Truth Doesn’t Require An Apology

I fully support civil discourse, compassion, tolerance, kindness, etc., but there comes a time when it is necessary to call a spade a spade.  President Biden did just that earlier this week … he called the far-right Republican movement a ‘threat to democracy’ and ‘semi-fascist’.  Those who are angered by his words should take a long, hard look at what their hopes for the future of this nation are and how they would like to see those hopes achieved.  Charles Blow’s latest OpEd in the New York Times addresses that outrage better than I could (that’s why he gets paid for his opinions and I don’t).


Biden Shouldn’t Apologize to Republicans

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

4 September 2022

Republicans are outraged — or possibly simply pretending to be outraged — that President Biden has, in recent speeches, warned that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy and, at one point, called the philosophy fueling Trumpism “semi-fascism.”

But there is no scandal here. Biden was simply calling a thing a thing. In fact, I would prefer that he be even more pointed and not try so hard to dodge the charge that he’s casting the net too widely.

Biden first used the term “semi-fascism” two weeks ago, at a Democratic fund-raiser in Maryland, saying: “It’s not just Trump; it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say, something, it’s like semi-fascism.”

Republicans quickly demanded that he apologize for insulting half the electorate. But those Republicans who voted for Donald Trump deserve to be called out for their actions. Trump has consistently exhibited fascist tendencies and espoused racism, misogyny and white nationalism. Republicans supported him, defended him and voted for him. They’ve been actively courting this condemnation.

And yet, ever since the initial brouhaha over his fascism comments, Biden has insisted on walking back his assertion, seemingly determined to distinguish more genteel Republicans from the rest of their party. At a rally in Maryland, shortly after his fund-raiser, Biden said: “I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”

Personally, I have a very hard time splitting that hair. In 2020, 92 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters backed Trump. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 73 percent of Republicans still have a favorable opinion of him, and 72 percent want him to run for re-election in 2024.

The overwhelming majority of Republicans support Trump. The pool of respectable conservatives is shallow, and that’s assuming that they can be neatly defined as those not voting for Trump.

Still, it is clear that Biden is sensitive to the criticism, even as he charges ahead with this pointed assessment.

In Biden’s speech in Philadelphia on Thursday, he returned to the idea that “MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.” But he took pains to more clearly separate them from other Republicans, saying that “not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.”

Still, he underscored that “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.”

Biden was twisting himself into a rhetorical knot when there was no reason to do so. When he said that not even a majority of Republicans are MAGA Republicans, it muddied the waters. What, to Joe Biden, is a MAGA Republican?

On Friday, Biden walked his comments back further still, telling reporters, “I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat to the country.”

He went on to say, “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it’s used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which we rule and count votes — that is a threat to democracy.”

Make no mistake: A significant portion of Republican voters have done exactly what Biden has tried to exempt them from having done. A Public Religion Research Institute poll published in November found that nearly a third of Republicans agreed with the statement “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Also, a later poll found that a quarter of Republicans were adherents of the internet conspiracy theory QAnon and believe that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” and that “a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation” control America’s government, media and financial system.

As PolitiFact noted in June, citing a number of polls, roughly 70 percent of Republicans don’t see Biden as the legitimate winner of the presidency.

Furthermore, a July accounting by FiveThirtyEight found that “halfway through the primary season, we can say definitively that at least 120 election deniers have won their party’s nomination and will be on the ballot in the fall.” Republican voters delivered primary victories to those candidates.

Republicans have a knack for persuading Democrats to pull their punches. It was the same strategy they used against Barack Obama after he said some Americans were “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

He was absolutely correct, but in politics, telling the truth can be a sin.

It was the same strategy Republicans used against Hillary Clinton after she said: “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

She was absolutely right. She may have even understated the number.

Democrats have to stop falling for the line that calling out the dangers that some voters present to the country is somehow a divisive, offensive, unfair attack on the innocent. No person who voted for Trump or supports him now is above being named and shamed.

Biden doesn’t owe Republicans an apology; they owe the country an apology.

Understanding Juneteenth (Reprise)

This is the post I posted on Juneteenth in 2020, but since I couldn’t say it any better today than I did then (actually, Jamelle Bouie did most of the work on this) then I thought it apropos to run it again.


Today is Juneteenth, and I would like to start with a few words from President Barack Obama …

Obama“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.”

I planned to write a piece about Juneteenth, but I found that it had already been done, much better and much more authentically than I could possibly have done it, by Jamelle Bouie, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and former chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.


Why Juneteenth Matters

It was black Americans who delivered on Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom.”

jamelle-bouieBy Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves.

“Slave resistance,” as the historian Manisha Sinha points out in “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” “lay at the heart of the abolition movement.”

“Prominent slave revolts marked the turn toward immediate abolition,” Sinha writes, and “fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement and led the abolitionists to justify revolutionary resistance to slavery.”

When secession turned to war, it was enslaved people who turned a narrow conflict over union into a revolutionary war for freedom. “From the first guns at Sumter, the strongest advocates of emancipation were the slaves themselves,” the historian Ira Berlin wrote in 1992. “Lacking political standing or public voice, forbidden access to the weapons of war, slaves tossed aside the grand pronouncements of Lincoln and other Union leaders that the sectional conflict was only a war for national unity and moved directly to put their own freedom — and that of their posterity — atop the national agenda.”

All of this is apropos of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the last week, as Americans continued to protest police brutality, institutional racism and structural disadvantage in cities and towns across the country, elected officials in New York and Virginia have announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, as have a number of prominent businesses like Nike, Twitter and the NFL.

There’s obviously a certain opportunism here, an attempt to respond to the moment and win favorable coverage, with as little sacrifice as possible. (Paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.) But if Americans are going to mark and celebrate Juneteenth, then they should do so with the knowledge and awareness of the agency of enslaved people.

Juneteenth-2

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.

To return to Ira Berlin — who tackled this subject in “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States” — it is useful to look at the end of slavery as “a near-century-long process” rather than “the work of a moment, even if that moment was a great civil war.” Those in bondage were part of this process at every step of the way, from resistance and rebellion to escape, which gave them the chance, as free blacks, to weigh directly on the politics of slavery. “They gave the slaves’ oppositional activities a political form,” Berlin writes, “denying the masters’ claim that malingering and tool breaking were reflections of African idiocy and indolence, that sabotage represented the mindless thrashings of a primitive people, and that outsiders were the ones who always inspired conspiracies and insurrections.”

By pushing the question of emancipation into public view, black Americans raised the issue of their “status in freedom” and therefore “the question of citizenship and its attributes.” And as the historian Martha Jones details in “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” it is black advocacy that ultimately shapes the nation’s understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. “Never just objects of judicial, legislative, or antislavery thought,” black Americans “drove lawmakers to refine their thinking about citizenship. On the necessity of debating birthright citizenship, black Americans forced the issue.”

After the Civil War, black Americans — free and freed — would work to realize the promise of emancipation, and to make the South a true democracy. They abolished property qualifications for voting and officeholding, instituted universal manhood suffrage, opened the region’s first public schools and made them available to all children. They stood against racial distinctions and discrimination in public life and sought assistance for the poor and disadvantaged. Just a few years removed from degradation and social death, these millions, wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America, “took decisive and encouraging steps toward the widening and strengthening of human democracy.”

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

They Are NOT Heroes

Suddenly I’m hearing Mike Pence, Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, and others referred to as ‘heroes’.  I don’t see it that way at all.  At some point, they did step up to the plate and do their job for We the People, but for years before that, decades in the case of Ivanka, they failed.  Instead they licked the boots and played “yes-man”, enabling a lunatic who was intent on turning the United States into his own personal playground.  I am not alone in my view of these and other people, for yesterday Frank Bruni wrote of them in his column in the New York Times


Don’t Let Bill Barr and Ivanka Trump Visit the Reputation Laundromat

June 16, 2022

By Frank Bruni

The Jan. 6 committee’s televised hearings are many things: the coalescence of scattered revelations into a clearer, cleaner narrative; an unblinking appraisal of the madness of King Donald; an opportunity for Americans to reflect on how close things came, and might yet come, to falling apart.

But for Bill Barr, Bill Stepien, Ivanka Trump and others, they are also something else — something we should not be taken in by.

They are a trip to the reputation laundromat (or perhaps, for this crowd, the reputation dry cleaner). Donald Trump’s onetime acolytes are trying to expunge the stain of their sycophancy. And they’re betting that in a country and era of fickle attention spans and feeble memories, they’ll have more luck with that spot than Lady Macbeth did with hers.

Early this week, the committee showed testimony by Barr, the former attorney general, that he told Trump again and again that Joe Biden had won the 2020 election fairly and definitively. It showed testimony by Stepien, who was Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, that he was among a group of aides — “Team Normal,” he called them — who pushed back against Rudy Giuliani’s hallucinatory insistence that the election was being stolen.

And last week, of course, was Ivanka Trump’s star turn. That’s when we saw her testimony: that she said a big no to the Big Lie.

But her, Barr’s and Stepien’s words don’t amount to moral reckonings. They reflect professional calculations.

Team Normal? If you were still working for Trump by the fourth year of his presidency, there was nothing normal about you. If you served that campaign, during which Trump repeatedly telegraphed his intention to declare any result other than victory an illegitimate one, there was nothing normal about you. If you’d taken the measure of the man before Election Day 2020 and decided, yes, he’s fit to lead America, good for this country and worthy of my efforts and energies on his behalf, there was nothing normal about you.

And if, in the weeks after Election Day, you finally stopped abetting his delusions, midwifing his megalomania and whispering sweet reassurances in his ear, you weren’t returning to normal. You were simply cutting your losses. It was time to hitch your wagon to a sturdier, steadier horse, to find another patron and another payday.

Stepien, as my colleague Michelle Cottle wrote in The Times on Tuesday, “slunk away, coat collar flipped up and hat brim pulled low in the hopes that no one would notice him fleeing the spiraling freak show to which he had sold his services and his soul.”

Susan Glasser, in The New Yorker, also had it right. Reflecting on how Stepien and Barr are now styling themselves (and being showcased) as blunt tellers of Trump-foiling truths, Glasser wrote on Monday evening that they are “not only Trump’s accusers but also first-class enablers of Trump and his lies — until Trump finally found a lie too big for them to enable. Even when it came to their qualms about Trump’s ‘rigged election’ crusade, their outrage came conveniently after the fact, not when it might have made a difference.”

Amen. We can be grateful that Barr and Stepien didn’t travel the final autocratic mile with Trump and not discount their disgraceful road to that point. We can remember how Barr, in advance of Robert Mueller’s report, released a toned-down summary of it that was clearly meant to dull its impact.

We can remember that before Mike Pence patriotically refused Trump’s order not to certify the election results, he pathetically performed the role of Trump’s evangelical beard. And don’t get me started on Ivanka. I’ve spent ample time in her temple of self-celebration, as have others. She and her husband, Jared Kushner, will always do what’s profitable for them, and if that occasionally intersects with the public interest, well, accidents happen. We can think a word of thanks without uttering a syllable of praise.

There were Republicans who took a chance on Trump at the start and got out fast, accepting that either he’d fooled them or they’d kidded themselves. There were Republicans who signaled that much was amiss. Those who didn’t — including Pence, Mike Pompeo and others with presidential aspirations in 2024 — forfeited the moral high ground and can’t credibly reclaim it now.

Nor can they pretend that they were anything other than transaction-minded actors in the most transactional administration I’ve observed. When they benefited from their proximity to Trump, they held their noses, bit their tongues and cuddled close. It’s possible they persuaded themselves that his flaws weren’t so different from any other vain leader’s, that politics is invariably messy and that their compromises were “normal” ones. That’s awfully convenient. And utterly absurd.

Still Hope …

I came across an OpEd by Pulitzer Prize-winning Bret Stephens in the New York Times this morning that I thought made some excellent points, gave encouragement to not lose hope, even as our nation seems to be falling apart at the seams some days.


Can We Still Be Optimistic About America?

May 10, 2022

By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist

This is a season — an age, really — of American pessimism.

The pessimism comes in many flavors. There is progressive pessimism: The country is tilting toward MAGA-hatted fascism or a new version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” There is conservative pessimism: The institutions, from primary schools to the Pentagon, are all being captured by wokeness. There is Afropessimism: Black people have always been excluded by systemic, ineradicable racism. There is the pessimism of the white middle and working classes: The country and the values they’ve known for generations are being hijacked by smug, self-dealing elites who view them with contempt.

There is also the pessimism of the middle: We are losing the institutional capacity, cultural norms and moral courage needed to strike pragmatic compromises at almost every level of society. Zero-sum is now our default setting.

These various kinds of pessimism may reach contradictory conclusions, but they are based on undeniable realities. In 2012, there were roughly 41,000 overdose deaths in the United States. Last year, the number topped 100,000. In 2012, there were 4.7 murders for every 100,000 people. Last year, the rate hit an estimated 6.9, a 47 percent increase. A decade ago, you rarely heard of carjackings. Now, they are through the roof. Shoplifting? Ditto. The nation’s mental health was in steep decline before the pandemic, with a 60 percent increase of major depressive episodes among adolescents between 2007 and 2019. Everything we know about the effects of lockdowns and school closures suggests it’s gotten much worse.

Economics tell a similar story. “Twenty-first-century America has somehow managed to produce markedly more wealth for its wealthholders even as it provided markedly less work for its workers,” observed Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute in a landmark 2017 Commentary essay. It’s in part from the loss of meaningful work — and the consequent evaporation of pride, purpose and dignity in labor — that we get the startling increase in death rates among white middle-aged Americans, often to suicide or substance abuse.

The list goes on, but you get the point. Even without the daily reminders of Carter-era inflation, this feels like another era of Carter-style malaise, complete with an unpopular president who tends to inspire more sympathy than he does confidence.

So why am I still an optimist when it comes to America? Because while we are bent, our adversaries are brittle. As we find ways to bend, they can only remain static or shatter.

This week brought two powerful reminders of the point. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin gave his customary May 9 Victory Day speech, in which he enlisted nostalgia for a partly mythical past to promote lies about a wholly mythical present, all for the sake of a war that is going badly for him.

Putin is belatedly discovering that the powers to humiliate, subvert and destroy are weaker forces than the powers to attract, inspire and build — powers free nations possess almost as a birthright. The Kremlin might yet be able to bludgeon its way to something it can call victory. But its reward will mainly be the very rubble it has created. The rest of Ukraine will find ways to flourish, ideally as a member of NATO and the European Union.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, more than 25 million people remain under strict lockdown, a real-world dystopia in which hovering drones warn residents through loudspeakers to “control your soul’s desire for freedom.” Does anyone still think that China’s handling of the pandemic — its deceits, its mediocre vaccines, a zero-Covid policy that manifestly failed and now this cruel lockdown that has brought hunger and medicine shortages to its richest city — is a model to the rest of the world?

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, more than 25 million people remain under strict lockdown, a real-world dystopia in which hovering drones warn residents through loudspeakers to “control your soul’s desire for freedom.” Does anyone still think that China’s handling of the pandemic — its deceits, its mediocre vaccines, a zero-Covid policy that manifestly failed and now this cruel lockdown that has brought hunger and medicine shortages to its richest city — is a model to the rest of the world?

For all its undeniable progress over 45 years, China remains a Potemkin regime obsessed with fostering aggrandizing illusions: about domestic harmony (aided by a vast system of surveillance and prison camps); about technological innovation (aided by unprecedented theft of intellectual property); about unstoppable economic growth (aided by manufactured statistics). The illusions may win status for Beijing. But they come with a heavy price: the systematic denial of truth, even to the regime itself.

Rulers who come to believe their own propaganda will inevitably miscalculate, often catastrophically. Look again at Putin, who really believed he had a competent military.

Which brings me back to the United States. Just as dictatorships advertise their strengths but hide their weaknesses — both to others and to themselves — democracies do the opposite: We obsess over our weaknesses even as we forget our formidable strengths. It is the source of our pessimism. But it is also, paradoxically, our deepest strength: In refusing to look away from our flaws, we not only acknowledge them but also begin fixing them.

We rethink. We adapt. In bending, we find new ways to grow.

We have a demonstrated record of defanging right-wing demagogues, debunking left-wing ideologues, promoting racial justice, reversing crime waves, revitalizing the political center and reinvigorating the American ideal. Our problems may be hard, but they are neither insoluble nor new.

Those without our freedoms will not be so fortunate.

Black History Month: Seeing America Clearly

It is one thing for me, a white person, to write about Black History, but I do so without having the personal experience of growing up Black, not having the true context of what it meant to grow up and live in a world where you were often mistreated and abused, where opportunities afforded to others did not apply to you simply because of the colour of your skin.  So, when I came upon one writer’s personal essay, I was deeply moved, as I believe you will be.  The following essay was published Sunday in the New York Times by Esau McCaulley, an author and a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois.


Black History Month Is About Seeing America Clearly

A woman who was born into enslavement in Alabama.Credit…Jack Delano/Getty Images

Feb. 20, 2022

By Esau McCaulley

Contributing Opinion Writer

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who did the kinds of jobs featured at career fairs or depicted on television shows. I had never met a Black doctor, lawyer, professor or scientist. Where does a young Black man go when looking for hope? My teachers, overworked as they were, pointed me toward Black luminaries from the past.

The first Black History Month project I recall was about George Washington Carver. I was enthralled with the idea that the early 20th-century agricultural scientist, born into slavery, came up with hundreds of uses for peanuts. By the time Black History Month rolled into full swing, my ode to the master of peanuts sat alongside posters lauding the accomplishments of such stalwarts as Martin Luther King Jr. (he always inspired multiple posters), Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Sojourner Truth.

Black history, in this frame, is the story of exemplars. We learn about the first Black surgeon, Supreme Court justice or astronaut. This version of Black history endeavors to show Black capability and challenge stereotypes. The lesson is clear: If this Black person from history overcame racism, so could we. With enough grit, determination and patience, we too could go to space or invent hundreds of uses for a common crop.

These exemplars were helpful. But the exercise also left me with a feeling that there was a long list of things Black people had never done, and my job was to find one of those things and check it off the list. Then we could stand before the world and say: We have done all the things. Can we have justice now?

This exemplars-based approach to Black history also produced an unintentional consequence. It gave those outside our community license to use Black accomplishment against us. They told us that we needed more exceptional Black people, instead of questioning a society that required such greatness of us. Our very victories were transfigured into condemnations of those still languishing.

I was exposed to a second form of Black History Month when I got older: Black history as corrective. In this version, we learned about Black achievement that had been erased from the historical record. It points us to the African American female mathematicians involved in the space race, as recounted fictionally in the film “Hidden Figures” or the Tuskegee Airmen, whose contributions during World War II were long underappreciated. This is important. One reason that we are still chasing “firsts” is because too many of our accomplishments have been stolen from us. But the problem is that this way of teaching history is about amending a story, instead of telling a more truthful one.

It was not until I got to college that I began to see African American history for what it truly is. It is not a series of heroics or forgotten contributions. It is a different telling of the American story altogether.

What happens when we do not begin with the Mayflower but the slave ship, and tell American history from that perspective? The explicit aim of The Times’s 1619 Project was “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” This powerful, challenging idea led to a still-raging debate about racism in America that is playing out in school boards and local elections all over the country, with certain books and ideas being ruled out of bounds.

Americans have not been taught enough about anti-Black racism in our past and present. This, to my mind, is beyond dispute. We are poorer as a nation for these omissions. It is also true that scholars of good will can disagree when making sense of the lives of figures long dead. People are complex, and getting at the complexity is no small thing. Education should be a place where such matters are debated openly.

But endless discussions about the intent of the founding fathers miss a fundamental point. History is not merely the study of intent; it encompasses effect. Whether or not every founding father intended to create a government that sanctioned slavocracy, and later Jim Crow, those were the outcomes. To limit the question to the intent at the expense of the experience of the enslaved and their descendants is to prioritize white American intentions or ideals over Black bodies, a mistake our Republic has made over and over.

What cannot be doubted is that for African peoples brought to this land against our will, slavery and anti-Black racism are defining characteristics of our American experience. This is why Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech draws upon the Declaration of Independence in its opening movement. He highlighted the fact that this declaration had little purchase in the lives of Black folks:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

Black history, then, should be a challenge to our Republic and its core narrative. Instead of quibbling with this detail or that, it must raise a fundamental question about the quality of life Black people have been allowed to experience. If we are indeed a part of this nation, then our lives and experiences have a claim on our national narrative. African American history forces us to view the Black experience of injustice not as the interruption of or caveat to an otherwise grand narrative, but as a compelling story in its own right.

Would this leave us with only a tale of woe? No. There is a dark beauty to the American story. The beauty is not in our innocence. We have been party to too much death and terror for that. African American history requires the recasting of our central figures, where those on the sidelines are brought to the forefront. The enslaved must be allowed to unbend their backs and step into the light and claim the glory due to them. Washington and Lincoln must give way to Truth and Douglass as American marvels.

What makes America a wonder is that this is the land upon which my ancestors, despite the odds, fought for and often made a life for themselves. We are great because this land housed the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Maya Angelou, the advocacy of Fannie Lou Hamer, the urgency of Nina Simone’s music, and the faith-inspired demand for change in Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons.

This way of telling the story allows us to speak of American ideals even if the norm is failure rather than accomplishment. It allows our history to chronicle progress without diminishing the suffering necessary to bring it about. This means, too, that to tell the American story well the contributions of us Black folks cannot be limited to February.

Black history offers America a chance to see itself both as what we have failed to become and as we wish ourselves to be. It is not to inspire hate for one race or to foment division. America seeing itself clearly is the first step toward owning and then learning from its mistakes. The second step is the long journey to become that which we hope to be: a more perfect — and just — union.

The Good, The Bad, The Hopeful

A few days ago, my dear friend Ellen sent me Maureen Dowd’s column from the New York Times.  She says so much that the topic of the column rather defies description, but her vision of where this nation is today is spot on.  She also gives us hope in a more positive, yet realistic assessment of President Biden’s policies and actions than we’re used to hearing these days.


Drowning Our Future in the Past

By Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

It isn’t a pretty picture.

One coast is burning. The other is under water. In between, anti-abortion vigilantes may soon rampage across gunslinging territory.

What has happened to this country?

America is reeling backward, strangled by the past, nasty and uncaring, with everyone at one another’s throats.

Post-Trump, we let ourselves hope that the new president could heal and soothe, restore a sense of rationality, decency and sanity. But the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be just a firefly.

We feel the return of dread: We’re rattled by the catastrophic exit from Afghanistan; the coming abortion war sparked by Texas; the Trumpian Supreme Court dragging us into the past; the confounding nature of this plague; the way Mother Nature is throttling us, leaving New Yorkers to drown in their basements. And now comes Donald Trump, tromping toward another presidential run.

It feels as if nothing can be overcome. Everything is being relitigated.

We’re choking on enlightened climate proposals but the disparity between the disasters we see, and what’s being done in Washington, makes it feel as though nothing is happening except climate change. We’re so far from getting a handle on the problem, the discussions around it seem almost theoretical.

Joe Manchin, tied to the energy industry, balks at climate change provisions in the reconciliation bill. He should be looking for ways to get West Virginia in touch with reality rather than living in the past.

“Manchin’s claim that climate pollution would be worsened by the elimination of fossil fuels — or by the resolution’s actual, more incremental climate provisions — is highly dubious, if not outright false,” The Intercept reported, noting that the truth is that Manchin’s personal wealth would “be impacted.” Since he joined the Senate, The Intercept said, he has grossed some $4.5 million from coal companies he founded.

With its new abortion law, sending women back to the back alley and encouraging Stasi-like participation from the citizenry, Texas now becomes the capital of American unreason. The law “essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

There were medieval fiefs more enlightened than the Lone Star G.O.P.

Between putting women in danger by pushing that law and putting children in danger by imposing his anti-mask mania on school districts that want to mask up, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has become a scourge of the first rank.

A cynical slice of the Republican Party — and this includes Trump — privately denigrates anti-abortion activists as wackos, but publicly moves in lock-step with them in order to cling to that base and keep power.

But the anti-abortion forces were somehow clever enough to hijack the Supreme Court and Republicans will have to contend with the backlash when the court tosses Roe v. Wade aside.

As botched as the withdrawal from Afghanistan was, at least Joe Biden was trying to move into the future and do triage on one of America’s worst mistakes.

And unlike other presidents — J.F.K. with the Bay of Pigs, L.B.J. with the Vietnam War and Barack Obama with the Afghanistan surge — Biden did not allow himself to be suckered by the generals, the overweening Ivy Leaguers and the Blob, the expense account monsters who keep this town whirring and always have a seat at the table, no matter how wrong they were, and are.

The Afghanistan tragedy, as James Risen wrote in The Intercept, was just two decades of Americans lying to one another, and it “brought out in Americans the same imperial arrogance that doomed the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.”

Unlike his three predecessors, Biden risked Saudi ire by directing the Justice Department and other agencies on Friday to review and declassify documents related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into 9/11. Families of 9/11 victims had been pushing for the release of the secret files to learn more about the role the Saudis played in the attacks.

The enablers of our misbegotten occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have been shrieking like banshees at Biden, trying to manacle him to their own past mistakes as he attempts to lift off.

With peerless chutzpah, Tony Blair called Biden’s decision to depart cynical and driven by an “imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars.’”

But Biden knew enough not to spend more lives and treasure to prop up a kleptocracy. He oversaw some bad weeks in Afghanistan but George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should be blamed for 20 bad years.

Remarkably, as Jon Allsop pointed out in The Columbia Journalism Review, the word “Bush” was not mentioned once on any of the Sunday news shows the weekend Kabul was falling.

“He looks like the Babe Ruth of presidents when you compare him to Trump,” Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader, told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris, for a story this past week on Bush nostalgia.

With a memory like a goldfish, America circles its bowl, returning to where we have been, unable to move forward, condemned to repeat a past we should escape.

Tears Of Shame … Yet Again

Over the past few weeks, we have read with horror about the discovery of unmarked graves at Canada’s boarding schools that housed indigenous children a century ago.  But guess what, folks?  We may well find the same here.  The U.S. does NOT have clean hands when it comes to the treatment of the original settlers in this land, the Native Americans.  The New York Times has presented a moving article that frankly brought tears to my eyes when I read it last night, so I have decided to share it with you, my friends.


Lost Lives, Lost Culture: The Forgotten History of Indigenous Boarding Schools

Thousands of Native American children attended U.S. boarding schools designed to “civilize the savage.” Many died. Many who lived are reclaiming their identity.

The last day Dzabahe remembers praying in the way of her ancestors was on the morning in the 1950s when she was taken to the boarding school.

At first light, she grabbed a small pouch and ran out into the desert to a spot facing the rising sun to sprinkle the taa dih’deen — or corn pollen — to the four directions, offering honor for the new day.

Within hours of arriving at the school, she was told not to speak her own Navajo language. The leather skirt her mother had sewn for her and the beaded moccasins were taken away and bundled in plastic, like garbage.

She was given a dress to wear and her long hair was cut — something that is taboo in Navajo culture. Before she was sent to the dormitory, one more thing was taken: her name.

“You have a belief system. You have a way of life you have already embraced,” said Bessie Smith, now 79, who continues to use the name given to her at the former boarding school in Arizona.

“And then it’s so casually taken away,” she said. “It’s like you are violated.”

Bessie Smith, 79, was forbidden from speaking her Navajo language once she began attending a federal boarding school and nearly forgot her native tongue. “It’s so casually taken away,” she said. “It’s like you are violated.”Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

A memorial set up after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former boarding school in British Columbia.Credit…Amber Bracken for The New York Times

The recent discoveries of unmarked graves at government-run schools for Indigenous children in Canada — 215 graves in British Columbia, 750 more in Saskatchewan — surfaced like a long-forgotten nightmare.

But for many Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, the nightmare was never forgotten. Instead the discoveries are a reminder of how many living Native Americans were products of an experiment in forcibly removing children from their families and culture.

Many of them are still struggling to make sense of who they were and who they are.

In the century and a half that the U.S. government ran boarding schools for Native Americans, hundreds of thousands of children were housed and educated in a network of institutions, created to “civilize the savage.” By the 1920s, one group estimates, nearly 83 percent of Native American school-age children were attending such schools.

Tolani Lake School children and staff in an undated photograph.Credit…National Archives

“When people do things to you when you’re growing up, it affects you spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Russell Box Sr., a member of the Southern Ute tribe who was 6 when he was sent to a boarding school in southwestern Colorado.

“We couldn’t speak our language, we couldn’t sing our prayer songs,” he said. “To this day, maybe that’s why I can’t sing.”

The discovery of the bodies in Canada led Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to head the department that once ran the boarding schools in the United States — and herself the granddaughter of people forced to attend them — to announce that the government would search the grounds of former facilities to identify the remains of children.

That many children died in the schools on this side of the border is not in question. Just last week, nine Lakota children who perished at the federal boarding school in Carlisle, Pa., were disinterred and buried in buffalo robes in a ceremony on a tribal reservation in South Dakota.

Many of the deaths of former students have been recorded in federal archives and newspaper death notices. Based on what those records indicate, the search for bodies of other students is already underway at two former schools in Colorado: Grand Junction Indian School in central Colorado, which closed in 1911, and the Fort Lewis Indian School, which closed in 1910 and reopened in Durango as Fort Lewis College.

“There were horrific things that happened at boarding schools,” said Tom Stritikus, the president of Fort Lewis College. “It’s important that we daylight that.”

A committee at Fort Lewis College in Colorado has begun investigating the institution’s past and is studying how to search its former campus for the possibility of the remains of children who died there.Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

Fort Lewis Indian School, which closed 111 years ago, was dedicated to eradicating Native American culture. Now, on its former grounds, student are planting Native American crops.Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

The idea of assimilating Native Americans through education dates back to the earliest history of the colonies.

In 1775, the Continental Congress passed a bill appropriating $500 for the education of Native American youth. By the late 1800s, the number of students in boarding schools had risen from a handful to 24,000, and the amount appropriated had soared to $2.6 million.

Throughout the decades that they were in existence, the schools were seen as both a cheaper and a more expedient way of dealing with the “Indian problem.”

Carl Schurz, the secretary of the interior in the late 1800s, argued that it cost close to $1 million to kill a Native American in warfare, versus just $1,200 to give his child eight years of schooling, according to the account of the historian David Wallace Adams in “Education for Extinction.” “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one,” Capt. Richard H. Pratt, the founder of one of the first boarding schools, wrote in 1892. “In a sense I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: That all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

Students and staff at Fort Lewis Indian School circa 1900.Credit…Courtesy of the Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College

Those who survived the schools described violence as routine. As punishment, Norman Lopez was made to sit in the corner for hours at the Ute Vocational School in southwestern Colorado where he was sent around age 6. When he tried to get up, a teacher picked him up and slammed him against the wall, he said. Then the teacher picked him up a second time and threw him headfirst to the ground, he said.

“I thought that it was part of school,” said Mr. Lopez, now 78. “I didn’t think of it as abusive.”

A less violent incident marked him more, he said.

His grandfather taught him how to carve a flute out of the branch of a cedar. When the boy brought the flute to school, his teacher smashed it and threw it in the trash.

He grasped even then how special the cedar flute and his native music were. “That’s what God is. God speaks through air,” he said, of the music his grandfather taught him.

He said the lesson was clear, both in the need to comply and the need to resist.

“I had to keep quiet. There’s plenty where it came from. Tree’s not going to give up,” he said of the cedar. “I’m not going to give up.”

Decades later, Mr. Lopez has returned to the flute. He carves them and records in a homemade studio, set up in his home on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in Towaoc, Colo.

Norman Lopez, 78, playing a flute outside of his home. He said a boarding school teacher in Colorado smashed his hand-carved flute and threw it in the trash.Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

Russell Box Sr. spends his days at his home in Ignacio, Colo., painting images of Native American symbols and ceremonies he was told to forget at the boarding school he attended as a child.Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

In the same boarding school, Mr. Box was punished so severely for speaking Ute that he refused to teach his children the language, in an effort to shield them the pain he endured, his ex-wife, Pearl E. Casias, said.

Years of alcoholism followed, he said. His marriage fell apart. It was not until middle age that he reached a fork in the road.

“I had been yearning in here,” he said, pointing to his heart. “My spirit had been yearning in here to stand in the lodge,” he said, referring to the medicine lodge that dancers enter during the annual Sundance, one of the most important ceremonies of the Ute people. “Then one day I said to myself, ‘Now I’m going to stand.’ And when I said that inside of me, there was a little flame.”

He went to the Sundance for the first time. He stopped drinking. This year, one of his daughters reached out to her mother, asking if she could teach her how to make beaded moccasins.

But for many, the wounds just do not heal.

Students and staff at Grand Junction Indian School in central Colorado in an undated photograph.Credit…Museums of Western Colorado

Jacqueline Frost, 60, was raised by her Ute aunt, a matron at the boarding school who embraced the system and became its enforcer.

Ms. Frost said she remembered the beatings. “I don’t know if it was a broom or a mop, I just remember the stick part, and my aunt swung it at me,” she said, adding: “There was belts. There was hangers. There was shoes. There was sticks, branches, wire.”

She, too, turned to alcohol. “Even though I’ve gone to so much counseling,” she said, “I still would always say, ‘Why am I like this? Why do I have this ugly feeling inside me?’”

By the turn of the century, a debate had erupted on whether it was better to “carry civilization to the Indian” by building schools on tribal land. In 1902, the government completed the construction of a boarding school on the Southern Ute reservation in Ignacio, Colo. — the school that Mr. Box and Mr. Lopez both attended.

The impact of the school, which was shuttered decades ago, can be summed up in two statistics: In the 1800s, when federal agents were trawling the reservation for children, they complained that there were almost no adults who spoke English. Today, about 30 people out of a tribe of fewer than 1,500 people — only 2 percent — speak the Ute language fluently, said Lindsay J. Box, a tribal spokeswoman. (Mr. Box is her uncle.)

“There were horrific things that happened at boarding schools,” said Tom Stritikus, the president of Fort Lewis College. “It’s important that we daylight that.”Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

Jacqueline Frost, 60, holds a photo showing how she was forced to adopt the look and attire of a white girl. She said she was beaten by a Ute aunt who served as a matron at a federal boarding school designed to assimilate Native children.Credit…Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

For decades, Ms. Smith barely spoke Navajo. She thought she had forgotten it, until years later at the hospital in Denver where she worked as director of patient admissions, a Navajo couple came in with their dying baby and the language came tumbling back, she said.

It marked a turn for her. She realized that the vocabulary she thought had been beaten out of her was still there. As she looked back, she recognized the small but meaningful ways in which she had resisted.

From her first day in the dormitory, she never again practiced the morning prayer to the four directions.

Unable to do it in physical form, she learned instead to do it internally: “I did it in my heart,” she said.

In her old age, she now makes jewelry using traditional elements, like “ghost beads” made from the dried berries of the juniper tree. When she started selling online, she chose the domain: www.dzabahe.com.

It is her birth name, the one that was taken from her at the boarding school, the one whose Navajo meaning endured: “woman who fights back.”

Commitment To Ignorance?

More than a few times in the past few months/years, I have thought that the biggest hurdle to sanity in our country was one thing:  ignorance.  I don’t say ‘stupidity’, for that implies an inability to comprehend, but rather ignorance, which is the refusal to comprehend, to consider other options, other ways of doing things.  A few days ago, I came across this OpEd by Paul Krugman writing for the New York Times that I think speaks volumes about our current situation.


What Underlies the G.O.P. Commitment to Ignorance?

By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

June 28, 2021

As everyone knows, leftists hate America’s military. Recently, a prominent left-wing media figure attacked Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declaring, “He’s not just a pig, he’s stupid.”

Oh, wait. That was no leftist, that was Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. What set Carlson off was testimony in which Milley told a congressional hearing that he considered it important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and widely read.”

The problem is obvious. Closed-mindedness and ignorance have become core conservative values, and those who reject these values are the enemy, no matter what they may have done to serve the country.

The Milley hearing was part of the orchestrated furor over “critical race theory,” which has dominated right-wing media for the past few months, getting close to 2,000 mentions on Fox so far this year. One often sees assertions that those attacking critical race theory have no idea what it’s about, but I disagree; they understand that it has something to do with assertions that America has a history of racism and of policies that explicitly or implicitly widened racial disparities.

And such assertions are unmistakably true. The Tulsa race massacre really happened, and it was only one of many such incidents. The 1938 underwriting manual for the Federal Housing Administration really did declare that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.”

We can argue about the relevance of this history to current policy, but who would argue against acknowledging simple facts?

The modern right, that’s who. The current obsession with critical race theory is a cynical attempt to change the subject away from the Biden administration’s highly popular policy initiatives, while pandering to the white rage that Republicans deny exists. But it’s only one of multiple subjects on which willful ignorance has become a litmus test for anyone hoping to succeed in Republican politics.

Thus, to be a Republican in good standing one must deny the reality of man-made climate change, or at least oppose any meaningful action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. One must reject or at least express skepticism about the theory of evolution. And don’t even get me started on things like the efficacy of tax cuts.

What underlies this cross-disciplinary commitment to ignorance? On each subject, refusing to acknowledge reality serves special interests. Climate denial caters to the fossil fuel industry; evolution denial caters to religious fundamentalists; tax-cut mysticism caters to billionaire donors.

But there’s also, I’d argue, a spillover effect: Accepting evidence and logic is a sort of universal value, and you can’t take it away in one area of inquiry without degrading it across the board. That is, you can’t declare that honesty about America’s racial history is unacceptable and expect to maintain intellectual standards everywhere else. In the modern right-wing universe of ideas, everything is political; there are no safe subjects.

This politicization of everything inevitably creates huge tension between conservatives and institutions that try to respect reality.

There have been many studies documenting the strong Democratic lean of college professors, which is often treated as prima facie evidence of political bias in hiring. A new law in Florida requires that each state university conduct an annual survey “which considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented,” which doesn’t specifically mandate the hiring of more Republicans but clearly gestures in that direction.

An obvious counterargument to claims of biased hiring is self-selection: How many conservatives choose to pursue careers in, say, sociology? Is hiring bias the reason police officers seem to have disproportionately supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, or is this simply a reflection of the kind of people who choose careers in law enforcement?

But beyond that, the modern G.O.P. is no home for people who believe in objectivity. One striking feature of surveys of academic partisanship is the overwhelming Democratic lean in hard sciences like biology and chemistry; but is that really hard to understand when Republicans reject science on so many fronts?

One recent study marvels that even finance departments are mainly Democratic. Indeed, you might expect finance professors, some of whom do lucrative consulting for Wall Street, to be pretty conservative. But even they are repelled by a party committed to zombie economics.

Which brings me back to General Milley. The U.S. military has traditionally leaned Republican, but the modern officer corps is highly educated, open-minded and, dare I say it, even a bit intellectual — because those are attributes that help win wars.

Unfortunately, they are also attributes the modern G.O.P. finds intolerable.

So something like the attack on Milley was inevitable. Right-wingers have gone all in on ignorance, so they were bound to come into conflict with every institution — including the U.S. military — that is trying to cultivate knowledge.

Laughable Lies

Sometimes you just have to laugh at the ignorance perpetuated by the Republicans and their megaphone, Fox News.  The lunacy is incredible and laughable, but what’s not quite as funny is that some 40% of the people in this nation don’t bother to assess what they hear, don’t take a minute to look for some facts to back up the opinions of the Republicans and their minions.  Perhaps the Republican Party would do better, have a bit of legitimacy, if they spent more time on developing a platform and less time on making up lies and conspiracy theories.  Anyway … Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, has written a piece mostly about the latest lie/fallacy/made-up story by Republicans attempting to discredit President Biden, and it’s well worth the read.


Beer, Brussels Sprouts, Bernie Madoff and Today’s G.O.P.

By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

On Friday Larry Kudlow, who was Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, told Fox News viewers that Joe Biden’s climate plans would force Americans to stop eating meat. On July 4, he declared, you’d have to “throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled brussels sprouts.”

Kudlow’s remarks raise several questions. What, exactly, does he think beer is made from? Also, doesn’t he know that grilled brussels sprouts are, in fact, delicious?

More important, why would anyone believe this assertion about Biden’s plans, or expect anyone else to believe it? Why were Kudlow’s claims echoed by many Republicans, from Donald Trump Jr., to members of Congress, to the governor of Texas?

To answer this question, it helps to think about Bernie Madoff, the infamous fraudster who died April 14. Seriously.

About Biden and burgers: The administration has, in fact, said nothing at all about changing America’s diet. Furthermore, anything along those lines would be very much at odds with Biden’s whole approach to climate change, which is to rely much more on carrots than on sticks, to provide positive incentives to invest in low-emission technologies rather than discouraging emissions with taxes or regulations.

Whether that approach will prove sufficient is debatable, but it is the approach the administration is taking, and telling people to stop eating meat would be completely out of character.

So where is this coming from? Kudlow took his cues from a sleazy article in The Daily Mail, a right-wing British tabloid. The article didn’t actually assert that Biden is proposing to restrict meat consumption; instead, it offered a series of speculations about what might happen. Among other things it took the most extreme scenario from a University of Michigan study of how reduced meat consumption could affect greenhouse gas emissions — a study released in January 2020 that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Biden plans. The Daily Mail also used a deceptive graphic to make it seem as if this was an actual administration proposal.

American right-wing pundits and politicians then ran with it. Did they actually believe the nonsense they were spouting? Well, Kudlow’s apparent belief that beer is made with meat is arguably a point in his favor, an indication that he’s genuinely clueless rather than merely cynical.

What’s clear, however, is that neither Kudlow nor other Republicans touting an imaginary war on meat saw any need to check out their story, felt any concern that their audience — Fox News viewers, Republican voters — would find the claim that Joe Biden is coming for their red meat implausible.

Why not? That’s where Bernie Madoff comes in.

The revelations about Madoff’s immense Ponzi scheme and how he pulled it off introduced many of us to the concept of affinity fraud: scams that prey upon people by exploiting a sense of shared identity. Madoff defrauded wealthy Jews by convincing them that he was just like them.

A similar approach has long been an essential part of the Republican political strategy. As the party’s economic policies have become ever more elitist, ever more tilted toward the interests of the wealthy, it has sought to cover its tracks by running candidates who seem like regular guys you’d like to have a (meat-based?) beer with.

The flip side of this strategy is a continual attempt by the G.O.P. to convince voters that Democrats, who represent a much more diverse set of voters than Republicans, aren’t people like them; call it disaffinity fraud.

The goal is to portray Democrats as woke feminist vegetarians who don’t share the values of Real Americans. Hence the right’s obsessive focus on “cancel culture” and Democratic women of color, and the continual assertions that the white male senior citizen who leads the party is somehow a passive puppet.

Right-wing media are pushing this narrative nonstop. According to a Morning Consult poll last month, more Republicans said they’d heard “a lot” about the move to withdraw some Dr. Seuss books than said the same about Biden’s huge Covid-19 relief bill.

It doesn’t matter that Joe Biden isn’t actually trying to ban hamburgers or — to take another false claim right-wing pundits and politicians keep repeating — that he hasn’t “taken down” the border with Mexico. Republicans have pretty much given up even trying to make a case against Biden’s actual policies, let alone proposing serious policies themselves.

Instead, it’s all smears. Democrats, declared Kudlow, are “ideological zealots who don’t care one whit about America’s well-being.” That’s pretty rich coming from a man famed for his unwavering commitment to the doctrine that cutting taxes on the wealthy solves all problems, no matter how often his predictions fail.

But never mind; the point is that Kudlow and others consider it OK to throw out wild claims about what Democrats are up to, because those are the kinds of things woke liberals would do, aren’t they?

Will the public go along? The Biden administration thinks not, betting it can overcome the power of affinity fraud with policies that offer real benefits to working Americans. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that this strategy will work.

Mitch McConnell Likes Falling Bridges!

Throughout President Obama’s eight year tenure, one man stood out as the biggest hurdle to anything and everything Obama and his team proposed.  That man, of course, is the ignoble Mitch McConnell … the poster boy for why we need term limits.  McConnell’s power is far greater than it should be and when he pledges obstruction, you can count on him destroying everything in his path … even our lives.

Most recently, McConnell has pledged to do everything in his power to keep the infrastructure bill from seeing the light of day in the Senate.  Frank Bruni, writing for the New York Times, addresses the infrastructure bill and McConnell’s self-serving intended obstruction in his latest newsletter …


Mitch McConnell, Fickle Fiscal Prude

By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

The numbers stagger me too.

President Biden is promoting more than $2 trillion for infrastructure (loosely defined). He signed legislation for $1.9 trillion for pandemic relief, economic stimulus and anti-poverty initiatives.

All of this comes after the Trump administration’s mammoth relief-and-stimulus spending in 2020, and all of this precedes what will almost certainly be yet more requests for additional trillions from the Biden administration.

We’re in uncharted waters. Experts offering assurances that all will be well — or even better than well — are giving us their best educated guesses. No one — not the cheerleaders, not the naysayers — truly knows how this will all turn out.

But here’s the thing: At some point you have to pick a path, choose a side, place your bet. In many instances the potential price of a flawed wager is almost certainly less steep than the cost of inaction. This instance, I think, is one of those. Maybe America will go too big in the end. But too small hasn’t worked for us.

Too small led to the economic dispossession and pessimism exploited by a junior-league demagogue and would-be despot who hurt this country gravely. Too small factored into our shameful and unsustainable degree of income inequality.

Too small was a culprit in America’s world-leading number of coronavirus infections and Covid-related deaths last year. By contrast, too big — or rather, big — was a partner in the speedy development and distribution of vaccines.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, has pledged to fight Biden’s infrastructure package “every step of the way,” as a sudden defender of fiscal discipline. I say “sudden” because his attachment to it over the past few years, before Biden took office, was as steady as a Slinky.

He was perfectly happy to run up the federal debt to stay in good with President Donald Trump, who wanted tax cuts and more gleaming military hardware. Now? We mustn’t leave crippling bills to our children and grandchildren! How horridly gluttonous! How downright immoral!

How utterly laughable. The truth about most politicians and spending is that they’re for it if the outlays bolster their electoral fortunes and against it if the other side may have more to gain. They’re not in thrall to some fixed economic ideology. They’re bound to partisan rivalries and enamored of ideological fashions of the moment.

Remember all of those fiscally principled Tea Party candidates who rocked the Republican Party and swarmed to Washington in 2010? That didn’t turn out to be any kind of revolution. Many of those candidates, along with most other Republicans, exiled their thriftiness when President Barack Obama exited the White House, then embraced Trump in all of his profligacy.

But back to infrastructure and Biden’s big-ticket legislation. Over recent decades of congressional sclerosis, America has fallen behind and imperiled its future prosperity. We’ve no choice but to catch up, and catching up, I believe, will cost more than McConnell is willing to agree to. It may cost even more than Biden is pitching.

Or not. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the choice is between overdoing and underdoing. That it’s that clear, that stark. I’d vote for overdoing. We haven’t tried that in a while.

And my read of the American mood right now is that people are frustrated with the status quo and the timidity of politicians too focused on one another to focus on everyone else. There’s a hankering for movement of some kind — of any kind. There’s an appetite for boldness. Let’s feed it.