Category Archives: political news

Baker says 'I told you so' … in effect

Former Secretary of State James Baker III didn’t have to wag his finger and say “I told you so.”

But he implied it anyway when asked over the weekend about the decision in 1991 not to march into Baghdad and overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Baker was interviewed on Meet the Press and the question came from moderator Chuck Todd: Do you still stand by your decision not to take out Saddam Hussein?

Yes, Baker said without hesitation. Why? Because, he noted, we would have encountered the same problem we’re encountering this very moment: trying to build a nation from scratch.

The mission in 1991 was clear: toss Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, where they had invaded in August 1990. The world would not tolerate one nation overrunning another nation and putting a massive supply of oil in jeopardy. President Bush sought permission from Congress and got it. He then went to the United Nations and got permission from the world body to use force to oust Iraqi troops.

The U.N. resolution was clear: Remove the troops from Kuwait, period. Don’t go any further. The president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood what the resolution said and the president would honor it to the letter.

James Baker brought together a coalition of nations to aid in that effort.

What the former secretary of state also seemed to imply — at least to my ears — was that tossing Saddam Hussein out in March 2003 is the source of all the trouble that is occurring in Iraq today. We’re still trying to build a democratic government in a country that’s never known freedom and liberty the way we understand the meaning of the terms.

The crisis in Iraq in Syria has gotten complicated almost beyond comprehension. It’s now up to the current administration to seek a solution. Still, it’s fair to ask: Did we really consider fully the consequences of what would happen the moment we decided to overthrow a sovereign government?

Did anyone back in 2003 bother to ask James Baker what might happen?

'Meatless Mondays' far from 'brainwashing'

I used to respect Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Now he’s joining the right-wing shouting campaign that’s trying to suggest that a healthier school-lunch menu is somehow an “agenda-driven” campaign meant to deprive children of eating meat.

Media Matters — a liberal watchdog group that delights in torpedoing Fox News’s efforts to slant the news — is at it again.

Staples contends that a “Meatless Monday” program being tried in Texas public schools is part of a hidden agenda. He said those who promote such a thing actually intend to remove meat from the menu every single day. And he knows that … how? He doesn’t say in the Fox segment. He just makes the assertion. Don’t look for the Fox hosts to question him on how he knows such things.

He calls it “bad science.” Staples is wrong. Scientists and dietitians all around the world have developed mountains of data that demonstrate that including more fruits and veggies in your diet leads to healthier living. What in the world is wrong with any of this?

There’s nothing inherently sinister going on here. A single day of the week doesn’t constitute a pervasive campaign to rid the school systems’ lunch menus of meat.

Staples ought to know better. Of course, he isn’t about to say he does know better, because he’s going to join the tea party Republican chorus taking aim at those un-American liberals who intent on destroying our way of life.

I offer this brief commentary as a red-blooded American carnivore. I love red meat; the bloodier the better. I also consume my share of chicken and fish.

None of our school systems’ efforts to reduce childhood obesity alarms me.

It shouldn’t alarm the Texas agriculture commissioner, either.

TR clearly was a RINO

Watching the first episode of PBS’s series on the Roosevelt family last night, I was struck once again by the notion that Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed himself to be a dedicated Republican, but didn’t act like one who is defined by today’s Grand Old Party.

Let’s call TR the original RINO — a Republican In Name Only.

The first part of “The Roosevelts” documentary produced by historian Ken Burns tells of TR’s ascendance to the presidency. He was the youngest man ever to assume the office. He got there by way of the assassination of President William McKinley.

He set out to bust up monopolies, rein in oversized companies, while making them pay their fair share of taxes. He didn’t believe business could build the country all by itself. Teddy Roosevelt believed in activist government.

TR used government muscle to secure land in Panama and begin construction of the Panama Canal. Is that an “infrastructure project” or what?

Imagine today’s Republican Party doing any of that. It wouldn’t happen. TR would be laughed out of the party that we’ve come to know and — in my case anyway — loathe with a passion.

“The Roosevelts” is going to be broadcast throughout the week. It will continue through TR’s post-presidential life and the battle he fought with his own Republican Party. He didn’t think it was “progressive” enough, so he launched a presidential bid in 1912 under the Bull Moose party banner. He failed, but laid the groundwork for what would become the modern progressive movement.

The series will chronicle the careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, two champions in their own right. They were dedicated Democrats.

Teddy Roosevelt, though, more or less broke the mold that used to define early-20th century Republicanism. What has emerged in the century that followed is a mere shadow of what it used to be.

Put lawsuit on hold, Mr. Speaker

Dear Speaker of the House John Boehner:

You don’t know me, nor do you likely care what I have to say about how you do your job. That is the business of the voters in your Ohio congressional district. Still, I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice from out here in Flyover Country.

That lawsuit you plan to file against the president of the United States over his alleged misuse of executive authority? Put on the farthest back burner you can find.

You know this already, Mr. Speaker, but the country is going to war — again. The enemy this time is the Islamic State. They’ve beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker. They mean business. They’re the nastiest of the nasty elements of society.

President Obama is trying mightily to craft an international coalition of nations — including Sunni Arab states in the Middle East — to join the United States in this fight to destroy ISIL. You, sir, should join the fight as well.

The lawsuit you said you want to file is a mere distraction at a time of national crisis. It smacks of partisan petulance. A lot of us out here in the heartland know what gives with the suit. You want to fire up the Republican Party base in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. You want your party to take control of the Senate. That likely will happen no matter what you do regarding that silly lawsuit. I can grasp your anger over the president’s use of executive authority to tinker with the Affordable Care Act. Given the international stakes, though, it all seems so damn petty.

To file suit now would serve as the Mother of All Distractions. It would take the president’s eyes off the ball he needs to watch, which is the one involving the protection of Americans. That’s his No. 1 duty as president and commander in chief. You agree with that, right?

As for your own job as speaker of the House, you’ve got to rally the entire body — not just Republicans — to some form of unity behind the president as he undertakes the task of fighting this despicable enemy.

Picking a court fight now, with the nation’s attention turning to ISIL, disserves the country you say you love.

I believe you do love America, Mr. Speaker. So do I.

So, from one patriotic American to another: Let go of that goofy lawsuit idea.

Congress to look into NFL conduct? C'mon!

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has opened the door for yet another congressional spectacle in which lawmakers will seek to call attention to a problem that should be solved by someone else.

Domestic violence is the issue of the day.

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said today that the National Football League’s response to the Ray Rice scandal — he punched his then-fiancée unconscious, remember? — has been “outrageous.”

So, what’s Congress going to do about it?

Gillibrand thinks hearings are possible. To what end?

I think I know. The end will be to allow senators to make speeches, to get their names into print, their faces on TV and they’ll be able to express justifiable outrage at the way the NFL has handled these cases involving players striking the women in their lives.

Give me a break.

Congress has many more, and much larger, fish to fry — pardon the expression — than butting into the business of the NFL.

Yes, the league has a serious image problem. The owners need to hold Commissioner Roger Goodell accountable for the way he has handled the Rice matter. Goodell does work for the owners, who will need to decide whether the commissioner keeps his job.

The NFL already has launched an independent investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who vows to be thorough in his probe and plans to reveal his findings to the public the moment he has assembled all the facts in the case.

Let’s be clear: The domestic violence crisis in the NFL is a serious burden for the league to bear. It must make these offenders accountable and they must pay for the horrible acts of violence they commit. That’s within the NFL’s purview.

Congress has to worry about whether to approve air strikes in Syria; it has to look for ways to ensure that Americans are safe from terrorists; it must decide whether to act on the myriad programs proposed by President Obama, but which have been stuck in the congressional gridlock.

It need not conduct show hearings for the purpose of allowing elected politicians to make spectacles of themselves.

Mark Sanford's back in the public eye

Mark Sanford had dropped off my radar. Indeed, I thought he was gone forever.

Until now.

He’s back. The reason has something to do with why he was such a notorious character in the first place.

Back when he was the Republican governor of South Carolina, he famously disappeared for a few days. He told his staff to put the word out he was “hiking on the Appalachian Trail.” Turns out he was cavorting with his mistress — way down yonder in Argentina.

He lied to the public about his whereabouts and as AWOL from his elected duty as governor of the Palmetto State.

What a goofball.

Well, he later got engaged to his “soul mate,” Maria Belen Chapur, after his wife, Jenny, divorced him. He then got elected to Congress, where he served before becoming governor.

Now the nutty guy says he’s calling off his engagement to Chapur, apparently because of continuing difficulties with the former Mrs. Sanford, the one on whom he cheated with Chapur.

“No relationship can stand forever this tension,” wrote Sanford in a Facebook message to Chapur. He alluded to possibly getting re-engaged if his situation with Jenny Sanford calms down. There has been trouble over visitation with one of the couple’s children.

According to “His Facebook posting comes after attorneys for Jenny Sanford last week asked a family court judge to limit the lawmaker’s visitation with his youngest child. They also want Mark Sanford to undergo psychological tests and take anger management and parenting courses.”

Let’s remember that Mark Sanford once slept on his couch in his congressional office so he could be sure to get home every weekend to be with his wife and their children; he cited his belief in strong “family values.” Then he cheats on his wife, lies to his constituents, gets engaged to his mistress, and then breaks off his engagement while lawyers try to get this goober to undergo “anger management and parenting courses.”

Go away, congressman. Please?

Did we abandon an ISIL captive?

My heart breaks for Diane Foley, whose son James was beheaded by Islamist terrorists.

Accordingly, I can understand her bitterness that the U.S. government perhaps could have done more to save her son’s life.


Is it fair, though, so soon after this terrible tragedy to suggest the government failed to do all it could do to secure the journalist’s release?

It’s been revealed that in July the U.S. sent a Special Forces team into Syria to rescue Foley. It failed. The team arrived at where it thought Foley was being held but discovered only an empty building.

Diane Foley now alleges that national security officials threatened her with prosecution if she continued to raise money to pay a ransom for her son. Indeed, U.S. law now prohibits the government from negotiating with terrorists. It’s unclear — to me at least — just how Ms. Foley intended to pay the money if she was able to raise the amount the terrorists demanded.

Secretary of State John Kerry — who’s in Turkey seeking to build an international coalition to fight ISIL — adamantly denies any personal knowledge of a prosecution threat. Kerry told reporters: “I can tell you that I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the State Department making such statements.”

Quite clearly nothing can bring James Foley back. As for U.S. law prohibiting negotiating with terrorists, it needs to stay on the books.

A mother’s grief is overwhelming. A nation still mourns her son’s gruesome death. But let’s not overlay that grief with an understanding of what the government did — or couldn’t do under the law — to secure her son’s freedom.

Let’s concentrate instead on finding the murderers and administering battlefield “justice,” which is what the president and secretary of state already have vowed to do.

Killing top terrorists 'won't work'

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal knows a thing or two about hunting down and killing terrorists.

So, when he says that killing the top dogs in the terrorist chain of command won’t eradicate the organization, he deserves the nation’s ear.

McChrystal noted — as many others have acknowledged — that killing Osama bin Laden in May 2011 didn’t eliminate al-Qaeda. Others stepped up to replace him. Now some are saying that the terror group is stronger than before.

The general’s comments come in the wake of President Obama declaring war, in effect, against the Islamic State. The plan now is to go after ISIL’s top leadership, eliminate it, decimate the organization and then perhaps be able to declare some form of victory in this war against terror.

McChrystal is dubious of that strategy, as he said to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

I’ve sought to make the point on this blog that the anti-terror campaign is unlike any we’ve ever fought as a nation. There is no clearly defined enemy operating out of foreign capitals, funded openly by hostile governments. They operate in the shadows, seeking to keep their identity secret for as long as possible.

Yes, we know who ISIL’s leaders are, as we know the names of those who lead al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram or any other terrorist organization. If we kill every leader of every group, does that send the minions into hiding, dispirited? No. I enrages them and they find new leaders to step up.

The fight is worth waging and we must fight them with extreme prejudice.

However, as Gen. McChrystal has said correctly, killing the bad guys’ leaders isn’t enough.

OK, it's official: We're at war

Is it war or is it a counter-terrorism campaign?

I’d thought out loud in an earlier blog post that the terminology didn’t matter. We’re going after the Islamic State with heavy weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry — who’s been to war … in Vietnam — was reluctant to use that term. Now the commander in chief, Barack Obama, says we’re “at war” with ISIL.

Let’s be mindful, though, of what this “war” actually means, or doesn’t mean.

It doesn’t mean we’re going to take over a foreign capital, run up the Stars and Stripes and declare victory. Nor does it mean we’re going to receive surrender papers from a foreign government aboard some warship. It won’t result in our rebuilding (I hope) some nation that we’ve blown to smithereens trying to root out and kill terrorists.

What the “war” means is that we’re going to be in this fight for perhaps well past the foreseeable future. I suspect we’ll still be fighting this “war” when Barack Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. He’ll hand the battle plans over to his successor, wish that person good luck and then the new commander in chief will be left with trying to kill all the ISIL fighters our military can find.

The war against terrorism is something we launched after 9/11. Everyone in America knew the war wouldn’t have an end date. Heck, there really wasn’t an strategy to conclude the war when President Bush declared it after the terrorists killed thousands of Americans on that terrible Tuesday morning 13 years ago.

I still don’t give a damn what we call this conflict. If it’s war, then we’re going to have to redefine how we know when it’s over.

First, though, we’ll likely have to redefine when it ends. Good luck with that.

Palins were punchin' 'em out?

This little tidbit from the tundra almost defies anything that makes sense.

Almost …

It’s been reported that the family of former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin got involved in a brawl at someone’s home near Anchorage.

The Palin Gang showed up in a stretch Hummer — allegedly — went inside and then a fight broke out. Involved in the altercation reportedly were Sarah Barracuda’s husband, Todd, son Track and daughters Willow and Bristol. It apparently also involved a former boyfriend of one of the daughters.

And then, supposedly, someone apparently from the Palin Gang yelled, “Don’t you know who we are?”

Here’s how the Washington Post reported the story:

“Anchorage Police Department’s communications director Jennifer Castro confirmed to the Loop that there was a fight at a party where the Palins were in attendance. Castro said ‘just before midnight Anchorage police responded to a report of a verbal and physical altercation taking place between multiple subjects…’”.


And to think some people actually take seriously what this one-time Republican vice-presidential nominee has to say about anything.

I suppose equally interesting might be that on the day the news broke about this brawl, Sarah Barracuda appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” show to discuss President Obama’s strategy for destroying the Islamic State. Of course, Palin was critical of the president’s plans. However, Sean Hannity didn’t bother to ask her anything about the fight and whether she and her family were involved.

She still thinks of herself as a serious political pundit? You betcha.