Posted tagged ‘Sarah Palin’

07.25.17 John McCain, American hero?

July 25, 2017

In one sense, the answer is an unimpeachable “yes!” Nothing can ever wipe away John McCain’s heroism in Vietnam. His courage and resistance under torture were compelling and rare. But we are talking about events over 45 years ago.

Since the senator was diagnosed with brain cancer a handful of days ago, the accolades for this “fighter” have been overwhelming, including from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and plenty of liberal pundits. But what does McCain’s post-Vietnam record show us? Nothing but a right-wing politician who flirted with being a “maverick” for a brief time when running against W in 2000. He sure was entertaining and the media fell head-over-heels in love with that ephemeral persona.

Since then, he has run to the extreme right as fast has his feet could carry him, while the media still have nothing but stars in their eyes for his supposed integrity. He supported the entire neocon agenda and remains to this day the biggest hawk in elected office, ready to throw US arms against anyone unwilling to toe an imperialist line. He has promoted tax cuts for the rich and service cuts for the poor. He has opposed almost every instance of progress towards social justice.

And then, with the slogan “country first,” he selected Sarah Palin to be his vice president. Why anyone paid a whit of attention to him after that political treason, is beyond me.

This is the man who got brain surgery paid for by taxpayer dollars and hopped on a jet as quickly as he could, so that he could vote today to take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.

The media keep showering love on this evil man because he occasionally issues mild, coded criticisms of Trump. Especially in the realm of foreign relations, McCain knows as well as anyone the damage this regime has done to American interests since January — through attacks on allies, love for Putin, etc. Yet, McCain has refused to actually stand up and declare Trump — the man who insulted McCain’s Vietnam bravery — to be unfit for office.

John McCain is no maverick or hero. He is a run-of-the-mill GOP henchman who gives up everything, including his own integrity, to advocate for the ultra wealthy. He had an opportunity today to change his epitaph to what it might have been prior to his disgraceful political career. He didn’t. And this tells me everything I need to know about John McCain’s character and “heroism.”

©2017 Keith Berner


11.23.13 Impeach Obama

November 23, 2013

Readers of this blog know  I am not suggesting impeachment based on Obama’s being a Muslim socialist who was born in Kenya. (Oh that he were a socialist!) My bill of goods against the president starts with his right-wing stands on civil liberties (and Wall Street) and ends with his complete, nearly incomprehensible incompetence.

Civil Liberties

Barack Obama lost my enthusiastic support in the summer of 2008, when he switched sides on telecom immunity. Until then, he had supported holding the telcos (led by the always-evil Verizon) accountable for  sharing customers’ private data with the government. Then he suddenly decided  these corporate behemoths were golden. I voted for Obama in 2008 and cried when he won. But I knew then that the man others would accuse of socialism was at best a tepid liberal and at worst a  bonafide right-winger.

Obama has gone on to be the worst civil liberties president in American history. Apart from ending torture (which, granted, is a big deal), this administration has taken nearly all of W’s extra-legal, barely legal, or it’s-legal-because-we-say so surveillance and detention tactics and expanded them. It has pursued a drone war that doesn’t discriminate between the guilty and innocent or US citizens and foreigners. And, of course, there’s the NSA, which has shown the big lie in Obama’s promise to lead the most transparent and open government ever. Obama’s obsession with secrecy has led to the highest number of prosecutions against leakers in history, along with truly frightening attacks on the press, the essential institution for holding government accountable and preserving freedom.

The extent of this president’s obsession is shown by his reaction to Edward Snowden. When Obama backed out of a summit with Vladimir Putin earlier this year, do you think it was because of Putin’s dictatorship, with its attacks on civil society or its encouragement of violence against gays? Hell no! It was because Russia had taken Snowden in. Then, the mere possibility that Snowden might be aboard the Bolivian president’s plane, as it transited Europe in July, was sufficient for the US to get pliant allies to ground the aircraft so that our agents could see for themselves.


After the GOP shut down the government and nearly forced the US to default on its debts this fall, prognosticators were reporting lowest-ever ratings for that party and predicting Democratic gains in 2014. Since then, it is Obama’s ratings that have fallen off a cliff and Democratic candidates are running scared across the country, as they try to figure out how to distance themselves from the president. The political world has reversed course in little more than a month!

The Obamacare disaster not only has the potential to set back the cause of health-care reform for a generation, but has also breathed new life into the right-wing extremists who own most of the land area of the country and one house of Congress. If the GOP takes the Senate next year, there will be one man to blame: Barack Obama.

No, it wasn’t bad enough that the president forgot to pay  attention to whether the rollout of his signature achievement was going to work. He had to compound that self-inflicted wound (a European friend of mine referred to  it as an “own goal” – when a soccer player scores one for the other team) by repeatedly, knowingly lying to the American people about their right to keep their existing policies. What did Obama think – that no one would notice?!

(Substantively, I have no problem with forcing the cancellation of policies that would undermine the whole system. It’s the lying about it that is the problem.)

So then Obama tried to undo the damage by announcing a “fix” that will allow people to keep these lousy policies. And immediately, analysts declared the fix unworkable. We are now learning day after day (thanks, Washington Post) about the details of the failed website: how the administration hired the wrong people to build it and ignored clear, persistent warnings that it wasn’t going to work.

The operational incompetence is stunning. The lying continues a long pattern of Obama political incompetence. It took nearly 3-½ years for the president to recognize that the GOP wasn’t interested in negotiating a deal, any deal – no matter how right wing. He kept negotiating with himself – publicly — continuously moving farther and farther toward GOP positions and getting nothing in return.

The Obamacare debacle began in 2009, when Obama abdicated all leadership on the matter to Congress, which – of course – was in thrall to the insurance industry and other corporate interests,  producing the complex mess that is teetering on the edge today. Obamacare – if it survives – will do at least as much to enrich private interests as to lower costs (higher than any other industrialized country) or produce better outcomes (worse than any other industrialized country).

In 2010 Obama (granted – with the complicity of spineless Democrats in Congress) ceded the entire political dialogue to the rising Tea Party and the likes of Sarah Palin. While talk of death panels dominated the media in summer and fall of that year, Democrats headed towards a crushing defeat at the polls. I’m not just referring to the loss of the House, but also the loss of statehouses, coast to coast. The GOP dominance in the states then produced the gerrymandering and voter suppression measures that will keep the GOP in power at least until the 2020 census, if not beyond. Much of this is due to Obama’s mind-numbing inability to use the bully pulpit, build effective political alliances, and buck up scared-of-their-own-shadows Democratic lawmakers.

Consider foreign policy. In a space of two years, Obama has taken the US from being a moral, human rights champion to being a realpolitik status-quo power that Henry Kissinger could love. Your blogger (who works for a human rights organization) is sometimes torn between idealism and realism in foreign policy. I get that this stuff ain’t easy. But to go from an embrace of Hosni Mubarak (a personal friend of Bill & Hill) to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (who were, after all, the winners of a democratic election), to praising Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s thugs as if they were akin to Thomas Jefferson (why can’t John Kerry just shut his fucking mouth?!)?

The result is that everyone  in Egypt hates and distrusts us, even as we continue funneling billions of dollars to the brutal murderers who now run the place. For god’s sake: if you’re going to support a military dictatorship, at least do so in a manner that wins that dictatorship’s trust and respect! We learned this past week that al-Sisi is trying to negotiate closer ties with Putin.

The promised “pivot to Asia”? Gone south due to other distractions. The relationship with the European allies (who were practically drooling at the chance to start over following the horrific reign of W’s cowboy neocons)? Toast, because of our spying and a general sense of US fecklessness.

And then there are the “red lines.” Use chemical weapons, Obama says, and we’ll do something really, really bad to you. Except that we don’t really mean it. And so when we get a face-saving opportunity to back away from the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, we jump at it.

Whether or not to bomb Syria was not an easy decision – see my post on the topic. The problem was the stark declarations from Obama without, apparently, any consideration of what should come next. This administration doesn’t stop and ask: hey, what will we do if the other guy doesn’t respond the way we expect him to? There is no Plan B. Only destined-to-fail Plan As.

Facing Facts

Now hear this, Obama fan-boys and –girls: we are not comparing Barack Obama to W or Mitt. Of course Obama is better than any GOP alternative!

We ought to be comparing Obama to what he could have been and to what this country (and the world) need. We ought to be holding this man accountable for repeatedly handing our enemies (the Tea Party right) the rope to hang us with.

To those who say, “Well, being president is hard. What do you expect?” – I ask, is it too much to expect basic competence and a commitment to tell the truth (at least in our own self-interest)? Is it, really?

The title of this blog post is serious. I don’t expect it to happen, but I would be delighted to see Barack Obama resign or be removed from office. Let’s give Joe Biden a chance to see if he can get the basics of governance and leadership right.

The Obama administration is finished, kaput, done. All two-term presidents lose power as their lame-duck status grows. None has experienced a collapse of this magnitude at the very inception of the second term. None has faced entrenched, fanatical enemies like the GOP is today. Democrats and progressives would be smart to move on, to try something — anything — rather than sitting back and whimpering as this failed president sets the table for GOP victories to come.

©2013 Keith Berner

12.14.12 John McCain: traitor and liar

December 14, 2012

John McCain’s campaign slogan when he ran for president in 2008 was “Country First!” Then he chose as his running mate a small-state governor with only two years in that office under her belt, whom he only new from about one hour’s conversation: a dangerous dimwitted demagogue with a giant chip on her shoulder and just about zero understanding of any public policy issue. “Country First” was a horrific lie. If you love your country more than you love a risky shot to shake up poll numbers that have been trending against you, you do not put Sarah Palin on your ticket. Especially not when you have a history of heart trouble.

Now he’s done it again. Notwithstanding my view that Susan Rice was not worth the political capital it would have cost Barack Obama to get her confirmed as secretary of state and notwithstanding my concerns about her financial stake in the XL pipeline, there is no question that she is fully qualified to be secretary of state. But the GOP, with McCain in the lead, decided that partisan maneuvering was more important than unity in foreign policy. That’s right: with absolutely no substantive justification on his side, McCain attempted to make Benghazi the sole issue in the presidential campaign’s waning days and then went on to smear Rice’s character enough that she had no choice but to stand down.

Rice’s withdrawal from consideration yesterday was the right thing for her to do. She put the country’s interests in front of her own (though, her move — in it’s shear nobility — certainly helped in one stroke to repair her “brand”). Would that small-minded, mean, and self-centered John McCain would ever do the same.

©2012 Keith Berner

11.30.12 Susan Rice: global warming bad guy

November 30, 2012

Just because John McCain is evil, doesn’t ipso facto mean that any and everyone he targets is good.

(It infuriates me that McCain retains any power or audience at all after he, Mr. “Country First,” tried to put Sarah Palin a heart attack away from leading the country — an act of treason, if you ask me.)

Yeah, McCain, Lindsey Graham, et al. have been playing politics with the country’s diplomacy by going after Rice, for the HUGE CRIME of believing CIA reports that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous and saying so ONE SINGLE TIME on TV. I gotta ask: what the fuck difference does it make that first impressions about the nature of the attack were one thing and reality turned out to be a another, especially when the GOP had cut funding for diplomatic security?

I was already coming to the conclusion that, as unjustified as the GOP’s lynching was, it would be stupid of Obama to waste political capital on saving Rice, when there are one or two other things to spend that capital on. But now this: a New York Times report that Rice and family own between $300k and $600k of stock in . . . TransCanada, the firm that wants to build the global-warming and ground polluting Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

Not only is Rice yet another member of the disgusting 1% club*  (given that she has enough wealth to have that much of it invested in one company). Not only does she own a share of one giant evil-doer in the  global warming industry. But as secretary of state, it would be her job to determine whether the pipeline goes forward!

So, I say, drop Susan Rice like a hot potato and turn to John Kerry. Yeah, Kerry is another one with plutocrat wealth, but at least he doesn’t seem (yet) to be actively promoting global warming.

*Yes, I am actively engaging in class warfare. Got a problem with that?!

©2012 Keith Berner

03.27.10 John McCain Reaches New Low

March 27, 2010

Today’s Washington Post features a front-page picture of John McCain with his rediscovered pal, Sarah Palin.

Ol' Buddies

McCain needs Palin to help fend off a rightwing challenger.

Remember when some of us progressives were infatuated with McCain as he challenged W in the 2000 presidential primaries?  Speaking for myself, I was never deluded into thinking he and I agreed on more than a couple of policy issues.  But his candor and seeming integrity were captivating for that brief moment in time.  It’s all gone.

Early last week, McCain became a ringleader for the GOPs temper tantrum about health care reform, announcing, “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year” from congressional Republicans.  (As if there had been any for the previous 14 months, eh?)  Now he’s back to hanging around the extremist nut-job he wanted to put a heartbeat from the presidency, the Tea Party cheerleader and quitter from Alaska, Sarah Palin.  You’d think that being in such company once would have made him once-burned-twice-shy.  But you’d be wrong.  The extremism of the GOP is such that McCain actually needs Palin to burnish his wingnut bona fides as he seeks to retain his Senate seat in the face of a challenger from winnuttier former congressman J. D. Hayworth.

As for McCain’s old maverick stands on climate change, immigration reform, and (yes) health care reform, they’re nowhere to be seen.  Sadly, it is not unusual to see politicians of both parties sell their souls to maintain their grip on power.  This man has done so as publicly and shamelessly as anyone.

10.26.08 Intellectualism Makes a Comeback?

October 26, 2008

Way back in July, I wrote about the Republicans’ awkward coalition of unnatural allies (here and here).  I described a wobbly stool made up of the ultra-wealthy, the ultra-religious, and the national defense hawks, with a handful of libertarians thrown in.  It was apparent then that this unholy alliance was in danger of flying apart at the seams, due to inherent mistrust within it and the Bush administration’s record of utter incompetence.

July.  An era (epoch?) ago.  Before McCain decided that ideas would take a back seat to attacks.  Before the Palin pick.  Before the financial house of cards came tumbling down.

Well, there’s nothing like failure to bring out the circular firing squads, and we have seen them aplenty in the past couple of weeks, as the GOP blame game gets into full swing.  It is lovely to watch McCain’s team blaming Palin’s team and Palin’s team blaming McCain’s handlers, right-wingers’ bemoaning the incoherent presidential campaign’s drag on down-ticket races, and Republicans with names like Buckley, Goldwater, and Powell endorsing the Democratic candidate.

It is in this environment that one more GOP fissure I hadn’t noticed previously is leaping to the fore: we now have a clear split between the Know-Nothings (personified by Palin and led by William Kristol and the gang at National Review) and the Intellectuals (led by David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, among others).

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new in the US body politic, of course, having been used to co-opt the unwashed masses for a couple of centuries.  Since Ronald Reagan, it has been the purposeful province of the GOP.  The religious freaks in the party are all about know-nothingism, of course – the very essence of their worldview denigrates science, empirical reality, and the role of the human brain.  The ultra-wealthy have had a remarkable string of success exploiting the resultant culture wars to get Americans to vote against their economic self-interest.  And the neocons (nee defense hawks) have delighted in the dovetailing of religiously driven intolerance with their desire to fight aggressive wars against anti-Judeo-Christian demons abroad.

But suddenly, Brooks, Noonan and others are calling for the Republican Party to embrace intellect.  This still small — but likely to be very influential — band is actually suggesting that being smart is a virtue, that results matter as much as ideology, and that governance requires coherence and competence.

Do not underestimate the importance of this news.  It is both the harbinger of change and a reaction to it.

This new wave of GOP thought presages a more serious splintering of the GOP than the Wall Street-Bible Belt breakup I wrote about this summer.  In the short term, the GOP is going to be so busy with internecine warfare that it will be in no position to beat up on anyone else.  In the longer term, there is some potential that the party might be reborn as a conservative – but less dangerous – force: one that can be done business with.

While indicating something about the GOP’s future, Brooks and Noonan are also reacting to reality on the ground:  for the first time since the late 70s, the American people are (apparently) refusing to be taken in by name-calling and cultural bogeymen.  In this time of national crisis, they seem to be choosing the guy with a brain over the guy you would rather have a beer with.  (Of course, Reagan and W were the epitome of the latter.  McCain, on the other hand, has turned himself into the know-nothing whom no one even wants at the backyard BBQ.)

I am not declaring this to be an enduring, nonetheless permanent, trend.  But it is heartening – even delicious — for as long as it lasts.

©2008 Keith Berner

10.19.08 McCarthy Redux

October 19, 2008

What a week.

On Thursday, Sarah Palin let North Carolinians know how much she enjoys visiting the “pro-America” parts of the country.

On Friday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Barack and Michelle Obama hold “anti-American views” and called on US media to investigate and publicize which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”*

On Saturday, McCain senior adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer declared on MSNBC that the campaign is running strong in “real Virginia.”  (Here is a nice new map of the Virginia McCain & Co. imagine.)

Also on Saturday, McCain himself started calling Obama a “socialist,” attacking Obama’s plan increase to taxes on the rich and increase tax credits for the poor poor as a threat to “Joe the Plumber.”  This, despite the fact that McCain’s economic plans also include tax rebates to the poor (though in much smaller amounts and only to make up for loss of health insurance that other parts of plan would cause).  And notwithstanding that that Joe:

  • would get a substantial tax cut under Obama’s plan
  • is not a licensed plumber
  • owes back taxes

Of course, angry white men are now showing up to McCain/Palin rallies carrying plungers and declaring: “I am Joe the Plumber.” (I guess we should be glad they’re not carrying guns or pitchforks.)

In the meantime, the McCain campaign has launched a nationwide robocall* onslaught tying Obama to 1960s terrorism and accusing the Democratic candidate of putting “Hollywood over America.”  (The folks McCain hired to do this happen to be the same ones that helped sink McCain in 2000 by spreading lies about McCain’s having fathered a mix-race child out of wedlock.)

*Here the lovely Bachman interview, including tape of a McCain robocall.

What decade is this?

©2008 Keith Berner