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19

 

About one minute after sitting down Sean launched off into a tirade saying the border children ought to all be shipped home – then he stopped and was asked, Suppose one of those children fled El Salvador (or wherever) because she’d been repeatedly gang-raped – would you send her home too?
 
He said, Absolutely. Yes. She broke the law.
 
Now if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly put the power in your hands to settle the fate of the border children would you ship them all home – knowing you could be sending one back into the arms of a rapist?
 
That’s a question conservatives don’t like to hear and there’s a similar question liberals don’t like to hear: Would you allow all the border children to stay, even if you knew you’d be letting a gang member who crossed the border to evade the law settle in America for the rest of his life?
 
Finding a victim fleeing terror means a Republican can’t say, They’re lawbreakers, send them all home, andfinding a gang member makes it harder for a liberal to say, Keep them all here.
 
This is a peculiar debate and the roadblock isn’t immigration or just immigration: It’s our odd (and near total) incapacity to address a not very complicated moral question except with black and white answers like ‘send them all away’ or ‘keep them all here.’

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14
Well, looking back, it was bound to happen. 
 
First, John Boehner decided to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare laws and most of the House Republicans went along on the theory even if they didn’t like Obamacare the laws are the laws and the President can’t just change one whenever it suits him.
 
Then never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, to turn the tables on Republicans, Obama rolled out a bevy of spokesmen who proclaimed, Boehner’s getting ready to impeach the President, which worked out fine for Obama and brought the Democrats a windfall of cash from agitated Obama supporters.
 
Of course, on the other hand, most people sloughed off the whole brouhaha as just one more example of political foolishness – except for one group of folks who devoutly hoped it was true: The Tea Partiers.
 
To them impeaching Obama sounded just fine. 
 
Next, right in the middle of the impeachment flap, Attorney General Roy Cooper stood up and announced he wasn’t going to lift a finger to fight the federal court ruling that could strike down North Carolina’s gay marriage ban.
 
Amendment One, Cooper said, was kaput.
 
And from there it was inevitable.
 
Impeachment was infectious.
 
So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a State Senator, speaking to his local Tea Party group, announced he wanted to impeach Attorney General Cooper, added the Republican leaders in Raleigh were just the folks to do it, and added the wheels were already in motion.
 
What State Senator Norm Sanderson missed was what struck him – and the Tea Partiers – as a grand idea didn’t look so grand elsewhere; his call to impeach Roy Cooper landed in the News and Observer with a dull, uncomfortable thud and the Senate Republican leadership, sensing a backfire, announced no one, nowhere, no how in the State Senate was planning to impeach Roy Cooper and, suddenly, Senator Sanderson vanished as if he’d been quarantined.

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06
There was a history program on Frontline the other night about the war in Iraq and the first part was about the foibles of George Bush and Dick Cheney but I did learn something new: How General David Petraeus came up with the novel idea of buying off the opposition to the Maliki regime by paying 100,000 Sunnis $400 million in cold hard cash so they’d fight alongside rather than against the Americans.
 
After that, it was hard to fault Obama for wanting out of Iraq.  
 
But, it turned out, Obama didn’t fare much better than Bush. Granted, he had the misfortune of being President when the inevitable skedaddle took place but before, during, and after the Marines left Iraq he sounded and looked like a President waiting for a bad play to end so he could skedaddle back to the White House.
 
Next, after Frontline, the World News came on and it got worse: There in all his glory was Vladimir Putin looking tough as nails followed by Obama sounding articulate (as always) but looking  like a school boy who’d just had the misfortune of running head-on into the meanest bully on the playground.
 
Failed stimulus plans and Obamacare websites crashing are troubling problems but when you see the President of the United States face to face with a foreign varmint – and the varmint’s the one saying, Go ahead.  Make my day – a deep-seated, bone-crushing anxiety takes root.

 

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04
The mention of the phrase ‘public schools’ conjures up a vision of nurturing teachers and faithful laboring principals but it turns out ‘Big Education’ is a kingdom teeming with ‘Big Players’ from teachers’ unions to textbook publishers to testing companies all battling for promotions, contracts and a bigger piece of the billions spent on public education – the warring camps fall into four tribes:
 
The Advocates for Social Justice are a tribe of dyed-in-the-wool multiculturalists tracing their genealogy back to a fearsome place: The 1960s Counter-Culture. They see our education system as the ill-bred progeny of capitalist exploitation, are determined to free the next generation from the shackles of our Western heritage and believe our public schools have a sacred duty to lead a crusade to cure the wrongs of social injustice.
 
The Human Potentials are against memorization, drill, rote learning, structure, discipline and routine.  This tribe believes open (and unstructured) classrooms are a step on the road to enlightenment and, more than anything else, believe schools must nurture students and build their self-esteem so they flower and fulfill their human potential. 
 
The Traditionalists favor all the things the Human Potentialists see as wicked: They’re for phonics, memorization, flash cards and teaching the virtues of Western Civilization.
 
The final group, the Structuralists, see our schools as antiquated. As an out of date monopoly. And an albatross. To them future lies in charter schools, vouchers, school choice and tuition tax credits. Their spiritual godfather is Milton Friedman.
 
‘Big Education,’ like big health care in Washington, turns out to be a swamp filled with special interests, so next time you see the teachers' union whacking a state legislator remember: You may really be watching a Structuralist slamming a Human Potentialist who’s trying to get his (or her) hands on more of ‘Big Education’s billions.

 

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28

After President Obama bombed Libya into submission I wouldn’t have expected to hear anyone calling him an isolationist but according to Dick Cheney that’s exactly what he is.

John McCain’s not exactly happy with the President either; he’s upset with Obama for not doing more in the Ukraine.

But the isolationist who’s done the most to rile what we’ll call the ‘International’ wing of the Grand Old Party up in arms isn’t Obama – it’s Rand Paul, who got taken to the woodshed by Rick Perry after saying he had his doubts about sending his son (or anyone else’s) back to Iraq.

After a decade of wars with unhappy endings a little peace and quiet seems like a relief but, then again, Cheney says if we don’t straighten out the mess in Iraq we’ll have terrorists landing on our doorstep and McCain adds that Putin’s such a varmint if we don’t tie a knot in his tail right now in the Ukraine there’ll be hell to pay.

It’s all troubling and eerily familiar.

A decade ago when Cheney and company believed we should invade Iraq they said Saddam Hussein was such a villain we had no choice but when the smoke cleared it turned out it was something they hadn’t said that mattered: They’d promised victory would be easy and swift, that we’d whip Saddam with 150,000 men and a few smart bombs and barely break a sweat. General Colin Powel warned them that, yes, we would whip Saddam’s army but after we’d conquered Iraq we’d own it (and 30 million quarrelsome Iraqis) and then 150,000 men wouldn’t be enough.

It wasn’t.

Fast forward a decade and now we’ve got many of the same folks arguing we have to save the rebels in Syria and stop the rebels in Iraq and put the kibosh on Putin but whipping Putin’s going to be a lot tougher proposition than whipping Saddam Hussein – so next time a politician starts talking about anything like sending in the Marines and promises, This will barely hurt at all, let’s run the scoundrel out of town on a rail before he does any real harm.

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24
It’s an argument I’ve heard for 40 years: “Southern Democrats, meet your future: No more Republican lite.”
 
That’s the headline on a recent article by Bob Moser, Senior Editor at the National Journal. He wrote, “Candidates like (Kay) Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservatives, and a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats.”
 
Call me a curmudgeon. But put me down as skeptical. As much as my heart wants to believe it, my head and my gut tell me that is no better advice today than it was 10, 20 or 40 years ago.
 
It gains credence because Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 and narrowly lost it in 2012. But his candidacy was an outlier, fueled by the history-making opportunity to elect and reelect an African-American President. Also, Obama, as candidate and President, hasn’t always been a “full-throated” liberal.
 
North Carolina remains a moderate and, yes, even conservative state. No, Democrats will not get many, if any, votes from conservative whites. But they need votes with people who have some moderate and even conservative parts in their political makeup.
 
North Carolina’s electorate today is nearly equally divided between natives and newcomers. Natives, no matter how liberal on some issues, still can be conservative on issues like spending and the role of government and sometimes on social issues.  They’re for Good Government, but not necessarily always Big Government. Newcomers are generally liberal on social issues and human issues like education and health care. But they too bring a healthy skepticism about government and all big institutions.
 
Most telling: If people really loved “full-throated, national-style Democrats,” wouldn’t they register that way? They don’t. They register as Independents, even voters who registered just so they could vote for Obama.
 
Maybe you wish it wasn’t true. But wishing doesn’t make it true.

 

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24
It sure looks, Richard said politely, like John Boehner could have found something else to sue President Obama over.
 
Fifty-four times John Boehner and the Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare so it seemed odd to Richard, a retired businessman, that Boehner was about to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare Employer Mandate.
 
It didn’t strike Mike, who’s thirty years younger than Richard and a Republican with a unique talent for seeing one side of every issue, as odd at all: He said. What’s wrong with that?  The President should enforce the laws that are on the books – even the bad ones.
 
Vic, who like Mike, has a talent for seeing one side of every issue (only from the opposite direction) said, Think of the ads we Democrats can run: Republicans say Obamacare is bad. But they’re suing Obama for not enforcing Obamacare; Mike snorted, That’s about what I’d expect, and Vic grunted, There’s as much truth in that as saying ‘Robin Hudson sided with child molesters.’
 
Welcome to a modern political debate.
 

 

 

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24
President Obama has taken to slipping the surly bonds of office, going out to Starbucks for a coffee, asking friends to set up late dinners with interesting, intellectually stimulating people (as opposed to the people he deals with in Washington, presumably). When he escapes, he jokes that “The bear is loose.”
 
Surely, Presidents deserve a break. But Obama somehow sends out a vibe that he can’t wait to leave the Presidency for good, that he is at wits’ end having to deal with the John Boehners and Mitch McConnells. (Remember his classic response to the suggestion that he sit down for a drink with McConnell: “Really? Why don’t you have a drink with Mitch McConnell?”)

We feel his pain, but …
 
Which brings us to the President who is the yin to Obama’s yang, his sometime ally and one-time antagonist and the looming figure who threatens to overshadow his Presidency – Bill Clinton.
 
You never thought Clinton was ready to leave the Oval Office or give up the combat, the challenges and the sheer high-stakes chaos of politics at the most stratospheric, oxygen-deprived, death-defying levels. He practically had to be dragged out of the office in 2001, spraying pardon-bombs on his way out the door.
 
Obama is more like George W. Bush, who seems deliriously happy to be away from the cares of office and free to pick up a golf club or paint brush.
 
Again, it’s understandable, but …
 
We want our Presidents to enjoy the job. We feel unsettled when a chief executive constantly reminds us of how difficult, lonely and miserable it can be at the top. We want to say: Stop whining! We don’t care! You wanted the job, and we gave it to you. Do it. And look like you’re enjoying it.
 
In a world that seems so complicated and dangerous – think Ukraine, Gaza Strip and child immigrants at the border – we feel better if we feel like the job isn’t too big for the President.
 
Somehow it all reminded me of the difference between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at the Open last weekend. Last week, and even back when Tiger was winning, he never seemed to be having fun. Certainly last week, but also even when Rory is losing, he seems to be having fun.
 
It also recalls Obama’s listless, lackluster performance at his first debate with Mitt Romney in 2012. He seemed disengaged and disinterested. And that discourages no one more than his supporters.
 
Go to Starbucks, Mr. President. Have a stimulating, pleasant dinner. Get away from the responsibilities every now and then. But then get back to work, and have fun. We’ll all feel a lot better.

 

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22

No one’s explained why a Malaysian airliner was flying over a war zone but when it was shot down Senator John McCain had no doubt who to blame: Obama.

It was, McCain adamantly told Fox News, Obama’s fault because he hadn’t given the Ukrainians more guns.
 
I reckon McCain figures if the Ukrainians had more guns they’d have shot (months ago) the varmint who pushed the button to launch that missile but, of course, that’s a lot like saying General Lee would have won Gettysburg if the stars had aligned differently.
 
President Obama has turned out to be Republicans’ worst nightmare. The Uber-Villain of all time.  But, still, you can’t blame one fellow for everything.

 

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11
What on earth do you do when a eight-year-old lands on your doorstep?
 
I heard two spokesmen on the radio today with answers – the first told a story of a lone girl, one of the border children, who after being repeatedly raped by gangs in Honduras, trudged or rode on the tops of trains, clinging to boxcar roofs, 500 miles across Mexico to arrive in Texas hollow-cheeked with hunger.
 
The other spokesman explained half the border children hadn’t trudged across Mexico alone at all – they’d been carried by smugglers paid by families who were desperate to get their sons and daughters out of El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala.
 
Of course, up in Congress, Republicans say Obama’s to blame for the whole mess.  He  threw open the door to the border children when he decided not to deport the “Dream Children.”
 
And the Democrats, of course, say Republicans are ogres with no hearts.
 
And, finally, President Obama wants Congress to give him $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis – which comes to $74,000 per child. 
 
So with all this passion and all these political agendas clouding the rhetorical air who can we believe?  And how do we figure out what we ought to do?
 
In a way the answer’s simple: If a weary, bedraggled eight-year-old turned up on your doorstep one night would you turn him away? 
 
No.  Lord willing, you’d lend him or her a helping hand.
 
Beyond that, since there are 50,000 children on our doorstep, there’s one other question to ask we have to answer: Are these children refugees or illegal immigrants?
 
Because if a child’s fleeing in terror – whether it’s from gang rapes or other sins – well, to put it bluntly: In America we help refugees.  We may not make them citizens.  But we don’t turn them away either.
 
And if these children are illegal immigrants? If they’re not fleeing from violence or abuse?
 
Well, then, like all runaway children, we return them to their parents.

 

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