Joplin Businessman Is Happy With Hobby Lobby Decision, Are You?

A Joplin businessman said the following about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, as reported by KODE and KSN TV:

JOPLIN, MO.— “I just don’t like the government telling me what to do,” said David Starrett, The Medicine Shoppe Owner.

That’s the stance Hobby Lobby owners have taken. Today, the Supreme Court ruled five to four in favor of Hobby Lobby stores. This means the company doesn’t have to provide contraception coverage under Obamacare. 

“This family says, stood up and said ‘Hey, we’re not going to take this. We have reasons why we’re making our decisions, and we don’t want the government.’ You know, I thought it was a victory for them, American liberty,” said Starrett.  […]

“Religious liberty, I’m happy to see it too because again, I don’t think the government needs to be involved in telling a person what they can or can’t believe, or have strong feelings about it,” said Starrett. 

medicine shoppeIt happens that I used to use Starrett’s pharmacy. That changed sometime back, as I am sensitive to what business owners have on their for-public-viewing televisions during business hours. It tells me something. Thus, when I went to Starrett’s Medicine Shoppe and was forced to endure Glenn Beck’s program while I waited—he was still on Fox at the time—I vowed to change pharmacies, which I did sometime later.

And after I saw Starrett’s appearance on KODE TV on Monday night, I was compelled to find a way to express to the giddy pharmacist how I felt. Even though it appears that the “Guestbook” page on his website isn’t working, just in case I sent the following message to David Starrett, who, along with his wife, owns Joplin’s Medicine Shoppe:


I saw you on local TV tonight praising the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Thanks for confirming my decision to drop you as my family’s pharmacist several years ago. I had a feeling, after walking into your business on 20th street one day and seeing Fox “News” on your TV, that you didn’t really care if you served people like me. Turned out I was right. I will tell every non-right-wing person I know that your Medicine Shoppe is not worthy of their business.

R. Duane Graham

The Shining City On A Molehill

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

—Jesus of Nazareth

This allegedly Christian nation is apparently full of hypocrites. And in a weird sort of way, that is a good thing. It tells us something we need to know.

I have often heard evangelical religious leaders, including some I used to admire when I was an evangelical, assert that the United States is a Christian nation. You’ve heard that claim, too. These days it comes mostly in the form of, “We have turned our backs on God and God will punish us for it.” Yeah, well, maybe he is. From an article in NewsOk:

Since October, more than 52,000 children from Central America have been apprehended, more than double the previous year. White House officials said that while they are often fleeing extreme violence and impoverished conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, they are also acting under the misinformation that once they arrive here they essentially get a free pass to stay. Purveyors of the misinformation are thought to include people making money by smuggling them across the border.

Of course, President Obama is to blame. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin sums up the charge:

President Obama’s policies — including his decision two years ago that his administration would stop deporting young illegal immigrants as proposed under the DREAM Act — are directly responsible for the current border crisis that is now spilling over to facilities such as the one at Fort Sill.


“Death trains” rumbling through Mexico teeming with children, headed for the U.S. border. Teenage girls raped. Unspeakable violence at the hands of ruthless coyotes, carrying out President Obama’s stunningly reckless new foreign policy.

Worst still was a charge I heard myself, while talking to a local businessman I ran into recently:

That nigger signed an order allowing all those kids to stay in the country.

Yes. He said that. Welcome to my world.

Obviously President Obama isn’t responsible for the misinformation that people-smugglers down south are putting out in order to make a fast buck. Neither is he responsible for honest misunderstandings by some migrants that the U.S. “was offering some kind of entry permit” for those seeking asylum, as The New York Times reported. The memorandum Mr. Obama signed in 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, only applies to those undocumented immigrants who have lived here since June 15, 2007, among other requirements.

children detaineesNow, I won’t pretend that I have any answers regarding what should be done (as opposed to what is being done) about the thousands of mostly kids fleeing their own countries and coming to the United States (many of them are also seeking asylum in Mexico and other places), hoping against hope that not only will they be able to stay, but that they will be welcomed by a wealthy and generous and, uh, Christian, people. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has any answers, if by answers one means anything beyond putting them back on buses and shipping them home today (which is what many Republicans seem to want to do, contrary to a Bush-signed law by the way).

I am looking at all this from the perspective of a former evangelical Christian and a former conservative admirer of Ronald Reagan. The thousands of young people who have flooded into our country recently (the flood began in 2009 and has accelerated the last two years) headed here largely because they essentially believed in the idea that Ronald Reagan expressed halfway through his presidency: “Every promise, every opportunity, is still golden in this land.” At the end of his second term, bidding farewell to the nation, Reagan, hero of Christian conservatives, said:

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the ‘shining city upon a hill.’ The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Just 25 years have passed since Reagan said America’s “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” And there is still plenty of will, still plenty of heart. We see it in the hopeful eyes of those who have struggled to get here from unimaginably poor and violent societies, “from all the lost places hurtling through darkness.” Their faces are full of the possibilities of this land. The will and heart to get to the United States are all most of those desperate folks have. But after only 25 years it is obvious that the will of welcoming Americans, especially of “Christian” Americans, has weakened and the heart has grown cold. Our doors-are-open vision is much cloudier these days. Hardly a shining city on a hill. We are not standing strong and true on any granite ridge. Our glow is low. What we see are “illegals.” What we behold are “lawbreakers” who need to be sent back as soon as possible. The faces we see coming over the border are full of impossibilities.

I’m not naive. I know that if Ronald Reagan were president today he would not welcome these unfortunate people in from Central America any more than Barack Obama is. I know nogales arizona shelterthe hazard that would be created if we were simply to welcome without condition the thousands of desperate people who have come here so far. I also know that Reagan’s idea of America as a shining city on a hill was, like so much of what we tell ourselves about ourselves, just a way of idealizing who we are and what we are supposed to stand for, and not an accurate picture of the real America.

That real America is all mixed up. In many ways we are a contradiction. We brag about the genius of our Republic, even as we watch its governing apparatus purposely brought to a miserable and grinding halt at a time when so much needs to be done. We claim we are a nation of Christians, of people who supposedly follow a man-God named Jesus, who told us first to love God then to love our neighbors as ourselves. “There is no commandment greater than these,” he said. But even the most zealous conservative evangelical Christians, from the pulpit to politics, have decided, at least in the case of our poor and desperate neighbors, that such does not apply to the country as a whole. America as a nation is apparently not subject to their God’s commandments. And that is as it should be. We do, indeed, live under a secular government. Acting as a nation, we are not, and should not be, bound by any religious doctrine or decree.

Thus, leaving aside the larger moral question of what should be done with all the kids we are now caring for temporarily, we can see that this present humanitarian crisis demonstrates, hopefully once and for all, that we are not, and never have been, a Christian nation in the sense that conservative evangelicals have previously claimed. That may be the only good thing that comes from our failure to have a coherent immigration policy. No longer can anyone with a straight and self-righteous face claim, as most evangelicals believe, that “America is uniquely blessed by God” and “should be a model Christian nation to the world.”  Such a model Christian nation would have welcoming borders. Such a model Christian nation would not turn away tens of thousands of young people—from countries where Christianity is dominant and evangelical Christianity represents about one-third of the population—who believe they have no better place to go in order live a decent life. Such a model Christian nation would at least register outrage that we might soon be turning away thousands of children who obviously need our help, children who had the misfortune of being born outside the borders of Ronald Reagan’s shining, God-blessed land.

There isn’t much outrage. Heck, for the political party of the Christian Right, the outrage is going the other way:

For their part, Republicans appear to be taking an increasingly hard line on how to treat young illegal immigrants. A string of GOP members of Congress has denounced the president’s leniency toward those already in the U.S. and said the policy should be rescinded. Some in the party are backtracking from legislation that would give legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

At least those reactionary politicians are talking about the issue. For the professional evangelical right, there isn’t much discussion going on. I went to the website of the famous and very vocal Christian Right group, Family Research Council, whose self-described vision includes “a culture in which human life is valued” and where “families flourish.” The top story is about how President Obama is “giving special workplace benefits to the sexually confused.” I couldn’t find one story about the thousands of Christian kids seeking asylum in the United States. Not one story. The silence is damning.

For conservative evangelicals, perhaps God-damning:

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Unprecedented: More than 160,000 immigrants have been<br /><br /><br /><br /> apprehended in Texas' Valley sector in the first eight months of this<br /><br /><br /><br /> fiscal year, eclipsing the total for all of last year

The U.S. Leads The World In Disputing Key Scientific Facts About Global Warming And Here’s Why

Earlier this week I wrote about the Risky Business Project, which produced an informative, if frightening, report on climate change that I said,

expressed the problem in terms of “a common language of risk that is already part of every serious business and investment decision we make today.”

I started that piece (“Humid Heat Stroke Index And Other Climate Change ‘Hoaxes'”) with a quote from the head of the Republican Party’s Know Nothing Wing (which is pretty much the entire party these days), Rush Limbaugh:

“It is a hoax.  All of it. I don’t know how else to say it.  All of that is just wrong, and these people know it’s wrong.”

Well, you might say, that’s just Rush being Rush. No serious players pay any attention to that kind of right-wing, science-denying bullshit. Oh, yeah? How about this:

cnbc and global warming hoaxMedia Matters confirmed that Cindy Perman, working as the “commentary editor of,” mistook a blog that specializes in rebutting climate change deniers (called DeSmogBlog) for one that is, let’s just say, friendly to the know-nothings on the right. DeSmogBlog had written a short (and critical) profile of an MIT economist (not a climate scientist) named Alan Carlin, who claims “there is little evidence for significant human impacts on climate.” And being a sloppy journalist, or being a journalist with an ax to grind, or being a journalist who wants to keep her job at, Cindy Perman sent the following message to DeSmogBlog:

Hi there. Given this new report on the cost of climate change, wanted to extend an invitation to Alan Carlin to write an op-ed for Can be on the new report or just his general thoughts on global warming being a hoax.

You want to know why not much of ultimate consequence is getting done in this country regarding climate change? It’s because journalists, or journalistic enterprises like CNBC purports to be at times (when it is not attacking the Obama administration for being “anti-business” or providing misleading coverage of climate change), decide that it is necessary to solicit the Limbaugh- and Glenn Beck-friendly views of someone who doesn’t believe humans have all that much to do with what is happening to the planet’s climate in order to counter the scientific consensus, a consensus that right-winging zealots just don’t like, that we are negatively changing our world by our fossil fuel-driven behavior.

Finally, let me cite Wikipedia for a summation of the state of the science vis-à-vis climate change:

In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view, though a few organizations hold non-committal positions. Disputes over the key scientific facts of global warming are now more prevalent in the popular media than in the scientific literature, where such issues are treated as resolved, and more in the United States than globally.

Yes, sadly, we apparently lead the world in disputing “key scientific facts of global warming.”  And right-leaning media, including CNBC, are the main reason why.

Humid Heat Stroke Index And Other Climate Change “Hoaxes”

“It is a hoax.  All of it. I don’t know how else to say it.  All of that is just wrong, and these people know it’s wrong.”

—Rush Limbaugh on global warming

A after Earth just had its warmest May on record, after the northern Midwest just received two months worth of rain in about a week, yet another Republican vying for office has decided that questioning climate change is good politics. Unfortunately, that news is pretty ho-hum these days. It’s sort of like saying that somebody said something stupid on Fox and Friends this morning. Not much news there.

But what isn’t ho-hum is the latest report on what is happening to our climate and what will happen if we allow Republican know-nothings to run the government.

The report is called “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.” You can go check it out for yourself. It will wow you, if you can be wowed about bad news from scientists. Here I will publish only a portion of the report having to do with heat and humidity in the Midwest, a nagging problem for those of us who live here in Missouri about this time of year. The heat-humidity combo plate can sometimes keep you indoors for days—and nights for that matter.

First, the report makes clear that because of climate change, we Midwesterners will have “fewer winter days with temperatures below freezing.” I suppose that’s the good news. But we will “experience an additional 7 to 26 days above 95°F each year by mid-century, and 20 to 75 additional extreme-heat days—potentially more than 2 additional months per year of extreme heat—by the end of the century.” And, no, that’s not the bad news. This is:

But the real story in this region is the combined impact of heat and humidity, which we measure using the Humid Heat Stroke Index, or HHSI. The human body’s capacity to cool down in the hottest weather depends on our ability to sweat, and to have that sweat evaporate on our skin. Sweat keeps the skin temperature below 95°F, which is required for our core temperature to stay around 98.6°F. But if the outside temperature is a combination of very hot and very humid—if it reaches a HHSI of about 95°F—our sweat cannot evaporate, and our core body temperature can rise until we actually collapse from heat stroke. Even at an HHSI of 92°F, core body temperatures can get close to 104°F, which is the body’s absolute limit.

To date, the U.S. has never experienced heat-plus-humidity at this scale. The closest this country has come was in 1995 in Appleton, Wisconsin, when the HHSI hit 92°F. (At the time, the outside temperature was 101°F and the dew point was 90°F.) The only place in the world that has ever reached the unbearable HHSI of 95°F was Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 (outside temperature of 108°F, dew point of 95°F). Our research shows that if we continue on our current path, the average Midwesterner could see an HHSI at the dangerous level of 95°F two days every year by late century, and that by the middle of the next century, she or he can expect to experience 20 full days in a typical year of HHSI over 95°F, during which it will be functionally impossible to be outdoors.

That scares me, even though I likely won’t be around when things get that bad. I don’t think I’m going to live to be 200, unless that cryogenic storage kit I found on a right-wing huckster’s website pays off (I got a really good deal on it, and it came with a pair of X-ray sunglasses!). But even if I’m not around, there will be somebody here, somebody who will experience such extreme heat and humidity, among other troubling things like rising sea levels. And all of us living today, who may have a chance to do something good for those we will never meet, should be interested in investing in a future we will never know because so many before us invested in futures they never knew. Funny how that works.

The Risky Business Project that produced this report is rather unique in that it looked at and then expressed the problem in terms of “a common language of risk that is already part of every serious business and investment decision we make today.”

From the report:

Our research also shows that if we act today to move onto a different path, we can still avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change, particularly those related to extreme heat. We are fully capable of managing climate risk, just as we manage risk in many other areas of our economy and national security—but only if we start to change our business and public policy decisions today.

Given what we know about Republican politics today, it may seem like a fantasy to think that we could change our policy decisions in any meaningful way. But I want to publish a graphic from the Risky Business report that should be used at every congressional hearing, every think-tank seminar, on the subject of climate change. If you have ever experienced the misery of high heat and high humidity, this map should make you demand from your legislator some action:

humid heat stroke index

A Thousand Guns For Jesus

On Friday morning, I took this photo in Joplin:

 20140620_083748 (1)

That sort of gives you an idea of what it is like to live in Southwest Missouri. Here, some folks like to advertise, quite openly, just how smart they are.

Or aren’t.

Over the weekend, the Joplin Globe furnished us with another example of what it is like to live here in Hooterville:

Ignite Church attempts to recruit young men by giving away AR-15

ignite church photo

According to the article,

The give away was part of an outreach by Ignite Church to a specific demographic group: males age 18 to 35.

Apparently, Jesus-loving church officials couldn’t think of anything that would draw more young men to the Savior than an assault weapon. That tells you a lot about what they think of the young men in and around Joplin, not to mention what they think of Jesus. Oh. I forgot to mention: the gun giveaway was on, uh, Father’s Day. Jesus loves you, dad, and pass the ammo! These semi-automatic babies sure eat up the lead!

The pastor of this strangely innovative New Testament church said:

If we get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel. If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.

Using your logic, pastor, I have an idea for you. How about taking a page out of the jihadist hymnal and offer up 1,000 virgins? That’ll get ’em in the pews! You’ll have more “males age 18 to 35” than you can shake an assault rifle at. We would soon have our own mega-church right here in Joplin!

shoot if you love jesus

Hillary Clinton Has Something To Learn And Elizabeth Warren Is Her Best Teacher

If, as I did, you were able to watch Hardball with the ridiculous Chris Matthews (you will see why in the clip below) on MSNBC yesterday, you now know why Senator Elizabeth Warren, the populist progressive from Massachusetts, is so admired by those of us on the left, those of us who know that Hillary Clinton will get the nomination if she runs, and those of us who know that Hillary Clinton is not, and never will be, an Elizabeth Warren Democrat.

Before we get to Chris Matthews’ strange and stupidly aggressive interview of Warren (I think Reince Priebus, the High Priest of GOP Voodoo, cast a spell on Chris before the show), we must first go to the transcript of Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Fox recently. Most of the questions posed to her during her Fox interview were, of course, about Benghazi. She did fine with those (so fine that many on the Right were pissed that Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren didn’t hang her on the set for “murdering” those Americans). But one non-Benghazi question that was asked, one that was designed to put a wedge between Clinton and Obama, elicited a typical Clintonesque answer that bothered me. No, it pissed me off:

BAIER: Last thing, quickly. The Real Clear Politics average of major reliable polls, not just one, the average polls, has the “right track/wrong track” breaking this way: 29 percent right track for the country, 64 percent wrong track. That’s the average of polls. So, do you agree with the 64 percent?

CLINTON: What I agree with is that many Americans are still feeling that they have not recovered from the Great Recession. They are still worried about their future, the future of their children. We could go down all the reasons why from — you know, student debt to, you know, stagnant or decreasing incomes to income inequality, all of these factors that Americans are living with and they look and they say what happened to the American Dream? I was raised with that. I’m a product of it. I am proud to be a product of it. I had a great upbringing. I had a family that supported me. Great public education. All these opportunities as did my husband. And now, people are saying well, we think it’s over. So, of course they are going to say, regardless I would argue who is president, I would say that most people are saying wait a minute, it’s not working for me anymore. What do we do to get back on track toward people living up to their own God- given potential in this country that we love?

Huh? What? If Hillary Clinton wants to inspire people to go out and work to get her elected, she is going to have to do better than that. I don’t care if she is trying to sell books to right-wingers or not, she has to do better.

I don’t know why I expected more from someone who so clearly wants to be, first, the Democratic Party presidential nominee, and, second, leader of the country. But I did expect more. Something like telling people the real reason the country is in the condition it is in:

You know, Bret, I understand why so many people, so many hard-working people, feel the country isn’t working for them. That’s because the Republican Party, guided by a pathological dislike for President Obama, has not only done nothing to help people in the last five and a half years, they purposely stood in the way of any progress that the President and other Democrats tried to actively achieve. I could give you countless examples, but let me just mention what happened recently in the United States Senate regarding student loans and billionaires—

Here I will interrupt my imaginary Mrs. Clinton’s response and provide you with the real Elizabeth Warren on MSNBC, responding to perhaps one of the dumbest questions that Chris Matthews has ever asked anyone (and that is saying something), let alone a Democrat in Congress who can’t do a damn thing because of Republican obstructionism:


That, my friends, is how you inspire people to follow you. You start by telling them, clearly and forcefully, about the politics behind the failure of government to address our many problems and the failure to make any progress: “At least you got one side who is trying to fight for it!”

My suggestion to Hillary Clinton is learn something from Elizabeth Warren. Either that or just stay home in 2016 and enjoy your grandma time.

“That Was Our Policy,” Dick Said

“In war, truth is the first casualty.”


sick to his Obama-hating core, Dick Cheney and his intellectual clone, daughter Liz, wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal (“The Collapsing Obama Doctrine”) that featured this not-meant-to-be-ironic line:

Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. 

In his final press briefing before leaving the Administration, Jay Carney was asked about that comment and replied,

Which president was he talking about?

But Harry Reid did one better. Today on the Senate floor he said:

If there’s one thing this country does not need, is that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars. Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history. To the architects of the Iraq War who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say…thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately, we have already tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.

Now, it is common for those who championed the Iraq war to dismiss critics like Reid by rubbing in their faces that infamous vote in 2002 to go to war. Harry Reid, along with 28 other Senate Democrats including Hillary Clinton, did indeed vote in favor of authorizing military action against Iraq. But unlike Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary, Reid isn’t afraid to say he was wrong. Today he told Sam Stein:

“Do you know how I feel about that?” Reid asked during a sit-down interview in his office with The Huffington Post. “I’m sure this is no big surprise,” he said, pausing for ten seconds before continuing in a muted voice: “What a mistake.”

“I should never have voted for that,” Reid went on. “But I accepted what [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell and the others said. But it took me just a matter of a few months to realize it was a bad mistake, and my record speaks for itself. I’ve spoken out against what was going on, not once, not twice, but lots of times. And I’m sorry that I was misled, but I was, and it was a mistake for me to vote for that war.”

Mistake, indeed. Heck, even sellevangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson gets it now. So does the survivalist-baiter and gold-seller and slanderer Glenn Beck. But that Cheney-Cheney editorial never mentioned anything about pre-war mistakes, only alleged post-war ones. The Cheneys said not a word about misleading intelligence reports or faulty evidence. They did say, though, something that deserves more scrutiny:

When Mr. Obama and his team came into office in 2009, al Qaeda in Iraq had been largely defeated, thanks primarily to the heroic efforts of U.S. armed forces during the surge. Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace. Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Leave aside that part about al Qaeda being largely defeated. Until our invasion of Iraq, there was no al Qaeda in Iraq to defeat. They came there to fight us. But did Obama abandon Iraq? You hear that all the time from those who want desperately for Obama to validate their monumental mistakes by continuing them, by keeping, I guess forever, American troops in a hostile environment like Iraq.

But I want to take you back to 2010, when a happier Dick Cheney, if there is such a creature, was basking in his Iraq “victory.” On ABC’s This Week, Jonathan Karl asked Cheney about Joe Biden’s foolish remarks in 2010 regarding how Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration,” and Biden’s wise remarks about how “the war in Iraq was not worth it”:

CHENEY: I believe very deeply in the proposition that what we did in Iraq was the right thing to do. It was hard to do. It took a long time. There were significant costs involved.

But we got rid of one of the worst dictators of the 20th century. We took down his government, a man who’d produced and used weapons of mass destruction, a man who’d started two different wars, a man who had a relationship with terror. We’re going to have a democracy in Iraq today. We do today. They’re going to have another free election this March.

This has been an enormous achievement from the standpoint of peace and stability in the Middle East and ending a threat to the United States. Now, as I say, Joe Biden doesn’t believe that. Joe Biden wants to take credit — I’m not sure for what — since he opposed that policy pretty much from the outset.

KARL: I think what he wants to take credit for is taking resources out of Iraq, the fact…

CHENEY: That’s being done in accordance with a timetable that we initiated, that we  that we negotiated with  with the Iraqis. I mean, that was our policy.

Yes, that’s right. It was their policy. That was about the only thing Cheney got right in that exchange. Pulling out the way we did in 2011 was their policy. But now that things don’t look so good, it is suddenly Obama who “abandoned Iraq.” Horseshit. Just how long were we supposed to leave our troops there? A hundred years? A thousand?

I want to cite a right-winger (and senior staffer under Bush-Cheney) who said “George W. Bush warned that if America withdrew from Iraq, American troops would eventually have to return.” Yeah, well, he’s right. Bush did warn us about “withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready.” The problem is that Bush said that in 2007. And we stayed until 2011. And we left then because Bush, presumably because his commanders told him we would be ready, signed in 2008 the Status of Forces Agreement that Obama followed. Only in the strange brains of conservatives, most of whom were wrong about Iraq from Day One, can all of this mess be Obama’s fault.

But the Cheneys have a profound hatred for the President. Predictably, their tribute to family delusions that The Wall Street Journal eagerly published, came with this:

…President Obama seems determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch.

And to end their hit piece, the Cheneys wrote:

President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.

That is what it has come down to, ever since Barack Obama dared sit his pigmented posterior on the Bush-Cheney-stained furniture in the White’s House. Obama means to do the country harm. He is, as Liz Cheney said last year, “working to pre-emptively disarm the United States.”

Whenever I hear talk like that, I regret that the newly inaugurated President Obama didn’t start his first term by ordering his attorney general to investigate Liz Cheney’s dad for possible war crimes. That would have been one way that Obama could have proven to all Americans that rather than desiring to take America down a notch, his intention was to elevate our moral standing.

 cheney behind bars

Iraq And The Folly Of Sovereignty

Sovereignty, in political theory, is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity.”


It was inevitable, of course.

John McCain, who still can’t believe voters thwarted his Commander-in-Chief aspirations six years ago, appearing on MSNBC this morning, blamed President Obama for what is happening in Iraq:

What about the fact we had it won?…Gen. Petraeus had the conflict won, thanks to the surge. And if we had left a residual force behind…we would not be facing the crisis we are today. Those are fundamental facts … The fact is, we had the conflict won and we had a stable government…But the president wanted out, and now, we are paying a very heavy price. And I predicted it in 2011.

This blame-Obama-first reaction we all expect from Republicans whenever anything at all goes wrong, but it is utterly and demonstrably false in this case. Republicans forget that the original agreement with the Iraqis to pull out of their country was signed by none other than George W. Bush in 2008, an agreement that specified we would “withdraw from all Iraqi territory, waters, and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011.” We did withdraw in December of 2011. So, how all the latest developments are Obama’s fault is beyond me, but not surprising, given the level of hatred for the president among right-wingers.

What seems surprising to me, though, is McCain’s “we had it won” claim, which is beyond ridiculous. George Bush famously thought we had it won when he spoke on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him, saying,

In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. 

Yeah, well, people should remember that most of the dead and wounded became dead and wounded after those infamous words. Bush also told us in that 2003 speech:

The Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on…The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al-Qaida, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.

Leave aside that lie about the Iraqis being “an ally of al-Qaida”—former CIA Director George Tenet took care of that by admitting that the Bushies “could never verify there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaida for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period”—and focus only on the claim of victory, a claim that was not only unsupported by the evidence at the time, but a claim that could never have come true under any circumstances. Obviously, in terms of defeating the Iraqi military and putting ourselves into a position of occupying the country, we were successful. That’s what we are good at. We are the best. The Iraqi army, knowing we are the best, didn’t really fight, and the much-vaunted Republican Guard decided they weren’t going to die, 72 virgins or no 72 virgins, for their fellow tribesman, Saddam Hussein.

But that U.S. military triumph wasn’t the real victory that the Bush and his neo-conservative allies envisioned when they undertook the very stupid and very costly war against Hussein’s Baathist regime. In their heads were “the images of celebrating Iraqis,” as Bush noted in his celebratory speech, grateful folks who would welcome us with open arms for liberating them from “their own enslavement.” But Iraq as we knew it then and Iraq as we know it now was and is never going to be a place where, in Bush’s words on that aircraft carrier eleven years ago, we could “stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.”

For his part, President Obama, although much more restrained, said some things to Americans in 2011 about the end of the eight-year-long Iraq war that don’t sound so good today:

It’s harder to end a war than begin one.  Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq — all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering — all of it has led to this moment of success.  Now, Iraq is not a perfect place.  It has many challenges ahead.  But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.  

So much for a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq. This morning I heard Iraq’s ambassador to the United States essentially begging for more help from Americans, dismissing the fact that his country’s Shia leader, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, failed to reach a deal with the Obama administration on a status of forces agreement that would john mccain and iraqhave kept, perhaps unwisely for us, thousands of U.S. troops in his country. But worst than that, Maliki failed to govern the divided country in a way that had any chance of success. He did nothing to make sure the rights of the Sunni minority were protected. In fact, as noted, he ordered the mass-arrest of Sunni civilians and the killing of peaceful Sunni protesters. He essentially “built a Shia sectarian state.” All of which allowed a violent Sunni insurgency to grow and strengthen.

As I said, it was the subsequent occupation of Iraq that cost us so much in lives and treasure. And it was during that occupation, if not before, where all of us should have realized that there would never be anything happen in Iraq that we could call a victory and truly claim mission accomplished. Patrick Cockburn, who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 and who has written four books on the contemporary history of Iraq, said of the American occupiers that we “were in a mood of exaggerated imperial arrogance” and failed to see what was coming:

In that first year of the occupation it was easy to tell which way the wind was blowing. Whenever there was an American soldier killed or wounded in Baghdad, I would drive there immediately. Always there were cheering crowds standing by the smoking remains of a Humvee or a dark bloodstain on the road. After one shooting of a soldier, a man told me: “I am a poor man but my family is going to celebrate what happened by cooking chicken.” Yet this was the moment when President Bush and his Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, were saying that the insurgents were “remnants of the old regime” and “dead enders”.

Cockburn also makes an important point that it wasn’t just Americans who were willfully blind about the nature of the Iraqi state: “There was also misconception among Iraqis about the depth of the divisions within their own society.” Objective outsiders should have seen that Iraq is not a real country. Force has held it together since the British (without going into why, but it had a lot to do with oil) first tried to weld into one country the old Ottoman-controlled provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. Keeping these people, the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shias, under one nation-state roof has proved to be impossible without lots and lots of oppression and killing. And the killing continues today, as we see in the news.

Leaving aside all of the Republican nonsense about blaming Obama for the ongoing disintegration of Iraq, the question, obviously, is what should the U.S. do now? And that, like almost all foreign policy questions, is not John McCain-simple. I have heard some people, including some Democrats, say do nothing. Let the Iraqis handle their own problems. But as President Obama said today, “Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos. The United States will do our part.”

Okay. Let’s start with what might be part of a long-term strategy. It appears to be time to reconsider Joe Biden’s old proposal, which he made while still a U.S. senator in 2007. Biden sponsored an amendment to a defense bill, which passed the Senate 75-23, that James Oliphant, no friend of Democrats or progressives, summarized this way:

The amendment requires the United States to work to support the division of Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions, each governed locally by its dominant ethnic and religious factions, the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The regions would have dominion over police protection, jobs, utilities and other municipal functions, supported by a weaker federal government in Baghdad. All three regions would share in the country’s oil revenues.

The wisdom of that difficult-to-implement proposal only increases with time. It appears to be the only realistic solution, if there is a solution, to an otherwise insoluble problem. But that is a possible long-term solution. For now, while a rather violent and venomous group of jihadists are capturing Iraqi cities one by one and headed for Baghdad—due to, once again, widespread desertion by the “national” army—we can’t stand by and do nothing. We do have a national interest in making sure, as best we can without engaging in another war, that the utterly brutal Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which, as The Washington Post points out, now “effectively governs a nation-size tract of territory,” does not take over the entire place.

The Post also says the militant Islamic group “has become a far more lethal, effective and powerful force than it was when U.S. forces were present in Iraq,” and quotes a former adviser to both Bush and Obama on Iraq:

This is a force that is ideologically motivated, battle hardened and incredibly well equipped. It also runs the equivalent of a state. It has all the trappings of a state, just not an internationally recognized one.

Just what effective actions the U.S. could take in the short-term isn’t clear to me. But it isn’t clear to war-hawk John McCain either. For all his bluster, he is reduced to saying there are “no good options.” Yeah, well, thanks for that sage advice, Senator. And, thank God or Allah, you are still only a senator.

Sharing intelligence with the Iraqi government, such as it is, is obviously a good place to start. Perhaps drone strikes and other air attacks are in order. Perhaps other forms of aid will do some good. But one thing we know, despite what the logic of John McCain’s criticisms entails,

We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.

Those are the words of, thankfully, the real Commander in Chief.

The Las Vegas Cop Murders: Rhetorical And Philosophical Chickens Coming Home To Roost

miller the cop killer

Just about a month ago, speaking in support of a proposed radical amendment to the Missouri constitution that would attempt to nullify all federal gun laws, a state legislator from the Joplin area named Charlie Davis tried to explain to a local right-wing radio host what was the purpose of the radical amendment:

Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.

That last part, that part about an individual having the right to protect himself from an overextension of government, is what ran through my head when I heard the news about the cold-blooded execution of two policemen and a civilian in Las Vegas on Sunday. What Rep. Charlie Davis was advocating, when he implied that people should have the right to use weapons against over-the-limit government officials, sounds a lot like what people in the “sovereign citizen” movement are advocating: individuals are the final authority regarding any law created or any action taken by government, especially the federal government.

Let’s face it. Charlie Davis’ comments about using weapons “to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government”—comments he made not long after the freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy inspired militia freaks to come to his aid armed against the federal government—do not conflict with the philosophical views of Bundy or those two anti-government cop killers in Las Vegas. Here’s how the Las Vegas Review-Journal described the radicalized murderers:

Before going on a shooting rampage that left five people dead, including two Las Vegas police officers and themselves, Jerad and Amanda Miller displayed the classic ideological leanings of the anti-government patriot movement, according to nationally known experts who track extremist groups.

Their ambush of officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo was the latest in a growing number of shootouts, some deadly, between right-wing extremists and law enforcement authorities, the experts say.

“It’s showing no sign of slowing down,” said Mark Pitcavage, the widely known top researcher for the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s almost inevitable there will be more confrontations between right-wing extremists, and law enforcement needs to be prepared for that.”

I would like someone to explain to me how what Tea Party-loving Charlie Davis said is different from “the classic ideological leanings of the anti-government patriot movement” that inspired the two creeps who decided to go on a government-hating killing spree in Las Vegas, draping one of the police victims in the Tea Party-adopted Gadsden flag and pinning a note to the other police victim claiming that the killings were “the beginning of a revolution”?

Please someone explain to me how it is possible to neatly separate what Jerad and Amanda Miller believed about government from what so many Tea Party extremists say they believe?

Reportedly, a witness at Walmart, where Amanda Miller killed a civilian trying to stop her husband, said he heard Jerad Miller reiterate that, “This is a revolution!” If you go to YouTube and watch a two-minute tribute to the first Joplin Tea Party rally in 2009, you will see at the end of that tribute the following:

joplin tea party 2009

This isn’t unique to Joplin. We all know what language teapartiers have used throughout the presidency of Barack Obama. We’ve heard what the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys and countless others, including countless politicians, have said about what Charlie Davis called the “overextension” of government. I don’t have to dig up and publish all the ridiculous things that have been said. But what we all should understand is that a form of radicalism very close to the radicalism that infected the minds of murderous extremists like Jerad and Amanda Miller has become an important part of mainstream conservatism these days.

Facebook can reveal a lot about people and what is in their heads and where they are getting what is in their heads. Just look at some of the “likes” on Jerad Miller’s Facebook page:

National Rifle Association
American Patriot Media Network
Rand Paul 2016
Ron Paul
Allen West
Washington Examiner
Heritage Foundation
American Crossroads

Now, none of these people or groups—who are well within the mainstream of today’s Republican Party—obviously are directly responsible for what Jerad and Amanda Miller did on Sunday. What I am interested in pointing out is how the language and basic philosophy of the Tea Party movement, at least the most influential parts of it, is similar to the language and philosophy embraced by violence-prone haters of government, including the Millers, who were armed participants in the Bundy standoff against the feds and, like other right-wing extremists including Sean Hannity, considered the outcome a victory. In fact, Hannity, using his Fox program to promote Bundy’s efforts until Bundy revealed himself as a racist, defended his actions on behalf of Bundy by first condemning the rancher’s racism and then saying,

The ranch standoff that took place out in Nevada was not about a man named Cliven Bundy. At the heart of this issue was my belief that our government is simply out of control. 

You see? It is an out-of-control government that justifies the armed citizen response to what the Bureau of Land Management was trying to legally do to bring justice to Bundy—a response that caused a U.S. Republican senator to label those armed citizens “patriots.” If, as Hannity insists, the “heart” of the issue at Bundy’s ranch, where radicals were armed and ready to gun down federal agents, was a government out of control, then the heart of the issue in Las Vegas, at least for the two radicals who were armed and actually gunned down agents of the local government, was also a government out of control. There’s simply no way to separate the two, except that one was a potential tragedy and the other a real one. The underlying philosophical ideas are essentially the same: the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to protect themselves against overreaching government.

As for Charlie Davis, in a report he published about that radical and obviously unconstitutional nullification amendment to Missouri’s constitution (the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” which barely failed in the last few minutes of this year’s session, but will certainly come back again), Davis called the legislation, “a crucial bill that prevents federal overreach.” He based his argument on some of the Founders who “were understandably wary of a centralized government with no checks on its authority.” Most notably, Davis quoted Patrick Henry:

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.

What can citing that quote in the context of the proposed “Second Amendment Preservation Act” mean, if it doesn’t mean that people have the right to use violence against the government, which ultimately means government officials? Again, I want you to carefully read what Rep. Charlie Davis said to a local radio station in defense of amending the Missouri constitution so as to nullify federal gun laws:

It gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.

You tell me why Jerad and Amanda Miller couldn’t use that notion to support what they did a few days ago, so long as they believed in their own minds that government was overextending itself?

I’m not saying that those who believe in small government or fiscal restraint or an 18th-century concept of governance are to blame for what those two cop-killers did in Las Vegas. I’m not saying that conservatives or conservatism or any philosophical stance that advocates for shrinking the size of government, or for limiting the reach of government in our lives, are responsible for those violent extremists who take what they say seriously enough to arm themselves and begin shooting at the first agent of government they see. I’m not saying Charlie Davis endorses the killing of cops.

What I am saying, and I want to be clear about this, is that when contemporary conservatives and libertarians make an unmistakable connection between their small- and limited-government views and what some call “Second Amendment remedies”—using your constitutional right to possess firearms as a means of acting on your philosophical beliefs—then they are contributing to the environment in which people like Jerad and Amanda Miller think they are on the verge of a revolution to take their country back from people who believe in government and its role in our modern society.

In effect, marrying Second Amendment radicalism to the anti-government radicalism of the Tea Party, as, for example, local state representative Charlie Davis did, is part of a very serious problem we have in this country. Mixing gun supremacy with a philosophy that questions the legitimacy of government, again, as Charlie Davis did, should not be a philosophical concoction that Americans embrace in the 21st century.

But as the stunning and historic defeat last night of Tea Party-friendly House Majority Leader Eric Cantor demonstrated, there is an active, animated group of uber-Tea Party extremists who have taken over the Republican Party and who will, eventually, either ruin the party or ruin the country.

The man who defeated Eric Cantor is named Dave Brat, an economics professor at a private, Methodist-operated liberal arts college in Virginia. Let me give you a line from Brat’s issue statement on the Second Amendment:

The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution for a reason – it provides the people with the ultimate guarantee of sovereignty.

What can sovereignty mean in this context but “freedom from external control”? And what can it mean in this context but the right to use weapons against government officials who, in the opinion of the so-called sovereign individual, are exercising unlawful actions on behalf of the state?

Dave Brat also has an opinion on President Obama’s health insurance reforms:

Obamacare has proven to be an economically disastrous law and an unconstitutional power grab by our Federal Government.

Get that? The Affordable Care Act is an unlawful “power grab” by government. That opinion standing by itself isn’t all that remarkable or disturbing for a conservative-libertarian to hold. But mix that opinion with language that insists that unrestricted access to guns give individuals the “the ultimate guarantee of sovereignty” when they believe government is grabbing unlawful power, and you have, in short order, provided nourishment for cultural cancers, like the movement that infected the minds of Jerad and Amanda Miller.

The great Charles Pierce wrote a few days ago about the Millers:

…these two jamokes allegedly marinated themselves in the stew of guns and paranoia that bubbles daily in the conservative media from fringe radio hosts and chain e-mails all the way up to the polite precincts of the National Review Online and the Fox News Channel. That shouldn’t surprise us any more. The enabling of dangerous loons and the empowerment by firearms thereof is simply a staple of conservative politics in this country, yet another fetish object, yet another set of conjuring words for the conservative priesthood…

That is absolutely the truth of it, no matter how painful it is to admit it.

Along those lines, I want to note that I am the only one (as far as I can tell) who has publicly challenged Charlie Davis for what he said. I posted two pieces on this blog (including his lame response) and sent a letter to the Joplin Globe, which was published, along with another letter written by Anson Burlingame, who gave me credit “for posing a good question.” I essentially asked Davis, “what kind of overextension of government would justify a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty”?

Yet, I have not otherwise seen one word written in the local paper about the radical statement Davis made, nor have I seen an example of one local television or radio reporter asking him about it. And that tells you a lot about the quality of journalism where I live, and perhaps it says a lot about how so many people, including many journalists, have sort of become used to such radical statements since the birth of the Tea Party. As Charles Pierce says, this stuff does not surprise because it has become “a staple of conservative politics in this country.”

Remarkably, and sadly, it appears it is not newsworthy these days when a politician strongly implies that citizens unhappy with the reach of government can take the law into their gun-toting hands and execute their own brand of justice. But, at least for now, it is still newsworthy when some unhappy, and sociopathic, citizens actually do it.

The Speech President Obama Should Give—And Soon

My fellow Americans,

I want to be honest with you and tell you that I did not do as the law required and notify Congress 30 days in advance before I authorized the release and transfer of five detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar, as part of an effort to secure the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from nearly five years of captivity. But there is a reason for my failure to so notify Congress, and I want to explain why I did what I did, as well as explain to you what is happening to the conservative movement, and by extension the Republican Party, in this country, particularly as it relates to this whole episode.

The 2013 version of the National Defense Authorization Act is the law that specifies that I notify Congress well in advance of releasing anyone from the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But when I signed that bill into law, I noted that, “Section 1035…in certain circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers principles.” And this is one of those certain circumstances. I am the Commander in Chief and I have a solemn obligation to protect the interests of not only the country, but the troops we put in harm’s way. Securing the release of Bowe Bergdahl, which helps preserve a sacred tradition of not leaving any soldier behind, also helps the morale of the troops by letting them know, unequivocally, that their country will never forget them and do all that is possible to get them back home, if they are captured by the enemy. And this is irrespective of what they may or may not have done to be captured.

So, no, I did not give Congress the 30-day notice the law specifies, when I authorized the release of the detainees in Guantanamo, partly because Congress does not have the constitutional right to create a statute that restricts not just my own personal power as Commander in Chief, but any president’s power—Democrat or Republican—to do what I did in this case: secure the release of the last prisoner of war from our protracted efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by transferring Taliban detainees from Guantanamo. Whatever the young Bowe Bergdahl may or may not have done, it was necessary to act quickly to bring him home. It will be up to the Army to determine, after looking at all the facts, if any official action will be taken against him. But he will face American justice, rather than, as some commentators have suggested, have his fate determined by the Taliban.

I also want to note that in all likelihood, given that we are ending our combat efforts in Afghanistan and as a matter of international law, those five prisoners we released and transferred to Qatar would have to be released at some point in the near future anyway. Does anyone think that after we have essentially ended our part of the war in Afghanistan that we could indefinitely hold Taliban POWs that we captured on the battlefield? Does anyone think they could be tried in a federal court somewhere?

I also want to address another issue you might have heard discussed by the various pundits. Given all the criticism I’ve received regarding my alleged hypocrisy on the issue of signing statements and George W. Bush, I’d like to remind everyone what I said when I was running for this office back in 2008: “I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.” In this situation, I am not doing an end-run around Congress. Congress, when it passed a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, was trying to do an end-run around the Constitution and the powers it exclusively grants to the executive branch. The Constitution is very clear that there is only one Commander in Chief.  And certainly no one could argue that a prisoner exchange, as we are winding down the longest war in our history, is not part of the powers inherent in a president’s role as Commander in Chief. Clearly it is part of those powers.

That’s not to say that I think the President of the United States is above the law. That’s not to say that I think I have unlimited powers to do whatever I want, even as Commander in Chief. But I do think that in this case, in the case of making sure we don’t leave behind one of our soldiers being held as a prisoner of war, I had the power to act without notifying or consulting with Congress.

Now I want to move on to what I consider to be a disturbing development, as far as the conduct of a lot of conservatives and Republicans these past several days relative to my decision to bring an American POW home. I don’t use the word “disturbing” lightly. What I have seen, what many of you have seen, should disturb every American who cares about the integrity and destiny of this country. This is serious business.

In 2009, not long after Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl was captured and a Taliban-produced video of him surfaced, a so-called strategic analyst for Fox News, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel—I don’t want to dignify him by saying his name—suggested on a Fox program that Bergdahl was a “liar” and that he was “collaborating with the enemy,” no matter whether he was “under duress or not.”  This Fox analyst went on to suggest that if the imprisoned soldier had deserted his unit, then “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.” I think it is fairly clear the suggestion was that the Taliban simply kill this American soldier. Let me repeat that: the suggestion by an analyst on Fox News, a former soldier himself, was that the Taliban would do the country a favor by executing an American soldier. This reprehensible on-air conduct so outraged a group of congressmen that they sent a letter to the chief executive of Fox News demanding “an apology to PFC Bergdahl’s family and to the thousands of soldiers who put their lives on the line for our country.”

There was no apology. In fact, in recent days that same analyst has been on Fox saying even more reprehensible things, including attacking the mother and father of Bowe Bergdahl. It is clear from his past and present remarks that this Fox analyst has a profound hatred for me, and that kind of rhetoric sells very well on Fox News. But his past and present remarks about an American soldier, one who has been in captivity for almost five years, should be unacceptable for a paid contributor to a legitimate news organization. That his remarks are not unacceptable, that he still holds a job at Fox, should tell Americans all they need to know about that network and how far the conservative movement in our country has fallen.

But that isn’t all. If this kind of behavior were limited to a retired Army officer who despises me personally, or to a for-profit cable channel that traffics in all kinds of outlandish extremism about me and my administration, that would be one thing. I’m fair game. But it goes deeper than that. Almost the entire conservative movement in our country today has morphed into Fox writ large.  That movement, as well as many of the politicians it supports, has allowed its hatred for me to become so pervasive and controlling, that it poisons every position its members take, including their position on an American soldier held captive by our enemies.

Once upon a time there was a demand from the right that Bowe Bergdahl be brought home, that no soldier should be left behind. And when I did just that, suddenly Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor. Suddenly I should be impeached. If you think I exaggerate, you don’t know what is happening among a lot of people out there, many of them your neighbors with Twitter accounts. But it is more than everyday conservatives who are poisoned by disdain for me. Republican politicians are, too, or at least they are heavily influenced by the hatred of others in the conservative movement who find everything I do, no matter what it is, reprehensible.

I will tell you the truth. I never thought I would see the day when any American, not to mention a fairly significant group of conservative Americans—without knowing all the facts—would rather have one of our captive soldiers, a prisoner of war, executed by our enemies, or else left to rot under their control, than be brought home to face whatever consequences he deserves under our military justice system. I am appalled at such thinking, to be sure. But more than that I am worried about the collective mental and moral health of those Americans who call themselves conservatives today.  And I am worried about what the deterioration of the conservative movement means for our larger society.

I want to ask all Americans to think about what the strange reaction to the release of Bowe Bergdahl means for our national well-being. I am asking all of you to think about what the attacks on his mother and father say about many of our right-leaning fellow Americans and where they want to take the country. Something dark and ugly is emerging from a movement that has as its basis a very disturbing and pathological ideology.

Finally, regarding where we go from here, I will say that if Republicans in the House of Representatives don’t like what I have done relative to an American POW, if they don’t like the fact that I am preserving the doctrine of separation of powers rooted in our Constitution, they can impeach me. If they would have preferred that one of our soldiers die in the hands of the Taliban, let them say so openly. If they would have preferred that the America-hating Taliban execute justice for a young American soldier, let them come forth and speak boldly. If they want to critically damage the long and essential tradition of making sure our captive soldiers know they will never be forgotten by their country, then let them explain that to the American people, including to our troops and their families.  If that is the ground they want to stand on, let them stand. As the twice-elected Commander in Chief of the greatest military in the history of the world, I will also stand my ground, my constitutonal ground.

And welcome any impeachment proceeding.


[AP Photo]
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