Tuesday, May 29, 2012
presidential nomination today. This of course raises the second big
question in these things--who will the running-mate be?
I don't suppse anyone but the Romneys knows for sure, but the
consensus among the pundits seems to be that it will be someone we've
heard of, that John McCain's experiment with a likeable unknown,
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, didn't, after all, work. Michael Gerson, an
experienced Washington columnist, likes New Jersey Gov. Cris Christie.
I think he's a bit weighty for the job, but what do I know? Very
What is the job? During the campaign and possibly afterward,
it's to attack the other guys, but not so viciously that the voters
get mad at you, not them.
But over the job always hangs a question: if the worst should
happen, could he do the real job? I've always thought America was
very lucky that Richard Nixon's original VP, Spiro Agnew was forced to
resign (theft charges, as I recall) before Nixon himself resigned, to
be replaced by Agnew's successor, Gerald Ford, whom we all knew to be
a good and honest man.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Harry (Give 'Em Hell) Truman and one of his conclusions (correct, I
think) is that Americans like presidents who are fighters. I think
that's so. Franklin Roosevelt led us successfully through two of our
biggest fights--the Depression and World War II--and we elected him to
four terms--something that's illegal now. Truman took over when
Roosevelt died early in that fourth term and made some pretty big
decisions of his own.
He dropped the first atomic bombs ever onto Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, ending World War II. He helped found NATO and the United
Nations and made sure the U.S. joined them. He integrated America's
armed forces. He,,,well, I could go on.
As an ex-president, he came back to Washington often, always
stayed at the same hotel (the old Mayflower) and went for a walk every
morning, accompnied by a gaggle of reporters and tourists. Reporters
all knew the "hell" question, of course, but some tourist would always
ask it. Mr, Truman's answer never changed. "I never gave anybody
hell," he would say, "I just told the truth and they thought it was
Not much has changed here, sir.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
about life among our very Secret Service. Four agents, it says, "are
arguing that the agency is making them scapegoats for charges that the
Secret Service has long tolerated."
Oh wow, I can read the agents' manual now. First, it might say, get
to the hotel. Then find the bar. See if there are good-looking women
there. If not, the bartender may be able to suggest other locations.
Wherever you find them, talk to them. Be tough, be masculine. Then,
if any of you speaks the language…this was in Columbia, so that will
probably be easy. Nepal, now, would be tougher. Great views of the
mountains there, but of course you can't bed them. Once you have
found the woman and bargained with her, find a room. Yours, hers,
whomever's. If you need guidance after that, this column can't help
Oh, except--if you see a reporter, better shoot the slob, otherwise,
who knows where the story could end up? Could be it's not so very
secret after all.
Now comes word from an anonymous Secret Service spokesman that "what
happens on the road (it was Columbia, remember?) stays on the road."
I suppose both sides can claim some some right to military secrets.
The Secret Service is semi-military, I guess. And one of the
nicknames for women who ply the oldest profession-- though soldiers
and flacks are up there too--is "hookers." The name, some say, comes
from a general in the Civil War. Fought on the Union side, by the
way, and attracted a bevy of "lady" campfollowers.
Meanwhile, the Post reports a 2008 case in which a uniformed Secret
Service agent attempted to pick up an undercover cop posing as a
prostitute. Good hunting. guys.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
O let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
Langston Hughes wrote those lines years ago and certainly had nothing in mind like the headline in today's Washington Post. And yet, and yet....
The headline is "Minority babies majority in U. S.", and it means just that, that most babies born today are not Anglo-Saxons. Hispanics and Asians run strongly. That means it will be impossible for whites to feel like a dominant, in-charge group because they won't be. It means a young Northern kid going South for the first time won't see all the ugly signs that I saw--whites only, colored only, etc. The Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s took care of those, of course, but I think I wrote back then that we inch forward toward our goal of not being racist. This news is a very big inch.
So let's raise a glass--multi-colored of course--to the multi-racial United States that's down the road. Gods--multi-colored too, no doubt--bless.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
"How's the war in Afghanistan going?" the Washington Post asked General John Allen, the supreme allied commander there. He answered, "My instruction is to get the Afghans into the fight. The sooner I can get them there while I still have the time and combat power, the more I can catch them if they fall."
That's an amazing quote. If Afghanistan's allies' commander can get the Afghans into the fight, he's got a chance. Why do we have to get them into a fight about their country? It's their war.
Or maybe not.
An article in Sataurday's Washington Post is headlined, "Afghan armies' defiance grows." It goes on to say that Afghan commanders have refused more than a dozen times in the past two months to carry out night time raids the Americans wanted but which could have caused civilian casualties.
This is evidence of the Afghan commanders new power to veto operations allies like America propose.
A good question might be: what the hell is going on?
We are presumably there to help them but they seem not to want that help. This suggests a new American strategy for Afghanistan. It does not involve more troops or more helicopters or more of anything else. It won't require a lot of briefings either. You can explain it, in fact, in just one word.
President Obama has come out in favor of legalizing same sex marriage. This won't change anything right away. It will continue to be legal where it is and illegal where it isn't – which is most of the country.
Still, this may start some new discussion on an old issue. The United States is first and foremost a democracy in which we believe that citizens can decide many things for themselves without needing a government to do it for them.
There's a whole series of old jokes, one liners like: if you don't like cauliflower, don't eat it; it you don't like pool, don't play it; and on and on – meaning we don't need a government to tell us about these things. We are perfectly capable of deciding them for ourselves.
I believe same sex marriage of one of those things too. Often marriage, of whatever sort, is part of some religion. The Constitution is very clear on that point. The government should leave religion alone. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law repecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"
That seems to me to say that you can marry as many people you like of whatever gender all at once and it's none of the government's business. Now what the church of your choice may have to say about it is another matter entirely.
As noted above, same sex marriages are against the law in many states. Let's hope Mr. Obama sowed the seeds of change.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Sometimes in politics, you lose when you think you've won. That may have happened to Indiana Republicans this week.
In their primary they defeated their incumbent, thirty-year veteran Richard Lugar in favor of a new challenger, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, whom the Washington Post describes as a "staunch" conservative. I don't know; is there any other kind? In any case, it seems reasonable that Lugar attracted moderates of all parties, independents etc, who may be skeptical of the more right-wing Mourdock. Mourdock won statewide office twice but that was before the Tea Party joined the Republicans, perhaps driving some of the GOP into the ranks of the Dems.
You can still project an election this fall in which the Republicans win the Senate, but it's not as easy as it was before Lugar lost. He was a good candidate and a good senator. Mourdock? We'll find out.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Every once in a while – today is one of those times – I find myself wondering what on earth we are doing in Afghanistan except getting Americans and Afghans killed. I was reminded of all this by a Eugene Robinson column in today's Washingon Post called, "The hazy path home."
Robinson quotes President Obama as saying that we "went to war to make sure al-Qaeda could never use this country (Afghanistan) to launch attacks against us." Robinson argues that we've already done that and I would certainly agree. But deaths continue and American officials talk about keeping troops there until 2024.
I never was quite sure why we invaded in the first place. It was to crush Al Queda, I suppose, and avenge the 9/11 attacks on this country. But surely we've done that. Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda, whatever is left of it, isn't what it used to be.
You could almost argue that it's an American trait to get into these hassles without being a bit sure of how we'll get out of them. Our involvement in Vietnam, if memory serves, started because France lost a colony. 58,000 Americans died there. France never got the colony back. What on earth was the point of it all?
The Afghans have a history of resisting invaders – first the British in the 19th century, then the Soviets in the 20th, now us in the 21st. The Brits and the Soviets were smart enough, eventually, to leave. Can't we be that smart too?
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.
from Rudyard Kipling's "The Young British Soldier"
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
I've always thought James Thurber was the finest humorist of the last century. One of his essays has been on my mind lately. It's about a mythical newpaper reader who writes a letter to the editor complaining about her dog – wretched, lazy animal won't do a thing – doesn't run, doesn't walk, doesn't play, doesn't bark. Thurber's mythical analyst has a simple answer for the reader, "I think what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog."*
I thought it was funny when I first read it. Lately I've been thinking about it again, wondering whether Mitt Romney is a cast iron lawn candidate.
You know, just kind of sits there on the lawn.
But I've decided I was wrong. Mitt Romney isn't that kind of candidate. He the kind who actually hurts himself just being himself. The cast iron dog wouldn't have put the family cat on the roof of the car when they went off on vacation. The cast iron Romney wouldn't have said, "a couple of Cadillacs" when asked what his wife drove nor would he have said he didn't much worry about extremely poor people.
So he's not a cast iron candidate. So far he seems a cadidate who's just kind of lost in the woods. Maybe he'll find his way out.