Palin’s Card Game: Where The Republicans Got Off Track

The photo below is being passed around Facebook and it struck me on two levels.

First, the caption is funny.  I don’t think anyone really believes the President “shoots skeet all the time”.  It’s a phrase he never should have uttered, and once printed only caused the media to question it.  This in turn put the President in the no-win situation of either walking back the statement or providing proof.  He did the latter (kind of) by releasing an awkward photo, only to take a good ribbing from his political opponents for it.  So the meme around social media is expected and warranted.  You get what you ask for, Mr. President.Cards

But the second thing that struck me was the picture itself.  I’m not sure exactly when it was made, but I believe it represents where Republicans went wrong.  Sarah Palin, placed squarely in the center of Republican heroes?  Really?

I assume this was painted at the height of her celebrity, which was only a few years ago. Her fall from relevance in this short time only proves why this picture fails. Efforts to force candidates into an alliance with political heroes of the past is dangerous.

Reagan, Eisenhower, Bush, Lincoln…..and Palin?  I don’t think so. Sarah Palin playing cards with Barry Goldwater  would be a more accurate portrayal of her historical significance.

In fact, Palin represents the movement within the Republican party that many (including me) feel is the primary cause for Obama’s election and subsequent reelection.  McCain’s move to choose her was the tipping point in my decision to vote non-republican for the first time in my life.  It was her wing of the party that most recently spawned the likes of Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain.  Their presence in the primaries pushed electable people like Jon Hunstman and Tim Pawlenty out of the picture far too early, and eventually became a drag on Romney he could not overcome.

This is not to say that the ideas of the far right are not genuine feelings.  I have many friends who honestly subscribe to a Tea Party philosophy because they genuinely believe it’s best for the country.  The ideas deserve a place in the discussion, especially on economic matters. I believe we need a government, but acknowledge it is bloated and inefficient.  I appreciate the Tea Party as a reality check on ideas, but don’t completely subscribe to their philosophy.  I, for one, look forward to a “return to normalcy” in the Republican party.  I’ve sat out the last two elections as far as the Republican party goes; voting Democrat once and, most recently, Libertarian.  I’d like to see Huntsman remain relevant, I would like to see more of Pawlenty, and I’s sure there are others out there.

But paintings of a polarizing, failed VP nominee, in the center of actual presidents, most of which where elected more than once?  That’s about as funny as Obama shooting a gun.

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What would the Founders think? Quite a bit, actually.

I received a Facebook message from my Congressman last week.  Representative Walter Jones is against allowing women in combat, which is a fine position to take, I suppose.  I respect his beliefs on that and admit it’s complicated, but what got me going was the fact that he ended his post by asking “What would the Founders think?”.

I’m not a professional historian, but do consider myself at least “well read” on the topic of Early American History (the books I’ve read are listed on the tab above). I believe it’s a little pompous to phrase such a question in order to prove the moral argument of social issues.americas-founding-fathers

This is a worthless question because what they did think was often very different things. Not just as a group, but sometimes even individually. One example that sprang to my mind occurred in the early 1800’s when John Adams led the charge for the Alien and Sedition Act.  Under this act newspaper editors that supported the Jeffersonian Republican ideals were arrested, tried, and thrown in jail. Not criticized, not ostracized, thrown in jail. A congressman from Vermont, Matthew Lyon, was charged with sedition for writing a letter to a local newspaper protesting the the very act he was subsequently arrested for.  Lyon’s was found guilty and sentenced to 4 months in jail for his crime. (1)

John Adams was the author of the Massachusetts Constitution, a plan that he made sure included “A Declaration of Rights” to guarantee “freedom of   speaking” and “liberty of the press” (2). He was a man whose initial thoughts to Jefferson on the proposed US Constitution was to ask, “What think you of a Declaration of Rights? Should not such a thing precede the model?”. (3) This was a man pretty much on record as being a fan of the 1st Amendment even before there was such a thing. Twenty five years later, though, he was turning his back on the Constitution based upon the reality of his present day circumstances.

Did anyone ask, “What would the founders think?”. They probably did this question because the Founders were all pretty involved. This was proposed by a Founder President, and passed into law by a congress largely made up of actual founders. The act was even supported by George Washington. David McCullough wrote that Washington felt some publications were long overdue for punishment for their lies and unprovoked attacks on leaders of the union (4), which sounds an awful lot like a current complaint.  Does this mean Obama now has some “Founder Street Cred” because he thinks like the original GW? I don’t see that meme going around Facebook (yet).

So what are we to make of this?  The Founders were not a monolithic group of people whose attitudes should be used to prove or disprove an opinion.  They, like us, had different views on different subjects and some of those views even changed over time.  They, like us, often voiced profound (sometimes outright ugly) disagreement about the other’s viewpoints.

There is a lot to learn by studying history. In some cases we can learn how we should operate as a country, and in some cases we can learn how we should not operate. We must understand that putting historical figures on too high a pedestal is dangerous.  We should certainly honor and remember them and and absolutely study them.  But we should strive to keep them in the correct context. It takes more than a few quotes to prove that a historical figure would necessarily support or oppose a complex position especially one that occurs two centuries after their passing. And any attempts to lump their attitudes together to prove a point is lazy.

Let’s instead try to learn that we as a country have historically faced many complicated issues, with honest brokers on both sides of the issues. Even Jefferson and Hamilton could sit down and dine together.  Let’s get away from ascribing unpatriotic motives to those we disagree with. Let’s talk to each other, not past each other.  Let’s quit assuming that somehow The Founders agree with one side and not the other.

There is nothing wrong with frank discussions or even (civil) arguments.  In fact two of the most influential books that I have ever read are precisely on this aspect of our national fabric (The 13 American Arguments and American Creation). There are plenty of facts on both sides of just about every case. We don’t need to unilaterally invoke the assumed collective thoughts and opinions of our Patriotic Superheroes in an attempt to shut down debate.

(1) Thomas Jefferson; The Art of Power by John Meacham, p. 317

(2) John Adams by David McCullough, p. 221

(3) McCullough, p. 379

(4) McCullough p. 506

Don’t Judge a FoxNews Story by Its Headline

Fox News recently ran a story headlined “Republicans want to change laws on Electoral College votes, after Presidential loses”.  What a great headline to grab a reader. Who are these people who want to change their laws? What are their plans? When will it start? This sounds like a juicy story. (It worked, I clicked).

As I read though, I couldn’t help but come the conclusion that there is no meat in this story at all.  It’s a story about ambivalence at best. The following reactions are taken from the body of the story, in the order they appear.

– Rience Priebus said states “ought to look at it” but “emphasized each state must decide for themselves

– Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told the AP he “could go either way” and doesn’t plan to push the idea.

– Michigan Rep. Peter Lund, who introduced a bill two years ago, thinks some people “might be more receptive now

– Republican strategist Phil Musser admitted the idea had “potential” but predicted “pressing economic issues would likely take priority

– Pennsylvania Republican Senator Dominic Pelligi “renewed his call for the legislature to consider it” though the Governor has not seen a proposal and therefor couldn’t comment.

– Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called it “interesting”, but not one of his priorities.

– The Wisconsin legislature is “lukewarm” to the idea. The story does note that a similar proposal was brought up 2007 but the speaker (who first brought it up 5 years ago) would “have to hear all the arguments“.

The article does also mention the Democratic outrage in the fifth paragraph of the story (a word sentence paragraph at that). It also has some quotes from local Dems later in the story as well. I choose to focus on the Republican quotes in this blog post to highlight the disparity between the headline and the actual story. There may be valid reasons to review the usefulness of the Electoral College, and if there is ever any serious discussion it should be reported.  But in this case, there is no serious discussion.

C’mon FoxNews……this article is about creating division and getting people riled up, not about reporting the news. There is no real conflict here, at least not yet. Some would say, however, that your organization is seeking to create one.

Fighting Passion With Reason

Despite what many may believe I am regular listener to Sean Hannity’s radio show. This does not/nor should imply that I agree with everything he says. Recently on  the issue of guns and the debt ceiling, he’s had three “back pocket arguments” that he whips out to beat back callers who take an opposing view.  The commute home is not far enough to justify calling in, so I thought I would post my potential responses below.

1- We protect our money, our politicians and our Hollywood elite with guns….why can’t/shouldn’t we put guns in our schools to protect our most valuable assets….our children?  I love how he phrases this because it begs for the caller to respond with “why we shouldn’t”.  This meme has been on his show for over a week now, and it’s not much of a surprise it got turned into an NRA ad.

My answer: Sure we should look at that.  If a community wants armed guards in their schools not only should they be allowed to, but many locations already allow it, and more are considering it.  Although there may be some people who completely oppose this idea, Obama isn’t one of them, the President has only said that it shouldn’t be the only solution.  In fact his recent proposals included money for more School Resource Officers (AKA Cops with guns in schools) and was supported by the National Education Association.

So- while you can debate its potential effectiveness, or even some of the details (Resource Officers vs arming the staff), you really can’t honestly portray this as a President against the idea of protecting our children.  These decisions are being made at the local level, something the Republicans espouse and the principle is being supported by the federal government.

2- New York’s new gun law calls for limiting magazines to 7 rounds is horrible. Hannity’s example du jour about why this is a bad idea is the woman who recently had to shoot an intruder 5 times and he still got away. Sean then will go on to ask what would happen if there had been two intruders or even three?  Sarcastically talking about how she would have to ask them to wait while she changes magazines. I heard this story at least three times this week as I drove home.

My answer: The question would be a lot more valid if Hannity’s immediate reaction to people limiting high-capacity magazines earlier had not been based on a theory that it “would do no good”.  His position at the time was that changing a magazine was not hard.  In fact, he could do it seconds (or less).  Of course this was because he is a responsible gun owner who knows his weapons.  So which is it Sean?  Is it so easy that even a deranged person could change magazines and still inflict mass carnage, or is it so difficult that reducing magazine sizes puts lawful Americans at risk.  I believe you could argue either point….but not both.  Caveat the NY Law that allows for larger magazines but only if they aren’t all the way filled up is a recipe for unintended consequences. and should be changed.

3- Obama is a debt ceiling hypocrite. Hannity likes to run the audio clip of Senator Obama arguing against the executive request raise the debt ceiling in 2006 and asks any guests of the more liberal persuasion if the President is inconsistent in his thinking.  This only gets the guests to move off on a tangent and not address Sean’s question leaving him with the apparent high ground.

My answer: Yes….Absolutely…He is inconsistent….This is an undeniable Flip Flop.  The next question would then be; Who was he arguing with?  Turns out it was a Republican President that wanted the debt ceiling raised.  It was raised (many times) with “yea” votes coming from the likes of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell .  This isn’t about principles it’s about a Congress (any Congress) that has the power of the purse, yet seeks to paint the executive branch as the root of our problems.  Both sides do it, which is bad.  Worse, are those who pretend it doesn’t happen and use selective examples to stir the passions of their base.

These are just some examples of how the infotainers in our country whip people up into a frenzy about “the other guys”.  Both sides have these people who make money pandering to the base and they are equally at fault for the toxic political environment. Rational thought, unfortunately, doesn’t get the ratings on TV and doesn’t get “shared” on Facebook.

Odd Memes After Sandy Hook

Since the tragic school shooting last week, everyone is sharing opinions, sometimes their own, but more often than not cutting and pasting opinions from the “trusted” sources on the internet.  Here’s some things I notice and/or think:

1- The argument that bad people will do bad things is true. Without a gun the killer could have made his own bomb or used knife (like the guy in China), both thoughts are true.  The difference is the fact that even the best homemade bomb doesn’t always work.  Sometimes, even under the eyes of professionals, wires don’t connect right or mixtures are wrong.  Heck sometimes the bomb maker kills himself.  (Our Commanding Officer called this an “Own Goal” while we were deployed).  But an assault rifle is pretty damn reliable and efficient, particularly in relation to a knife, and unlike having to “make” a bomb, it’s ready to go at a moments notice.  You can also carry more than one in case the first one jams. It’s pretty hard to do that with a bomb, though admittedly not impossible.  This not to say that the lack of assault rifles will end crimes, it’s just admitting that there is a reason this is a primary option of the deranged. So I don’t buy this particular argument against the regulation of assault weapons.  Random thought- can you purchase live hand grenades?   I imagine not, but am honestly not sure.

2- I find it interesting that the same people who are relying on the mental illness aspect of the case are (in general) the same people who are against any form of health care reform.  The idea that one persons lack of mental health can so tragically affect their community seems pretty evident right now, the question is how is it paid for?

3- On a similar vein, the petitions and Facebook posts about hiring out of work vets to stand as armed guards in schools is being made by the same folks (in general) who are against any kind of government jobs program, particularly the most recent one that was heavy on hiring cops and teachers.

4- If you really want something to go viral, attribute it to Morgan Freeman.

Those are just some thoughts.

Knowns and Unknowns of an Undecided Voter

Saturday Night Live recently had a skit mocking the undecided voter, portraying those of us uncommitted to a certain candidate as completely unaware.  I can take a joke, and to some extent it was funny, but it does not describe me.  I am certainly undecided, but certainly not unaware.  So if I don’t know exactly who I’m going to vote for, then what do I know and believe?  Well………

1. I think we need fiscal responsibility

2. I believe in Social Justice

3. I know the first two points are not 100% compatible

4. I believe we need a strong military but know there is a lot of fraud, waste, and abuse in the DOD

5. I believe the recession is complicated and the only way out involves much more than the funding of PBS

6. I believe PBS will do just fine without government funding, but ceasing to fund it will not make any significant difference in the federal bottom line.

7. I don’t think there is a war on Christmas, guns, or women and people who rail against these “wars” are using politics for personal power and influence.

8. I know there is a war in Afghanistan that costs a lot of money and lives but is no longer on the radar of most of the country.

9. I believe there has been a natural creep of executive branch powers that is enabled by political parties who can not bring themselves to push back against one of their own.

10. I believe Mitt Romney really wants to make America successful and believes his plan will do that.

11. I believe President Obama feels the same way.

12. I believe there are very influential people in the Republican Party that are more concerned with making money than with helping the less fortunate.

13. I believe there are influential people in the Democratic Party that are more concerned with making money than helping the economy recover.

14. I believe Social Security and Medicare will need significant changes in order to survive.

15. I believe basic health care is a right, but extensive health care is a privilege.

16. I believe military health care is essentially socialized, single payer, health care and it works pretty well (all things considered).

17. I believe even a well intended voucher system will not be able to keep pace with health care costs, mostly due to government administration issues.

19. I believe if it did keep up, we would be in the same boat we are now.

20. I believe every candidate on the ballot in all 50 states should be allowed to debate (See: Gary Johnson).

21. I believe people have different views of the need for government based on their personal life experiences.

22. I like Moderate Mitt, but dislike the extreme right wing of the party to which he had to pander.

23. I liked the idealism of Barack Obama and was disappointed that he was unable to work more with Republicans.

24. I believe his inability to work with Republicans was mutually acceptable.

25. I think that if Romney wins, the most vocal Obama critics will continue to find new and interesting conspiracy theories to support.

26. I believe the tax/debt ceiling issues that we’ve put off for so long could have been solved if not for political gamesmanship by the parties.

27. I do not believe this election will make either side more willing to compromise than before, no matter who wins.

28. I believe too many people view politics as a spectator sport. I think they root for their home team candidate in order to improve their own self esteem.

29. I believe the playing field is rigged by the parties to exclude any other legitimate challengers.

30. I believe many Americans are unwittingly being duped by their party of choice through scare tactics about the opposition.

31. I believe Congress is the most polarized institution and represents the worst part of us as a country.

32. I believe the redistricting that led to “safe” districts for parties is the primary cause of the polarization.

 

Here’s what I DON’T know:

1. Can Mitt Romney influence the Republican Party…or will it be the other way around?

2. If Obama wins…..can the Republicans ever work with him?

3. Is a vote for Gary Johnson worth anything more than a personal statement?

4. Does it really matter who wins the executive branch if Congress remains so dysfunctional?

I have my absentee ballot (for a swing state, no less) and will vote, but not until after the debates and probably not until the last minute.  Any thoughts or comments that are respectful and intelligent are welcome.  Honest debate is good and I welcome any opportunity to learn more about the candidates and issues.

Being Half Right Is Worse Than Being All Wrong

“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its shoes on.” That statement is generally attributed to Mark Twain, but no one is 100% sure.  It’s amazing how accurate it is, especially when you consider that no matter who said it, it was uttered waaaay before anyone could cut and paste a piece of political news onto a Facebook page.

My previous post addressed the need to search for political truth (or some semblance of it) by seeking alternative news sources.

Here’s another tip: Beat them to the source.  There are terrific sites out there that check out what our politicians say for accuracy.  It’s good business. As we all know, they have a  lot of things to report back on.  And when they discover someone has twisted the truth or outright lied, the media will pick it up as a story.  Just not all the media, only the media that thinks that particular finding supports their agenda. Campaigns and Super PACs are even worse.

Why are we letting these media outlets filter out which lies and innuendos are important to our decision making?  In this case, our media of choice might be giving us the facts, just not ALL the facts. Being half right is dangerous and can be worse than being all wrong.

Here’s where social media can help you become a more informed voter.  If you are on Facebook, you can “like” Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, and the Factchecker blog at the Washington Post.  This way you’ll see every thing they rule on, not just the stuff your media of choice wants you to hear.

This may be less stressful on your nerves than channel surfing behind enemy lines, but in the end probably an even better idea.

https://www.facebook.com/factcheck?ref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/politifact?ref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/FactChecker

Although they don’t have a Facebook page that feeds stories like the links below, http://www.snopes.com is also a great site to check the validity of things.

A well informed electorate is essential, but just because you know all the talking points of one side does not make anyone “well informed”.  You may very well do all these things and still support your original candidate. In fact, you probably will, but you’ll also be less likely to add to the echo chamber that is ruining the current political discourse.