Wednesday, December 06, 2006
It is a question that has been floating around the “blogosphere” for years. From there it migrated to bumper stickers, t-shirts and buttons. Yet this past week, the question of whether George W. Bush is the “worst president” in American history made the leap from web pages in the left lane of information superhighway to the pages of the Washington Post. Finally making its way to the talking heads of cable television and talk radio.
It is a particularly American habit, this business of wanting to classify the best and worst of something. We are nation obsessed with statistical rankings. Be it who is “the sexiest man alive”, or who made the best/worst dressed lists. Our popular culture abounds with David Letterman’s top ten lists and Keith Olberman’s “worst person in the world”. What fan of college football or basketball doesn’t start the day without checking their team’s standing in the top 25 coaches and press polls? We have a real need as a nation to not just quantify, but also to qualify both our successes and our failures.
To call someone the “worst” of anything can be a dangerous generalization. Yet when talking about the American Presidency, the question itself is not so much the issue, as are the reasons for asking it.
The presidency of George W. Bush has had far more failure than success. During his time in the White House George W. Bush has excelled at dividing this nation, perfecting a strategy of “ fifty percent plus one.” It is a strategy that won him and his party three elections. Yet aside from that electoral record, it has produced no real accomplishments while governing .
Presidents at this point in their terms, especially their second term, find themselves obsessed with the idea of “legacy”. The legacy of George W. Bush can be summed up in one word: Iraq. It is his war. A war that for the majority of Americans, the President’s reasons for it remain suspect, his conduct of it remains dubious, and the end of it remains unclear. Under the banner of “Keeping America Safe”, we are now a nation isolated from our allies, faced with emboldened adversaries, and bereft of the diplomatic credibility and strategic influence needed to deal with both the threats and opportunities of a post 9-11 world.
This administration’s one notable domestic achievement , the Medicare prescription drug plan, is a complicated maze of red tape mired in what appears to be a way for drug companies to avoid the forces of a free market. The impending collapse of both Social Security and Medicare, while great fodder for his party’s campaign ads, proved “too hard” to deal with in the reality of governing.
The problem with asking if any President is the “worst”, is the implication that the success or failure of our republic hangs on the abilities and flaws of a single human being. Our country has faced the consequences of our leader’s failings many times before, and has survived. As we face the end of this flawed presidency, the question is not was this the “worst” President, but rather what do we as nation want from our next President? Therein lays a vision for what a “best” Presidency would look like.
That vision is not hard to find.. You need look no farther than a few lines from an old song…
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
The best President would have a sense of stewardship, not ownership of the presidency. The best President would strive not just to make life easier for “the base”, but ensure a better life for all our citizens, and the generations of Americans yet to come.
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
The best President would never accept that any American lives in hopelessness, or lacks the opportunity to learn in safe schools, or live in safe neighborhoods. The best President would never accept that Americans should be forced to compete on an economic field that is anything but fair and level. The best President would see the environment not as a resource to be exploited, but as a legacy to be protected. The best President would never accept that any American would have to choose between health care and economic survival.
God shed his grace on thee
The best President would never invoke God as a tool of division. The best President would never use religion as way to marginalize groups of our own citizens. The best President would never seek to codify religion into civil law as a way to score political points. The best President would not wear faith on his sleeve while disregarding the most basic tenets of that faith. The best President would live his faith far more loudly than he would talk about it.
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
The best President would understand that true homeland security is collective. Strong friendships are the best defense against strong adversaries . The best President would see our freedoms as our strength not our weakness. The best President would see war as the very last resort to defend our nation’s vital interests, not the first resort to advance any one constituency’s political or economic interests.
The best President would embody our hopes, advance our dreams and embrace our diversity , our “E Pluribus Unum”. The best President would listen, would learn and would lead.
Using this simple standard, we find that the Washington Post is asking the wrong question. The question is not “is George W. Bush the worst President?”. The real question is, when will we as nation, stop settling for anything less than the best?
Friday, December 01, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
James Thurber once wrote; "Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." Looking around on this day before the 2006 midterm elections, I find I am aware of a great many things.
Unable to escape the reality of failed policies and flawed leaders, the GOP has decided its best hope for survival is to give you someone to hate. This is not a recent decision. It actually was made in 1992 when the Republican Party took a hairpin turn to the far right. It was then that it became clear that conservative evangelicals were most willing to write the campaign checks to have their voices heard.
To keep that money flowing, as a collective entity, the Republican Party has spent massive amounts of time and energy and money demonizing gay and lesbian Americans. Saying from the both the podium and the pulpit that Gay and Lesbian Americans are a "threat" who are "attacking" families and children. Calling for their followers to "fight" some phantom' gay agenda' and to "defend traditional values".
It is through fear that Karl Rove saw his window of opportunity. If you can't get your base out to for vote for a war, you can get them out to vote against people who are different. Devoid of intellect, faced with their own failures the GOP again hopes to trot out their pet scapegoat. the GOP needs you to hate and fear Gay and Lesbian Americans and then vote that fear.
Never mind the mismanagement of our economy and how it has created massive budget, trade and foreign debts. Never mind how reckless spending and lopsided tax cuts have put more of our economy under the control of nations with agendas and ambitions very different from our own. (China and Saudi Arabia just for starters.) Never mind the Billions of Dollars missing, unaccounted for and misspent in Iraq. Massive amounts of Taxpayer Dollars which this Administration will never seek to investigate or recover.
Instead you bring out your pet scapegoat. You say that America must be defended against "Activist Courts" with a radical gay agenda. Instead, you do the exact same thing that was done 75 years ago, when operatives of another political party posted signs in the streets of Berlin saying "Deutshe! Wach Auf! Kauf nicht bei Juden!" (Germans wake up! Don't buy from Jews!)
Never mind, that the American People are more divided now than at any time since the Civil War. Never mind that as President, George W. Bush has pursued a deliberate policy of national division to push through his agenda. Never mind that the result is a nation where now more than ever, Americans are encouraged to marginalize other Americans . (Gays are "attacking" marriage and the family. Liberals are "supporting the terrorists" when they criticize the President". The Media "wants American Soldiers to fail in Iraq" Immigrants are a "threat to our culture and way of life", etc. etc.)
Instead you point to your pet scapegoat, and use the voice of Government to say an entire group of our own citizens are a threat to our families. Instead, you use the power of government to say who can and cannot get married or raise children. Instead, you do the exact same thing that was done 50 years ago when one of the GOP's more infamous Senators waved a "list of names " of people who he felt shouldn't teach, make movies, write books, or work in science, medicine or law.
Never mind the entire litany of failure, deception, and just plain stupidity that has been the GOP record for the last six years. Never mind the nearly 48 million people in this country without health insurance. Never mind the flood of jobs overseas, or the plight of urban and rural public schools. Never mind the proliferation of real weapons of mass destructions in North Korea, because you need to distract from your hysterical cries over fictional ones in Iraq.
Instead you trot out your pet scapegoat. Instead, you say that , not having health care isn't a threat to your family , "San Francisco Values" are. Instead, you seek to win a campaign of hate, and in doing so, turn the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater into an affront to everything our nation has ever stood for.
I don't often agree with Andrew Sullivan but he got it right when he said "this isn't an election anymore, it's an intervention."
Tomorrow all across this nation we go the polls. I plan to vote my hopes, not my fears, I plan to vote my conscience not my prejudice. I will vote because I want my country back.
I hope to see you there.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Once again Keith Olberman (Countdown MSNBC) speaks for all of us.
Last night Keith took on the pathetic, desperate and completely dishonest strategy of fear being employed by the Republican Party in their desperate bid to cling to power.
Watch the entire video, then send it to everyone you know.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
8 years ago today, hate in its most vicious form stole the life of my son Matthew. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday, but then I reflect on all of the progress that has been made since 1998 to erase hate in our society - progress made in part because of what happened to Matthew. That is why on this day each year, the Matthew Shepard Foundation seeks to do something proactive to keep the tide of positive change moving forward.
Today we are launching our National Get Out The Vote Campaign to encourage everyone in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and allied community to let their voice be heard and vote on November 7th. If Matthew were alive today, I know he would tell you:
REGISTER! LEARN! PASS IT ON! VOTE!!! STAY INVOLVED!
It's your right, your duty and your future. But, I have one more request to make of you - a very special request. Since Matthew can no longer exercise his right to vote, a right he cherished, I ask that you PLEDGE TO VOTE FOR MATTHEW on November 7th. Commit to sharing your voice with Matthew, commit to using your primary right as an American, commit to playing a role in determining the future of your community.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is also officially launching our new website today. We are still putting some finishing touches on the site, but it is a website we are proud of and hope you will visit often. It was designed with you in mind. It provides the most detailed information about Matthew, the Foundation and how YOU can make a difference in the world.
Thank you for your continued support. If not for you, the Matthew Shepard Foundation would not be able to continue our work to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance".
Judy Shepard - Excutive Director
Remembering a Different Life...
I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on zabasearch.com. It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.
A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.
I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.
For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.
So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.
Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.
And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.
I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.
Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.
Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.
( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)
I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .
Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.
I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?
Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
So Dave... what do you think about 'FoleyGate'?"
If I had nickel for every time I have been asked that this past week, I would be able to shore up social security and Medicare myself. Ok, not really but it certainly has seemed that way over the past few days. I didn't want to weigh in on this particular GOP Scandal until I knew more of the facts, and more importantly I wanted to see what the GOP response would be.
Well we all saw and heard and read the shifting GOP talking points on the scandal surrounding Florida Republican Mark Foley. First it was that the GOP was as shocked as anyone and we should be glad Mark Foley was gone. Well, then the truth came out (no pun intended) that the GOP knew about this issue perhaps as early as 2003. Then the talking point was that Speaker Hastert wasn't told until only recently. Ooops! Turns out he was told a long time ago. Ok, let's try again.
The new talking point then became that this was all some sort of planned Democrat "October Surprise", and conservative talking heads tried desperately to spin the need to investigate the House Democratic leadership to see if they knew about Foley's behavior before the GOP did.
Then once again the truth turned out to be different, and we learned it was in fact only republicans who knew, and were responsible for bringing the issue of Mark Foley's behavior out into the open. Not ABC News, not George Soros and some mystical "Clinton War Room".
Can I just ask where is the Clinton War Room? How do I get a pass to get in there? It sounds like a great place to hang out and watch the Republican Party implode under the weight of its own dishonesty, greed for power and sheer stupidity.
I guess it is time I come clean and make a small confession. I used to be a republican.
(I will pause here to allow for gasps of horror and disbelief.)
Feel better? Ok, moving on...
Yes I was a card carrying member of the GOP. I even was an elected officer in the College Republicans. I campaigned for Reagan-Bush as a Young Republican and for Bush-Quayle '88 as a College Republican. In a box in my closet are framed photos of yours truly with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Dan Quayle, Bob and Elizabeth Dole and even the late Lee Atwater. (Former Chairman of the GOP).
So what happened? Simple. In 1992 the Republican Party lost its mind, and then its soul. The GOP went nuts and truth, became negotiable.
Truth became whatever spin fit a particular aim or agenda. We see the end result of that now, in 2006. Weapons of Mass Destruction became "WMD Related Program Materials & Plans". Draconian cuts in health care became "Giving our senior's choice". Giving polluters a free pass to wreak havoc on the environment became "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests'. Having the courage to question the complete and utter failure of the administration's policy in Iraq became "Wanting to Cut and Run". So it should come no great shock that covering up the obscene behavior of a high ranking GOP Congressman, and doing so entirely as political operation of the GOP congressional campaign committee became; "Leadership was informed and appropriate actions were taken."
Mark Foley didn't have inappropriate contact with minors because he was Gay, or because he was alcoholic, or even because he was allegedly abused by a Priest when he was a teenager. Mark Foley did what he did because he wanted to. He knew it was wrong, he knew it was a total contradiction to his entire public persona and he knew that it was something he needed to hide.
Attempts by various mouth-pieces of the GOP to say that Foley's fall from grace proves that all Gays are pedophiles is no different than when the Nazis said the same thing about the Jews. It is politically expedient hate, with no basis whatsoever in fact.
More than that, when Foley did get caught, the Republican leadership did not address what Foley was doing. Instead, they looked at the matter only in terms of its potential threat to the GOP congressional majority. Truth once again became negotiable, rather than risk a safe GOP congressional seat in Florida. That now famous un-named congressional page may well been speaking of the entire Republican leadership when he called the behavior of Mark Foley; "sick, sick, sick, sick."
You can rename torture, you can attack the bill of rights and call it "defending the homeland", you can even call a full blown civil war "an insurgency in its last throes". But the truth remains, visible for all to see. If any good at all can be said to have come out of the sad and twisted story of Mark Foley it is that the curtain of spin has been finally pulled back.
Pulled back to reveal a Republican Party that will put its own political fortunes ahead of the health, welfare, safety and security of the American People.
Hi there, I have jumped on the blogging bandwagon at last.
Well not really, I have been blogging for a while- just not here. I have posted for years on other sites. Most recently you can read my musings on Senator John Edwards' blog - oneamericacommittee.com .
Eblogger seems to have it's act together and lets you post directly from YouTube. So I will slowly start migrating stuff over here from my other sites.
So the the blogginess begin!