Desperate Kids Should Not Be A Means To An End

“It’s not just about having a heart. It’s about having a soul. And the soul of our country is about respecting the dignity and worth of every person. The soul of our country is about giving every person access to rights who is in our country.”

Nancy Pelosi, discussing a House Republican bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the border

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school, get a job, and become Americans.'”

George Will, stumbling uncontrollably over a rock of compassion

wwhen I was attending church, many moons ago, a popular saying among the congregants, one designed to initiate spiritual self-examination, went something like this:

If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If we ask the same thing of Americans as a people (roughly 80% of whom identify themselves as Christians of one variety or another), here is some evidence we might want to consider:

america not a christian nation

I think most of us would say that if Jesus were asked those questions, he would side with the kids. At least the Jesus I was first introduced to in Sunday School. But either Jesus has changed a lot since then, or the people who tote Bibles and quote scripture and demand cultural fealty to their version of the Word of God don’t much care what side Jesus would be on, when it comes to desperate children from Central America.

And the people most likely to tote Bibles and quote verses and fashion public policy based on Iron Age ignorance—that is, Republicans—are also the ones most likely to turn against Jesus and the kids:

The responses expose a partisan rift, with 70 percent of Republicans saying Central American children should not be treated as refugees compared with 62 percent of Democrats who believe they should. On whether the United States has an obligation to accept people fleeing violence or political persecution, 66 percent of Republicans say it does not and 57 percent of Democrats say it does.

For a party that wears its Christianity on its sleeve, if not in its heart, that’s a pretty damning indictment. I guess the migrant children should thank God, first for that majority of Democrats, and then for that 30% or so of Republicans who take their Christianity, not to mention their American values, seriously. But maybe I’m being too hard on the folks in that particular poll. Perhaps average people, even average Republicans, shouldn’t be expected to think through these kinds of issues with Jesuitical precision.

But Paul Ryan, who is not an average person, should.

Ryan, who is a Roman Catholic with a reputation for Big Ideas, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend and he was asked the following question about the kids who have come here from Central America:

DAVID GREGORY: Do you think these children and others, tens of thousands of them, should be sent back home?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico, will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse…

That kind of thinking is fairly prevalent on the right (some Democrats, at one time including President Obama, have expressed a similar idea, too, but few do so today, and Obama is tinkering with a much better idea). Just this morning I matt salmon on msnbcheard another tightfisted Tea Party congressman, Matt Salmon of Arizona (who seriously argued in 1999 that Ronald Reagan’s mug should be carved into Mount Rushmore!), say that he believes,

…the most effective deterrent would be to immediately repatriate those children back to their homes and reunite them in their countries with their families, and that’s what we’re planning to do…and it costs less money to actually move the children back home and bolster the border than it does to indefinitely put them up in the United States while they wait for a trial three to five years from now.

You can see how the concern is not immediately with the children who are here, but with sending a message to people who may come here sometime in the future. And while we all ought to be concerned about the dangerous conditions under which these folks travel to America, and while we all ought to be concerned about the deplorable conditions that exist in their home countries, conditions that drive them to seek refuge in the United States, we cannot ignore the duty we have toward the kids who are here, the duty we have to honor our own laws and the values behind them, and the duty we have to justice itself.

Those who are seeking to send the children back as soon as possible are really, quite cynically and deplorably in my view, using the kids as messengers to send a very stern and un-American message to other desperate people: you are not welcome here. They are using weary and frightened kids as a means to an end. And even if the end was somehow justified, even if the message was less harsh, even if the message was “don’t make the journey because it is dangerous and ultimately pointless,” using the children who are already here to send that message would be immoral and un-American, not to say ungodly.

 

Three Things Democrats Should Say To The Ideological Terrorists Among Us

It appears Democrats are ready to fight and not back down this time.

First Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called them “anarchists.” Then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called them “legislative arsonists.” And on Saturday night President Obama, visibly energized to do battle with Republicans in Congress, said the following at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner:

You look at it right now — the other day, House Republicans voted to cut $40 billion in nutritional aid for struggling families at the same time as some of the same folks who took that vote are receiving subsidies themselves. So farm subsidies for folks at the top are okay; help feeding your child is somehow not.

I know the CBC, led by outstanding Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, fought hard to protect those programs that keep so many children from going hungry. And now we’re seeing an extreme faction of these folks convincing their leadership to threaten to shut down the government if we don’t shut down the Affordable Care Act. Some of them are actually willing to see the United States default on its obligations and plunge this country back into a painful recession if they can’t deny the basic security of health care to millions of Americans.

Now, I think — this is an interesting thing to ponder, that your top agenda is making sure 20 million people don’t have health insurance. And you’d be willing to shut down the government and potentially default for the first time in United States history because it bothers you so much that we’re actually going to make sure that everybody has affordable health care.

Let me say as clearly as I can: It is not going to happen. We have come too far. We’ve overcome far darker threats than those. We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations. We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point. And those folks are going to get some health care in this country — we’ve been waiting 50 years for it.

Democrats in Washington should repeat President Obama’s three lines every time they are asked about the issue:

“It is not going to happen.”

“We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations.”

“We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.”

We’re about a week away from the end of the fiscal year, which is the first if-Democrats-don’t-give-them-what-they-want-Republicans-will-kill-the-hostage deadline. Soon after will come the debt ceiling deadline. We shall see whether Democrats do in fact negotiate with the hostage-takers in the Republican Party or finally decide to say enough is enough. I don’t believe Republican leadership is stupid enough to ultimately do what they are threatening to do, but I do believe they can move the debate much further to the right, and thus move the end result much further to the right, than Democrats should accept.

Don’t fall for it, Democrats. Don’t allow ideological terrorists—what else do you call people who, as President Obama said, want “to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point”?—to win even the smallest battle in the war they started in 2011. Just keep repeating:

“It is not going to happen.”

“We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations.”

“We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.”

Romney And The NAACP

About Romney’s speech to the NAACP, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell told TheGrio’s Goldie Taylor the following on Wednesday:

Tell me, Goldie, if I’m being too cynical, to think that the Romney campaign actually went in that room today with the hope of getting booed, at least three times, because they want the video of their candidate being booed by the NAACP to play in certain racist precincts where that will actually help them.

There were other liberals, including Nancy Pelosi, who offered up the notion that Mittens had an ulterior motive when he went to Houston and deliberately used the word “ObamaCare,” as in,

I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like ObamaCare…

Pelosi said that Romney made a “calculated move” to “get booed,” which he most certainly got after the ObamaCare remark.  Now, I wasn’t one to initially and cynically think Mittens deliberately sought the disapproval of a room full of black folks in order to exploit white angst around the country.

But then I saw this report:

Mitt Romney says he wasn’t surprised by the chorus of boos he received Wednesday morning when he said in a speech to the NAACP National Convention that he plans to repeal President Obama’s national health care law.

“I think we expected that,” Romney said in a taped interview with Fox Business Network, scheduled to air Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Well, although I am normally quite ready to suspect the worst of Republican presidential candidates, I am not quite ready to believe that Mitt Romney went to Houston and exploited his father’s memory in order to appeal to American racists.  Romney said this to the group:

The Republican Party’s record, by the measures you rightly apply, is not perfect. Any party that claims a perfect record doesn’t know history the way you know it.

Yet always, in both parties, there have been men and women of integrity, decency, and humility who called injustice by its name. For every one of us a particular person comes to mind, someone who set a standard of conduct and made us better by their example. For me, that man is my father, George Romney.

It wasn’t just that my Dad helped write the civil rights provision for the Michigan Constitution, though he did. It wasn’t just that he helped create Michigan’s first civil rights commission, or that as governor he marched for civil rights in Detroit – though he did those things, too.

More than these public acts, it was the kind of man he was, and the way he dealt with every person, black or white. He was a man of the fairest instincts, and a man of faith who knew that every person was a child of God.

I’m grateful to him for so many things, and above all for the knowledge of God, whose ways are not always our ways, but whose justice is certain and whose mercy endures forever.

I am sure the folks in the room would have been grateful if Romney had taken the occasion of mentioning his father’s civil rights work to assure black voters that he opposes Republican efforts to suppress their votes, as the party is doing all over the country. But, alas, he didn’t. And no one was surprised at that.

But as I said, I resist the temptation to question Romney’s motives in speaking to the NAACP. Did he deliberately go there to appear reasonable? Did he go there to stir up the crowd, hoping he would get some kind of outrageous response? (For the most part the crowd was quite respectful.) Beats me.

I am willing to leave it at this: After the speech, Romney said to Fox:

I am going to give the same message to the NAACP that I give across the country…

Maybe Mittens really does think his top-down, give-the-rich-more economic philosophy will eventually trickle into black homes and help black families, as well as all Americans. And it is that delusion that I find ultimately more dangerous for the country, including all the folks who gathered in Houston to hear Mr. Romney speak.

Friends May Go

Friends may come and friends may go,
Friends may peter out we know;
We’ve been friends through thick and thin,
Peter out…or peter in.

—old toast

Anthony Weiner, famous now for acting like an unsupervised teenager, was one of my favorite liberals.  He took on the bad guys on Fox “News”; he took on the hard-right Republican rabble in the House; he articulated the kind of liberalism in which I strongly believe.

Which, of course, is why he has to go, has to sort of peter out.

It doesn’t matter to me that he broadcast his photogenic weenie all over creation, or that he had sex talk with consenting adults, or that he rubbed himself raw while doing either one of the above.

But it does matter that he could walk in front of his constituents, via the camera he loves so much, and tell a self-serving lie.  He should have either shut up or confessed or resigned.  Democrats believe in the authenticity of government, in the basic credibility of the political class.  Lying so blatantly, even about one’s weenie, undermines that credibility and undermines the Democrats’ argument for good government.

If Mr. Weiner really believes in the politics he’s been preaching, he will leave the scene.  He certainly realizes that the other side will use his continued presence to delegitimize not so much him, but his brand of politics and his political party, home to his kind of politics.

He owes it to the Democratic Party, to his fellow Democrats, and to his fellow liberals, to go home, peter out or peter in.

Report: Scott Eckersley Is Open To Caucusing With The Tea Party

PoliticMo, a new local political site run by Eli Yokley and Blake James, reported on Sunday some interesting—and for Democrats, distressing—comments made by Scott Eckersley, the Republican candidate running as a Democrat against Billy Long, who is a Republican content with running as a Republican:

Democratic candidate Scott Eckersley says he’s not interested in being a democrat, or a republican, for that matter.

“I’m interested in serving constituents, I’m not interested in serving a party,” Eckersley said. “I’ll vote for a Speaker of House that represents the interests, values, and morals of these 10 counties collectively.”

“That’s what I think a representative of government should be about,” he said.

Okay. So Mr. Eckersley is going to be independent, if and when he gets to Washington.  So, the obvious question is, why did he run as a Democrat?  Why didn’t he run as an independent?  To which the obvious answer is that he used the Democratic Party as a vehicle to overcome the lack of attention he would have suffered had he run as either an independent or as a Republican.

In short, he could make some noise as a Democrat, but since winning the primary the noise he is making sounds like Republican noise, and he has run as fast as he can from anything resembling a Democratic principle.

Not only has Eckersley already pledged not to vote for Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House, he now is flirting with something even worse.  Much worse:

Eckersley, who was really pushed from the republican party following a scandal in Governor Matt Blunt’s administration, is really running as a conservative democrat. Even so, Eckersley said he’d be open to caucusing with the tea-party or the republicans.

“My job is to go up there and represent the interests of these 10 counties, and the interest of whichever party matches those, and that’s who I’ll be caucusing with,” Eckersley said.

There is no way a man with even one Democratic cell in his body could make such a declaration.

And there is no way a voter with an interest in maintaining at least some semblance of local Democratic integrity, could cast his or her vote for a man who has only used the Democratic Party to avoid languishing in obscurity in the Republican primary.

I haven’t heard from one local Democrat why me or anyone else should vote for Scott Eckersley, other than defeating an embarrassing intellectual lightweight like Billy Long.  And I wonder why Democrats should go to the polls this November and use their franchise to support a man who essentially has repudiated most everything the Democratic Party stands for.

And now that Eckersley has suggested that his political principles are so elastic as to embrace the Tea Party, I suspect there may be a lot of local Democrats who wonder the same thing.

[PoliticMo Photo/Blake James]

“The Civil Rights Act Of The 21st Century”

Just minutes after the long-awaited health care reform votes in the House, the Democratic leadership held a press conference. 

James Clyburn, Democratic Majority Whip and an African-American, said this:

I consider this to be the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century.  Because I do believe that this is the one fundamental right that this country has been wrestling with now for almost a hundred years.  I think tonight we took a giant step toward the establishment of a more perfect union.

Unfortunately, not one Republican out of 178 had the guts to buck their ultra-right-wing conservative leadership and vote for what will soon become a fundamental right in America.

Democrats Can’t Afford To Rest

Just a few highlights from the pre-vote mania on Capitol Hill:

From Ryan Grim at HuffPo:

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) came to the defense of the racists and bigots who shouted slurs at members of Congress Saturday. The Tea Party protesters shouted the ‘n’ word at African-American members of Congress the ‘f’ word at an openly gay member.

Rather than condemn the anachronistic behavior, Nunes blamed the Democrats, saying that they make people do and say crazy things with their tyrannical behavior.

Sam Stein reported on Karl Rove’s bizarre appearance on This Week, which personally I found more than a little off-putting, not because of Rove’s theatrics, but because he was allowed to virtually filibuster the entire segment:

The most dramatic fireworks of all, came on ABC’s This Week, where former Bush strategist Karl Rove deployed a white board and flew into mild hysteria at the mere thought of legislation passing.

“We will fight the election on this and the Democrats will have significant losses in the House and Senate as a result of this bill,” he said.

“Well listen,” replied David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, “if Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election already, they ought to break out that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner they put on the USS Lincoln.”

All of which drew Rove into a particularly heated rage: “That’s cheesy, David. … You should not denigrate the mission of the USS Abraham Lincoln.”

Although certainly President Obama deserves and will get much credit for his efforts to pass health care reform, the often-ridiculed NancyPelosi has frequently shown more guts than any two men in Congress. From the New York Times:

Scott Brown, the upstart Republican, had just won his Senate race in Massachusetts, a victory that seemed to doom Mr. Obama’s dream of overhauling the nation’s health care system. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once Ms. Pelosi’s right hand man on Capitol Hill, was pushing Mr. Obama to scale back his ambitions and pursue a pared-down bill.

Mr. Obama seemed open to the idea, though it was clearly not his first choice. Ms. Pelosi scoffed.

“Kiddie care,” she called the scaled-down plan, derisively, in private.

In a series of impassioned conversations, over the telephone and in the Oval Office, she conveyed her frustration to the president, according to four people familiar with the talks. If she and Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, were going to stick out their necks for Mr. Obama’s top legislative priority, Ms. Pelosi wanted assurances that the president would too. At the White House, aides to Mr. Obama say, he also wanted assurances; he needed to hear that the leaders could pass his far-reaching plan.

“We’re in the majority,” Ms. Pelosi told the president. “We’ll never have a better majority in your presidency in numbers than we’ve got right now. We can make this work.”

Finally, I watched today various anti-abortion Republicans cynically use the abortion issue as a wedge to divide Democrats, pretending the Hyde Amendment issue trumped all considerations for them and should for Democrats, too.  The problem was, of course, that the Hyde Amendment had nothing to do with their fierce opposition to the reform bill.

The phony sadness with which they came to the microphone at their press conference–after it was clear that Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak was satisfied with Obama’s pledge to sign an Executive Order that would ensure that no federal funds would be used to pay for abortions–merely served to trivialize their “principled” stand on the abortion issue. 

These days the Republicans have only one solid principle from which they will not budge: Tell outrageous lies as often as possible and hope a few of them will resonate with enough of the American people to regain power.

After the historic vote tonight, the battle for the truth will have just begun. Democrats can’t afford to rest for a minute, as the Republican Machine will be cranked up another notch, and its message will be, in the words of House Minority Leader John Boehner, “This bill will ruin the country.”

 

Lonely Are The Brave

Nancy Pelosi, the name evoked by all liberal-haters at Tea Parties and wherever two or more Republicans are gathered together, yesterday on This Week with Elizabeth Vargas explained the noble side of public service:

VARGAS: What do you say to your members, when [the Senate health care reform bill] does come to the House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their seats in November if they support you now?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, our members — every one of them — wants health care. I think everybody wants affordable health care for all Americans. They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.

But the American people need it. Why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people, to get them results that gives them not only health security, but economic security, because the health issue is an economic issue for — for America’s families.

Imagine that.  “We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress.”

We’ll soon see who is and who isn’t.

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