Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


As I may have mentioned before, I sometimes read more than one book at a time. On second thought, who remembers what I may have mentioned before on my blog? Since I post seldom and irregularly now, I probably have very few readers. Along with books, I read magazines and newspapers. My present reading includes four books, one of which is a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson, a favorite novelist of mine. Robinson writes beautifully, but her writing is dense with meaning and demands attention. Every word counts, so don't expect a quick read.

I've read and enjoyed all four of her novels, a couple more than once. The titles are Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila. I fell in love with the character Jack in Home. He's flawed and causes hurt to people who love him, but I sense an innate goodness and sweetness in Jack that is, sadly, all too often overcome by the flaws in his character.

My friend Susan sent me two collections of Robinson's essays, most of which originated as lectures at universities. The titles are The Givenness of Things and What Are We Doing Here? Both collections are excellent. The latter collection includes an essay on Barack Obama and his time in office that was first published in The Nation.

The essay on Obama is brilliant and insightful and holds a place as the best writing on the former president that I have read to date. Below is an excerpt from the essay on Obama. You can read the entire essay at the link above.
I have had a singular relationship with President Obama. I cannot imagine a greater honor than his having called me his friend, but if I call our relationship more than meaningful acquaintance, I might suggest a degree of personal familiarity that I cannot claim. We have had conversations. His expressed interest in my work has had a marked effect on my career, very marked in Europe because he is held in such high regard there. The association of his name with mine abroad has let me see him as he is seen where the miasmas of polemic do not obscure him: as a gracious, good, and brilliant man. There, he is a vindication of American democracy, while here, every means has been tried to deny the public the consequences of having chosen him.

Saturday, September 1, 2018


I watched part of the McCain funeral service at the National Cathedral this morning. I could have done without Joe Lieberman and Henry Kissinger, but I didn't get to choose the speakers, nor should I. Obama was wonderful, but he always speaks beautifully. He made me shed a tear or two.

What does it say about the rotten state of the country when I feel the slight trace of a twinge of nostalgia for George W Bush?

Further ruminations about speaking of the dead led me to think that if public words must be spoken soon after the death that we look for moments of grace in the lives of the deceased. Find those moments, many or few though they may be, and speak of them. History will judge the rest.

Then I thought about Trump, and I couldn't come up with a single moment of grace in his public life. As I pondered further, I became angry, more so at Trump enablers than at Trump.  El Naranja Grande is such an impaired human being that I'm certain he is incapable of change. He must be restrained.

Thus the duty falls to people in government and citizens outside government who have a measure of power to exercise that power to restrain Trump and protect what's left of our democratic institutions. The people of the country and, indeed, the entire world deserve no less than protection from further damage inflicted by a president with such grave impairments.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm in no way letting Trump off the hook, but no thinking person looks to him as having a part in rooting out the rot in the country. I'm furious at the enablers, the American Vichyites, who failed and still fail so miserably to do their duty.

Thus endeth my ruminations.


For all his flaws, and he had many, I believe John McCain cared about our country. The symbolism of his requests to former presidents Barack Obama, a Democrat, and George W Bush, a Republican, to speak at his funeral seems powerful to me. He campaigned for the presidency against both men and lost. I believe at the end of his life he wished for Americans to come together, not at all an ignoble wish.

May God give comfort, consolation, and peace to all who love John.

The Big Orange Divider-in-Chief was not welcome at the funeral.

Friday, October 13, 2017


From Diana Butler Bass on Facebook:
Dear Friends,

It is important that we remember the actions of these days and learn.

This is what it looks like when angry white people use a "democratic" process to wipe the memory and achievement of an honorable and successful black man from history. The drive to do away with him is so powerful that the "base" is willing to sacrifice their own to a life of no access to health care and potentially destroy the entire planet.

This is what it looks like when vengeance is the primary purpose of politics.

Do not forget these days. Because they are, for many, the opportunity to see what they never saw. The evil of the days can serve to awaken. Even after "he" is no longer president. Because until we deal with the depth of race and hierarchies and violence, this will continue.

Today, take a moment and be grateful for those who see clearly, who work with heart and passion for renewed practices of inclusion and true democracy in this, our national home.

I invite you to name some of those people here. Those who embody joy and justice in the midst of all of this.

Yours, Diana
Bass speaks truth with eloquence. The first names that come to mind are Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama. The inclusion of "joy" makes it more difficult to think of others, but the word belongs. Gratitude is quite often difficult for me, but Bass is right to include the word "grateful" in her letter.

Friday, July 29, 2016


The GOP and others on TV and the internet remind us early and often about polls that show large numbers of people in the US believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Keep in mind that our president is not a dictator, and Republicans will have held the majority in both houses of Congress for six years of the president's two terms in office.

Republicans were determined to make Obama a one term president from the day he took office. They failed and were angry and frustrated and further motivated to block nearly every initiative the president put forward to Congress, even to the extreme of shutting down the government when they didn't get what they wanted.

At this moment, it's hard to believe that no matter which party held the presidency and the majorities in Congress, the two parties once worked together to govern the country. The list of things left undone when Obama leaves office would be much shorter if he'd had even a minimum of cooperation from Republicans in Congress.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


From Informed Comment:
On a 36-month schedule for “destroying” ISIS, the president is already ceding his war to the next president, as was done to him by George W. Bush. That next president may well be Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state as Iraq War 2.0 sputtered to its conclusion. Notably, it was her husband whose administration kept the original Iraq War of 1990-1991 alive via no-fly zones and sanctions. Call that a pedigree of sorts when it comes to fighting in Iraq until hell freezes over.

If there is a summary lesson here, perhaps it’s that there is evidently no hole that can’t be dug deeper. How could it be more obvious, after more than two decades of empty declarations of victory in Iraq, that genuine “success,” however defined, is impossible? The only way to win is not to play. Otherwise, you’re just a sucker at the geopolitical equivalent of a carnival ringtoss game with a fist full of quarters to trade for a cheap stuffed animal.
In his televised address on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, President Obama said, "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy." and, "...we will not get dragged into another ground war."  Whatever the label for the present war, it is now Obama's war. I thought it right that the US helped to rescue the Yazidis from the mountain where they were trapped and that we provide assistance and military equipment to the Kurds, who seem to me the sanest people in the territory, but we should stop there. Is anyone thinking through to possible consequences of bombing in Iraq and now in Syria?

What will happen if a pilot is shot down and captured by ISIL, and the worst happens? Surely there will be cries for further escalation. Turkey has taken in over 1 million refugees. Are we willing to welcome refugees from Syria and Iraq whose homes are destroyed by our bombs or who flee from their homes for fear of being bombed? While it's true that we created a number of the problems in Iraq, I don't see how bombing, killing, and wounding more Iraqis will solve them. ISIL is a brutal organization, but what is the end game? How will we know when ISIL is defeated?  What if ISIL is not destroyed in 36 months?

Iraq, as a country, was cobbled together by British colonial powers after WWI.  Kurds and Shi'ites tried to break away at the time, but the colonial powers quelled the revolt.  Sunni/Shi'ite divisions go further back than the colonial period.  Despite past interventions by Western powers, we cannot now fix the troubles in the Middle East.  In Iraq, the center will not hold, no matter how many bombs we drop, but the destruction proceeds, and who knows how or when it will all end?  We can be certain the end will not come before more innocents are killed, wounded, or driven from their homes.

Monday, September 8, 2014


“We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL,” Obama said, using the government’s acronym for the Islamic State and referring specifically to its sanctuary in Syria. “The moderate coalition there is one that we can work with. We have experience working with many of them. They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned, and that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively.
Who the hell are the moderates in Syria that will be trustworthy allies, Mr President? Good luck with finding them and keeping them as allies.

Oh wait! We can relax now. The CIA is on the case.
There are indications that the hard work to build such a force is already underway, overseen by the CIA, despite remarks by Obama last month disparaging the moderate U.S.-backed Syrian opposition as “doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth.”
Where's an eye-roll emoticon when you need one? 

To intervene in Syria would be escalation on a scale that I would not want to see. We've not been asked. We'd be fighting ISIL, but would that mean Assad suddenly becomes our ally?  Before the rapid territorial advances of ISIL in Syria, we wanted Assad out. In today's speak, we were for Assad before we were against him. Are we once again to be for him? I can't keep up.

If we are going to be in a state of perpetual war, we need to reinstitute the draft, with everyone of suitable age eligible for call to duty, and no exemptions except for those with physical or mental disabilities.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Dexter Filkins in a blog post in The New Yorker:
For many months, the Obama and Maliki governments talked about keeping a residual force of American troops in Iraq, which would act largely to train Iraq’s Army and to provide intelligence against Sunni insurgents. (It would almost certainly have been barred from fighting.) Those were important reasons to stay, but the most important went largely unstated: it was to continue to act as a restraint on Maliki’s sectarian impulses, at least until the Iraqi political system was strong enough to contain him on its own. The negotiations between Obama and Maliki fell apart, in no small measure because of a lack of engagement by the White House. Today,many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now Iraq. Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and theywould become your partners.” President Obama wanted the Americans to come home, and Maliki didn’t particularly want them to stay.
My comment in response to the post:
Dexter, years ago, I read your brilliant articles in the New York Times when you covered the Battle of Fallujah,  and I sent you emails commending you for your courage and honesty in reporting on the battle.  You answered my emails and we corresponded for a while.  I know you know Iraq far better than I do and that you came to care for the welfare of the Iraqi people while you reported from their war-torn country.

Still, I am shocked and surprised that you blame Obama's "disengagement" from Iraq for part of the killing and chaos we see today.  The president inherited a papered-over chaotic mess.  The Bush/Cheney administration wrecked the country, and there was no way Obama could have fixed the situation.  You'd have to make the case for me that a few hundred or even a few thousand US military left in the country would have made a difference.

You say:

Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and they would become your partners.”

Why would you take these words at face-value?  Maliki wanted us out, and we wanted out, so a very strong case would have had to be made to both sides to keep our military there.  Now it's all gone bad, and Maliki wants us back.  As others have already said, Iraq is three countries which were grouped into one geographical mass by foreign powers, and the movement now is strongly toward break-up.  I fail to understand how a small group of American military could make a difference, and I fail to see how the Obama administration is to blame.

When we send arms to Syria, we are not sure whom we are arming, nor are we certain where the arms will end up.  The same will be true in Iraq, and we end up arming opposing forces in both countries.

I wondered where the war-mongering neo-cons, who are now nipping at Obama's heels, got their talking points, and I thought it was pure made-up let's-get Obama-at-any-cost talk because an election approaches, but, to my great disappointment, I see one answer in this blog post, alas.

Monday, January 6, 2014


This is rich. The chaos in Iraq is Obama's fault. 
More than two years after the administration failed to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq and withdrew all American combat troops from the country, the two senior Republican senators are blaming President Barack Obama for the violence erupting there this week.
Oh, and Syria, too. 
"[The administration] has sat by and refused to take any meaningful action, while the conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives, driven a quarter of the Syrian population from their homes, fueled the resurgence of al Qaeda, and devolved into a regional conflict that now threatens our national security interests and the stability of Syria's neighbors, especially Iraq," they said.
Send in the troops! Let the two old soldiers be the first to set foot on the ground in Iraq. Wait! One to Iraq and the other to Syria. Take your choice, fellas. You'll set things right in no time.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


The absolute worst mistake Obama has made as president came back in 2011 when Republicans first pulled this stunt. At that time, Obama desperately wanted a bargain over long-term fiscal policy. So he tried a bit of too-clever-by-half political jujitsu in which GOP debt ceiling hostage taking became a pretext to start negotiations over long-term budgeting. All manner of evils have fallen forth from that fateful decisions, including an economic weak patch in 2011 the ongoing mess of sequestration, and worst of all the setting of a precedent for future crises. The good news is that the White House recognizes they made a mistake, and the last time Republicans tried to pull this they didn't give in. And they can't give in now. Not even a little bit. A terrible monster was let out of the box in 2011 and the best thing Obama can possibly do for the country at this point is to stuff it back in and hopefully kill it.
Matt Yglesias is correct.  The Republican sharks smelled blood, and they have never let up trying to repeat that success.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans in the US Congress, who make much of personal responsibility when the matter under discussion is programs for the neediest among us, think it's right and proper for the federal government of the United States to default on debts that are owed, an occurrence which has never happened before in the history of the country.  Why is paying our debts a matter of controversy?

Monday, September 16, 2013


How sad it is when Democrats who elected Barack Obama must remain in constant campaign mode to convince the president that many of us who helped put him in office do not want him to repeat the mistakes of the past. The recent (and barely avoided) mistakes that I have in mind are the launch of another war in the Middle East and the appointment of Larry Summers to a position of authority that has anything whatsoever to do with managing the economy of the United States.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Yesterday, White House chief-of-staff Denis McDonough made the case for launching missile attacks on Syria on David Gregory's "Press the Meat" show.
But ultimately, the resolution of this, David, there's not a military resolution to this. There is a political resolution.
And the political resolution is to launch missiles that will explode and kill people? Will the president and his top aides continue to argue the case in the pure logic of doublespeak? The people who believe the president is feinting may have a point. The president and his top aides seem to have stopped trying to persuade or make sense.

H/T to Charles Pierce at "The Politics Blog."

Sunday, September 8, 2013


U.S. Sen. David Vitter said today that he will oppose the White House resolution that calls for a military strike against Syria.

Vitter, R-La., participated in a briefing Wednesday for Senate Armed Services Committee members. Attending were Charles Hagel, secretary of defense, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“After a lot of careful thought and prayer, I have decided that I will vote no on the Syria war resolution,” he said in a news release today.
Will the Republicans be the ones who save us from war? Vitter will vote against the resolution because he's against anything the president proposes, but I'm not choosy about allies in the effort to stop the madness.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) are still undecided.

My guess is President Obama will order the strikes whether Congress votes in favor of the resolution or not, to what good purpose I cannot see.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Slippery slope: "The bottom line, as Kerry outlined in his speech, is that the White House believes inaction, after conclusively determining that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is behind the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus, would open the possibility of other countries or groups concluding that they could use such weapons in the future without fear of retribution."

National security: (There is no alternative): “Make no mistake, in an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do or not do matters in real ways to our own security. Some site the risk of doing things. But we need to ask, ‘What is the risk of doing nothing?’,” Kerry said.

WMD!: “Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,” the government said in the brief.

The plan: The White House is reportedly considering limited air strikes on military targets as retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. Senior administration officials also repeated that the administration is not aiming to achieve a regime change in Syria.
Syria's chemical arsenal is less of a threat to the US than the arsenals of other despots around the world. Saddam gassed the Kurds, but we didn't launch the Iraq war for that reason.

Kerry makes much of the children who were killed by gas, but what of children killed in drone attacks?  We're to weep over pictures of children killed by gas, but we never see the pictures of children blown apart by drone missiles. The airstrikes will almost certainly cause collateral damage (the ultimate euphemism for dead and wounded people!), which will include children and other innocents.   I weep for all the children.

What if Assad continues his defiance after we flex our muscles with the limited airstrikes? What do we do next?

I'm not buying Kerry's argument. I've heard it all before when we have undertaken deadly, misbegotten military adventures.  Obama and Kerry have pretty well boxed themselves in with their chest-thumping and red line on Assad's use of gas, but I hope and pray the president will have the courage and humility to turn away from inflicting more violence on the Syrian people, who are already suffering.  

Quotes above from Talking Points Memo.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


There are a hundred and sixty-six prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Military officials told reporters earlier this week that thirty-one—almost one in five—were engaged in a hunger strike. By Friday, the number was thirty-seven, or closer to one in four. Eighty-six—more than one in two—have been cleared for release, meaning that the government doesn’t think that it has a case against them or even that they pose a threat, but it is keeping them locked up anyway, and has no imminent plans to let them go. Only six of the prisoners—just about one in twenty-eight—are facing trial. That means that there are six times as many prisoners on hunger strikes as there are those who have actual charges lodged against them.
Read the entire piece.  The prisoners on hunger strike are being force-fed through nasal tubes.  That such a prison as Guantánamo exists at all is a shameful blight on the reputation of the United States.  President Obama must do everything in his power to close the prison by executive order or whatever means possible and not continue to depend on Congress.  The prisoners who have been cleared and have no hope for release fall into despair and want to die, and who can blame them?  At the press conference yesterday, Obama said, "It's not sustainable - I mean, the notion that we're going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man's land in perpetuity,"  Exactly.  So do something, Mr President.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Dear Mr President: 

After reading your budget plan, I'm wondering why I supported you. For one thing there is no link, nor should there be in the talking points about Social Security and Medicare. The fix for Social Security is simple: lift the cap. 

True, Medicare will eventually need to be addressed, but let's keep the two separate. They are two different programs and are funded differently. 

Do you really think Republicans will suddenly become serious because you offer them cuts in two of the most popular programs of the federal government? They will not, and they will find a way to use the offers against you. 

 Please stop worrying about possible future Republican presidents and concentrate on governing now. You are the president now, and you need to do the right thing by the people who supported you. 

Thank you for your attention.
Why, why, why does Obama continue to think if he cuts vital programs which are popular throughout the country that the Republicans will play nice?  Why does he make concessions before negotiations even begin?  I'm exhausted from having to goad a Democratic president and Democratic legislators to do what progressives elected them to do.

My next effort was to call Mary Landrieu's office to appeal to her to vote for background checks for those who purchase firearms.  When I asked what was her position, I was told she had not made up her mind on whether to vote for the bill or not.  I left the message with the staff member that I  couldn't understand her hesitation.  The background checks are not even comprehensive, as the law will not apply to private sales.  Why is her support of the measure even  in question?  Yes, I know the senator will be up for reelection in 2014, and she may have a tough fight ahead, but sometimes getting reelected should not be the top priority.  Sometimes you just do the right thing.

Come on, Democrats, throw me a bone.  Show me that I don't waste my efforts in supporting and voting for Democratic candidates.

UPDATE: Post edited to remove the inaccurate report from "The Raw Story" that Mary Landrieu voted against ending the filibuster.  The two Democratic senators who voted against are  Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).  I am pleased to make the correction.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The video ad shows a surprising combination of supporters of gay marriage.  Throughout the country, support for same-sex marriage is increasingly seen as a matter of equality.

UPDATE: From ABC on Laura Bush:
The former first lady’s office told the Dallas Morning News that Bush had not given her consent to be part of the ad, and had asked that she be removed from it.

Monday, January 21, 2013


We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity — until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

(Barack Obama - Second Inaugural Address - January 21, 2013)

Monday, November 12, 2012