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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, February 14


A Bush "Trust Me" Quote in the Lead

"What assurances can you provide the American people that the intelligence, this time, is accurate?"
-A reporter questioning President Bush at a press conference today (2/14/07), referring to Iran's involvement in providing weapons to Iraqi "evil-doers"

"We know they're there,"
-President Bush

Well, that's good enough for me. How about you? Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of the Bush "trust me" line? And isn't it time that someone in the White House press corps come out and follows up with a challenge to the guy who led us into a war in which he, himself, termed the intelligence "poor"?

Before we proceed with addressing the "Iranian problem", as I'm sure the Bushies will begin calling it, perhaps we should also be sure that the intelligence is, in fact, "good".

-Noah Greenberg

A Bush "My Lips Are Sealed" Quote Up Next

"I'm not going to talk about any of it,"
-President Bush in response to a question about the release of Valerie Plame's name

It should be noted that the reporter qualified his question by asking the President not to comment on the ongoing Libby trial. President Bush got that old, hard Texan look on his face and said, "I'm not going to talk about any of it," as if he hadn't talked about it before. In fact, he did.

"If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of,"
-Bush (2/11/04)

The reporter, before angrily being dismissed with the Bush "stare" (think Mad TV's Frank Calliendo or SNL's Will Ferrell), also had the temerity to ask if the President will give the likes of Libby a pardon. I'd like to know if by "taken care of" the President meant "PARDONS FOR EVERYBODY!"

it's time for the new congress to get involved. It's time for the President to HAVE TO answer questions, and if he won't answer them from members of the fourth estate, then he'll have to be called on to answer them in the halls of the House and Senate. And he'll have to answer them under oath and without Dick Cheney sitting next to him.

Otherwise, he can take the Dick Nixon path out of DC.

-Noah Greenberg

Good-Bye Bolton

Nothing John Bolton has done, since becoming US Ambassador to the United Nations in a recess appointment, has had as positive an impact as what he just accomplished. John Bolton has left the building. Bolton is the diplomat who hated diplomacy and his leaving the interim "permanent" post has finally afforded the international community, and the US, the opportunity to negotiate a reasonable treaty with Kim Jung Il's North Korea. Some would say that if it were left up to Ambassador Bolton, we'd be fighting a third front against this member of President Bush's "Axis of Evil", right on China's front doorstep.

Let's face it, this guy is dangerous.

Bolton now is in a home where he belongs: The American Enterprise Institute. That's the group of Neo-Cons who advertises their willingness to pay for "unbiased" scientific reports on the "myth" of global warming. Much like the Bush administration's quest to seek out only intelligence which met their forgone conclusions in the lead up to the Iraqi war, the American Enterprise Institute, along with the other "non-liberal think tanks" only wants reports that meets their already concluded conclusions. After all, you can't expect the likes of Texaco, Amoco, and the American Petroleum Institute to pay ten big ones a pop unless they get to write the final chapter, can you?

Let's face it, Bolton is home.

One of Bolton's opening salvo's in the six party talks with North Korea was to call Kim Jung Il a "tyrannical dictator". Whereas that might be true, one could successfully argue that it's not the correct way to start diplomatic talks, unless your objective is to derail them. And as our UN Ambassador, his hard line tactics have helped allow our enemies to remain our enemies while making it harder for all but our stringiest allies to remain our friends. I hope that Bolton has no plans to write his own version of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People".

"This is a very bad deal,"
"First, it contradicts fundamental premises of the presidentís policy heís been following for the past six years. And second, it makes the administration look very weak at a time in Iraq and dealing with Iran it needs to look strong,"
-Bolton to CNN's Wolf Blitzer

Now here is why negotiating with our enemies is NOT a "very bad" idea, but a "very good" idea: First, if you have a policy that isn't working, as was the Bush administration's policy whose result was, at best, a stalemate, you have to change that policy. Much like their abstinence in sticking with "Plan 'A'" in Iraq, which is still making the situation there worse each and every day, sticking with a Bolton-type, take no prisoners plan could only result in failure. Second, Our involvement in multiple conflicts without the ability to resolve any of them doesn't only make us "look very weak", but actually makes us "very weak". There can be no doubt that having the North Korea situation taken off the table will allow us to concentrate on our other international "mishaps".

One wonders what would happen if Bolton actually had his way. just the thought of it scares me.

-Noah Greenberg

Watergate, Reagan, and Politics today

Back before the election I was talking with one of the lawyers I work with, a Republican, but one who uses his brain, who doesn't just recite Limbaugh's dogma. We were talking about Sept 11. He said that Gore wouldn't have responded the way Bush responded. I did not pounce and say, 'true, hw wouldn't have spent 10 minutes reading to kindergarteners while waiting for instructions.' While a good observation, that would have ended the dialogue. I said, 'well, that may be, but it has been said that the Administration did not act in intelligence it had in June, July and August of 2001, that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were planning 'something.' Gore would not have ignored that intelligence." He agreed with me. And after the election he called me on the phone to congratulate me - us - on our victory

According to the papers, the population is 34% Dem, 32% Rep, and 34% neither. Reagan needed the Reagan Democrats to win. We need the Independents.

When he said "Nothing is more frightening than the words 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'" then candidate Reagan tapped into the post-Watergate anger at the corruption and incompetence of Watergate, Ford's pardon of Nixon, and Carter's inability to resolve the Iranian Hostage situation.

One of the things the Democrats have to do is convince the voters that we are straight shooters who hit the target.

But rather than challenge that notion, Reagan embraced it and added it to the American zeitgeist. Gingrich bought into this when he shut down the Federal bureaucracy in the early '90's.

Gingrich was knocked down by people who said "I know you guys in D.C. Are a bunch of lying thieves, but I want my passport. And I want to visit my National Parks."

Again, the Democrats have to convince the voters that we are straight shooters who hit the target.

So today when faced with a natural disaster like Katrina, phenomena like global warming, political / diplomatic problems like Iraq before our invasion, or the June and August '01 Intelligence that Bin Laden's people were planning on hijacking airliners, the Federal Government's response is incompetent. But they set the stage for impotence and incompetence.

If you believe that every cop is an extortionist looking to shake down hookers and drug dealers for favors and cash, and you decide to become a cop, you are an extortionist looking to shake down hookers and drug dealers.

Similarly, If you believe that everyone in politics or government is a crook with his hand out for some dough, and you go into politics or government, then you are a crook holding your hand out for some dough.

Because when you begin with the premise that the government is incompetent, well what is the purpose of government?

A fiscal conservative free enterprise capitalist, like Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Ford might say 'Protect rights and property, and educate the people who work in the factories such that they can work effectively, and give them the minimum wages that they will be happy, they won't revolt, and they will work to make me more wealthy."

Today Bill Ford is an environmentalist, and Jay Rockefeller is a Democrat.

So what the Dems have to say is 'the Republicans may be incompetent and crooks, but we are ethical, and we are competent.

-Larry Furman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

When Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) kicked off his presidential campaign by plunging his foot into his mouth with his comments about fellow candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, the media focused its attention solely on his comments about Obama.

The reasons for this were political: racism trumps sexism in America (and everywhere else) and one white guy going after another white guy looks like an equal playing field. So only the Obama insults got noticed by the mainstream media.

Why? Because itís politically incorrect to even mention race in America. Itís a quagmire far deeper and messier than Iraq.

Biden said, in the course of an interview with a reporter from a conservative New York newspaper (perhaps Bidenís first mistake), that Obama was something new to politics, a ďfirstĒas a presidential candidate, an articulate and clean African American.

This is encapsulating what Biden said, which might not be completely fair, but thatís politics for you. The fact is, the only words that mattered in what he said were those two: articulate and clean.

Some, like myself, think that should have been when Biden dropped back out of the race, but he sallied on, with a series of apologies to Obama and the country, each more convoluted than the last.

Conservatives were salivating over the incident, just waiting for the Democrats to eat their own, as they are known to do. Obama, however, spoiled the promise of that fight by never seeming to take offense. Obama accepted Bidenís apology and said he wasnít offended and that there were more important things to address than Bidenís gaffe.

Obamaís response would have appeared saintly, if it hadnít been followed with the surprising agreement of two former African American candidates for president (Biden apparently also forgot that Obama was hardly the first).

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton also waved off Bidenís comments as a verbal misstep, nothing to be outraged about. Jackson was particularly conciliatory. Although Sharpton noted that he thought he was pretty clean, both men said it was a mistake to be forgiven and forgotten.

Polls were taken and African Americans were interviewed on the street. A good 80 percent didnít care what Biden said.

Does this mean that racism is over in America? Or just that blacks are used to white politicians making racist comments and when compared with Trent Lott saying the nation should have stuck with segregation, it didnít seem so egregious?

Regardless of whether Obama, Jackson and Sharpton are willing to shrug off what Biden said, what the Senator declared does matterĖnot merely because he is a presidential candidate, but because he said what many Americans actually think about ObamaĖthat heís anomalous. That he simply isnít like any other black candidate they remember.

He isnít. Obama is a fresh face in politics, and as such has gotten a lot of buzz. Fresh faces always get buzz. Until they have been around for a while. Tabula rasa goes far in American politics while experience and baggage are interchangeable terms, politically.

Since the fresh face will only last so long, letís look at Obama in the context of the American racial divide.

Eight years ago people were talking about Colin Powell the same way they talk about Obama today: fresh, new, and letís face itĖin the context of the American black/white racial divideĖnot scary to white people.

This is what Biden really meant by what he said. It was sub textual, of courseĖhe used his own euphemisms and he may not have realized what he was articulating either overtly or subconsciously. But it was clear: Obama attracts voters of all races because he never raises his voice, he has a centrist message that is barely distinguishable between white and black.

The course of American politicsĖnational and localĖsupports the subtext of Bidenís comments, however. Consider the Philadelphia Mayorís race. The best candidate is State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Phila.), currently in last place in the polls. Why is EvansĖthe most visionary and accomplished of the candidatesĖin last place in a field with two other African American candidates and two white candidates?

Because he is the *blackest* candidate in the race. Heís dark skinned. He sounds black. In short, he canít pass for the house Negro.

Colin Powell did pass. So has Condoleezza Rice. And now, Barack Obama. The real state of race in America is that bald and raw, still. If you want to succeed in high level politics in the U.S. as an African American, then you had better look and sound and act as white as possible. Because it isnít black Americans who elect a black candidate; with only 12 percent of the population, blacks arenít even the largest minority group in America anymore and fewer than half of eligible black voters actually vote. Itís white voters who elect b lack candidates.

Racism is still the elephant in the room in this country; whites fear a black candidate who doesnít seem to share their values. That means a black man in a loud suit or with Little Richard hair, like Sharpton, scares them. Or a black man who sounds like he came from the streets, like Evans, scares them.

Last week there was a discussion about the field of Democratic candidates for president on NPR with several political pundits. Polls indicate that the majority of African Americans, like the majority of Democrats, support Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Sen. Clinton runs at 40 percent in the polls; Obama at 12 to 15, depending on the poll.

The pundits had several explanations for this. First, they noted former President Bill Clintonís cachet with African Americans. (Nobel Prize winner and African American writer Toni Morrison once wrote in the New Yorker magazine that Clinton was ďthe first black president.Ē) Then they noted that many African Americans knew nothing about Obama, who has only been in national politics for two years. It was also noted that Obama may have won the election in Illinois because the Republican favored to win was forced to drop out right before the election, due to a sex scandal, and the sudden replacement brought in by the Republican Party was the far right wing lunatic (albeit African American), Alan Keyes (another former presidential candidate, by the way), who wasnít even a resident of the state (yet still received 30 percent of the vote).

Finally, it was suggested that Obama might not have as much cachet with African American voters for the very reason he was attractive to white voters: while heís literally an African American in that his father was African (from Kenya) and his mother a white American (from Kansas), he did not grow up in the mainland U.S. He was born in Hawaii, and then lived with his mother and her Indonesian second husband in Jakarta for several years. He returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents for his high school years.

Obama is black, but unlike previous black candidates for president like Shirley Chisholm, Jackson and Sharpton, he isnít from urban America, he isnít from ďthe hood,Ē he doesnít have a political history grounded in the civil rights movement. Heís an anomaly.

And thatís the point Biden was really making: that Obama is not like any other black candidate Americans have seen before. He doesnít stoke the ingrained racism that a Sharpton or a Jackson inspired in white voters, because he isnít controversial.

From the fact that Obama, a life-long smoker, never produces a cigarette in public because it wouldnít look right for a candidate to be smoking, to the fact that he never says anything objectionable, Obama doesnít stir controversy. Heís always calm, collected and smooth. He doesnít outrage anyone, like Sharpton and Jackson have, because he never says anything outrageous.

In short, Obama is a black candidate that white people feel comfortable with, much like Chakah Fattah in Philadelphia. Both candidates tow the party line, donít provide any visionary (and thus possibly scary) ideas to constituents. They are, as one African American columnist noted, Dr. Huxtable, the lovable Bill Cosby character that white America embraced. As a consequence, in the privacy of their own homes (rather than to a reporter as Biden did), white voters can say that they like Obama (or Fattah), *even though heís black.*

I like Obama. Other than the smoking, whatís not to like? Heís charismatic, heís attractive, he says the right things. But given the choice between a rabble-rousing, challenging, in-your-face, old-school Democratic black candidate like Sharpton or Jackson and the mild-mannered, ruffle-no-feathers Obama, Iíd take the rabble-rousers over the calm centrism of Obama any day.

This factor characterizes the black/white racial divide in America today: The only acceptable candidates of color are ones who donít read as black to white voters, the ones who, in a different time in America would have been the ďhouse NegroesĒĖthe slaves who were deemed innocuous enough to be allowed to work in the house with the white folks, rather than in the field, with the other slaves.

It shouldnít be that way in 2007; itís time to smash this racial glass ceiling in America. We might need the Obamas and Fattahs to exude their charisma and charm in politics, because that has its place, too, but we surely need the Sharptons and the Jacksons to scream and yell and make demands, as well.

What Biden said was only the tip of the racial iceberg, because what Biden said doesnít elucidate the flip side: that white America is terrified of *real* black America.

I live in real black America. In real black America there are schools with no textbooks, no libraries and no computers and although all the students were born here, none can speak proper English and their teachers, weighed down by the myriad dangers of being a teacher in an inner city school, donít correct their grammar. Which means they leave their schools with far less chance of getting a good job than their white counterparts.

In real black America, where I live, drugs and AIDS and teen pregnancy are pandemic. In real black America, where I live, guns are easier to get than health care and fatherless boys are easy lures for gangs and drug runners.

In real black America we need black politicians who will work to fix the problems of real black America, not assuage the racial fears and biases of white America.

Itís Black History Month. Not African American history month, but *black* history month. America still sees color before it sees anything else. If it didnít, Biden would never have even thought the things he said about Obama.

The best way to celebrate Black History Month would be to acknowledge how much work we still have to do to bridge the divide between black America and white America and that the answer might not be for black politicians to act more white but for white politicians to be more concerned about black Americans.


More on John Edwards
His Plan to End the Iraqi War

"President Bush's disastrous plan to escalate the war is no longer just a plan: it's a reality,"
-From the John Edwards for President newsletter

I receive the Edwards newsletter regularly. I take my support of any politician seriously and am throwing what little support I can behind the former Senator from North Carolina. So far, with each issue-oriented email I receive from his campaign, I get to read actual ideas instead of the same old rhetoric.

Although Senator John McCain (REPUBLICAN-AS), the front-runner for the GOP nomination calls his campaign "The Real Talk Express", I find that his message has been corrupted. Edwards campaign seems to have taken on the true mantle of speaking to the truth, and it's refreshing.

Here are Edwards ideas on bringing an end to the Iraq war:

Congress must:

-Stop the escalation and force an immediate withdrawal by using funding caps to restrict the total number of troops in Iraq to 100,000, which would require an immediate drawdown of 40,000-50,000 combat troops without stranding or under-funding a single soldier still in Iraq. Any troops beyond the 100,000 level should be redeployed immediately.

-Block the deployment of troops that do not meet readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped. American Tax dollars must be used to prepare and supply our troops, not escalate the war. It is simply wrong to send our troops into harm's way without all the training and equipment they need.

-Make it clear that President Bush is conducting this war without authorization. The 2002 authorization did not give Bush the power to use U.S. troops to police a civil war. President Bush exceeded his authority long ago. He now needs to end the war and ask Congress for new authority to manage the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence and to help Iraq achieve stability.

-Require a complete withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq within the next 12-18 months without leaving behind any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

Whether you agree with his plan or disagree with Edwards' plans, you can't argue the fact that he is the only candidate who is putting forth anything that looks like an idea.

-Noah Greenberg, with a forward from www.johnedwards.com

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-Noah Greenberg