Saturday, September 28, 2013


         The Buddha once observed:  “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”   
         This quote occurred to me recently as I continued to watch the intense hatred against President Obama play out day after day in American politics.  As a longtime fan and observer of American politics and reader of Presidential biographies including those of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, I can’t recall any other President being subjected to such intense, unremitting hatred.  Bu why?   He is highly intelligent, a family man with no scandal hanging over him, with a beautiful, intelligent wife and two lovely daughters. 
          Roosevelt was despised by Wall Street because they saw him betraying his own kind.  Truman got his share of hatred, of course, and certainly Nixon was roundly despised by members of the Democratic caucus. So was Clinton to a lesser degree. Still all of these Presidents were able to garner across-the-aisle support on key issues important to the nation and eventually got a lot done despite many skeletons in their closets.  On the other hand, try to think of any support President Obama has received from the other side, even on important national issues that Republicans formerly had proposed, such as the Affordable Care Act.  Bet you can’t think of one.  Once upon a time, for example, construction projects that help create job and improve the nation’s infrastructure were slam-dunk certain to get immediate support from both Republicans and Democrats.  No longer.  Yet, the President’s jobs bill had construction and infrastructure at its core elements, but it was DOA on Capitol Hill.

          As the record shows, leaders of the House and Senate Republicans early on vowed to thwart Obama at every turn, and threatened to punish any of its members who cooperated with the Administration, even on issues that were in their own best interest.  This is not my opinion; that’s on the record.  And, to give the devil his due, as my mother use to say, they have been true to their word.  Senator Mitch McConnell set the tone shortly after the 2008 election when asked what the GOP’s priority would be following Obama’s election, he said: Denying President Obama a second term.  That’s a curious thing to say right after an election.

          When a crop of Tea Party candidates were elected in 2010 and 2012, things got much worse.  They now control the House of Representatives and are threatening to shut down the Government and/or let the U.S. default on its debt unless Obamacare is defunded.  In my opinion, it’s not so much Obamacare per se as denying President Obama a large-scale signature achievement like health reform.  The GOP is deathly afraid it will succeed and to keep that from happening are putting out scary, distorted misinformation about what it will do to average Americans and the economy.
          The Administration shares some blame for allowing things to get to the point for allowing its enemies to define it rather than defining the legislation early on itself and regularly putting out information on its main provisions and benefits.  But, still.
          Interestingly, when you ask people why they don’t like the President, some say he’s arrogant and aloof, a bad politician who won’t compromise and doesn’t like to schmooze and deal with Congress to help win over more of their support.  But, that doesn’t distinguish President Obama.   President Washington hated White House get-togethers where he was expected to make small talk; so did President Jefferson and countless others since then.  Some others say he is a closet Muslim. And despite massive evidence to the contrary, a surprising number of Americans still believe he was not born in this country. Nobody wants to say out loud “because he is Black” but that’s a major reason, and the major overriding reason.

          Recently, the University of Rochester published its findings about where racism remains the strongest.  Not surprisingly, it’s in the Cotton Belt and in other former slave states.  Seeing that study I thought to myself: I wonder where most of the Tea Party House and Senate members come from?  Again, not surprisingly, the vast majority of House members represent those same states.  Does this mean racism alive and well only in the South?  Of course not.  Look at the racial reaction to the selection of the latest Miss America.  Or check out the comments on Facebook when President Obama’s name is mentioned as the worst President ever. 

          This fruitless effort at killing Obamacare is seriously damaging the Republican brand and the GOP chances in upcoming elections, but these Tea Party members and other racist elements in the Congress don’t seem to care.  They keep drinking their own poison and hoping it will fatally damage Obama’s presidency regardless of what the long-term consequences are for its own party.  Hatred can make us all do stupid things.  That’s one of the reasons it is sometimes called “blind hatred.”


Thursday, September 5, 2013


         With its falling leaves and other signs of seasonal change, September is often seen as verdant nature’s way of waving goodbye until next spring.  But, I like to think of autumn as a time of new beginnings:  Our kindergarteners are starting a brand new adventure, middle school children are making the big jump to high school, presenting new challenges to themselves and certainly to their parents.  And many of you recently dropped off your children at college, a wrenching and searing experience quite like no other for both children and parents alike.

         For some, this is a time of adjustment to a new neighborhood and new schools.  Others to new love relationships.  To a new job.  In some sense, our lives are always becoming, regardless of age, whether we have just recovered from a serious illness or are mourning the loss of a spouse or partner.
         As in so many areas of life, poets best capture the spiritual phenomenon and the challenges of new beginnings, as poet John O’Donoghue does in this poem, “For A New Beginning:”

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”


Monday, August 26, 2013


        It’s puzzling to watch the Tea Party and others on the Far Right in their efforts to defund and/or repeal Obamacare.  Usually, when one political party loses a major political battle in Congress, it reluctantly picks up the pieces and moves on to fight another day.  But, not in this case.

         President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March of 2010 – more than three years ago.  And, as we speak, major provisions of the law are being implemented.\
         Yet, some on the Far Right are still fighting a rear-guard action by threatening to shut down the Government or allowing the U.S. government to default on its debt.  Some House members are even trying to find ways to impeach the President.   Moderate and center-right Republicans see these extreme efforts as foolish and counterproductive and want no part of them.  They remember only too well, for example, what happened in the 1990’s when the GOP-led House shut down the government.  Sure, the House of Representatives has held votes some 40 times to repeal Obamacare, but everyone knows these are symbolic gestures to appease the firebrands in their midst.
         So, why all this resistance by so many this late in the game?  As former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and others have suggested, the GOP resistance is not based on fears that Obamacare will fail, but that it will succeed.  That’s the GOP’s worst nightmare.  They see it coming and there’s no realistic way to stop it.  They know that even if the GOP holds on to its majority in the House in the 2014 off-year elections and wins control of the Senate, President Obama with his veto power will still have the final word.

         In the meantime, they have to put up a good face and continue demonizing Obamacare as a “train wreck” and unworkable and proposing desperate measures that have zero chance of becoming law.  That plays well with their base and they desperately need to solidify it.  At the same time, they certainly understand the only possible chance the GOP has to repeal Obamacare is if it wins the House, the Senate, and the Presidency in 2016 and that’s a tall order.  Moreover, by the time President leaves offices in January 2017, the early startup problems will have been forgotten and millions of Americans will have reaped the benefits of Obamacare for themselves and their families.

         Health care reform is something Presidents of both parties have been trying to achieve since the early 1900s when Republican President Theodore Roosevelt first tried to push through health care reform.  And now the first African-American President, whom the GOP has tried desperately to thwart at every turn for the last five years, is on the brink of implementing one of the most significant, far-reaching social programs in U.S. history, certainly the most important since Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.
         The long-term impact of this achievement will have enormous political implications for both political parties and that must send icy chills up the spines of Republicans everywhere.