Tag Archives: civil rights

Longing for a return of bipartisan ceremony

I cannot remember the last time I saw a president posing for pictures with politicians of both major political parties.

You remember those days, right? President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation into law, and handed pens out to Republicans and Democrats gathered around him.

President Richard Nixon did the same thing with, say, creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Same with President Ronald Reagan as he signed significant tax legislation.

President Bill Clinton worked hand in glove with Republican congressional leaders to balance the federal budget and both sides sought to take credit for that noble achievement. Fine. Let ’em!

I remember the time not long after 9/11 when GOP President George W. Bush embraced Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle on the floor of the House after delivering a speech that called the nation to arms after the terror attacks.

These days, presidents are photographed only with pols of their own parties. President Barack Obama would be photographed at bill signings only with Democrats. The current president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, meets almost exclusively with Republicans and wouldn’t be caught dead sharing space with Democrats.

Legislating is a team sport. Teamwork often requires pols of both parties to work together.

We see so little of it these days, and indeed over the course of at least two presidential administrations. Republicans and Democrats have declared the other guys to be the enemy. They aren’t just mere opponents.

It’s a toxic time in Washington, D.C. It is threatening to poison the system for far longer than can possibly benefit the cause of good government.

What happened to Lincoln’s political party?

Two hundred nine years ago, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln welcomed a little boy into their lives. Little Abraham came into the world and went on to become the 16th president of the United States of America.

I thought I would take a brief look on Little Abe’s birthday to ponder the question that has befuddled many of us today: What has become of the Party of Lincoln?

President Lincoln was elected in 1860 and re-elected in 1864. The Civil War darkened his presidency. He vowed to preserve the Union, which split apart when the Confederate States of America went to war with the United States of America.

The Party of Lincoln became known as the party that sought equality for all Americans. It strove for unity. It became the party that fought against the enslavement of black Americans. President Lincoln embodied that righteous cause.

A century after the end of the Civil War, another president — Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas — fought to enact the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. He needed congressional Republicans to counteract the resistance he was getting from his fellow Southern Democrats who opposed both landmark pieces of legislation.

In the 50 years since LBJ’s time, the parties’ roles have reversed. Johnson predicted that the civil rights legislation would cost Democrats the South — and it has. Republicans now are the dominant party south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the GOP — not the Democrats — is now perceived by many to be the party of those opposed to the cause of civil rights.

One of the more stunning examples of that role reversal arguably occurred this past year when the current president, Republican Donald J. Trump, proclaimed that there was blame to go around on “many sides” in the riot that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen rioted to protest the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The president’s response was breathtaking when he said there were “many fine people — on both sides” of the dispute. Yes, the president called Klansmen, Nazis and white supremacists “fine people.”

The Republican Party once branded itself as the Party of Lincoln, largely on its history of seeking equality for all Americans and for its intolerance of racial hatred.

Wherever he is, President Lincoln is an  unhappy man.

If only we could bring Honest Abe back from the great beyond to scold his political descendants on the degradation they have heaped on the party that once bore his name.

What would MLK Jr. think?

The hour is late on this day of national remembrance.

The nation has recognized the 89th birthday of one of the 20th century’s greatest men. Martin Luther King Jr. left a gigantic legacy that reverberates to this very day, this very moment.

I am left to ponder: What would the great Dr. King think of the national mood today?

Others have spoken to this question already. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of Dr. King’s key lieutenants back in the day, said he believes MLK would be appalled at the national mood. He wouldn’t approve in any sense of the rhetoric coming from the White House these days. Rep. Lewis believes Dr. King would follow the lead of other contemporary African-American leaders and wouldn’t speak openly to the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

I believe differently. Dr. King made a point of speaking of peace with his foes. His non-violent approach to disobedience became a universal mantra for protesting what many Americans believed were injustices being brought on vast segments of our society.

I just cannot believe that King would snub those with whom he had significant differences.

Of course, we cannot know how history would be different if great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. had lived. We play the hand we’re dealt. The hand we got in April 1968 — I cannot quite fathom that it was 50 years ago! — came from a rifle shot in Memphis, Tenn. that felled Dr. King.

He died, but his struggle lived on. It lives on to this very day.

I want to believe we have made great strides toward achieving the kind of world that Dr. King envisioned. Sadly, I hear rhetoric that comes from certain national leaders and I worry we have regressed.

My hope springs eternal. Dr. King’s soaring message still resonates. May it continue to remind us of the hope this American titan sought to imbue on us all.

John Lewis reminded us today that Dr. King knew that “we are one family.” To that end, family members shouldn’t turn their back on each other. That is what I hope — and at some level believe — Martin Luther King Jr. would say.

That did it! Moore equates ‘slavery’ with U.S. ‘greatness’

Roy Moore shouldn’t have said it. But he did. Now it’s out there.

The controversial Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama fielded a question earlier this year about American greatness. Someone asked Moore when he thought this country was truly great. He said:

“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another … our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Even though we had slavery? Is this fellow suggesting that slavery was part of the formula for greatness?

Moore does it again

Why in the name of rhetorical clumsiness did he have to add that qualifier?

As I look at his statement, the candidate — who’s also been accused of sexual misconduct with children — could have omitted the slavery reference altogether. He didn’t. He tossed it out there.

From my standpoint, the notion that this nation would allow the level of human bondage and captivity that it did prior to the Civil War is a mark of supreme condemnation. It never — ever! — should be included in a discussion of American “greatness.”

American greatness effectively began when African-Americans were emancipated, freed from the hideous bondage of slavery.

This is yet another reason why Alabama voters should reject this man’s candidacy for an important public office.

This is what one could call a ‘toxic’ relationship

So … just how toxic is the relationship between Donald Trump and the nation’s civil rights leadership?

Get a load of this: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., arguably the greatest living leader of the civil rights movement, plans to boycott the opening of a civil rights museum in Mississippi because the president of the United States will be there.

The ceremony will occur Saturday.

I am torn on this one. Lewis’s statement talks about the inflammatory rhetoric the president has uttered since taking office. He has taken extreme offense at Trump’s statements about race relations, not to mention his terrible initial response to the Charlottesville, Va., riot spawned by the presence of white supremacists, Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.

The president’s participation in the museum dedication, though, is noteworthy. If only he hadn’t built up a disgraceful record of clumsy statements that many have interpreted as being overtly racist.

That’s the kind of history, according to Rep. Lewis, that the president cannot erase with a simple public appearance.

President seeks to inflame emotions even more

I am about to embark on a futile and pointless mission, which is to try to talk some sense into the president of the United States of America.

Donald John Trump Sr. is planning a “campaign-style” rally in Phoenix, Ariz., next week. The city’s mayor has implored the president to forgo the visit.

The “why?” is simple. National tensions have hit a fever pitch. We’re still reeling over the Charlottesville riot and the death of young Heather Heyer and two Virginia state troopers. Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered to launch a protest; counter protesters met them. They clashed and all hell broke loose.

The president then proceeded to absolutely demolish his moral authority on damn near anything by declaring that “both sides” were at fault and in the process virtually equated the racist, bigoted hate mongers with those who opposed them.

So now Trump wants to stage another rally out west? He wants to tell his adoring — but shrinking — cadre of supporters about all the good things that have occurred since he became president?

Memo to POTUS: There stands a very real chance, sir, that your rally is going to provoke more violence. It might go badly for everyone concerned.

Then there’s this: We’re hearing talk about the president possibly pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been convicted of violating the civil rights of illegal immigrants he had arrested. “Sheriff Joe” has become a darling of the anti-immigration movement, given his tough talk and actions.

I merely would implore the president to resist the temptation to pour even more fuel onto that already-burning blaze.

OK. I’ve stated my piece. I know it won’t matter one damn bit to the president or to his supporters who read this blog. However, I feel better having gotten it out there.

Now, let’s hope for the best — which would be for the president to skip this rally. Hey, maybe Ivanka can talk some sense into Dad’s thick, orange skull.

JFK’s life will be forever unfinished

It sounds strange to consider that John F. Kennedy would turn 100 years of age today.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the 35th president of the United States remember him as a young man who, even stranger as it seems, seemingly gets younger the older we all become.

JFK was the youngest man ever elected president in 1960. He was 43; the youngest ever to become president was Theodore Roosevelt, who ascended in 1901 to the highest office at 42 upon the death of President William McKinley.

Less than three years after taking the oath of office, President Kennedy’s life ended as he took a rifle shot on that street in downtown Dallas.

I have resisted the temptation to rank President Kennedy among the greatest who ever held that office. I consider his life to be an unfinished work. I bristle a bit at those surveys that place JFK at or near the top of such lists. How can we measure what he actually accomplished? The truth is we cannot.

I prefer to think of the president in terms of what he might have done. Even that is an exercise in futility because we cannot know with absolute certainty how history would have played out had he served the entire length of his presidency. I’ll presume he would have been re-elected in 1964. Then what? How would the Vietnam War have gone? What would he have done, say, by the end of his second term?

His life is frozen in time. For the president, it ended after just 46 years on Earth.

Still, the man’s legacy remains in large part due to the work done by those who came after him. President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty,” his landmark civil rights legislation and, yes, the tragedy that continued to unfold in Vietnam all are part of JFK’s historical record.

I have trouble even grasping the notion of John F. Kennedy becoming an old man, let alone one who might have lived long enough to celebrate his centennial birthday.

If only he could have finished his marvelous life. JFK will remain, as the song suggests, “forever young.”

Trump continues scorched-Earth rhetorical policy

We’ve been wondering around our house for, oh, the entire length of the election season and now as the new president gets ready to take office.

It is this: Is Donald J. Trump seeking to undermine his presidency the way he seemed to inflict damage on his candidacy?

You’ll recall the campaign. He offended Hispanics right off the bat; he denigrated Sen. John McCain’s record as a Vietnam War hero; he criticized a Gold Star couple; he mocked a disabled New York Times reporter; he admitted to Billy Bush that he’d groped women by grabbing them in their private parts.

None of that mattered. Trump won the election, despite his seemingly deliberate effort to torpedo himself.

Now he’s getting ready for the inauguration. What does he do?

He continues to disparage intelligence professionals who insist that Russian spooks launched a cyberwar to influence the election; he keeps tweeting idiotic messages in response to criticisms great and small; he declares war on the media; he declines to say he trusts German Chancellor Angela Merkel more than he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin; he fires back at a legendary member of Congress, John Lewis, who questioned Trump’s legitimacy as president, saying Lewis is “all talk, no action”; he accuses CIA Director John Brennan of possibly leaking classified information about alleged Russian hacking.

Sheesh, man!

What’s this guy doing?

He’s got to work with the intelligence pros beginning the moment he takes his hand off the Bible on Friday, shakes the hand of Chief Justice John Roberts and becomes president. How in the world does he work with the dedicated intelligence staffers who will remain after John Brennan leaves to make way for Trump’s pick to be CIA director?

How is he going to work with African-Americans after labeling Lewis — Congress’ most venerated member and a champion of civil and voting rights marches — be an “all talk” kind of individual?

And how is this individual going to assure staunch and trusted allies, such as Chancellor Merkel, that he trusts her implicitly and really and truly doesn’t equate her trust level with that of the former head of the KGB in Moscow?

Let’s all get ready, dear reader, for the roughest ride imaginable.

Hold on, Rep. Lewis!

I have great respect and admiration for John Lewis, one of the most iconic members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This brave and gallant man who was nearly beaten to death during the civil-rights marches of the 1960s, has not only survived, but he has become one of the great voices of Congress.

But he is getting way ahead of himself when he calls Donald J. Trump an “illegitimate” president.

Why is that? Rep. Lewis is concerned about the Russian involvement in our electoral process and allegations that Russian geeks/spooks sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — in Trump’s favor.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/314234-john-lewis-trump-isnt-a-legitimate-president

Let’s hold on, sir!

I happen to share your distaste of Trump as a president. Believe me, I preferred the other major-party candidate over the Republican nominee. I also am concerned about the Russian involvement as confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies.

However, nothing at all has been established about whether Russian hackers had any tangible impact on the outcome of the election. No one has proved that Russians tilted significant numbers of Americans to vote for Trump over Clinton.

I’ve never been prone to question the “legitimacy” of presidents elected in a controversial manner. I never once, not for a second, questioned President George W. Bush’s election in 2000 — even with the Supreme Court ruling and the fact that he got fewer popular votes than Al Gore. The U.S. Constitution worked as it was supposed to work in that election and Bush’s presidency was granted its legitimacy at that time.

Donald Trump won more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. He, too, is a “legitimate” president-elect by virtue of collecting enough of the votes that count to be elected.

Unless someone can determine beyond a doubt that Russians — or some mysterious unknown intervener — actually had a tangible impact on the 2016 presidential election, then calling Trump’s presidency “illegitimate” is a major step too far.

Do I wish the outcome had been different? Absolutely! It wasn’t. Too bad for those of us who voted for someone else. I’m going to wait to see how this Russian-hacking probe plays out.

All lives matter, including black lives

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Pastor Mark Burns did that thing this week that makes me crazy.

He stood before the Republican National Convention delegates and hollered at the top of his lungs that “all lives matter!” as if to suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement means that only black lives deserve to be protected.

Burns, an African-American clergyman — and no doubt a dedicated Republican — brought the house down with his spirited rant.

But he did what so many anti-Black Lives Matter individuals and groups do: He demonized the movement’s message, which isn’t nearly as it’s being characterized by its critics.

The notion that black lives matter doesn’t preclude anyone else. The intent of the movement — which became known after the deaths of young black men who were killed by white police officers — is merely to suggest that the lives of African-Americans count right along with everyone else.

Have some of those Black Lives Matter protestors gotten out of hand in their demonstrations against the cops? Sure they have, the massacre of those five Dallas police officers being the most egregious example. They also have been condemned by politicians of all stripes and all affiliations — and that includes the president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Burns cried out Thursday night on the GOP convention’s last day: “The only colors that matter are the colors of the red, white, and blue!”

Fair enough. But how about ending the demonization of a movement whose message has been distorted beyond recognition?