One of the worst things that can happen to a legislative party is a split. They depend on numbers for their strength. When they split, as Republicans did over civil rights bills years ago, the party is hurt.
You can argue--I would--that the bills were good for the country, but the split hurt the party. The Republicans have a split this year too--generally between its moderates and its Tea Party members, its conservative core.
We don't know yet what effects the split will have. But it's there.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Low income families struggle everywhere in America. A story in the Washington Post notes that those who live here in Washington have we the second easiest time of those in any major city. Only San Francisco beats DC in comfort for the poor.
This is of course a story with all sorts of different implications. Do we want poor visitors because they'll like it here and want to stay? But then won't it be even poorer so we'll like it less and maybe leave? And if we leave will the newly arrived poor maybe leave too? And then could we come back? And then....Pretty silly pretty quickly, huh?
I don't know. I like San Fran but I'm probably not poor enough to go there. Besides, I live right next to a big old stall market with fishmongers and cheesemongers and, well, you get the idea.
So come grocery shopping, just don't move here, okay? Unless you want to be president, of course. Then you have to.
We have off-year elections this year. That means elections for the Senate--a third of its hundred seats up for six year terms and all of the the House's 435 seats, for two year terms. The District of Columbia won't vote; we have no representation in the Congress.
In a lot of districts the issues will be local--a bridge, an allegedly crooked pol. It will be harder, I think, for Republicans to make President Obama's person or policies be issues because he and they have been moderate,
I can remember when public anger was so strong here--during the Vietnam War or the Nixon impeachment--when perfect strangers would yell on the street at those of us who covered the news.
There's none of that now. It looks like a clean battle for November, followed by the big shootout two years later.
This city, Washington, is in its August daze--hot, humid and helpless, It maybe because I'm old now, but it seems a little more bearable. Baseball is an example. In the olden times, when this city's team was in the American League, its slogan was, "Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in the American League." Today the team, the Nationals, leads its division and may well make the playoffs. Imagine!
If you want an enduring image of lousiness in baseball, try the team I grew up with, the Chicago Cubs. Last won the pennant in1945, though even back then they had an outfielder whose nickname was "Swish" for the sound his bat made when it missed the ball. My Cubs last won the World Series--none of us was born then--in 1908.
I worried a little when this year's Chicago team was in last place, okay, but only ten games out of first. Shouldn't have, they started playing down to standard and were sixteen games out the last time I looked.
Lose, Cubs. It's what you do really well. And I'll pull for you no matter what. That is something I'm used to doing well.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Nothing like that happens any more, of course. Basketball deals in high digits; baseball, in shutouts. But nothing in sports offers both.
It's not that it's impossible now just unlikely and one of the reasons why our stogy lives can sometimes be a lot of fun.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Once upon a time a powerful country could say to a weaker one, let us in or we'll beat you up. Many countries, to survive, would submit. Now even smaller countries may have some nuclear weapons and be tempted to to say no.
Negotiating has never been easy and is surely harder now.
The only solution may be truly massive peacekeeping forces and even they may be truly at risk.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
This will make Republican politics more fun to watch, though probably less fun for actual, role-playing Republicans. "Got an ID card? No, not those ugly orange ones. Ours are bright red," and so on.
And if the GOP vote splits in the primaries, won't the Democrats have a better chance of winning back the House, which the GOP now controls? And in 2016? Three national candidates instead of two?
On a good day, politics can be more fun than cards.
I wrote the the other day about how difficult, maybe impossible, it is for the great powers to make or keep the peace. I didn't need new proof, but the headline in today's Washington Post is, "Obama authorizes possible Iraq strikes." Please, sir, not again.
The story says the U.S. is already dropping food and other good things there and that's fine. But please, nothing lethal. That's how these blood feuds start. You got us out of Iraq once, please don't make an encore necessary.
Enforcing our ideas of law and order in other peoples' countries seldom works well. Please know this.
Yes, the Middle East is a war zone again--Arabs and Israelis shooting at one another with the Israelis seeming, to this amateur eye, better trained for the job though outnumbered.
You want to think this can be settled but the odds are certainly against that. If two peoples are willing to kill for a territory, the odds on peace seem slender.
The odds against some kind of international peacekeeping force seem equally long. The warmakers would do awful, barbarous things the peacemakers simply couldn't.
I've been reading about the Middle East all my adult life. I may not have much time left, but I"m afraid it does.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Quivers in Ukraine. A passenger jet was shot down mysteriously. Today there are reports of two military jets downed.
These are reasons for worry, of course. We always have those, but these are not enough, I think, to fear that World War III will break out next Tuesday.
Vladimir Putin, and whoever succeeds him in his job, will presumably worry more about keeping Russia dominant in what used to be the Soviet Union than about scuffing with the United States. Barack Obama seems a moderate with no haste for a World War III. Let's hope his successor shares that view.
History courses emphasize wars; they're dramatic, but we have had times of peace and enjoyed them. Let's work to have more.
Londoners vote in British elections; Parisians, in French ones. Washingtonians? Our betters, as they must see themselves, allow us to elect a mayor and to vote for president--we are too few to matter much there.
But in the legislative branch, nothing. The District is allowed no senators--states have two apiece--and no Congressmen--states have from one to dozens depending on their population. The District has one token delegate who is not allowed to vote. Fair, hunh?
Efforts to change this require Congressional approval and Congress has always refused, jealous of its power and unwilling to amend the Constitution so as to share its power with us.
I do not exepect this to change in my lifetime.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
It's been kind of a quiet, lazy summer so far, which if fine with this quiet, lazy reporter.
My childhood baseball team--grownups aren't allowed to support them, they're too awful--are in last place in their division by, I think, nineteen games. Only recently they had closed to within ten, but they've gone back to work. Need to ask which team?
And it has nothing to do with work, but strawberries are coming back! Formerly wonderful, they changed to beautiful but tasteless. In recent years they've
started tasting like the real thing again.
So life goes on and getting old is sometimes even kind of fun.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
I saw a political column about Hillary Clinton's unofficial presidential campaign. One struck me as about right. Many more and we'd all be saying, "Why is she running so hard?" The job she seeks, after all--president, we assume--isn't available to the voters until the year after next.
In the meantime she wants, I assume, to look like the right woman for the job. She would be the first woman president, of course. Barack Obama was the first black eight years ago. If he could break one barrier, you can presuably break the other.
Avoid overconfidence is my advice. Remember that the Democrats had a sure frontrunner once before, Edmund Muskie. He disappeared and never saw the White House. Neither did the man who beat him, George McGovern.
Buy hey, go for it. It's a fun ride mostly. Ask your husband. And if you win, Lord knows what lies ahead.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
We had elections Tuesday, primary elections, so you learned which Republican Republicans liked, which Democrat Democrats, but not which candidate would win a real election. Still, there were hints.
An incumbent Republican senator beat off a Tea Party challenger in Mississippi; good news for GOP incumbents elsewhere? A Democratic Lt. Gov. won his party's gubernatorial nomination in Maryland but must face a GOP cabinet member in the fall.
Democrat Charlie Rangel of New York, who's been in Congress about since they invented it--no, only forty years or so--is expected to win another term.
Straws in the wind. Easy to catch. Hard to read. November will tell all. Well, mostly all.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
There's something unsettling in the air when the world's two strongest countries threaten each other with war, especially when they have enough nuclear weapons, as the U.S. and Russia do, to destroy the planet. We got through several of those; if you're old enough, you remember Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev telling American president John Kennedy, "We will bury you."
Nobody buried anybody but the talk was certainly warlike. This time it seems a little more civilized. Maybe we're just lucky. I hope I'm right.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Majority Leader in the Republican-controlled House, has lost a primary in Virginia and therefore lost his seat in Congress when the new one meets next year. People are talking.
Traditional, moderate Republicans always travel these days looking behind them to see if ultraconservatives are after them. With Cantor, they were. The Washington Post reports he lost to "an obscure professor with tea party backing."
The ultra-right poses several questions for the rest of the party. Can they beat you, as they did Cantor? Can they force you to join the Democrats to survive? Are they the GOP's wave of the future, and so on?
Party activists on both sides will try to answer these and other questions this election year, which will make it more interesting than it would otherwise have been.
Monday, June 9, 2014
People are being very picky about this prisoner swap--what was it, five of theirs for one of ours? Unfair, the critics say, dangerous, racist even.
Well, maybe, but wars, cold or hot or whatever this one is supposed to be, are not widely seen as a fair fight among equals. We are good, of course; they are evil-minded thugs. And why not return some bad guys? We save all sorts of things like patrol guard time, food and soap.
And we knew we'd treat their guys fairly; what did we know about how they'd treat ours?
C'mon...we got one of our own back alive and well. Let's cheer some, huh?
Friday, May 30, 2014
There are times when moderation won't work, of course. When Lincoln said, "This country cannot exist half slave and half free," he may have known he was invoking our bloodiest war.
The trajectory of putting a man on the moon or all men into the voting booth would have been different with out the extraordinary measures of Kennedy and Johnson.
When Franklin Roosevelt promised to heal "a third of a nation, ill-clad, ill-housed, ill-fed," he knew moderation wouldn't do it.
But mostly it will. We have problems with gun violence because have so much of it. Fewer with knife or hammer assaults. Moderate laws work there.
So I think we can look on Obama as a moderate, successful president with one of our two wars over; the other, ending; and the economy recovering – moderately.
I have no idea who our next president will be. But I think our national fondness for moderation is one reason the Tea Party won't score big gains this fall.
In Michigan, the ruling was delivered by a judge who took office when Ronald Reagan was president. Another, in Utah, from someone who had just recently celebrated his first anniversary as a judge. Both rulings allow same sex marriage. In Pennsylvania, where the ban was just struck down, the judge had all the previously disagreeing opinions in front of him when he ruled.
The Post pieces are longer than mine and probably better, but these few make the the point.
The next time anybody asks you if there's a trend going on in this legal area, feel free to answer, good griief of course there is. It 's as plain as the nose on your face--or docket or whatever.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Memorial Day honors our country's dead in all its wars, surely a fine idea, especially if the wars were worth fighting, as most of ours have been.
The Revolution? Of course, it gave us birth. The War of 1812 kept us alive. The Civil War? Surely Lincoln was right when he said we could not continue half slave and half free.
World War I, I don't know, all those kings fussing at each other, but the other side did sink a lot of our ships. World War II? No question. And Korea? Not much either though one scholar insisted the South struck first.
Vietnam? I never did figure out why we were there. Afghanistan? Iraq?
But there's a better reason for the Day. The men and women who fought for us believed in us and our cause and they therefore deserve all the honor we can give them.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
With Hillary Clinton looking more and more like the probable Democratic presidential candidate it may be time to knock off the old cliche, can women lead in wars? The answer is, sure, and win too.
History? Queen Elizabeth I: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too." She proved it by sending the Spanish Armada back to Madrid as damp kindling.
There are others--Amazon warriors beating up the boys; Joan of Arc; Catherine the Great; Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir. Mary I of England is another, but she may not be the best model with the nickname Bloody Mary.
And a second cliché comes to mind when we mention Hillary. Chasing has been a problem for Bill, but put that to rest by giving him a well-armed security detail. All-woman, maybe?
I don't write about history very often, but there's a story today I can't resist. It's about one of my favorite presidents, Harry Truman, and it says they are thinking about renaming Washington's railroad station in honor of Mr. Truman. This is a fine idea.
Mr. Truman liked Washington and visited often as an ex-president, riding the train, staying always at the same hotel, leaving The Mayflower every morning for a short walk. Reporters joined him and tourists, of course, surrounded him.
"Mr. President," a tourist would ask, "tell us about your nickname, Give 'Em Hell, Harry." Truman would grin, he had a fine one, and say, "I never gave anybody hell, I just told the truth and they thought it was hell." We'd all laugh.
Come on, guys, rename that train station.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
I don't write about tourist attractions very often but one reopened this week that is surely worth some space: the Washington Monument.
No, it hasn't been missing--can you imagine carting it away?-- but the earthquake we had some three years ago cracked enough stones and interior supports that they had to close it-- no visitors, just viewers.
Now it's open again offering some of the best views in town of our capitol which is, in case you need reminding, one of the prettiest around.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
From all the talk you'd have to think Hillary's a lock for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president. I don't see anybody else around but sometimes you gotta wait.
Let's look back. I don't know if you were even born yet, but anyway--- 1972, it was. There was this senator-- Muskie from Maine. He was a good guy, everybody liked him. He seemed a sure lock for that year, so he goes swanning out to Iowa were the process started, just like now, to begin collecting the nomination.
And you know what? The son-of-a-gun fooled us all and lost to some senator none of us had ever heard of, some nobody named McGovern. McGoo, as many of us reporters called him, was so awful he lost 49 of the 50 states in the fall.
Like I said, sometimes you gotta wait.
You remember earlier this year when we learned that our government was tapping all our telephones all the time, accessing our computers and e-mails. Some of us were very angry. It now seems the government may do something about this, though it is far too early for certainty.
The Washington Post reports the House may take the lead. Two committees are looking at bills, and while no one knows what will happen, at least we have reason to hope.
Editor's note: Mr. Morton says "we have reason to hope" that the House will act. This from the man who has pinned lifelong hope on the Chicago Cubs.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Washington is full of ill considered wisdom. You know, lines like "The finest Congress money can buy." But the people going around this week talking about Super Tuesday have got the adjective just about right.
Super Tuesday: 10 states; 437 Republican convention delegates. Enough to nominate a presidential candidate? No, that takes 1144. But still, it's a very big chunk especially when the Washington Post estimates that Mitt Romney so far has 150 delegates and Rich Santorum, 87. Newt Gingrich, according to the Post has 29 and Ron Paul, 18 – fanatics, yes, but they won't quit.
Will anybody clinch the nomination tomorrow? No, but if Romney finishes second in the ten states, his position as frontrunner will be badly damaged even if he has the most pledged delegates. If Santorum wins, he'll start claiming frontrunner status even though Romney may still lead in the delegate count. Newt Gingrich? Ron Paul? Never mind.
The crown jewel of the ten states up is Ohio with 63 delegates. Republican pollster Whit Ayers says if Santorum wins Ohio, "I don't know that he has to win a whole lot of other states to keep it going." If Romney wins Ohio, Gingrich takes Georgia and Santorum wins Tennessee and Oklahoma, Ayers says, "then it becomes what a bunch of people have written about – a long, delegate slog."
Pretty well considered, I'd say.
Lots of worries these days sized for the season, not full-grown, you know: will Russia and Ukraine go to war over Crimea; should the U.S.worry about China;
have we messed up in Syria; and so on.
I was going to add, can the Chicago Cubs escape last place in the National League, but there's no point worrying about things you can't control. But of course the Cubs don't matter as much as the fate of nations.
One other thought: an ABC poll out today shows President Obama's popularity at its lowest ever. I don't believe that's deserved. He solved one war out of two and has improved the economy. That does't sound so bad to me.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Reading the news stories from Kiev these days reminds me of history--small insult followed by small insult until most of Europe blundered into World War I, the war to end all wars." Or Adolf Hitler pouncing on countries too weak to resist him--Holland, Belgium, it's a long list--until he finally ran into one that wasn't--the Soviet Union. That was World War II, of course.
Since then, we've managed to avoid a third World War because of a frightening truth--that if we all go to nuclear war could we blow up the planet. And even if everyone started the war non-nuclear, wouldn't the losers at some point likely change the rules? And then wouldn't we all? We are not at the end of the road.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
They've been playing baseball over a week now, surely time enough for some unprovable generalizations about the season to come.
First, the Yankees are in first place in the American League East. Once upon a time you could have written that this early about any year with confidence. Only that time is now gone. Its great names--Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle--are history. Only Derek Jeter remains a star, and he's said this is his final year.
The Mets, New York's "other" team since the wonderful Brooklyn Dodgers slid into history, is in the middle of the pack. In truth, of course, it's too early to know anything. Well, except for one thing.
The Chicago Cubs--hopelss, hapless, helpless as I like to call them--were at the bottom of their division last year. I just know they'll hold on to that, don't you? Some things you can just count on year after year.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
I'm not sure how travelers judge world capitals. London would win grandest, I expect; Paris, most romantic. But there's a very pretty tree just in front of my building which might win most charmimg, prettiest, ethereal, something like that, for my city.
The tree is a flowering cherry, one of hundreds exploding all over the city in flowers of every dazzling shade of pink. They came from Japan oringinally but they now say Washington as authentically as any of those duller symbols like the Capitol.
The flowers teach of the sweetness of life. Come share it if you can. It won't last long. The blooms vanish in a trice, petals carried on a breeze. Pay a visit if you can. Your lasting souvenir will be memories of genuine magic. How many cities can offer that?
Saturday, April 5, 2014
As a reporter I have covered half a dozen foreign wars and one American one, Vietnam. I know that if you go to them, you see awful things. Some people react very badly to them which is why the headline in the paper—"gunman wasn't seen as a threat," did not surprise me. I refer, of course, to the shooting at Fort Hood this week.
He was a veteran of Iraq. The morning paper says he was getting help, psychiatric help. But it obviously didn't help enough.
I don't know how much all that care costs, But we all know guns and planes cost miillions and we surely know that the young people who fight our wars are the most precious things we have,
Until we stop sending our children to wars, let's spend all we can--all, if we're lucky, they will need.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Something unusual seems to be happening--a major government program has been introduced and seems to be working well. I refer, of course, to President Obama's health care plan...ACA or Obamacare.
I guess they blew the introduction in a pretty big way; the newspapers were full of stories about blunders. But have you noticed how the tone has changed lately? Stories now are about enrollment beyond predictions – seven, eight million or nine or whatever. I’m guessing it's the kind of publicity for the kind of program that a president concerned about the government's social role would have liked from day one.
And while it's true that the US is very up to date in lots of things, we are the only major industrial power whose people do not have some kind of national health insurance…until now
Maybe, just maybe, the times they are a'changin'.
Monday, March 31, 2014
You probably remember--I know I do--the news a few weeks ago that the government, through the National Security Agency, was tapping every telephone in America.
The President already knew, of course. I could imagine him listening to cozy clips of an evening--a love affair, a stock tip, whatever. But maybe he got bored.
Now, the Washington Post reports, the president is going to ask Congress to pass a bill which would limit his own (well, the NSA's ) authority to tap.
(Pardon me for a moment while I recover from the thought of asking Congress to pass anything!)
Couldn't he just do it himself? He seems to think not. Meanwhile, the taps are tapping. Isn't this a funny place?
Sunday, March 30, 2014
I suspect that few things are harder for the leaders of democracies than fighting or preparing for wars. Our president, Barack Obama, has no experience at preparing for them, not much at fighting them. That may be changing.
Vladimir Putin of Russia seems to have conquered Crimea. How much further his dreams of reconstituting the old Soviet Union go remains to be seen. If it's any distance at all, the West will have to do something about it, probably fight.
How eager a warrior Putin is, we'll have to see.
We'll have to see about ourselves too. Let's hope we're ready.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
I was a little child when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria. It was only from reading later that I learned he justified his conquest by saying it was really one country anyway, the same language and so on. Vladimir Putin could use the same arguments, I suppose. The headline in the morning paper has him saying Crimea is part of Russia.
The easiest time to stop Hitler, probably, would have been early, but nobody wanted to. Leaving it to later cost millions of lives.
So should the West go and hit Putin hard now? I can't imagine it--drop atomic bombs on a country that could drop them back? I can't imagine a Congress that would put its job on the line to do that.
Assassination--as in Osama bin Laden--might work but it's doubtful—he's too well protected.
If Putin really sees himself as the new Stalin, really wants to reconstitute the vast old empire, the rest of us face some very hard choices. We should start thinking about them soon.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It's election time – or at least the beginning or it. Early primary voting started on St Patrick's Day in Washington. You first class citizens are electing Congressmen and Senators; we second class citizens here in the District of Columbia are electing a mayor and some city council members. That's about all that you real Americans let us elect. Well, we have one non-voting representative to Congress. That word, non-voting, says a good deal about that.
Most of us bear our deprivation silently but some bleat protests. It is a sad thing in a democracy to bleat to no avail.
The District Board of Elections has published a Voter Guide full useful information--where to vote and when, a good list of the candidates with their bios, and so on. But there is room in it for fantasy too.
Some candidate bios list people--real or not, I don't know--running for imaginary offices. "Senator" is popular. Those candidates have little bios, just like the City Council guys except that, of course, they are running for imaginary offices.
Wow. Maybe you should visit here and run. Can't hurt much to lose, though I have no idea what you get if you win. All in your fantastical mind, I suppose.