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28

Kaci Hickox was mad as hops – she’d gotten off the plane in Newark, been hustled straight into quarantine, and three days later she was still in quarantine only by then she’d hired a lawyer to sue Governor Chris Christie.

A few days before Ms. Hickox flew from Sierra Leone to Newark, a doctor, who’d come home to New York after treating Ebola patients in Guinea, came down with Ebola – and Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie promptly ordered medical workers returning from West Africa to be quarantined.
 
Ms. Hichox landed in Newark about an hour later. And, by nightfall, the Obama Administration was criticizing Cuomo and Christie for the quarantines.
 
Back in 1952 there were 57,000 cases of polio: 3,000 people died and another 21,000 were paralyzed and we declared a war on polio.  In 1955, Jonas Salk invented the Salk vaccine and in 1961 there were 161 cases of polio.
 
Now we need to declare war on Ebola – instead of denouncing quarantines.
 
A person gets the Ebola virus by coming in contact with a sick person. The virus then incubates for up to 3 weeks and at some point, during that time, the person starts showing symptoms of the disease. From the moment that happens, anyone who comes in contact with them can also be infected.
 
According to the Administration that’s not a problem because, as soon as someone shows symptoms, they’ll voluntarily check into a hospital. But that didn’t happen when a nurse with a fever, who’d treated an Ebola patient, boarded an airplane and flew to Cleveland – with the CDC’s approval.
 
And it didn’t happen with the doctor in New York City – according to the officials, after the first symptoms appeared he spent the evening in a bowling alley.
 
Maybe it’s unlikely someone who’s had contact with an Ebola patient will infect other people, but quarantining them for 21 days avoids that risk which is what Governor Christie decided to do.
 
Quarantines won’t cure Ebola but they can slow it down and give the next Jonas Salk time to find a vaccine.

 

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03
When the media covers a scandal involving a politician, the coverage can be as big an issue as the politician. Take two stories this week – one national and one in-state.
 
The state Senate race in Fayetteville between incumbent Wesley Meredith and challenger Billy Richardson blew up over allegations that Meredith and his ex-wife fraudulently obtained government welfare benefits for their son 18 years ago.
 
The national story goes back 26 years to the sex scandal that sank Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
 
The common thread is how the media did or didn’t cover the scandals – and what the media should and shouldn’t do.
 
Documents involving Meredith were “shopped around” – as several stories said – for a couple of weeks. But no newspaper or TV station bit. Then Richardson held a press conference, released the documents and called on Meredith to explain. Even then, at least one newspaper was still debating late in the day whether to run the story. It did.
 
The national story is over how in 1988 the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s townhouse in Washington after getting a tip that Hart was having a tryst with a young woman. Matt Bai wrote in The New York Times recently that the story marked the point in time when the mainstream political media went tabloid – and changed political coverage forever, for better or worse.
 
At Politico today, Tom Fiedler, the then-Herald reporter who confronted Hart and wrote the original story, defended it. At issue, Fiedler wrote, is “the existential question of the news media’s role in a presidential campaign. Simply put, what exactly does the public expect the news media to do? I think the voting public expects the news media to provide them with the factual information they need to cast an informed ballot.
 
“That factual information can mean different things for different voters. Some voters might want the media to report a candidate’s positions on the economy, abortion, civil rights, immigration, gun safety and so on. They care little about the candidate’s personal beliefs or behavior. But some voters—indeed, the great majority of voters—are more interested in who the candidate is. This is the much-discussed character issue. It goes to the essence of the candidate; it’s about authenticity, empathy, integrity, fairness and more. Issues change, and with them the candidate’s positions. But character doesn’t change, at least not much. For a journalist to withhold information that more fully reveals the character of a candidate would, in my opinion, be a sin of omission.”

Here, Senator Meredith has relied so far on the time-honored, knee-jerk political response – Richardson is smearing him, the allegations are beneath him and he doesn’t have to explain anything.
 
Wrong.
 
As Carter said in today’s Fayetteville Observer, "You can't shuffle it under the rug.”
 
And reporters and editors in North Carolina – no less than the national media – will have to decide whether to be the rug or the window. 

 

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24
The other day our top General went over to the Senate and said turning the Iraqi army into a real fighting force may not be possible ;--then he said no one knows who the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebels will attack once they’re armed – they might attack ISIS or might attack Bashar Assad and, regardless of who they attack, arming just 5000 ‘moderate’ Syrians (as the President proposes) isn’t going to be nearly enough to whip anyone.
 
Meanwhile the same day, over in Iraq, the success of our bombing campaign was limited to blowing up a truck, an artillery piece, and two small boats on the Euphrates River.
 
This is an odd – but familiar – picture.
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like we may be getting into another ‘political’ war: If the President does nothing he gets pilloried but if he does what it takes to destroy ISIS (by putting boots on the ground) he gets run out of town on a rail – so he’s sailing down the middle ground uneasily doing what’s popular and avoiding what’s unpopular which may come back to haunt him – like it has other Presidents.

 

 

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23

Two things happened the other day: One nasty. The other confounding.
 
First ISIS posted a video on the Internet telling President Obama (in no uncertain terms) to watch out – it is going to target every American soldier he sends to Iraq.
 
Second, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, our top General, added a new wrinkle to the meaning of the words ‘no boots on the ground’ – telling Congress it may just turn out, one of these days, that he might recommend American soldiers join Iraqi troops in “attacks.”  That wouldn’t, he added , mean GI’s would be in combat. Instead, they’d simply be “close combat advisors.”
 
Now think about that.
 
It’s a pretty bad thing to send a soldier into combat alongside a brigade of his buddies – who’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
 
But it’s a lot worse thing to send him into combat with a brigade of Iraqis – when that happens a ‘close combat advisor’ could wind up alone in a foxhole with no buddies in sight.

 

 

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22
Ken Burns’ remarkable series on the Roosevelts makes it clear that Franklin D. Roosevelt never would have passed the Gary Hart adultery test.
 
Would that have been good for America?
 
As Burns’ series was ending, The New York Times published a story by Matt Bai on the scandal that ended Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign – and how it “forever changed American politics.”
 
Surely, Hart was no FDR. But Hart offers this might-have-been: He might have beaten George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush might not have become President “and we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. And a lot of people would be alive who are dead.”
 
Bai reconstructs the story that shifted the goal of political journalists from being well-connected insiders who knew Presidents intimately (Teddy White, James Reston) to being truth-telling investigators who brought down Presidents, or at least presidential candidates (Woodward and Bernstein). Which led to bad boys whose careers were shattered (John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer) and those who survived (Bill Clinton) and those who came back (Mark Sanford).
 
Yes, we want to know the character of the men (and women) who want to be President – or any elected official. But, if you’re going to indulge in the alternative history of a President Gary Hart, consider an alternative history in which the press corps kept FDR out of the White House.

 

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22
The way the President figures it the Iraqi army’s going to supply the ‘boots on the ground’ to whip ISIS but the other day, up in Congress, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said half the Iraqi army isn’t fit to fight and the other half will have to be rebuilt “with U.S. training and equipment” before it can fight.
 
Part One of the President’s plan to whip ISIS is bombing – and that’s going fine.
 
But Part Two – putting Iraqi boots on the ground – just took a nosedive.

 

 

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19
President Obama came out swinging, saying, We have to act fast. We cannot dawdle on this one. We have to move with force – but he wasn’t talking about ISIS, he was talking about the Ebola virus and sending 3000 soldiers (putting boots on the ground) to Africa.
 
Each of us looks at villains thru different eyes: The muhjadeen I see as a murderous terrorist, Sally may see as the exploited victim of colonialism. The fear that sets my teeth on edge, may barely cause her a lost moments sleep.
           
Responding to the Ebola virus the President emanated strength but you have to wonder what would have happened if he had shown the same kind of strength when ISIS went on its rampage – instead of saying, Be calm. The world’s always been messy.

 

 

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16
It turns out not having ‘boots on the ground’ isn’t quite what it seems.
 
The other day when the President said he was sending 425 more soldiers to Iraq he added, These American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.
 
That sounded reasonable – sort of – but, it turns out, not all of the American soldiers in Iraq will be sitting around offices in Baghdad.
 
In fact, some of our soldiers are going to “be advising Iraqi Army commanders in the field” and coordinating airstrikes for advancing (hopefully) Iraqi troops — which makes it sound like ‘boots on the ground’ could land a GI pretty close to the front line in a shooting war.
           

 

 

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15
 Not long after President Obama pressed the go-button Kay Hagan chimed in, “The President and our military leadership have now developed a plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels and defeat ISIS with a sustained campaign of airstrikes.”
 
Moderate Syrian rebels? Do you reckon such a creature really exists?
 
Basing a military campaign on finding Syrian moderates, well, might turn out to be like finding the Abominable Snowman.

 

 

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27
Before a hurricane brushed the coast, Governor McCrory warned us not to put on our “stupid hats.” Then Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s foreign policy for not being more visionary than “don’t do stupid stuff.”
 
Well, call me stupid, but I’m so confused by the world today that “don’t do stupid stuff” sounds pretty smart.
 
ISIS or ISIL (which one is right?) is beheading people, so we may go back into Iraq on the same side as the Syrian government, which we don’t like. Islamic terrorists all over the place want to attack us or take us hostage, but we don’t want to pay ransom. Young Americans go to the Mideast to join the jihad, kill people and sometimes blow themselves up. Egypt and the UAR attack somebody in Libya, and we’re not happy about that. Israel and the Arabs are at war again, or in a cease-fire again, or not. Then you’ve got the Russians and the Crimeans and the Ukranians at each other’s throats. The Chinese are doing something in the ocean somewhere. And I can’t keep the Sunnis and the Shiites straight.
 
The world made sense when there was the USA and the West on the side of good and the Soviet Union on the side of evil.
 
Now Obama's critics want him to "do something." But remember what happened the last time a President (namely George W. Bush) decided to “do something” (namely, start two wars that lasted a decade). That looks stupid in retrospect.
 
I like having a President who’s in no rush to put on his stupid hat.

 

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