Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Special Comment)
Time to Stop Compromising, Mr. President
On Capitalism - A Love Story: An Open Letter to Michael Moore
Goodbye, Mr. Bush
Breaking the News to D.L. Hughley
From Barack, With Love
What Now, Mr. President?
Special Comment: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
(January 22, 2010 - Amended January 24))
While I understand the compelling arguments on both sides of the decision in Citizens United, the net result is further perversion of our democracy - a hidden triangulation of powerful interests against the needs of average citizens, who are real and not merely artificial persons.
I am preparing an analysis and explication that will proffer various responses to the decision, and I am sure I will not be alone. One approach is shareholder activism. This approach was suggested by Justice Stevens himself, in his passionate dissent:
The Court’s blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process. Americans may be forgiven if they do not feel the Court has advanced the cause of self-government today. . . . There is yet another way in which laws such as §203 can serve First Amendment values. Interwoven with Austin ’s concern to protect the integrity of the electoral process is a concern to protect the rights of shareholders from a kind of coerced speech: electioneering expenditures that do not “reflec[t] [their] support.” 494 U. S., at 660–661. When corporations use general treasury funds to praise or attack a particular candidate for office, it is the shareholders, as the residual claimants, who are effectively footing the bill. Those shareholders who disagree with the corporation’s electoral message may find their financial investments being used to undermine their political convictions. "
Shareholders (many of whom are citizens) are the ultimate owners of corporate assets, though they often forget that fact. They have the power, if properly organized, to compel the corporations that they own to limit the level of shareholder money that can be expended on political campaigns, in lobbying and in other forms of issue advocacy. This could entail using the proxy rules promulgated by the SEC, which permit shareholders to call for a vote on matters affecting shareholders and shareholder rights. In addition, state legislatures can pass legislation that would make it easier to compel corporations (and other forms of organized entity), domiciled in their states, to allow a shareholder vote on the expenditure of corporate assets in political elections/campaigns. These measures would be needed because managers resist shareholder "meddling" in corporate decision making. It is important to note that federal and state initiatives would be required to make this work, as corporations are creatures of the various states.
Beyond these measures, concerned voters could force state legislatures to pass laws that would act as a drag on the expenditure of corporate assets on political campaigns. These could include detailed, mandatory reporting explicating the reason for and nature of contributions. Corporations should be forced to demonstrate that their contributions to political campaigns (or issue advocacy) have more than a tenuous connection to actual business needs. At the federal level, corporations could be required to disclose detailed contribution reports in federal filings.
There are, clearly, other things that need to be done now, at the grass roots level. It is no exaggeration to say that there is much at stake. Not only does the decision in Citizens United mean a clear and present danger to our democracy. It makes the thoughtful, historically-minded observer recall the roles that corporations played in the Germany of 1933 to 1945, and what President Eisenhower warned us about. Only now, it is not the military-industrial complex that we must fear, but a newer and more robust corporate-political complex that far exceeds anything that we have yet seen.
That said, what we need now is cogent analysis, not a shrill response, ideology, or sentimentalism. (We must remember that corporations play a vital role in our lives, and likely always will.) I am confident that that analysis will be forthcoming over the days, months and weeks ahead.
President Obama walked away from a single payer approach to health care reform because he concluded that the opposition wouldn’t support it. The opposition, including some conservative Democrats, attacked health care reform anyway. Mr. Obama walked away from a so-called “public option” because he felt that the opposition wouldn’t support that, either. The opposition attacked what survived of the plan anyway, and branded him with curious, if not just weird, labels in the process – “fascist,” “Nazi,” and “socialist” to name but a few. He added tens of thousands of troops to the “war” in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is supposedly “where the terrorists are.” The result: the Republicans still call him weak on “the war on terror” and a threat to national security. Mr. Obama poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system and into a stimulus package because most mainline economists and business leaders thought that was what was needed to save the economy from a downward spiral, and to halt the credit contagion. For that, his opponents, mostly Republicans but also many independent voters, are saying he is a profligate spender of taxpayer money – never mind that both the financial crisis and the credit crisis were in formation long before he took office.
It is true that major league politics is brutal, and no president is to be pitied for his cuts and bruises. Still, no good deed goes unpunished. All of Mr. Obama’s efforts to behave in a way that most would consider pragmatic and measured – and conciliatory – have led to his being cast as a big government, left-wing extremist, even though it is hard to see where there is anything he has done that seems in any way radical. The health care plan that rolled out of the Senate is a plan that relies on private insurers and private health care providers, not government agencies, yet it is called “a government takeover of health care.” The bailout of Wall Street was, if anything, exigent in the face of a cascading failure throughout the financial system – an odious necessity, in the minds of most analysts with both feet in the real world. And President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan are hardly different from those of Mr. Bush – unfortunately.
For all of his pragmatism and efforts at bipartisanship, Mr. Obama is pilloried by the left wing of his party for his approach to Afghanistan and for his compromises and retreats on other policy initiatives, and by conservatives for being “soft” and “unserious” on the al-Qaeda threat and for “growing government” (even though the Republicans have, in recent years, grown government at a rate that surpasses the Democrats – largely due to their spineless, yellow panic in the face of al-Qaeda, into whose power they have placed themselves, and us).
Since President Obama seems destined to make just about everyone unhappy (including himself) so long as he keeps pulling plays from the same play book, perhaps he ought to forget about his desire to “change the tone in Washington” and return, instead, to his progressive impulses and intuitions, but with the drive and determination of his predecessor, who thought nothing of throwing a few sharp elbows to move his agenda forward. It is time now for real resolve and real leadership, not a managerial, technocratic approach – the continual bane of liberal politics and governance. Mr. Obama must reclaim his vision for the country, and rediscover the backbone that he appeared to possess when he was voted into office. In short, he must please himself with his policy initiatives, for in doing so he will please most of those voters who elected him, and who expected a real change agent to occupy the White House last January.
On health care reform, President Obama should take off the gloves, and make it clear that a single newly minted Senator from Massachusetts will not obstruct the tens of thousands of person-hours that have gone into getting a bill in the Senate hammered into shape. He should forget about the mid-term elections (apparently having a majority of his party in both houses doesn’t seem to be such a gleeful fact anyway), and focus instead on what he got elected to do. If the Congress won’t vote on health care reform in the next thirty days, The White House should prepare a memorandum to the Congressional leadership making it clear what it finds problematic with the proposed bill, and tell Congress to fix those things in the bill that Mr. Obama himself finds odious – or risk a veto. Health care reform should be owned by Mr. Obama, not by a luke-warm Congress that can't seem to do what is right for millions of Americans who have no health insurance.
On Afghanistan, the foolish notion that “that’s where the terrorists are” should be called just that, foolish. Mr. Obama should cut in half the time for withdrawal from Afghanistan, with or without signaling the draw-down to the American people ahead of time. The “war” in Afghanistan is not winnable since, as with Iraq, there is no clear objective and no guarantee that the country will not devolve into chaos once again the moment we pull out our troops. Neither Mr. Obama, nor his generals, nor any hawks in Congress (who are always ready to sacrifice other people's children to ill-conceived wars) can give such a guarantee. Further, it is highly unlikely that Kabul, corrupt and incompetent to the core, will ever have the control over the country that would be required to root out elements that would export terror around the world. Another way must be found, a way that draws in the rest of the world to assist in thwarting the designs of criminals (for that is what terrorists are) regardless of where they are.
On financial services reform, the problem is that just about everything that Mr. Obama has proposed misses the heart of the problem – the culture of entitlement and rapacity that serves as the backdrop for business in that industry. A much more radical set of proposals is required – proposals that stress and question the basic assumptions behind the pricing of products and services on Wall Street, and of the way people get compensated. The lore and dogmas on Wall Street (and in corporate America more generally) go almost completely unaddressed in the Obama proposals.
What is clear is that, after a year in office, President Obama’s attempts to be all things to all people, to compromise with people who don’t believe in compromise, to play Solomon, will lead his presidency in the direction of failure. Mr. Obama needs to be who we elected him to be – a real change agent, if not a perfect one. It is true that expectations ran too high when Mr. Obama took his oath of office. Now, however, expectations are beginning to run low – lower than we might ever have imagined. If President Obama returns to his initial vision and passion for change, even if he makes mistakes along the way, he will be able to save his presidency, and deliver on the hopes of those of us who put him where he is. If not, he will play into the hands of his enemies, and fail.
On Capitalism - A Love Story: An Open Letter to Michael Moore (October 9, 2009)
I love the work that you do. People like you, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do a great public service. However, I have a few constructive criticisms, and I offer them as a minister, as a professor of philosophy (including of business ethics), and as a Wall Street consultant and executive. (It's a very long story how all of these can exist in the same body, but were you to hear it you would find it quite simple.)
Now I have a lot of friends, especially in the academy, who rant against "capitalism." I myself have no great love of Wall Street or many of its operatives, and what I do for Wall Street firms, as a consultant, is to try to help them comply with the law and address ethical issues within the firm. But I doubt very much that the target we should be shooting at is an "ism" - whether capitalism or any other. Capitalism is a system that is based upon certain assumptions of ownership, that markets should be free and fair (that is, that people should be free to buy and sell as they alone determine is beneficial - at least for the most part), and that the means of producing goods and services should be privately owned - at least for the most part). If that makes me a "capitalist," then I suppose I am a "capitalist," although I find the label narrowing and even silly, no less than I find the label "socialist" narrowing and silly. But I can't figure out why it is that one who holds the views just expressed should be viewed as "evil." For if capitalism, per se, is evil, then it follows that those who espouse it are in some ways "evil" as well.
There is nothing inherently "evil" about capitalism, and I found it unfortunate that you would use such a powerful word in your latest movie. One of my mentors and teachers (no lover of capitalism himself), Richard Bernstein at The New School for Social Research, in New York, wrote a book titled The Abuse of Evil. I think that you have abused the word and the concept of "evil" in Capitalism - A Love Story. If you are going to charge a system with being "evil," you will have to do better than asking whether Jesus would be associated with a hedge fund or a credit default swap. That gets us nowhere. For as I tell my students, when we play the WWJD game, it is hard to imagine that Jesus would be a Formula 1 race car driver or an astrophysicist or an NFL quarterback. Nor can I imagine that Jesus would be an auto worker, or documentary producer or a Wall Street consultant. What Jesus would or would not do is beside the point. He had his work to do, and we have ours, and civilization requires a wide assortment of workers to allow for its reproduction, day in and day out. So I think you should leave the WWJD stuff alone. It is only sentimentalism and base populism, and you can do better than that.
When my students in my business ethics class say things to me like "Who are you or anyone else to tell me how much I can make?," I write a fancy word on the board. That word is "axiology." (It is a philosophy class after all.) What that word has to do with is an analysis of our values and how we come to them. I then turn to the students who pose the question, the students who think that hundreds of millions or billions of dollars is reasonable "compensation" for a single individual, and I say: "It is not up to me to tell you how much is too much, or even a few of us who object to absurd levels of wealth. The culture itself will tell you, in time, and it is starting to do just that now. For when enough of us are convinced that a certain level of so-called 'compensation' is really just greed, when enough of us start to tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself for having so much when so many others are in such great need, when we no longer care about your arguments concerning your 'right to make as much as you can,' you will no longer be able to rest assured that you are on the right side of your society's values. You will then be forced to change. And at that time a shift in your culture's values will also have taken place."
Michael, if that is to happen, it will require more than calling a system "evil" when there are so many counterarguments rooted in the many successes of that system. Few systems are inherently "evil," including capitalism. I happen to think that the problem is a problem of values. I think that we have forgotten that there is something called "excess." I think we have forgotten that there are other things to live for besides money and material things. We need to begin to revalorize the arts, spirituality, quiet time, the sabbath, poetry, philosophy, thrift, generosity, and the disposition of gratitude for the things we have. We have to stop letting technology lead us by the nose. We have to rethink our selfishness. It is true that in a free market there will always be the incentive to consume, but I believe that values that provide a sense of proportion in consumption is a better cure than tearing down an entire system.
You are right, Michael. The dogma that we can only be motivated or "incentivized" by money needs to be exposed. For it is not true. It is a lie that reduces human beings to puppets who respond only to strings made out of cash, and respond to nothing else. People from Abraham Lincoln to the management guru Peter Drucker have warned about greed and the interests of business coming to take over all of civil society. Our banks, our brokerage firms, our auto companies are not inherently evil. But their managers and executives have forgotten that they are society's servants, with a mandate to operate which has been given to them by the people. They need to be reminded of that fact. This is why classes in business ethics and even in civics should be given more resources and more attention in our colleges and universities, the places where these managers and executives are trained.
I want what you want, Michael. A more just society. I don't want to see any more people thrown out of their homes, but I also don't want to infantilize people -- I think that when one signs a contract, as an adult, one should honor it, whether it is a mortgage agreement, an employment agreement, a car note, or an agreement to buy a pair of tennis shoes. Knowing that, one day, there may be a financial inability to honor it is part of the calculation on both sides. This notion of personal responsibility, what we moral philosophers call "agency," extends to other areas of life. When I assign your movie Roger & Me to my class, I ask the class a bunch of questions. One of the questions is: "Why did the people of Flint place so much faith in GM, when they knew or should have known that if GM pulled-up stakes, for whatever reason, or fired thousands of workers, the city would lose its tax base and that there would be few other employers to take up the slack? What kind of city planning was that!?" Michael, my heart breaks for those average folks who had to trade in rabbits in order to survive, for we all may find ourselves in dire straits down the road, having to do trade in our own "rabbits." But the fact that I have owned my home for many years, or that it has been in the family for generations, does not give me a right to assume that, given my contractual obligations to banks or to others, it always will be, always must be. One day, I might lose my home because I can no longer pay for it under the terms I agreed to. Assuming no fraud on the part of "my bank," the bank will have every right to reclaim it, and I will just have to move on. Your movies tend to infantilize the average worker, absolving him of his obligations as an adult, and I think that is a disservice to him, and to your audiences. Now, would I prefer new rules of the game, so that people don't have to lose their homes in times of trouble? Just like you, I certainly do. But even under new rules, adults will still be adults, with a duty to honor their commitments to others, whether those others are family members, neighbors, or banks. At the same time, banks and large corporations must in the future be permitted to fail if they don't honor their obligations, and this notion of "too big to fail" must be done away with. There is little doubt that Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms robbed America in 2008, and that story must be told and told from the roof tops.
I have a lot more I could say, but I think you get my points. While I agree with you that things have to change, I think we must be careful with the language of change that we use. I think it is dangerous when free markets and the private ownership of production are called "evil," per se, just as I think it is dangerous when socialism is called "evil," per se. I think it is dangerous to misdiagnose the disease when engaged in diagnostics. The disease is greed, and we all bear some responsibility for letting it infect so many people in our great civilization. Our problem is a problem of values, our endangered values -- the values of democracy and shared sacrifice; the values of true patriotism and mutual concern. What we need now, to quote Dorothy Day, is "a revolution of the heart," so that a revolution in the streets will be unnecessary. What we need now are the visionaries and the preachers and the thinkers and the statesmen who can navigate the country toward the more perfect union that I believe, deep down, most of us want.
Saint Obama? by David E. McClean
January 18, 2009
Barack Obama has a great load of expectations on his shoulders. He is the great hope of a marginalized people. He is the great relief at the end of the Bush years – years during which slaughter and ruins of various types were the hallmark of the evening news. He is the father that loves and respects his family, and who has no serious blemish in that role, as far as we can tell, and so he is now America’s "first dad." He is in a committed and loving relationship with his wife, as far as we can tell, and so he is now America’s "first husband." He is a progressive, and so the substantive and certainly titular head of the progressive movement.He is a populist, and can sit and break bread with the most simple and most ordinary, and drum up a sincere exchange without the slightest sign of discomfort. He does not come from what is called “society,” and so ordinary people can relate to him. He is a Harvard Man, which insulates him from the charge of mediocrity, and has provided him with a pass to the networks of power and privilege. He is a committed Christian, which means that he speaks the language of faith that the vast majority of Americans speak, whether or not they are Christian themselves. He understands politics, and plays the game as well as any we have seen in recent history. In magnanimity and political adroitness, he reaches out to those who disagree with him with a smile and calmness, while sticking fast to his principles. Is it possible that such a man will be able to carry the load of expectations that all of this “perfection” entails?
In case you have not noticed, we humans are funny creatures, full of contradictions, unable to understand even ourselves most of the time.We ask for someone like Barack Obama to come along, and then when he does come we wonder where the weaknesses are, where the chinks in the armor may be found, when he will come face to face with his tragic flaw, and stumble, or tumble, and fall from grace. We get what we want, and then we can hardly believe it.
And yet, perhaps it is not so odd that we wonder about Obama’s weaknesses. In some ways it is our democratic duty to doubt the goodness of our politicians, and I think Barack Obama understands that he will be doubted, that the near perfection that is ascribed to him is a predicate that he will not be able to live up to fully. I think he knows where his weaknesses are, what his flaws are, and so has surrounded himself with people who will remind him that he is not superhuman, that it is in part the spirit of history that ushered him into office, and not he himself, alone. Throughout the campaign there have been signs of this self-awareness, made manifest in self-deprecating remarks, in revelations about his wife and daughters putting him in his place when his head began to swell. And yet, understanding that you are in fact just a man and understanding that you also have incredible gifts is a tough balancing act.
So perhaps the best thing to do is celebrate this great moment and this amazing individual, while not forgetting, ever, the lessons of history – the lessons that tell us that all men and women are capable of visiting upon us stunning betrayal and disappointment, that it is sometimes precisely their status and stature that pave the way for that betrayal and disappointment, and that it is we the people, the demos, who often set the stage for that betrayal and disappointment. Barack Obama, President Obama, would be the first to agree. But that is not enough. Whether or not he agrees, we must not forget this fact, and we must hold him to account, and his feet to the fire. We do him no favors where we fail to do so. We the people, the demos, must never be beguiled by a smiling face or the reputation of any man or woman. Ronald Reagan's slogan, "trust but verify," as used with respect to our nuclear treaties with the former Soviet Union, is a good one to keep in mind when it comes to politicians, even magical ones. It can be paired with a new slogan - “support but insist.”
Barack Obama is no moral or religious saint, but perhaps there is something of political saintliness about him, if "political saintliness" is not an oxymoron. Someone who has cleared the highest political bar in the land to become president, while holding on to the common citizen with one hand and the power-elite with the other, showing that he has due respect for both, is no ordinary politican. If there is such a thing as political sublimity, Barack Obama possesses it in a measure that is quite remarkable. Today, he is a master politician, a member of the constellation of the other few master politicians that the country has been blessed to have guide it through both turbulent times and prosperous times.
But the election of a person that is a model of political perfection, the beneficiary of a collection of contingencies that shaped him for the office he is about to enter, and of the zeitgeist that set the stage for his arrival, is no reason to forget that he is but the highest minister, the highest servant, andis where he is so that he may wash our feet, and not we his.
As regards Afghanistan, I for one will be watching. For it appears that his policies there may be but a continuation of the Bush war, only bigger. Yet it remains, largely, a unilateral war. But it is not for the United States alone to rebuild Afghanistan or to ferret out terrorists that may be dwelling there. The shifting of so many more thousands of troops to Afghanistan is likely to do little more than bog this country down in another war, cost the lives of more Americans, and deplete more American treasure at a time that the nation cannot afford it. The hundreds of billions that will be spent there can be spent much better here, on the initiatives and programs that President Obama promised to provide the American people. If Mr. Obama plans to use Afghanistan as the way to prove his mettle as Commander-in-Chief, he will be no different than other presidents who used belligerence to burnish political bona fides. If Mr. Obama chooses to view the people of Afghanistan as pawns in a geopolitical power game, then he will be no different than those presidents whose foreign policy looked over the heads of the real people who populate the countries with which we must have relations. Such a foreign policy won’t do, since it incites resentment and hatred, the sort of resentment and hatred that set the stage for 9/11.
As regards race relations, I for one will be watching. Mr. Obama got to this point by not bringing race to the forefront of his campaign. He was wise in this regard. But it will not be wise to relegate race (especially structural racism) to a side issue during his presidency. This country must deal with the racial rifts between its citizens if it is going to be one nation. Beyond the ordinary sociological questions, President Obama should lead a national (perhaps international) conversation on the very meaning of racial categories, something that would go well beyond President Clinton's efforts on the subject of race.
As regards health care, I for one will be watching. Yes, we are in the middle of a great financial crisis. Let us not forget, however, that we have the tools to deal with that crisis – tools that did not exist in 1929. We will get through this, with lessons learned. But a budget is a moral document. If Mr. Obama ends his first term leaving millions of Americans uninsured still, he will have reneged on one of his most important campaign promises. That will not be acceptable.
Let us remember then, as we celebrate over the next few days, as we watch history being made, that Mr. Obama is just a man, that it is always a dangerous thing to elevate any man or any woman too high, for very bad things can follow. And yet, let me not end on a down note. For Mr. Obama does appear to be that president that we have been waiting for. The country, and indeed much of the world, has longed for relief from his predecessor, Mr. Bush. We now have it. Let us pray for President Obama's success. Let us pray that he is given the wisdom and the nerve and the strength to see it all through. As he himself is right to point out, he is no messiah, he is no moral saint, yet if we are right about what we see in him, he can prove to be a God-send nonetheless, and a great president.
Goodbye, Mr. Bush by David E. McClean January 16, 2009
Soon, the day that millions of thoughtful Americans have waited for will be here - January 20, 2009. As significant as that day will be as the day the first African American will be inaugurated as President, the day's significance cannot be seen for that alone. It will also be the day that the long nightmare of the Bush years will end.
There are those who cannot understand the relief that many of us - Americans and non-Americans alike - will feel on that day. They think our view of Mr. Bush is a kind of personality disorder, rooted in the ad hominem. Not quite. Our view of Mr. Bush has to do with our reverence for the office that Mr. Bush has occupied these past eight years, and has sullied in ways that make any of the Clinton scandals seem like minor indiscretions. We expect (we demand) that office to be occupied only by the worthy, even though history continues to show that this expectation will sometimes not be met. We expect that office to be occupied by someone capable of thinking his or her own thoughts, by someone who is capable of articulating American policies and ideals without bumbling and stumbling through streams of mangled sentences in full view of the world, and by someone who is capable of more than one policy initiative at a time.
Mr. Bush, in his final press conference, doubled-down in his erroneous and scandalous delusions, by insisting that America's moral standing in the world was not the least bit tarnished, that any view to the contrary was a fiction that existed only in the minds of "elites" ("elites" being those dangerous sorts of American who actually read books and newspapers and understand that policies and cultures, as life, are more complicated than the "non-elites" would have them. I always find it odd that so many "non-elite" Americans, as Mr. Bush might describe them in his capacity as "The Decider," strain and strive to convert their own children into "elites" by sending them off to college, where they will read books and newspapers and come to understand that policies and cultures, as life, are more complicated than they once thought - a process called education). This decision to double-down rather than to ask for forgiveness and seek redemption is characteristic of Mr. Bush's adolescent inability to doubt himself, or to fight back against the machinations of his duplicitous handlers. For Mr. Bush, policy decisions are just the sorts of thing that are not subject to revision or rethinking. So all of the decisions made to "protect the homeland" had to have been the right ones. The proof is in the pudding, thinks Mr. Bush. Americans have been kept safe since 9/11. Yes, the homeland has not been attacked since 9/11 (Mr. Bush's often touted success as President), but Mumbai should strongly suggest that it might, quite easily, have been - using guns and rounds purchased in Wal-Mart under the Second Amendment interpretation so doggedly defended by Mr. Bush and his supporters. And because this is so, I doubt that it is Mr. Bush's policies that have kept the country safe. Why there have been no further attacks on the scale of 9/11, in a country as expansive as this, is anyone's guess. I assign some credit to Mr. Bush, but not nearly as much as he thinks he deserves. In fact, Mr. Bush left so many holes in our homeland defense (ports security, chemical plant security, the ease at which weapons may be purchased, etc.) that it is arguable that it has all been, mostly, just luck. And one of the worst things that Mr. Bush has done is actually lead Americans to believe that they can be kept safe - which inclined many to give Mr. Bush a blank check and a free hand to launch wars and weaken civil liberties.
It is a dangerous thing to have a head of state who is unable to think his or her own thoughts. It is far worse than merely dangerous when that head of state is the President of the United States, of a country that just happens to be, even after Mr. Bush's doltish and immoral policies have wreaked so much havoc, the most powerful and most wealthy and most influential nation the world has ever seen. Led like a puppet down the path of jingoism by a cabal of right-wing radicals who, for a time, staged what was in effect a coup in the plain sight of all (with hardly a murmur from the demos, who were too busy looking for sales in the malls and finding new ways to go apolitical, to disengage from their duties as citizens), Mr. Bush signed-off on policies that led the country to war, that led it to slow our response to global warming, that led to unilateral departures from important treaties, that stalled the development of alternative sources of energy, that led to a near decade of new excesses and abuses on the part of American corporations (Mr. Bush did not understand the difference between being pro-business and being the harlot of business), that led to a widening of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, and that betrayed even the American conservative movement of which he claimed - both sincerely and falsely - to be a part. (It will be years before decent American conservatives will be able to recover from the pestilence that Mr. Bush brought upon them.)
So much more can be said here. But why bother? The record is so clear. When one hears suggestions that people like myself are merely irrational "Bush Haters" all one can do is shake one's head and, perhaps, think of Rodney King and wonder if our accusers have the same kind of visual organs that we do. For when we "Bush Haters" watched what we saw was America and the prestige of America take a vicious beating, and what Mr. Bush's supporters saw, somehow, was a series of acceptable and necessary acts. How such a different view of the same events and acts is possible will have to be studied in the years ahead, or we (or our children) will repeat the same mistakes that led to the election of one of the worst Presidents ever, if not, as some argue, the worst President ever. This is not to say that nothing good happened on Mr. Bush's watch. It is only to say that those good things are nearly completely overshadowed by Mr. Bush's monumental failures.
Good-bye, Mr. Bush. May God take you into his care and forgive your public sins, and keep you from ever again influencing the policies of this great nation.
by David E. McClean (From a sermon delivered at Peachtree Chapel, Hempstead, New York, January 11, 2009) Let me say something that needs to be said first, before I get into the meat of my remarks. What many Americans do not know is that there is a large and growing number of Jewish citizens of Israel who have deep reservations about the conduct of their government toward the Palestinians. It is important that we know this, because it is dangerous for those who are deeply concerned about the plight of the Palestinians to speak of what the government of Israel is doing as being done in the name of "the Jewish people.” There are many Jewish people around the world who object to the treatment of the Palestinians, and who are not revisionist in their recollection of history. They are those who seek justice, who put justice ahead of power, the justice demanded by the Jewish prophets of long ago. These persons support the idea and even the actuality of a Jewish homeland, but have reservations about the State of Israel as it currently exists and certainly as it currently behaves. For these Jews life can be difficult in their own communities, but they are speaking out nevertheless. They are on television shows and on radio shows calling for a halt to the persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people by the government of Israel, a government that (with the backing of our government) is what I call “Anti-Isaiah” - a government that calls too often to its people to beat their ploughshares into swords, rather than their swords into ploughshares.
What we have seen playing out in Gaza is nothing more than a continuation of what Jewish people worldwide refer to as the Shoah (literally meaning “the whirlwind”), most commonly called the Holocaust. World War II goes on in a different form. The psychological scars and wounds left upon Jewish psyches by the genocide that Hitler and his Nazi demons unleashed upon them, are understandable and run deep. Even today, it is difficult to hear the stories of the pogroms and the camps, and see the pictures of the bodies piled high, and still hold out hope for humanity. And with those scars ever felt, the Jewish slogan “Never Again” has come to take precedence over any possible condition that might lead to a new age of Jewish persecution, or any call for balance and fairness in how Israel pursues its objectives. Pure power is sought, for the Israeli government seems to believe, erroneously, that pure power translates into true security. The Shoah that was is being transferred onto the Palestinians in the form of what the Palestinians call the Nabka (the dark night of destruction, the catastrophe) - and these same Palestinians are those who many Israelis and supporters of Israel claim never even lived in the land called Palestine during the time that the Jewish state was being established in 1947/48. That is to say, they deny the very existence of those Palestinians, just as they rage against those who deny the Holocaust. The hypocrisy is palpable. They quote a few lines from Mark Twain’s TheInnocents Abroad and some later casual observers of the Palestine of 1947/48 to continue to propagate this untruth, the untruth that Palestine was a desolate land ready to be reclaimed by Diasporic Jews who had a biblical right to the land.
The truth is that there were hundreds of thousands of people living and thriving in Palestine, of Arab lineage and Jewish lineage, when the state of Israel was established. And as for the Arab Palestinians, they were merchants and farmers whose families dwelt in the land for generations. These same people were stripped of their lands, businesses and homes (which were often bulldozed) to make way for the coming Juggernaut, supported by the same imperial powers that have made the world such a mess today, the United States and Britain, and that claim to bring the world solutions for the mess they have made generations ago. As those Jews who returned to populate the new Jewish state took over their lands and homes, they were not seen by the Palestinians as merely "civilians," but as the vanguard of an occupying force. This must be remembered, for it goes a long way to explaining the mentality and actions of Palestinian freedom fighters (other people's "terrorists"- and for me both terms are rightly applicable at the same time), even though we may decry and deplore, as I do, some of their methods of resistance. We can understand without condoning the rockets and the suicide bombings that take place within the territory of Israel. The distinction between civilians and combatants got blurred because of the very manner in which Israel was established. You yourself might be hard pressed to view a family that entered your home and that ordered you and your family to leave it, backed by some power against which you were powerless to resist, as mere innocent "civilians." This blurring is not only the fault of the Israelis or the Palestinians alone, but also the fault of the imperial powers that took upon themselves the God-like role of deciding who shall live where, what they shall be called, and what they must accept whether they like it or not. The truth is that neither the Israeli government, nor the Palestinians see one another as mere "innocent civilians." And this deepens the problem and the tragedy.
So as we see the massive slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, and indiscriminate killing of men, women and children by American-made smart bombs and bullets and artillery shells aimed at apartment buildings, how are we to respond? Shall we simply say that Hamas started it first, by firing rockets into Israel? How simplistic that would be. What Hamas has done and is doing is deplorable. But what the Israeli government has done (and keeps doing, by engaging in sustained oppression of the Palestinians) creates the incentives for more rockets and more suicide bombings.This is the universal price of oppression. Now that the rockets rain down on Gaza, as each one falls to kill another Palestinian family, a new cycle of blood feud is born into the world, a new cycle of vengeance. All the Israelis are accomplishing is the further tarnishing of their claim to be a moral state, a state that is bound under the law of the prophets to seek justice and mercy, and is bringing upon itself and perhaps the worldwide Jewish community/communities the possibility of more slaughter, as acts of vengeance increase. For I fear that, with the pictures coming out of Gaza, a new front will be opened, and a new wave of true anti-Semitism (not the imagined "anti-Semitism" that is imputed to honest critics of Israeli policies as a censoring weapon) will be unleashed around the world. It is no more hard for me to imagine that the events in Gaza will radicalize those who heretofore have struggled against becoming radicalized, than it is hard for me to imagine that there are Iraqi adolescents who will one day take vengeance on Americans for what we have done in their land.
And what are we as people of faith to do and say? We have seen our own government radicalize the Middle East with its illegal and immoral war in Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands in the name of America, spending trillions of dollars (when all is tallied) of American treasure in doing so, and causing woe and misery for thousands of American families. This is the same government, under President Bush (soon to leave the political stage at long last), that merely abstained in the UN Security Council a few days ago as a vote was taken to condemn the Israeli incursion into Gaza and to call for a cease fire. The blood drips from the hands of our country. What shall we do as people of faith, as people who honor the Jewish prophets and the Christian saints? Is it not time for civil disobedience? Is it not time to deny that our governments speak in our name when they do these things? Is it not time for American Jews of conscience to step forward and speak up more loudly than ever before? I think it is time, whether you count yourself as a liberal or a conservative, just as it is time for Christians and Muslims, blacks and whites and Asians and others to step forward and lock arms with them. There is nothing about liberal or conservative politics that should condone imperialism and slaughter in our name. For surely, America cannot at this hour continue to proclaim to the world that it is the "shining city on a hill" that the Puritan John Winthrop hoped that it could be. Morally, regardless of our rhetoric, we are in a dark hour. The shining city has become an expansive moral red-light district, where too many knaves and jingoists roam the halls of power.
The time for self-denial and self-deception is over. As Martin Luther King said many times, quoting one of his own heroes, "truth crushed to earth will rise again." It is time now for some civil disobedience. It is time now to consider acts of resistance that allow us to separate ourselves from the killing and carnage unleashed upon the world by our government. For if not now, when? There are peaceful and non-violent ways to engage in civil disobedience. And we must begin to come together to formulate them, so long as our government and the government of Israel continue to kill in our name, to deny justice to the downtrodden in our name. There are also the normal mechanisms of political engagement which we must use to let our government know that we do not support, will not support, the oppression of the Palestinians or the manipulation of history to support Orwellian lies designed to erase the blood soaked steps that lead back to 1947/48.
Israel will survive. The question is not whether it survives - for it faces no existential threat, although its government's propaganda machine suggests otherwise. No, the question regards the existence of the moral legitimacy of Israel, a state that, as a Jewish state, purports to be founded around the prophets of old who commanded justice. Right now, Israel bleeds a gallon of moral legitimacy for every drop of blood that leaves the body of a Palestinian child. This bleeding of moral legitimacy is not something that Israel can recover from quickly. Soon a tipping point will be reached, and the goodwill that followed after the butcheries of the Holocaust will wane to a point at which Israel will be seen as simply one more imperial power, masquerading behind a mask of victimhood. That masquerade has almost run its course, and Gaza may be that tipping point which creates a new reality for Israel and Israeli propaganda. Thank God for the Jewish voices that are speaking out and speaking out loudly, many of which I saw and heard this past week.
If it means anything to believe, as people of faith, that God is watching us, we must not sit by and witness evil, and say nothing, do nothing. But likewise, we must make the important moral distinctions between Jewish people and the government of Israel, for it is not "the Jews" who are oppressing the Gazans, and killing them. We must be on guard against the sweeping generalizations that lead to the poisoning of our own souls. And we must not exonerate the methods and actions of Hamas or Hezbollah, as they send fifteen year old children to blow themselves to pieces in Israeli cafes, or lob rockets indiscriminately at non-military populations.
The United States has the power to end all of this if it wants to, by becoming an honest broker for peace. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are capable of ending this violence on their own. It is time to urge our new president to effect a radical change in policy, before it is too late, if it is not too late already. And we must remember too that the enormous amount of attention that we have given to Israel-Palestine, has diverted attention away from the problems in Congo, Darfur, Haiti and Tibet, and many other places where there is just as much if not more misery taking place. Let us not only pray for peace and justice, let us act for peace and justice, and do so every week if not every day of every year, and show that at least you and I have heard the voices of Amos and Micah and Isaiah, and stand on the side of peace and justice, and on the side of the best prophetic traditions of our Jewish forefathers from whom many of our religious traditions - and many of the principles that undergird our Western civilization - have come, and stand against the brute will to power of the nations, whatever those nations happen to be.
"..... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent mournful expanse.... a desolation.... we never saw a human being on the whole route.... hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country." (The Innocents Abroad, p. 361-362)
Breaking the News to D.L. Hughley by David E. McClean October 27, 2008 I’ve watched the first episode of CNN’s new show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. I am now convinced that irony has its limits, even in the cause of comedy. CNN’s latest show comes in the form of an hour of “news noir” that is supposed to be slick satire on the current American political scene. (It seems that CNN has concluded that comedic news, along the lines of The Daily Show, is good for ratings.) But this particular show, as and likely because hosted by Mr. Hughley, with his particular form of “keepin’- it-real” race-conscious comedy, actually turns out to be an anachronism, an attempt at slick analysis and satire that slips, effortlessly, in and out of minstrelsy. Hughley’s constant references to Barack Obama’s ethnicity, to “black folks,” to “white folks,” to “lay away” and to black folks being “broke” displayed how corporate news executives - not unlike music executives - can still find hacks, of various shapes and sizes, who are willing to squeeze out jokes at the expense of African Americans’ dignity and, in this case, are beneath the dignity of a self-described “serious news organization.” Last year, when comedian Eddie Griffin decided to spew out “The ‘N’ Word” at a conclave assembled at an event sponsored by Black Enterprise magazine, the magazine’s publishers responded to Griffin’s I-didn’t-get-the-memo buffoonery by pulling the plug on Griffin’s microphone and saying "We at Black Enterprise will not allow our culture to go backwards. Black Enterprise stands for decency, black culture and dignity. . . ." Likewise, CNN needs to pull the plug on this show, and for similar reasons. A comedic rendering of the plight of Freddie Mac is fair enough, but one that enlists the image of a black pimp is a sad and painful display of the paucity of Mr. Hughley’s cultural range. “Black House” jokes, after January 20 of next year (or even before), cannot be far behind. In my estimation, we don’t need them. Not now; Not now. It is not just that the country has, finally, taken seriously the need to banish the “The ‘N’ Word” from the standard lexicon (even if it is no more than a serious gesture of moral evolution), but the country has also evolved to the point of electing its first African American President - currently, something that seems a probability rather than a mere possibility, as was once the case. What is needed now is dignity, not minstrelsy. D.L. Hughley Breaks the News is just that -minstrelsy, spliced into and between hard news and interviews. It is minstrelsy that filters events through the lens of kitschy facets of African American culture rather than the hope and reality of African American successes of all types. No, we need not be overly concerned with well-placed allusions to race, even comedic ones. But Hughley's act slips too easily out of intelligent humor and into self-parody. The "self" here is not merely Mr. Hughley. The show is anachronistic. It is anachronistic because something has changed in the country during the past two years. With the ascendancy of Barack Obama, the focus on African American achievement rather than cultural kitsch, something happened - something spiritual and moral - that seems to have gone unnoticed by the execs at CNN. In a manner in which Malcolm Gladwell himself might describe it, a tipping point has been achieved - a tipping point that makes it harder to equate real (or shall I say “keepin’ it real”?) African American culture with kitschy allusions to welfare, "lay-a-way," and economic failure. One now winces where once one chuckled or guffawed - or at least this one does. Call me bourgeois, elitist, a parvenu, even humorless, if you like. Or perhaps what I am is just fed-up with black buffoonery that remains hell-bent on reflecting back at all of us, blacks, whites, and browns alike, the image of Old Master’s stereotypes as the perennial truth of African American existence and sensibilities. It may soon come to pass that we have an African American President. If so, he will rest on the shoulders of Douglass, Du Bois, King, Washington, Wells, Truth and Farmer, and the price paid to achieve it will have been nothing less than blood and souls. This is a holy hour, not a moment for foolishness. I realize there are those who think that nothing is sacred. I am not one of them.
From Barack, With Love by David E. McClean February 15, 2008 Dorothy Day once wrote that “the greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart.” It is the perennial challenge. To speak of revolutions of the heart is to speak neither of mere changes of social structures or mere policy plumbing, nor of Realpolitik, which is but the strategies and tactics that attend the art of the deal. To speak of revolutions of the heart is to change the subject from Realpolitik to the Judeo-Christian concepts of agape and caritas - it is to shift from crass political pragmatism to love and love talk. Unfortunately, love is a word that, in our culture, is relegated to Sabbath days, to churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. This is the tragic ghettoization of love that is, at least in part, the consequence of a badly conceived form of secularism that tosses out the baby with the bathwater, that marginalizes high and prophetic ideals. It is the ghettoization of the best thing that we human beings have going - our ability to transcend self-interest and love each other for the sake of each other. The purge of love talk and transcendent idioms from the public square has produced the cynical political space in which bad policies have flourished. It is worth considering how we may take the risk to free love talk from its various ghettoes and re-insert it into the public discourses about what is to be done - boldly, without embarrassment, without tentativeness. Love is not merely a religious concept; it is a ubiquitous human imperative whose application is equally ubiquitous. We cannot address, adequately, the issues of the day - of 47 million Americans without health insurance, or the “Two Americas” status quo that led to the “internally displaced persons” following (and preceding, for that matter) Katrina - by using the typical, weak academic or policy jargon with which we are accustomed. These problems require more than the cost-benefit analysis of neo-classical economics, or the discussion of “end games” as favored by career policy analysts. They require a paradigm shift. Unfortunately, the power of the word “love” and the potent meanings that attend it are often pushed aside as too simple, as politically or sociologically “uninteresting,” as lacking in sophistication, as mere sentimentalism. We underestimate, to the detriment of our hopes and dreams, the transformative nature of love and love talk, and their proper inclusion in the political lexicon. Great political leaders take time to recall that, when they are elected, their first duty is to act based upon a principled love of their constituents, rather than to merely master the art of the deal and personal political safety. Regarding the ghettoization of love talk, here is a case in point. On a broadcast of the NewsHour on PBS, the journalist Jeffrey Brown filed a report about the poet cowboys of Elko, Nevada. Brown engaged one of them, Mr. Wallace McRae, in this exchange: McRae: When you realize that your culture is threatened, you become much stronger and much more involved in being an advocate for that culture. Brown: And the poetry then becomes part of that? McRae: Becomes part of that because it's a way of telling who we are and what our story is and that we have a culture that has worth, that has value, that is worth something. Brown: Another reason for the poetry is to give these famously taciturn men and women a way to talk about difficult things? McRae: I don't think that I would be comfortable outside the confines of poetry to talk about love [for example]. You know. I mean that's very private. That's a very private thing. . . but I think I can put that in a poem. And it's safe. It seems to me that in the Democratic race for President some of the many layers of Realpolitik with which so many politicians are familiar have been peeled back to reveal the possibility that love talk might be moved closer to the center of American policy deliberations, whether domestic or foreign. When Mr. Obama, for example, brushes aside, in powerful oratorical thrusts, the old politics of exclusion and division, spoken in cadences reminiscent of King and Kennedy, he is drawing from the lexicon of love. One hears the rhetorical music of Lincoln’s “mystic chords of memory,” guiding us away from our scowled faces, our linear thoughts about policy plumbing, our scapegoating of one another, and toward our beating, hopeful, American hearts. A politician who seems to understand the duty of love is no ordinary politician. He is a phenomenon, a paradigm shifter.
We must take note, for one like Mr. Obama may not pass this way again in our lifetimes. It is clear that Mr. Obama, aware of the worst in our natures, is likewise, unlike any other candidate of either party, in love with the possibility of America. This is not to suggest that other candidates do not have good plans or good policy prescriptions. It is just that what is needed now is a conviction about America’s possibilities that verges on the transcendent. Only such a near-transcendent vision can undo the demoralization and cynicism that have been generated after seven long years of George Bush’s monomania, fear mongering and doltish policies, his plunging of America into a war that is still beyond comprehension, his pandering to Americans’ baser selves at a time during which sacrifice was in order. Like Lincoln, Mr. Obama is telling us what is possible, not what is improbable or impolitic, that "the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." But unlike a mere dreamer, what we have in Senator Obama is a candidate who has run the gauntlets of crasser politics, and understands the mechanisms as well as the ugly machinations of power. He is aware of the obstacles that are ahead. They are as the obstacles that he has faced in the past, and has overcome, against all odds. There is no doubt that he is blemished, that he is flawed and that he misses the mark in ways that some of us see more than others. But that would be true of any candidate.
Some Americans who have felt especially disenfranchised have said that they will vote for Mr. Obama because he is “the black candidate.” Obama, however, is not “the black candidate” in the sense of mere skin color. In America, “black,” like “white,” has never meant mere skin color, but rather it is a constructed category in a particular ideology of exclusion. Understood properly, “black” and “poor” and “Latino” are lexical tools of disenfranchisement, just as they are, ironically, embraced by those who wear these words as labels of identity. They may not be collapsible into one another, but they overlap greatly. To refer to the “blackness” of Obama is to refer to all predicates of exclusion and oppression, not just one. The excitement about his “blackness” is the excitement about the possibility for America to overcome itself so that it may become itself, which is always the American project - a project on hold for the past seven years. Mr. Obama’s “blackness” consists in this, not in his melanin alone. He is, as Ossie Davis once recited regarding another leader, - “our own, black, shining Prince.” But in the case of Mr. Obama, “black” has more to do with the arrival of every group to the threshold of the higher ideals of the country, whether former “Negroes,” or Latinos; whether native peoples, or gays. In Mr. Obama’s campaign, many hopeful moments converge, not the least of which is the hope of the majority of Americans, of whatever hue, to take the first, small steps into a post-racial America and to, in the words of James Baldwin, -“end the racial nightmare, and change the history of the world.” And Mr. Obama is so obviously qualified for this it is pointless to suggest otherwise. He is so passionate that it bleeds through every word in his speeches. He is so needed, that one would need to be as Oedipus not to see.
Oedipus Rex, as we may recall, is a tragedy. May we See what is before us now - which is more than meets the blinkered eye - while there is still time to See, so that we do not need to endure the pain of searching ourselves, some day hence, and ask why our eyes failed us when we needed them most. We should fear, otherwise, that there are, as was the case with Oedipus, brooches in our future. If there is to be “a revolution of the heart,” now is the time, and Mr. Obama is the candidate. Here we have a candidate who has made speaking of love - love across all sorts of lines of social division - thinkable. We will need to search ourselves to see if we feel ourselves worthy of a discourse that we so often applaud, meekly, in the various ghettoes where we have, for so long, kept our highest hopes under lock and key, settling instead for a parade of moral mediocrity and born again hypocrisy.
Swiftboating Obama by David E. McClean January 22, 2008
In last night's presidential debate in South Carolina we got to see a dredging operation par excellence against Barack Obama, and a lot of deep river mud was hurled between podiums. But the mud slung by both Clinton and Edwards against Obama should not be permitted to go unchallenged by fair-minded observers in an age in which we all have the power to check the facts for ourselves, and weigh in.
As for myself, I cannot sit by and watch a brilliant, prepared and historic candidate like Barack Obama get tossed into the cotton gin of the Democratic party machine, which is fighting to preserve a Democratic Leadership Council status quo - especially given the possible positive sea change that can follow on an Obama administration, not only with respect to domestic policy but in foreign relations as well. So here goes. "Present" Votes in Illinois a Dodge?
"Present" votes are not what Hillary makes them out to be, and she either shows a lack of understanding of the legislative process in Illinois or engaged in a deliberate distortion of Obama's record (ironically, similar to the way Kerry's record was distorted by Karl Rove in 2004). This was an unfortunate attempt to discredit Obama at all costs, as Obama himself pointed out. The following link leads to the Obama campaign site, but it lists sources to support Obama's claims about the nature of "Present" votes, and how they are used to position legislation in the Illinois legislature. You can check the cites and judge for yourself.
Clinton's claim that Obama was voting "Present" for political reasons is a curious one for any politician to make. It is widely assumed that her votes in the United States Senate over the past several years have been more about positioning herself for a presidential campaign than about core commitments to progressive values, which is why so many still question where Hillary Clinton actually will stand when it comes time to face down Republicans, should she be elected President. Was not her vote to give President Bush the authority to go into Iraq not largely a political vote, and the worst kind of political vote - one that would cost many thousands of lives and lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in squandered treasure? And what was her vote to brand a subset of an actual standing military (the Iranian military) "terrorists" if not simple pandering to hawkish and xenophobic elements in the country? John Edwards on His Criticism of Barack "Present" Votes
Edwards is on thin ice here. While it was unfair to suggest, as the Republicans did in 2004, that Edwards had the worst voting record in the Senate, his complete voting record still shows far more absences from Senate votes than Obama voted "Present" as part of a normal and reasonable legislative strategy, and Edwards's 2003 and 2004 attendance records were far from perfect. In order to vote on bills, whether hard or soft ones, one needs to actually show up. Often, Edwards did not show up. In fairness, many Senators can't make all votes, for a variety of legitimate reasons. But Edwards cannot talk about dodging votes when he has a less than stellar attendance record during his tenure as a United States Senator. Rezko
Obama was a junior lawyer at the Davis Miner law firm, in Chicago. The law firm stated that Obama spent very little billable time on the Rezko account. Junior lawyers don't get to tell law firm partners "No" when they are asked to work on client projects. As far as anyone can tell, there was no legal or compelling ethical reason for Davis Miner not to take on Rezko as a client. Many law firms have impolitic clients. There's nothing new about that. Whether or not Obama's affiliation with Rezko casts a cloud over him (and it may continue to do so - that's life), the notion that Obama was somehow in league with "slum lords" who were seeking to exploit the poor goes against the record of his life's work, and is even a bit of a slur. The full Chicago Sun Times story is linked here, and one can judge for one's self. Further, the financial difficulties of Rezko, for whom Obama did not work as an officer or employee, cannot be laid at the feet of Obama, however friendly he was with Rezko principals. After Whitewater, Clinton should know better than to lob bombs like this - unless, of course, as Obama says, she will "say anything to get elected." And if she (and Bill, whom I greatly admire) will now say anything to get elected, then we should take that into account.
Further, getting contributions from controversial donors (as Obama did from Rezko) is the bane of all campaigns. Hillary Clinton had a similar problem a few months ago. Or has she forgotten? This is from NPR (September 11, 2007): "Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton will return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from an embattled fundraiser. Norman Hsu, who picked up $850,000 in campaign contributions for Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., was arrested last week after tying to escape sentencing on a decade-old criminal charge." Further, Obama determined to purge his campaign coffers of Rezko donations. Is Obama a Right Wing Reaganite?
If he is, he has hidden it well. It is utterly absurd to think that Obama was "praising" Ronald Reagan or that he "preferred" Reagan to Bill Clinton. His whole public record demonstrates a fight against Reagan and Republican policies. His claim that Reagan was in fact a change agent (in contrast to both Nixon and Clinton) who took the country on a new "trajectory" can be called, reasonably, a fact - and a fact that has never been called into question by serious historians and pundits, even ones who hated Reagan's policies and all that came along with the "Reagan Revolution."
Of course, it was called the "Reagan Revolution" for a good reason. What Obama was engaged in when he gave the interview to the Reno RJ Editorial Board was political analysis, not praise. Judge for yourself by viewing the clip of the interview and reading a transcript of the exchange. When doing both in the context of Obama's politics and record, it is impossible to conclude anything along the lines of what HIllary and Bill Clinton have asserted.