Tag Archives: civil rights

Get ready for the pounding, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump is going to get a social media whipping over a gaffe he uttered today at the National Prayer Breakfast.

He made a reference to those who fought for “the abolition of civil rights.” As the saying goes, “Oops.”

I’m going to give the president a pass on this one. That kind of thing happens. Public figures say things mistakenly. They get thoughts muddled in their heads from time to time.

I do have two questions: Was the president reading those remarks on the Teleprompter or did he blurt it out extemporaneously?

I do hope it was an ad-libbed gaffe, which would be a bit more understandable than if he read it off some prepared text.

If it’s the latter, then we have to ask: Did the text actually contain that gaffe? If not, then what did the president think he was reading?

If Trump was reading the text and recited what was scrolling up on the device politicians use to keep them on track, well . . . then someone has some serious explaining to do.

‘I Have a Dream’ took off when Dr. King ad-libbed

Banks, schools and other government buildings closed today as the nation commemorated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The great man’s impact on our nation during his brief life of just 39 years on Earth is well-known and thoroughly chronicled. I won’t slog through his titanic legacy of his non-violent quest for civil rights for all of humanity.

The video I have attached to this blog post is of his greatest speech, which he delivered in August 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Two astonishing aspects of that speech are worth noting today.

One is that Dr. King was 34 years of age when he electrified the nation with his remarks overlooking the Washington Mall.

Thirty-four!

The tenderness of the great man’s age is astonishing. I am trying to grasp how someone so young could keep his composure in front of such a gigantic gathering of listeners.

Now for the cool part of that speech.

The aspect of Dr. King’s remarks we all quote today was not prepared. He didn’t read them from a sheet of paper with text on it.

The “I Have a Dream” portion of the oratory was delivered extemporaneously. He ad-libbed it!

It’s been reported over the years that the late gospel singer Mahalia Jackson exhorted Dr. King from the podium by urging him to “tell them about the dream, Martin.”

So . . . he did.

The rest, as they say, is history — and what a history he wrote!

Trump admits to preferring ‘Democrat Party’ epithet

Donald J. Trump flew off the rails on one of those impromptu campaign-rally riffs in West Virginia … and proceeded to acknowledge what many of us have known all along.

Republicans like referring to their political foes as members of the “Democrat Party,” even though the party to which they refer is the Democratic Party.

Trump said he likes using the term “Democrat” as an adjective because it grates on Democrats and because their party — according to Trump and other Republicans — isn’t too democratic these days.

It’s an idiotic and feeble attempt to stick it in the eye of those who oppose GOP doctrine and the rants of the Republican (In Name Only) in chief, Donald Trump.

And that brings me to what’s so damn funny about Trump’s association with the once-great Republican Party. He’s the classic RINO, the very personification of the term that hard-core Republicans used to describe the more moderate members of their political party.

Trump had zero political grounding prior to announcing his candidacy for the presidency. He wasn’t involved in partisan politics. His entire adult life was dedicated to one thing only: Trump’s personal enrichment.

So now that he has hijacked the Republican Party, he claims to be a political purist, the standard-bearer of a party that once stood for inclusion and that once joined hands with a Democratic president — Lyndon Baines Johnson — in advancing the cause of civil rights and voting rights for African-Americans.

Listening to Trump proclaim his desire to refer to those on the other side of the aisle as belonging to the “Democrat Party” tells me only one thing: He is pandering to that shrinking, but still vocal, political base that hangs on this carnival barker’s every word.

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.”