In the televised debate Monday night for South Carolina’s US House seat in District 1, Mark Sanford compared himself to Bill Clinton. Huh? Yep. The House’s most conservative Republican former member found common ground with the former Democratic president. You already know it was not an act of statesmanship. Clinton and Sanford were fallen, pushed by demons and desires into sin. Clinton looked to God for redemption. Mark Sanford turned to Bill Clinton.
Since Sanford brought it up, their sins and failings warrant a comparison, especially when a Republican in a Republican district evokes Bill Clinton as his politician savior. Is this a new thesis of mercy or an invitation to temptation? Their crimes do share elements both wide and narrow.
Narrow, as both had hot scandals. Both lied and were caught, both were in the public eye. Both had affairs. After that, the connection breaks down.
Clinton remains married. His wife is our former Secretary of State. Sanford chose divorce. He is engaged (but not yet married!) to the Argentinian woman with whom he had the affair. Clinton never ran again for public office. Sanford, who fervently supported and then broke self-imposed term limits, wants another chance. Clinton was not fined for the private use of government property. He avoided successful impeachment as the first President for whom the bill of high crime (and misdemeanors!) involved oral sex (it really is sex!). His high crime was lying about his risk-taking; his DNA was saved on a dress!
Sanford instead poetically proclaimed his love at a press conference when he returned from a week’s absence on Father’s Day weekend and asked his wife for an open marriage. He repeatedly confuses and commingles his private and public selves. Voting no on every spending bill and twice on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), he slickly slashed through his own fiscal barriers to fund his impulses and lasciviousness. He flew on his public credit card, in state planes.
His hand in the public till, he jetted off on taxpayers’ money. Eventually, he paid it back. But strange behavior for a man who spent his time in Congress sleeping on a couch and once gave his wife a $25 used bicycle as a combined Christmas and birthday gift! The man who slept on an office cot and voted against every budget took a state plane to get a haircut!
A wide comparison creates more stark differences between Clinton and Sanford. Clinton created 21 million jobs in eight years in office; in four years, South Carolina, with Sanford as its executive, lost 98,000 jobs, with a Republican in the White House. His current priority? In a state in the bottom five of employment, cutting the federal budget.
His claim of attracting Boeing is debunked by a well verified story that state leaders convinced Boeing that legislative support was more important than the governor’s endorsement when they were spooked and on the verge of pulling out because of Sanford’s weird behavior.
Since Sanford initiated a comparison with a Democrat in order to claim the privilege of forgiveness and equal treatment, principles he voted against and failed to fund, another comparison might be effective with a scandal-driven Democratic politician, one who sought and successfully achieved a return to public office—Washington, DC’s former mayor, Marion Barry.
First, I have met Marion Barry and Mark Sanford, and lived in cities and districts where they were elected to govern and procure progress. I have looked closely at the policies of both men and seen them on the campaign stump. Through their period of travails, I have witnessed their efforts at political comebacks. I have seen them put themselves before voters to judge not only policies and promises, but their penalties and crimes.
Marion went to jail. Mark paid $74,000 in fines. Both lost wives. But both are confident, handsome and resilient. Both are polarizing figures, with detractors and supporters. But Mark Sanford is no Marion Barry. He’s worse!
Here’s why: Politics comes down to service, money, and rights.
Mark Sanford, in his service as governor, once walked into the South Carolina State House, carrying a pig under each arm; he named them Pork and Barrel. Termed “an ill thought-out display,” deemed by the Republican Speaker “beneath the dignity of the Governor’s office,” the legislature, controlled by his own party, then promptly overturned, with bipartisan support, 100 of the 106 items he vetoed in the budget. He got his way with six.
This describes Sanford’s duty of service: sleep in his office, sleep with his fiance, proudly turn down stimulus money. And he also touts charter school reforms, including a statewide district, a reorganization of the Department of Motor Vehicles, cutting wait times, restructuring the state’s Department of Transportation, and tort reform. Jobs, wages and health, environmental protection, higher education don’t appear anywhere in his Sanford Seven.
In Congress, he wanted to reform Social Security, a program with a $2.7 trillion surplus (it added $69 billion this year!) and the lowest overhead and administrative costs of any private or public program for income security. He called it “putting tax payers first.” Really?
So he’s known for a little theater, a big temptation to tinker with public money, shorter waits for driver’s licenses, and running around the district this election with new props: cut-outs of Nancy Pelosi and waving hundred dollar bills, claiming this election is being bought—after the Republican National Committee withdrew his funding when it emerged that after repeated warnings, he was charged with trespassing at his ex-wife’s house!
“I had to make the call,” he says in his second explanation of the incident. It was Super Bowl Sunday and his wife wasn’t back yet to receive their 14-year-old son. Enter Mark.
I’m divorced. My daughter always had a key to her mother’s house. But my ex-wife never found me inside. The way you handle custody exchanges is not to enter each other’s dwellings. If the exchange or pickup is missed, you leave a message. It’s simple. “I have the child. You weren’t home yet. Contact me on what you want to do.” You reset. You don’t “make the call” to enter with ease. And then try for the moral high ground in a political ad, under the cover of great parenting skills. (Remember when Sanford was missing on Father’s Day? A time zone away? Out of touch?)
What could have been handled with a phone call or text message (Sanford lived 20 minutes away!) instead led to a full-page campaign ad to spin a clear error in judgment that millions of divorced parents make daily about custody. It also blames the media. It’s arithmetic; his errors multiply.
But what sets Mark Sanford aside from Marion Barry is his unabashed opposition to the dredging of Charleston’s harbor. Charleston ranks three or four in the nation’s busiest harbors, higher than New Orleans, Galveston, Mobile and West Coast ports. Moreover, it has an efficient connecting infrastructure of roads, warehouses and personnel skilled at trade, whose long arms affect the nation. $13 trillion worth of goods are imported through Charleston; $12 trillion are exported. The jobs, income, and multipliers are enormous. Continue reading Mark Sanford Is No Marion Barry. He’s Worse!
Hate looks an awful lot like stupidity until you realize it’s even worse than you thought. Of course, the visceral dislike for our President has been evident since before his swearing-in during his first term, and it has increased its intensity and scope in the early days of his second term.
The ways are familiar by now; ugly criticisms of his policies, one-sided attacks, a litany of invented character flaws, pushes for a series of single agendas without a review of facts or alternatives offered by the White House; scorn and blame, a variety of symbolic and real gestures of disrespect, including the latest: a bill entered into the hopper by a Texas Congress member that would specifically prohibit the President from being transported to play golf for as long as tours of the White House are shut down because of the sequester the same Congress member and his party voted for.
Many who are deeply vested in following politics report being physically and emotionally affected: experiencing loss of appetite, bouts of anger or lethargy, frustration and anxiety. Wouldn’t you have dread if you thought the Mayan calendar was more accurate than the President’s sequester predictions, as the website for the Republican Study Committee (RSC) claims?
What makes this hatred worse is the way it covers up the hatred Republicans have for America. They love the losing side of our history and hate the values, traditions, communities, families, and politics of progress by opportunity rather than privilege. Only in the most extreme times in our history have individuals and states taken positions which are now the Republican norm. Those extremes led to a Civil War, when states with positions so reactionary to progress decided to withdraw from the Union. Today, these reactionary extremists employ a new strategy: destroy the Union from within. Dismantle the government. Empty its treasury. Destroy its power.
And what makes the current Republican hatred of America even worse is the way this hatred and its stupidity–aimed at women, immigrants, Democratic voters, disaster victims, Native Americans, the ill and retired, minorities, youth, public employees–is being used to conceal the clear-headed, relentless pursuit of wealth and power.
Clear-headed hatred maybe the ultimate oxymoron, but it is the prime Republican strategy, and is the basis of the budget, tax and revenue policy of nationally elected Republicans, especially in the House.
Budget deficits are driven not by spending, as the Speaker implies, but by collections, the huge annual loopholes that forgive the tax obligations of big corporations and industries. Big Oil will receive $44 billion in federal tax breaks over the next ten years. Yet amazingly, meeting the obligations of the taxes owed if the loopholes were removed is seen as a tax increase. It’s not. It’s an honest fair share. Government has a right to be paid. Continue reading The Government Has a Right to Be Paid
Barack Obama, at his inauguration, spoke memorable words: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” He called for the unity of the country, especially its national legislators in the House and Senate.
House Budget Chair, Paul Ryan, who ran for Vice President against the winning Democratic ticket, later said these words in a television interview:
All of the statements and all of the comments lead me to believe that he’s [Obama is]thinking more of a political conquest than a political compromise…”
We must choose our battles carefully, and stay united in them to succeed. We can’t get rattled. We won’t play the villain in his [Obama's] morality plays. We have to show that — if given the chance — we can govern. We have better ideas.
No doubt, among those better ideas is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s main priority — a national priority of the “will of the people,” he says — to “help make abortion a relic of the past… Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year.”
Neither the House Budget Chair or the Speaker of the House mentioned jobs or made jobs a top priority. Ryan seemed to forget about all those millions out of work that he mentioned at every stop during the campaign. For him, did they just go way, having served their usefulness?
The President did not mention jobs directly in his speech, but he expressed three fundamental national principles, endorsed by polls that show his focus on jobs to be “the will of the people.” The first: Continue reading A Dialogue of Givers and Takers
Congratulations Barack Obama! Your second inaugural was sublime and passionate, and the weather offered a beautiful, brisk day. But I’m thinking about poor William Henry Harrison in 1841, who spoke for two hours in the cold without a hat or coat during his inaugural. He died thirty-two days later, from complications of pneumonia.
His impulse of the ridiculous lives on in the attitudes of today’s Congressional Republicans. They too have Harrison’s meaningless tenacity and his willingness to ignore the impending damage. In this vein, the first bill the House will consider is one that cuts off the salaries of Senate millionaires.
Michelle Obama was right to roll her eyes. The Boehner-directed legislation that demands a budget resolution also raises the debt ceiling for three months. During his tenure, Boehner has turned the House into a legislative assembly line, passing versions of the same bills over and over, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act thirty-four times!
Boehner’s dysfunction is accepted as a part of the political game, the differences between the parties. It’s not. The real difference between the parties is in their commitment to differences in ideology. The Republican positions are mistaken for policy, as variations of a broad approach to governing that reduces government spending and oversight. This persistent idea is absolutely contradicted over and over by the words and actions of Republicans themselves; their policies’ common feature is its ideology of power, power in its worst and best cases, its hidden relationships, its strategies and paradoxes, its pursuit as the prize.
That’s why the bill to temporarily raise the debt ceiling for three months has a provision to block the Senate’s salaries unless it meets the House’s demands. That’s not about policy; it’s a blatant, bruising bill that asserts power and challenges the Senate, dictating the terms and conditions they must meet, or accept a House-imposed-and-passed personal penalty.
Even a divided, smaller Republican party would have many tools left to further its drive for power. First, the Republican Party has well financed outside help. From organizations such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to the Jim DeMint-headed Heritage Foundation to its large individual donors, Republicans have an ever-expanding cache of money to use to advance its pursuit. Too often, Democrats and progressives decouple money from politics after elections, without recognizing that for Republicans the funding cycle never ebbs. Continue reading The Negative Consequences of Friendship
Click here to link to petition.
The following letter is attached to the petition:
To: The U.S. House of Representatives
Strip Congress of Employer-Provided Health Insurance and Other Benefits.
With 2013 figuring to be a pivotal year for our country in terms of determining the future course of our economy, how we deal with vexing social issues — and perhaps even more vexing whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, Chris Christie’s prospects for 2016 — it is crucial, as the public is reminded incessantly, that our lawmakers “roll up their sleeves and get to work on behalf of the American people”. As evidence of how seriously your leadership takes this awesome responsibility, the Majority Leader has scheduled you to be in session for excruciatingly exhausting 126 days during the coming year.
With spending cuts being the number one priority of the majority party of your body, it is understandable why the Leader might consider cutting people from full-time down to part-time in order to reduce costs. But as your salaries are unaffected by the reduced hours, that leaves only a reduction in benefits as the means by which this bold, visionary move will actually save the taxpayers any money.
Not that anyone begrudges you your government-run healthcare, but until a majority of the country’s other part-time and underemployed workers are afforded such benefits (one way or another), aside from adding to the deficit your continued coverage would also set a precedent that may reflect negatively on the vaunted status you currently hold in the minds of either nine or twelve percent of the population (depending on your preferred pollster). Continue reading Strip the Part-Time Congress of Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Petition by The Desperate Blogger
Sometimes, truth is besides the point. In today’s politics, its relevancy is certainly diminished. Its purpose is abandoned, standing as empty and eerie as the giant hollow factory shells of Detroit. We are taught to think of truth as solid and firm, but its integrity sways like the vine bridges built deep in rain forest interiors hidden from view. Truth is adaptable and timeless, which makes it easy to overrun. But in the heat of the moment, the property of truth Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. cited is often forgotten: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Its role in this season’s Presidential campaigns is over- and underrated, as one is about fear, the other about feel good. It is true that systems in conflict or competition create a set of their own norms intended to gain advantage and defeat the other, and this determines their options and handicaps their outcomes. Yet one campaign has based its entire strategy on betting against truth’s rise, believing truth’s adaptivity can be twisted and crushed by fear. The truth of truth is that truth expands; it is indispensable, not disposable.
Yet the power of truth is rare as a social or political force; it has always been tied to a sense of shame, a feeling of inner pain, a self-imposed humility, an emptiness and brokenness that rained on a soul telling a lie. Truth, celebrated as a virtue, carried with it a sense of embarrassment that made it hard to look people in the eye. Despair–agony–waited on those who bent or violated its moral faith. All day demons reigned in the lost hearts that told lies, a separation that left these hearts disturbed in out-of-body drift. Truth is the comfort of wholeness. Truth is foremost an inner quality, a force that builds a fabric of trust.
Akin and the ensuing political arguments badly miss this point. His one sentence/word/day violated a larger, higher trust. One New York Times commenter observed: Continue reading A Faith Lesson for Todd Akin
ONE: “Honest and shared solutions…”
Against the backdrop of the furor in Wisconsin, it’s easy to overlook Republican governmental malfeasance ongoing in the other states where the GOP garnered unfortunate victories last November. I confess to being fed up with writing about outrageous rookie Republican governors, but since they steadfastly refuse to stop being jerks, it seems I have no choice.
A couple of weeks back, Maine Governor Paul LePage ventured his opinion that plastics additive bisphenol A is – well, let’s turn to his own words, since a paraphrase just wouldn’t do them justice:
“Quite frankly, the science that I’m looking at says there is no [problem],” LePage said. “There hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem.”
LePage then added: “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”
That last comment prompted a strong reaction from Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine-based advocacy group.
“It displays shocking ignorance for the science and a callous disregard for children’s health,” Belliveau said.
Fiddlesticks, Mr. Belliveau. Just because Governor LePage’s higher education was in business administration doesn’t mean he couldn’t have taken some electives or even pursued a minor in, um, Benefits of BPA or Chemically-Induced Hirsutism, though I’m inclined to think any non-business courses he ever took probably centered around such popular academic disciplines as Pissing Off Rational People, Building a Bridge to the Seventeenth Century, or Who Cares What Anyone Else Thinks Anyway.
The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have said they have “some concern” about BPA’s effects on fetuses, children and infants at current exposure levels through food and the environment but that more research is needed…
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said the WHO and European Food Safety Authority positions point to the fact that there is no “consensus science” on the health impacts of BPA.
“Consumers can make their own choices,” Demeritt said. “But in terms of state policy, we have to have consensus.”
See how that works? State policy requires “consensus”, but in the emerging idiocracy of Republican-run states like Maine, it’s only required when it comes to things like dealing with a substance already declared dangerous and met with restrictions by eight other states and Canada.
No such “consensus” was required when LePage exempted his own pension from the 25%-plus hike in employee contributions he wants to impose on his fellow Maine civil servants. Continue reading Take Five (Joe Morello memorial edition)