before it happened, nobody could have foreseen how fast or how effective it was going to be. The demonstrations surprised the Egyptian government as well as the American government. The main lesson to be learned here is that sometimes, in our new cyberspace world, events move faster than analysis can hope to. That’s one of the strengths of such “people power” movements — their inherent unpredictability.

Of course, democracy is unpredictable as well. If Mubarak’s exit truly does usher in an era of true democracy in Egypt, then the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what it will mean for the future. Nobody can predict who will win a free and fair election, what the Egyptian government will look like after one, or what it will mean for the region, the United States, Israel, or the rest of the world. But that is the nature of democracy.

George W. Bush spoke to this when he was president. In explaining his vision for the Middle East of democracy spreading outward from Iraq, he directly addressed critics who thought that “some people weren’t ready for democracy.” Bush soundly rejected this idea, in his belief that everyone, everywhere deserves freedom and democracy.

It was interesting to watch the political commentary from the Right during the Egyptian uprising. Initially, Republicans painted the movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere as a vindication of Bush’s idealistic view of the future of democracy in the region. Then Fox News started warning of the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood, and many conservatives had to execute a very quick rhetorical U-turn to side with Mubarak and “stability” (exactly the same Faustian bargain the United States has had with Egypt for decades). Tom Tomorrow captured this turnabout brilliantly this week in cartoon form.

President Obama has had a complicated few weeks as well, to be fair. Obama (and his spokespeople) have been issuing very closely parsed statements over the past few weeks, which at times seemed to fully back the protesters and at times seemed to defer to Mubarak’s wishes. This, too, is fairly normal. Obama is the President of the United States, not some minor congressman or (even worse) some media pundit. His words carry a lot more weight and a lot more consequence than some random politico or television talking head. So he’s been choosing his words very carefully over the course of the uprising. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [154] — Egypt Rising

The pitfalls of political yard signs

You’d think that something as simple as yard signs wouldn’t be a big problem for political campaigns. But a bad sign strategy is one of the most common mistakes made by rookie candidates and even some seasoned veterans. Here’s my free, unsolicited advice to campaigns based on dealing with more political signs than I care to remember.

A common mistake candidates make is buying more signs than their organization can handle. They see that it doesn’t cost too much more to get an extra 500 or so signs. Why not order a large number to get more visibility?

But then the signs show up. At some point the candidate or campaign manager has an “oh shit” moment and realizes that they need to place another 700 signs that are sitting in the back room collecting dust.

So they recruit a volunteer to be the sign manager. Then they get a crew of volunteers to place signs all over creation. Maybe you run a phone bank to ask people if they’ll put one in their yard. The sign crew goes out every weekend or several times a week putting up new ones and replacing those that disappeared.

Pretty soon you realize that half your volunteer efforts are going toward placing those damn signs. Those are volunteers who could be knocking on doors, making phone calls to undecided voters, or doing something useful. Not good!

Don’t buy more signs than you can handle!

Other campaigns have the volunteers and staff to place all the signs they want and go overboard. I see this every year in Springfield, most often from any candidate endorsed by the local Republican organization. Party foot soldiers spam the town with endless signs in front of rental housing, abandoned lots, and public medians.

Springfield mayoral candidate Mike Coffey is the latest example but he’s by no means the only offender. One wonders how seriously he’ll take city beautification after letting his supporters clutter the town with signs. Continue reading The pitfalls of political yard signs

Arizona Meanies Don't Have Votes On Birthright Citizen Bills

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee will not pass out of committee SB 1308 and SB 1309, bills which would challenge 14th Amendment status for newborn American citizens, those born on US soil whose parents are citizens of other countries.

The 14th Amendment says:

Section 1. – All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Anti-immigration legislators in various states are pushing a “Compact” (in Arizona, SB 1308), which completely distorts Section 1 to fit the purpose:

As used in this compact, “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” has the meaning that it bears in section 1 of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, namely that the person is a child of at least one parent who owes no allegiance to any foreign sovereignty, or a child without citizenship or nationality in any foreign country. For the purposes of this compact a person who owes no allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is a United States citizen or national, or an immigrant accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the united states, or a person without nationality in any foreign country.

Anyone sane knows right off this is unconstitutional, indeed un-American, and disgracefully dishonest.

State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a group started by Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl D. Metcalfe (R-Butler), is pushing this “Compact,” and lists 40 “Participating States.” Apparently, all it takes for a state to be so defined is a single lawmaker in the state to join up. Metcalfe himself is the only legislator listed for Pennsylvania. In New York State, for another example, Brewster Senator Greg Ball is the sole participant, but it’s enough to make New York a “Participating State.” God forbid. Continue reading Arizona Meanies Don’t Have Votes On Birthright Citizen Bills

Take Five (strange bedfellows edition)

ONE: Something stupid this way comes.

As next year’s Republican primary field begins to take shape – in much the same way the mutating creature in John Carpenter’s version of The Thing takes shape – there is already much to amuse, astound and inspire.

In the past week alone, the hapless Tim Pawlenty heaped plaudits on potential rival and cartoonish clod Michele Bachmann, while the reliably phony Willard Romney spun a cotton-candy confection of unctuousness designed to make the GOP faithful think that he really believes Sarah Palin would make a “great” president.

“Congresswoman Bachmann is someone I have a cordial and positive relationship with… I don’t know if she’s going to run for president. If she does run, she’ll be a strong candidate,” oozed Pawlenty.

“I believe [Palin] is an extraordinarily powerful and effective voice in our party, that she has generated a great deal of support and attention, that she’d be great in a primary process,” cooed Romney.

Palin graciously returned the favor by saying, “I’m going to field-dress Mitt Romney’s ass, tie him to the roof of a station wagon, and joyride up and down K Street.”  Bachmann, meanwhile, affectionately described Pawlenty as, “A few chemicals short of a Happy Meal, a lightweight, a boob, a non-entity, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard from no more.”

I confess I made up the previous paragraph out of whole cloth. But already, with 21 months remaining, the line between reality and Republican candidates has begun to blur.

TWO: “You ain’t nuthin’ but a groundhog…”

As impressive as modern weather forecasting has become (Doppler radar! AccuWeather! Bird entrails!) it’s reassuring that our friend, the groundhog, remains the standard by which we measure the remaining duration of winter.

Punxsutawney Phil emerged around dawn on Groundhog Day on Wednesday to make his 125th annual weather forecast in front of thousands who braved muddy, icy conditions to hear his handlers reveal that Pennsylvania’s prophetic rodent had not seen his shadow.

Meanwhile, north of the 49th Parallel, Phil’s Canadian cousins added their opinions to the consensus for an early spring.

Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam are both predicting an early spring.

The two furry forecasters failed to see their shadows on Groundhog Day…

In a little-noted story, Afghanistan’s Kandahar Ken, for the 10th straight year, refused to come out at all. Continue reading Take Five (strange bedfellows edition)