Thursday, October 20, 2016

President Hillary Clinton: What to expect in January

“I will look at it.”

That was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s response at last night’s debate in Las Vegas when he was asked point-blank if he would accept the results of the upcoming election, in which he’s heavily favored to lose to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as things stand now.

Of course, Clinton was aghast, as were many others — and should have been.

But that comment by Trump, as mean-spirited, ominous and arrogant as it sounded, never really was about Trump himself. In fact, it didn’t even start with him, really — as she herself should understand from personal experience.

Many of her enemies, most supporting Trump today, simply will not accept anything less than total victory — or, perhaps more accurately, the total humiliation of a political opponent. And it’s been that way for a generation now.

In the 1980s, the first time I recall “negative advertising” being done to any great extent, primarily on Democratic candidates, it resulted in the first “Republican Revolution,” with Ronald Reagan at the top of the ticket. I suspect that it swelled the heads of the folks who supported him back then.

But I wondered: What if the Democrats got themselves a Reagan?

We found out in 1992: His name was Bill Clinton. And the conservatives, perhaps not surprisingly, freaked out.

When he ran for president 24 years ago, they did more than simply oppose his candidacy, which wouldn’t have been a problem. Indeed, in July conservative activists went so far as to file suit in Federal court in Little Rock, Ark. to have his name removed from the ballot. (That was denied.) The mud started to fly then in the hope that something would stick and he would be removed.

When nothing happened and Clinton suckered Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich into forcing two government shutdowns in 1995 that all but ensured his reelection the next year, lobbyist Grover Norquist, on election night, vowed to have him taken out. The situation with Monica Lewinsky, which happened that night, came to light the next year and a number of people set up a perjury trap which led to his impeachment — and acquittal. (Clinton ended up leaving office with the highest approval rating among modern presidents, though Obama right now is hot on his heels.)

Basically, despite their protestations to the contrary, the Clintons’ enemies don’t care about the law, the Constitution or due process — they simply want their way and will stop at absolutely nothing to get it. It’s one reason Trump is so popular — they seem him as a dictator who will cause immediate change in their direction.

That’s why, even if Hillary wins as expected, you shouldn’t expect her critics to back down — it wouldn’t surprise me if on Jan. 21, 2017 someone in Congress will raise the specter of impeachment. Are they that low?   
Yes, they’re that low.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The idolatry of abortion 'theology'

It’s come down to this …

More than a few evangelical Christians are now supporting Donald Trump for president after keeping him at arm’s length through most of the campaign. Reason? In the faint hope that, if elected, he would nominate Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade. After all, that’s what he’s promised.

As if any politician, especially someone like Trump whose word is as worthless as any of them but beholden to no one, is poised to deliver on that.

And part of that is the long-held belief that God will judge this country harshly were abortion to remain legal. I’m not convinced of that.

Don’t get me wrong — I do oppose abortion but did so before I became a Christian, so I don’t necessarily see it as an issue of theology.

In fact, recently I read that abortion became embedded in Christian political thought only in the late 1970s, when the “religious right” became ascendant but needed an issue to rally around for the sake of outrage (not to mention money). When the SCOTUS ruling went down it was pretty much ignored by evangelicals, partly because abortion was seen as a “Catholic” issue.

But even when Catholics opposed abortion, and often they still do, it was always as part of a greater “pro-life” ethos.

If there is a theological issue here, it’s idolatry in the belief that merely ending abortion is required to stave off “judgment.” And if for some reason were abortion to become illegal again, what then? Things simply won’t change very much, if at all, and we would need yet another target to keep the game going.

And if there is to be a judgment, it will start in the church for its lack of fidelity to God and His Kingdom rule. Which tells me that abortion has nothing to do with it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dissing Justice Thomas?

Writing for The Hill, Mark Paoletta, who worked in the administration of George H.W. Bush, recently complained that the recently-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened last month, gave short shrift to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas because he’s a conservative. “This is a shocking slight that the museum must redress,” he wrote.

Oh, really?

With all due respect to Paoletta, he ought to understand just why Thomas is rejected by most — and we’re talking upwards of 90 percent — of black America and that giving him a more prominent role in the museum would likely cause protests in its own right.

According to David Brock, in that day a right-wing journalist who said he helped propagandize to get Thomas on the court, the conservative movement that increasingly ran the Republican Party wanted to get a “black Bork,” a reference to the law professor Robert Bork who was rejected by the Senate for, essentially, being a judicial activist, there after the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the court. Pardon me for being a bit cynical, but I think the conservatives were hoping that the black community would embrace Thomas for being “one of them” while maintaining conservative bona fides.

That had no chance of happening because the conservative movement that Thomas espouses from the bench today has always directly opposed the African-American struggle for progress. Trouble is, the movement doesn’t even relate to people who don’t agree with it, so it’s in no position to tell anyone who blacks should honor as their heroes. In other words, they don’t want or intend to be dictated to.

And that refusal to consider other points of view is what’s causing the racial division we see in this country even now.

Basically, Thomas is on the court because, and only because, he’s a conservative; his color and heritage are of no import in this case. But the second person to get to such a level will never have the impact of the first anyway, so I don’t understand the cheerleading.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

'Somebody spectacular'

I often wondered what supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump saw in him. It can’t be his positions, which change like the wind. It can’t be his business sense, since that too is dubious. It can’t be his moral stances, since by anyone’s standard they’re not consistent.

But last week, the New York Times published an op-ed piece during which one woman in Kentucky said, “We need somebody spectacular.”

That made sense to me.

Basically, I see it as a codependent woman falling in love with the proverbial “bad boy” and, when he acts up, justifying his behavior. Folks haven’t addressed his racist and sexist comments, which at this point are legion. Disdainful of compromise and with no concrete plan to cause change, he’s relied on sheer emotion to win fans (I mean, voters). They don’t even listen those who have courageously denounced him for his divisiveness, insisting that they represent, in essence, just “some establishment that doesn’t want anyone else in its club.”

But as we all know — and, having been in-and-out of 12-step recovery programs since 1983, I see this — “bad boys” make terrible husbands due to their unreliability and lack of centering. Being “sexy” doesn’t have anything with ability.

And people need to understand that political change in this country is always incremental. Retail politics isn’t stimulating; it takes work and commitment. Frankly, the staying power of Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side surprised me, but in endorsing Hillary Clinton he said that the political revolution which he embodied would, and should, continue after him. (And President Obama seemed to concur, saying, “I’m 'feeling the Bern'.”)

Moreover, I take note of the number of editorial pages of newspapers that haven’t in my lifetime, if ever, endorsed a Democrat for president; the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic and Cincinnati Enquirer have all recommended that their respective readership vote for Hillary Clinton. They’ve done the homework, scrutinized positions and considered temperament overall and believe that Trump is too dangerous.

That to me represents wisdom based on knowledge and experience, not a desire for “remaining in the club.”

You can make a big splash on the political scene but, like a marriage, being an effective leader takes work behind the scenes. I don’t think many of Trump’s followers get that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The “vast right-wing conspiracy”

When Hillary Clinton, then “first lady,” complained about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her husband Bill, who was about to be impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, probably most people laughed or reacted with scorn.

I didn’t, because I knew it to be true. For that reason I don’t take seriously the notion that she, now running for president in her own right, is singularly corrupt.

At the height of the “Vince-Foster-may-have-been-murdered” controversy in 1995, CBS’s ”60 Minutes” did its own investigation and found that Christopher Ruddy, then a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, had done a politically motivated hatchet job in trying to prove that Foster hadn’t actually committed suicide.

Soon after that, Frank Rich and Howard Kuntz both published pieces in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal respectively about the involvement of Richard Mellon Scaife, the late billionaire and publisher of the Trib who had bankrolled numerous conservative causes, including media committed to getting out the “truth” about the Clintons.

Later that year I wrote a piece for The Pitt News, for which I was a columnist, in which I used the word “conspiracy.” Because it sure seemed that way to me.

It wasn’t until 2002, when the book “Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative” was published, that I understood fully about the conspiracy. Author David Brock, formerly a reporter for the right-wing American Spectator, wrote that Scaife had given the magazine $2 million to dig up dirt on the Clintons in what became known as the “Arkansas Project” (it turned out that making up stuff about public officials in that state was somewhat of a tradition in that state).

Brock would write a piece about Bill Clinton using state troopers to get women, for which he was praised in conservative circles, James Dobson even saying that Brock was doing “God’s work.” (Which turned out to be ironic, since Brock later came out as gay.) He also wrote a book “The Real Anita Hill,” which slammed the accuser of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who in 1991 was in the midst of hearing amidst accusations of sexual harassment.

Brock wrote a biography, “The Seduction of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” that was published just before Bill’s 1996 reelection campaign and in which he told the truth about her — but since it contained little if any red meat he ended up being kicked out of the conservative movement.

Anyway, with the impeachment pending he decided to come clean as to what he knew, first to Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, and then later to numerous media as to what really was happening. (And of course, the impeachment failed.) Brock, who founded the left-leaning watchdog Media Matters for America, is now a Hillary supporter.

Something that Brock brought out that I didn’t realize: The strategy on the part of conservative media was to spread unsubstantiated rumors to get the mainstream media to investigate. I suspect this was done for two reasons: 1) The conservative media’s ratings and circulation would, and did, increase: and 2) The mainstream media would be, and still are to this day being, accused of “protecting” the Clintons for not finding anything (which in fact there was essentially nothing to find).

That’s the context to what we’re seeing today with the opposition to Hillary’s campaign.

I’ve always believed that the Clintons were indeed singular political figures in that they had the power to cause major political change — which represented a major threat to the power of the people who hated them for whatever reason. Bill would have done so had he been able to keep his pants on, and Hillary might finish the job because she has coattails that no other candidate does.

So if you’re trying to convince me that she’s so horrible, save it. It just isn’t true.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The day I stood up — by NOT standing up

In 2008 I attended a concert by the U.S. Army Field Band’s Jazz Ambassadors in Greensburg, a 45-minute drive from Pittsburgh. The last song was an arrangement of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and everyone in the hall stood.

Except for me. It was nothing planned — given the history of racism in this country, I just couldn’t do so, not even for the military.

I thought of that in reference to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who announced that he would no longer stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games due to the racism that he sees as still being unaddressed. While he recognized people who served in the military, he just didn’t see the justice in it. His stance has upset a lot of people, especially military supporters

Indeed, he said,  "This stand wasn’t for me — this is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice. People that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I'm gonna do that for people who can’t.”

And I get it, really.

You see, Kaepernick's biological father is black, and he says he's seen oppression of people of color.

More to the point, however, it's been my contention that the true patriot doesn't simply glorify his or her country; he or she points out its flaws so that they can be corrected.

Not for nothing does the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance read "with liberty and justice [emphasis mine] for all."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dance: Part of my masculine journey

Those of you who know me know that over the last seven years I’ve gotten involved in the local social dance scene. And I’m growing as a man as a result.

In fact, in the process I’ve found a piece of me that had long gone undiscovered until then — it seems as though everything I am and have can be wrapped up in dance of late. I’m a former basketball player who retired a decade ago from competitive sports, primarily basketball, and have also been a musician since I started taking piano at age 7. Basically, not only can I hear and feel the music but I can move to it as well.

So what does this have to do with the masculine journey that my favorite Christian author, John Eldredge, often refers to? Several things.

One, it’s a skill that needs to, and can, be learned, which means you need someone to teach you; fortunately, at least in my case, my teachers have been good and patient and will tell me exactly what I do right and where I can improve. I’ve been taking lessons in West Coast Swing, my favorite dance, for about two years, and last month the instructor was showing us how to get out of a certain position. I did something different than what he was demonstrating, but he told me that what I did was simply another way to do it. (In WCS there’s a lot of leeway.)

Two, done properly dance is elegant, with elegance being one of my weaknesses, so to speak, and I’ve come to appreciate watching couples on the floor who’ve been at it for a while. At some point I’d like to develop a routine with a regular partner; while I don’t see myself as a competitor it’s something to look forward to. Eldredge has consistently said that appreciating beauty is part of the journey.

Three — and I’m seeing this more and more — it really is a way to impress women, who appreciate a man who knows how to take the lead. While attending a birthday party in November I spotted a woman squirming in her seat to the Earth, Wind & Fire song “September” so, seeing an opportunity, I offered my hand, lifted her to her feet and led her in some basic WCS steps. At the end she grabbed my arm and, nearly in tears, said to me, because I knew how to dance with a partner, “You made my day!” (And in photos I saw later I noticed the delight on her face.) Thinking about it now, I’ve always been attracted to dancers — during my first romantic relationship, in the summer of 1988, when I was visiting her at her apartment my girlfriend often wore ballet slippers, which I found incredibly sexy.

Indeed, many of my fondest memories of late have involved dance. Last month I wrote a tune inspired by another regular at an East Coast Swing (jitterbug) dance, and after I presented her with the lead sheet she was moved to tears. She even told me that not only did she want to hear the tune performed by the 16-piece band that plays there — I also do arranging — but that she wanted to dance with me when it’s played. (Needless to say, I’m working on that now.)

Here in Pittsburgh ballroom dancing has become quite popular, and while I’m not nearly as accomplished as I am with swing dancing it has a similar effect on me. Learning gives a sense of accomplishment, and I hope to keep doing it as long as I live. Which is the point.