Justice For Franken?

“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

—Al Franken, December 7, 2017

I have followed Al Franken’s political career closely. I have read his books. I wanted him to run for president. Now, he’s on his way out of politics. And it was his Democratic colleagues who insisted on it. Were they right in doing so? Was justice served in Franken’s case?

The most basic definition of justice is “fairness.” But what is fair and unfair in this world is, ultimately, left for people to judge. In a criminal or civil trial, a judge or jury theoretically metes out justice, even though all of us can point to cases in which we believe justice was not served by a particular verdict. Thus, the achievement of courtroom justice—where an objective law is supposed to be applied to the subjective circumstances—is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. And, as beholders, our eyes are cloudy with all kinds of experiences that cause us to evaluate a set of facts very differently.

Outside the courtroom—where we don’t have objective laws to guide us and where the rules of evidence are not codified—the concept of justice is even murkier. In such a lawless and ruleless domain, the clouds in our eyes matter even more. Rather than applying a statute to a set of facts, we are left with applying our own sense of right and wrong to what may or may not be facts. And because we all acquire our personal sense of right and wrong and our perception of reality in different ways, through different experiences, naturally our judgments will frequently vary.

In the case of Al Franken, anyone could tell by listening to his speech on the Senate floor today that he does not believe he has been dealt with justly:

A couple months ago I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.

Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was, I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently. I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.

You know an important part of the conversation we’ve been having last few months has been about how men abused their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.

Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.

Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.

“Nevertheless.” Clearly Franken doesn’t believe justice-as-fairness is being done in his case. But just as clearly, many of his Democratic colleagues, many of them his friends, disagree. Some of them offered reasons, thoughtful reasons, for their very public calls for Franken to resign. Senator Tammy Duckworth said she was “deeply disappointed” by his behavior. She thanked “all those across America who have come forward to share their stories,” and said “their courage and strength in driving this long-overdue national conversation is awe-inspiring.”

My senator, Claire McCaskill, simply tweeted at 10:34 yesterday morning: “Al Franken should resign.” That was it. A spokesman for her said she would not offer any other comment beyond what she had said previously, after the allegations first surfaced.

It was just about a month ago when Franken appeared with McCaskill in St. Louis at the annual Truman Dinner fundraiser for the Missouri Democratic Party. Franken was the featured speaker. The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote:

Much of Franken’s speech was spent playing up McCaskill’s ability to work across the aisle with Republicans. He said she has the crucial element in the Senate of being “tough without being a jerk.”

I suppose McCaskill’s “Al Franken should resign” tweet was an example of toughness. Whether it was “without being a jerk,” I will leave up to you. But my response to her tweet went in another direction, having to do with her recent meeting with Tr-mp:

Ok, then. But now we, as your Missouri supporters, expect you to never go to the Tr-mp White House again and meet with (*normalize*) the self-admitted sexual predator who lives there. Deal?

Image result for mccaskill sits beside trumpObviously McCaskill did not respond. She is, apparently, out of responses on the Franken matter. But the point stands: If McCaskill doesn’t want Al Franken to stay in the Senate and conduct business there, that’s her judgment. But justice—my concept of it anyway— demands that she refuse to do business with Tr-mp, who admitted his sexual predation on a bus, just before he met a Hollywood star. Will McCaskill ever go to the White’s House and meet with Tr-mp again? The last time she did she was seated right next to him. I didn’t see her refuse to take that seat. I haven’t heard her call for his resignation. Consistency demands it now.

Since most of the Senate Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, are on record asking for Franken’s resignation, they are all obliged to refuse to deal with Tr-mp, and they are all obliged to ask for his resignation. Will they? Will they stop meeting with him? Will each of them ask for his resignation?

Here is what Bernie Sanders tweeted out this morning:

We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what’s going on and think about resigning.

Bernie hopes Tr-mp will pay attention. He hopes he will think about resigning. He said the same thing on CBS this morning, and that statement leaves one wondering just what Bernie has been doing for the last couple of years. We know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp is paying attention. And we know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp isn’t thinking about resigning. What is unknown is whether Bernie and the Democrats will continue to deal with the sexual predator in the White’s House, will continue to normalize his administration.

Now that our side has tried, convicted, and pronounced sentence on one of our own, whether it was fair or not, it is past time that they stop engaging a man who has no business holding the once-high office he holds. If our side doesn’t want to deal with Senator Al Franken, they damn sure should not deal with Tr-mp, who has admitted to doing much worse. Yet, today Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—who as Minority Leader called on Franken to resign—are in fact meeting with him. We, as Democrats, should demand this double-standard come to an end.

Finally, back to the concept of justice. Despite his obvious reluctance to believe justice-as-fairness was done in his case, Franken is doing the right thing, the just thing, by resigning. There is a utilitarian concept of justice that says a just result is one that ends with the best possible consequences. In Franken’s case, without the support of his colleagues, he cannot serve his constituents as well as he did before. He knows that. He also knows he will continue to be a diversion and, thus, distract from what he called today “the proud legacy of progressive advocacy” of which he has been a part. So, despite his other failings, Franken deserves credit for not trying to fight this one out, as so many lesser politicians have done and are doing. His constituents should thank him and his colleagues should thank him.

And all Democrats should use this moment as a dedication to, or rededication to, the vital #Never-Tr-mp resistance movement.

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Listen To The Women, Evaluate The Evidence, Then Pass Judgment

Five days ago, when the accusations against Sen. Al Franken came out, when right-wingers were gloating and left-leaners were in a panic and some were overreacting, I was on Twitter urging caution:

…this isn’t Roy Moore territory–yet. We shouldn’t lose our ability to evaluate the relative severity of inappropriate behavior.

A short time later, I responded to a tweet by left-leaning writer Jimmy Williams, who had written that he hoped “ANY woman or man accusing ANY sitting senator of sexual harassment creates an Ethics Committee investigation.” I wrote:

Sorry, but we should stipulate that the accusations be credible ones or this whole exercise will become meaningless and hurt real victims.

Those two elements—evaluating the relative severity of the alleged behavior and evaluating the credibility of the accusations—were lost in the rush to judgment during the immediate days following the charges against Franken. Among those rushing to judgment was another liberal writer and a woman whose opinion I greatly respect, Michelle Goldberg. Writing for The New York Times, she said of Franken, “I think he should go, and the governor should appoint a woman to fill his seat.” Now, after some reflection, and after many pundits are beginning to evaluate what is happening more soberly, Goldberg has had second thoughts:

Personally, I’m torn by competing impulses. I want to see sexual harassment finally taken seriously but fear participating in a sex panic. My instinct is often to defend men I like, but I don’t want to be an enabler or a sucker. I try not to be a hypocrite, while being aware that the right plays on the media’s desire to seem fair-minded, which is part of what led to wildly excessive coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails during the presidential campaign, among other distortions.

Goldberg noted the fact that it is “organizations with liberal values” that are expected to react decisively against alleged sin in their own camps, while little accountability is expected from Republicans. She continued:

As a result, it sometimes feels as if liberal institutions are devouring themselves over sex while conservatives, unburdened by the pretense of caring about gender equality, blithely continue their misrule.

Adding to the confusion is the way so many different behaviors are being lumped together. Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation isn’t comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism. The groping Franken has been accused of isn’t in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors. It seems perverse that Franken could be on his way out of the Senate while Moore might be on his way in.

Obviously, with all the allegations flying around about creepy, caddish, even criminal behavior toward women, this is a major cultural moment. As I have always held, the women making such accusations should be believed until evidence surfaces that casts doubt on their charges. But that means the initial claims have to be subjected to an analysis that takes account of the available evidence, including the responses of those charged.

Image result for roy moore and bibleOf course we should treat the claims of offended and abused women with utmost seriousness. But we also have to treat the process of evaluating guilt or innocence with equal seriousness, as well as determining the proper penalty for bad behavior. Because, in time, we will see some charges advanced against men in power (so far, that’s who we are talking about) that are not true, that are part of a vendetta, either personal or political. And when that happens, if just one innocent man suffers because of such a vendetta—especially one aided and abetted by our eagerness to right past cultural wrongs—you can bet the creeps, cads, and criminals among us, employing nervous men as their mouthpieces, will use that miscarriage of justice as part of an attempt to squelch the vital movement we see sweeping the country, from California to Michigan to New York to, yes, Alabama.

Our Sybil War

Published on July 4, 2017

Malcolm Gladwell, the popular Canadian writer, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday. He was on the program, as Chuck Todd noted, as an outsider who could offer “some insight into who we are as Americans and how we approach our problems.”

Gladwell did offer some insight, take it or leave it:

As the outsider, the thing about American society that has always baffled me is that Americans love nothing more than accentuating their differences. Whereas I come from a culture, Canada, where all we do is celebrate what we have in common, even when we don’t have anything in common, you know? We love talking about how we’re Canadians, we’re in this together, we’re all the same in the end. You know, Americans are all the same in the end, but you guys like to pretend that you’re not. And you know, I don’t think it’s that hard to get back to that position of understanding how similar you all are.

Well, there is some truth to what Gladwell says. We do have many similarities as Americans. And we all may be “in this together.” But he’s wrong to claim that “Americans are all the same in the end.” I’m going to attempt to explain why he’s wrong by using two examples.

The first one comes from a scientist named Riccardo Sabatini, who seemed to prove what Malcolm Gladwell was saying, that basically we human beings are all the same. Sabatini, famously, printed out the genome of a famous friend of his. In case you don’t know what a genome is, here is a handy definition:

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

It turns out, as Sabatini proved, that if you print out a human genome, it fills some 175 books, comprising 262,000 densely printed pages, about a thousand pounds of instructions that, essentially, make you who you are, or aren’t. The amazing thing, the human genomething Sabatini highlighted, is that 174 1/2 of those 175 books contain genetic instructions that are identical to your neighbor’s. Yes, that’s right. Genetically speaking, the tall guy living behind my house, my neighbor, is almost identical to me. Only about 500 pages of the 262,000 pages of instructions make us different. We are 99.998% the same. And one would think that such a sober, Gladwellian truth would tend to make us all, Canadians or Americans—or even the Russians!—believe that, heck, we really are “the same in the end.”

Except, obviously, we’re not.

The neighbor I mentioned, the one who is nearly identical to me—remember that our genetic code is only .002 different—not only put up a TR-MP-PENCE sign in his front yard, he put one up in his back yard. He did that for me—and only me—to see (because I park in the back). Why did he do that? Well, since his sign appeared a day or two after I put up my HILLARY sign (in my front yard only), I guess he did it because he wanted to send me a message: he was a Tr-mp guy.

Now, is there something in that .002 genetic difference that made my neighbor a Tr-mp guy? Beats me. I suppose it’s possible that in those 175 volumes of genetic code—which, according to Riccardo Sabatini, “we just know probably two percent: four books of more than 175”—there is an “I prefer buffoons for president” gene. But I doubt it. More likely, something in my neighbor’s background has made him a Tr-mper. Some experience or experiences affected his brain chemistry enough that Tr-mp’s vulgarity and ignorance, toxically mixed with his insecurity-masking machismo, seems not only attractive, but subversively attractive. And something in my background has made me a fierce anti-Tr-mper, a counter-subversive. And no amount of Gladwellian talk about our similarities, no perfectly rational presentation of our genetic sameness, will bridge the enormous gulf between me and my neighbor. The differences between someone who thinks Tr-mp is the answer and someone who thinks he is dangerously unfit for the presidency are unbridgeable. We’re not “all the same in the end.”

In fact, it’s very much the opposite. In the end, for whatever reason, we are very, very different. Northerners and southerners were unbridgeably different in 1861—and even after four years of a bloody civil war, after hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, the differences remained. And in some important ways, many of those differences are still with us today, along with many others.

That brings me to my second example of why Gladwell was wrong and to the baffling title of this essay.

Shirley Ardell Mason was a mentally troubled artist who was born in 1923. If you are like me, you know who she was because of the two-part TV film, Sybil, broadcast in 1976. That film, based on a 1973 book written by journalist Flora Schreiber, starred Sally Field and Joanne Woodward (another Sybil movie came out in 2007). Field played Sybil Dorsett, which was the pseudonym chosen for Shirley Mason. Sybil, allegedly, suffered from what was then called “multiple personality disorder”—now called “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). She supposedly had 16 distinct personalities or “selves.”

I will tell you now there has been a lot of controversy surrounding “Sybil,” her psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, and the diagnostic legitimacy of multiple personality disorder. Some have claimed the whole thing was a fraud, perpetrated for notoriety and money. Others have claimed that Dr. Wilbur induced Sybil’s alleged multiple personalities through her therapeutic suggestions. There’s no need for me to go into all the details of that controversy. Suffice it to know that in 1994, according to Psychology Today, “multiple personality disorder” was changed to “dissociative identity disorder.” The reason:

to reflect a better understanding of the condition—namely, that it is characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity rather than by a proliferation, or growth, of separate identities.

My point of bringing this up is that I would attribute America’s obviously severe political and cultural divide to something like a national dissociative identity disorder, “characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity.” I think this problem with national identity has been with us from our beginning as a nation, largely because of the sin of slavery, which was first coded in our collective DNA in 1619, when the first African “servants” arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.

When Thomas Jefferson gave us “All men are created equal” in 1776, it served at the time as a cry for revolution and seemed like a unifying declaration. Eleven years later, our Constitution promised to “establish Justice” for “We the People.” America appeared to be a nation with one identity—E pluribus unum. But, of course, most of the pluribus were not part of the unum. There was a civil war to come to partially settle that for African-Americans, and it would still be another 55 years after the shooting part of that war ended before women were allowed to vote, in 1920. And to this day we live with the anti-democratic Electoral College, which “amplifies the votes of white people and reduces the voice of minorities.” (And, thus, gave us George W. Bush and Donald Tr-mp.)

Psychology Today points out that dissociative identity disorder “reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness into a single multidimensional self.” If that doesn’t describe our history, and our contemporary situation, then I don’t know what does. Think about some of our differences:

♦ People who believe in the fact of evolution versus people who believe in a six-day creation by God.

♦ People who believe in the fact of climate change versus those who think it is a hoax.

♦ People who believe in sensible gun control versus those who reject almost all restrictions on guns, and who think guns belong in schools and bars and even churches.

♦ People who believe women should be able to control their own reproductive health versus those who think aborting a zygote is tantamount to murder.

♦ People who believe access to affordable health care is a right versus those who don’t think so, or who think a more important right is that fabulously wealthy people have lower tax rates.

♦ People who live in more culturally diverse urban areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, versus people who live in less culturally diverse rural areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Republicans.

♦ People who think thugs like Vladimir Putin should be condemned versus those who openly admire him because he “is a God-and-country Russian patriot” who “stands against the Western progressive vision of what mankind’s future ought to be.”

♦ People who believe the press is essential to the health of our democracy versus those who think it is “the enemy of the people.”

♦ People who believe Tr-mp is a sick and vulgar grifter who dirties the presidency versus those who embrace and celebrate his behavior.

I ask: How do you make a nation whole—the alleged therapeutic result in the Sybil story—when there are differences as stark and as wide as these? How do you integrate the “various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness” into a single multidimensional national self? I don’t know. It looks impossible to me. But let’s go on.

Psychology Today lists the essential criteria that must be met to make a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. I will slightly modify these criteria to reflect how they might apply to our ailing nation:

  • The [nation] experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self). Some cultures describe this as an experience of possession.
  • The disruption in [national] identity involves a change in sense of self, sense of agency, and changes in behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and motor function.
  • Frequent gaps are found in memories of [national] history, including people, places, and events, for both the distant and recent past. These recurrent gaps are not consistent with ordinary forgetting.
  • These symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

You, of course, can be the judge of whether I’m way off or have at least suggested something that requires further thought. I would add, however, that there is treatment available for individuals with this disorder that perhaps can be applied to a nation:

The primary treatment for DID is long-term psychotherapy with the goal of deconstructing the different personalities and uniting them into one. Other treatments include cognitive and creative therapies.

In other words, there is no magic pill, no full-proof cure. As a nation, we can try to deconstruct our differences and make an attempt to unite them into one, making E pluribus unum a reality rather than a mythical motto. I have my doubts about that long-term social psychotherapy. Someone will have to come up with a form of cognitive or creative therapy that I cannot now possibly imagine. Or—perhaps we do have something of a cure available: the idea of America.

On this, our first Tr-mp-plagued July 4, perhaps we can take a fresh look at how we might learn to live with our pluribus selves in something resembling unum. I will draw (at length) upon the words of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, from his latest book, a book full of humor and optimism.

Franken noted that just before the end of the 2016 election, Tr-mp made “his first public appearance in our state just in time to spread his trademark blend of hate, fear, and ignorance—this time targeting our Somali-Minnesotan community.” These Somalis were mostly refugees who had escaped a horrific civil war in their country. Some fifty thousand of them settled in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Franken noted, “but not all. Many smaller cities and communities around the state have signficant Somali populations.”

Earlier in 2016, Franken attended a high school graduation in a town in Kandiyohi County, “the largest turkey-producing county in the largest turkey-producing state in the nation.” He was at Willmar Senior High to introduce the student speaker elected by the graduating class, a Muslim girl named Muna Abdulahi.

Now, as Franken estimated, that high school in Willmar comprised 60 percent “garden-variety Scandinavian/German white Minnesotans, about 25 percent were Hispanic, and about 15 percent were Somali, with a few Asian Americans tossed in.”  Franken wrote:

When it came time to hand out diplomas, the crowd was told to hold their applause until the end. But they couldn’t help themselves. The moment Muna’s name was called, everyone erupted. Clapping, shouting, stomping on the bleachers—and it continued like that through each one of the 236 graduates. These kids loved each other.

The two hours I spent at that high school commencement were a tonic for the year of trash I’d been hearing about our country.

The previous year, I’d been in Willmar to help respond to an avian flu crisis that threatened the turkey industry that employs so many in Kandiyohi County. A number of producers were worried that they might lose their entire operations. But we were able to get some emergency funding to help keep them on their feet.

Were these turkey producers Democrats? Were they Republicans? No idea. Didn’t care. Don’t care. Will never care. Do they care that they have Somali refugees in their community? Yes, they do care. They want them. They need them. They need people like Muna’s dad, who works in IT at the Jennie-O Turkey store.

Perhaps Donald Tr-mp confused Minnesota with somewhere else. About a week after the election, I spoke to Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States. He told me that in France, a Frenchman is someone who can tell you what village his family is from going back centuries. Immigrants never really get to become Frenchmen. It made me think back to the hideous massacre in Paris the year before.

Here in America, of course, we’re all immigrants. Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide. I’m a Jew, but I’m also an American. Muna is Somali, but she’s also an American. On election day, I ran into her on campus at the University of Minnesota, where I was getting out the vote for Hillary. She told me that her sister, Anisa, had been voted homecoming queen.

That’s who we are. In places like France, they isolate their refugees and immigrants. In America, we elect them homecoming queen.

Yes, that echoes what Ronald Reagan famously said in 1988, “Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.” Yes, it is a romantic and perhaps overoptimistic view of our country. But it is essential that we hold fast to it. It is vital that we defend it even in the face of an ugly Tr-mpism. Otherwise, we fail as a democracy, at least as a democracy of decency. It simply has to be the case that Tr-mp does not represent who we are as Americans.

It is true our differences divide us in dangerous ways. But it is also true that if we can figure out how to live with those differences—by defending and strengthening those institutions that “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”—we can turn the present gloom into at least a glimmer of progress.

Oh. I almost forgot. Whenever my Tr-mp-supporting neighbor sees me, he offers a genuinely friendly wave. He really does. And on my good days, on my better days as an American, I actually wave back.

 

Elizabeth Warren: “People Will Die”

Published on June 22, 2017

“Medicaid is the program in this country that provides health insurance to one in five Americans, to thirty million kids, to nearly two out of every three people in a nursing home. These cuts are blood money. People will die. Let’s be very clear: Senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives.”

—Senator Elizabeth Warren, commenting on the newly-released GOP healthcare bill

A as I was resting comfortably this morning, making my way through Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s latest book, Giant of the Senate, I had the TV on in the background. I saw protesters, many of them in wheelchairs, being removed from Mitch McConnell’s safe Image result for protesters in mcconnell office on capitolspace on Capitol Hill. I heard their passionate pleas. Then I saw the police take them away.

Today, of course, is the unveiling of the latest reactionary plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, which is essentially a typical Republican scheme designed to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich (and defund Planned Parenthood, which would, sadly, increase the number of abortions Republicans say they hate). So, other than a few details, what was revealed today should not have come as a surprise to anyone. The wheel-chair protesters, obviously, knew what was coming.

Now, it so happens that I was on page 80 of Franken’s book, when MSNBC was showing the protesters and discussing not whether the latest GOP plan would do damage to people, but how much damage it would do. That’s where we are these days. In any case, starting on page 80 of the book Franken explains what happened the day after he announced his run for the Senate in February of 2007. I will quote it at length:

…I visited a health clinic in Minneapolis where my friend Dr. Margie Hogan worked. I spent time meeting with health care providers and patients and listening to some of the horror stories that were commonplace before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

One of the stories Margie told me became a mainstay of my stump speech. It involved an incredibly promising seventeen-year-old girl from a Hmong family [the Hmong fought on the U.S. side during the secret war in Laos during Vietnam; many thousands settled in Minnesota after the war] who was doing college-level work as a junior in high school. But she had lupus. And her family earned just enough money to no longer qualify for MinnesotaCare, a program that covered low-income families in the state. The girl lost her health insurance.

Lupus is a chronic disease, and the medication that controls it is extremely expensive. The girl told her parents to stop buying it so they could afford to take care of the other kids in the family. It broke their hearts, but she was right: They couldn’t afford the medicine, not with everything else weighing on the family budget. So they stopped buying it.

The next time Margie saw the girl was six weeks later, back in the hospital. But this time, she was in the emergency room, suffering from renal failure. She had to be put on dialysis, and doctors thought she might have to be on dialysis for the rest of her life.

“Now, that’s wrong,” I would tell crowds that had invariably gone quiet by this point in the story. “But it’s not just wrong—it’s stupid! How much is it going to cost our system to give her dialysis throughout her life? And how much is this going to cost her, in terms of her potential and her quality of life?”

According to the most recent data when my campaign began [in 2007], there were 46.6 million Americans living without health insurance, including 21.5 million who worked full-time and, worst of all, 8.3 million children. And on my radio show, I talked about this issue all the time with guests like Elizabeth Warren, who told me that half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.

But at bean feeds, I met people who had lived it. Or who would tell me about their sister or their cousin who had lived it. And traveling around Minnesota, stopping in cafés and coffee shops and VFW halls, I couldn’t help but notice the flyers up on bulletin boards announcing barbecues or potlucks or spaghetti dinners to benefit families that had gone broke because someone had gotten very sick or been in a terrible accident.

Getting to universal health care was always going to be a central focus of my campaign. But now, instead of talking about it just as a policy issue, I was also talking about it as a personal issue—because that’s what it was for so many Minnesotans.

Policy issues may be dry. They may be dull. They may be tough to talk about, what with all the numbers and legal writing and arcane parliamentary procedures. But this issue, this health care issue, this one that affects so many people—either directly and/or indirectly through an aging parent who needs nursing care—is personal. It is personal.

We all have heard stories like Al Franken heard from his doctor friend at a health clinic in Minnesota. We’ve all seen the donation jars or boxes with homemade signs in convenience stores asking us to help an unfortunate person with medical expenses. And we all know, or at least we should know, that things shouldn’t be that way in an unfathomably wealthy America.

They just shouldn’t.

___________________________________

[photo: Doug Mills]

Senator Franken Demonstrates The Absurdity Of Gorsuch’s Judicial Philosophy And The Dishonesty Needed To Hide It

The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to move the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate. The New York Times also reported that “Democrats Now Have Votes To Filibuster Gorsuch Nomination.” It will be an interesting week.

When she announced her opposition to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Senator Claire McCaskill wrote:

I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity.

“He has shown a stunning lack of humanity” is, well, a rather stunning statement about anyone nominated to the Supreme Court. But if you look at the two cases she cited, a reasonable person can conclude that humanity comes in a distant second to Gorsuch’s strange judicial philosophy and the record that accompanies it.

I want to focus on the freezing truck driver case, decided just last year in Gorsuch’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. The case involved a company called TransAm Trucking and one of its drivers, Alphonse Maddin. The driver eventually won his case, and here’s how the judges who ruled in his favor summarized the bare facts involved:

In January 2009, Maddin was transporting cargo through Illinois when the brakes on his trailer froze because of subzero temperatures. After reporting the problem to TransAm and waiting several hours for a repair truck to arrive, Maddin unhitched his truck from the trailer and drove away, leaving the trailer unattended. He was terminated for abandoning the trailer.

Below I have posted Senator Al Franken’s discussion of this case today during the Judiciary Committee hearing, as he gave his reasons for opposing Gorsuch’s confirmation (which echoed McCaskill’s concern about Gorsuch siding with corporate interests over the interests of people). You will not find a more powerful argument against confirming Gorsuch. If you needed no other reason—and there are plenty—to oppose the nomination of an “originalist” or “textualist” Judge Gorsuch, the case of the freezing truck driver would be enough. Before you watch the short clip below, I want to share with you part of Gorsuch’s dissent in the case:

A trucker was stranded on the side of the road, late at night, in cold weather, and his trailer brakes were stuck. He called his company for help and someone there gave him two options. He could drag the trailer carrying the company’s goods to its destination (an illegal and maybe sarcastically offered option). Or he could sit and wait for help to arrive (a legal if unpleasant option). The trucker chose None of the Above, deciding instead to unhook the trailer and drive his truck to a gas station. In response, his employer, TransAm, fired him for disobeying orders and abandoning its trailer and goods.

“It might be fair to ask whether TransAm’s decision was a wise or kind one. But it’s not our job to answer questions like that. Our only task is to decide whether the decision was an illegal one.

Senator Franken discussed that last bit of nonsense from Gorsuch, since, after all, the judges who sided with the truck driver were also applying the law. So something made them apply the law one way and something made him apply it another. What was it? Was it merely a fondness for corporations over people? Or was it a flaw in his judicial philosophy? I want to share with you something Joplin blogger Jim Wheeler wrote the other day, defining Gorsuch-Scalia judicial philosophy magnificently:

Originalism…amounts to attributing to the founders a kind of vision they could not possibly have had and it denies to the law the application of common sense…

As you will see in the video below, Senator Franken’s passionately makes the point that whatever it is that Gorsuch uses to interpret the law and decide cases, common sense has nothing to do with it. And because common sense has nothing to do with it, absurdity—and the need to be dishonest to hide the absurdity—is the result. Watch:

“Epistemological Murk”

Epistemology is the study of knowledge: what we know, how we know it, how we know we know it, and how to keep track of it without driving ourselves crazy.”

Vocabulary.com

since there is a lot of moonshine, much of it toxic, being produced by the Tr-mp regime and its supporters in Congress and on cable news, let’s distill a simple truth from the cloudburst of orange urine—the lies, outrages, and absurdities—that has soaked our already piss-saturated political landscape since January 20: Republican leaders are pretending Donald Tr-mp isn’t mentally ill because they want to cut taxes for the wealthy, weaken or eliminate programs for the poor and working-class, and make it harder for people who oppose that reactionary agenda to vote against it.

Sadly, after a sober distillation of the uncomfortable facts, that simple truth is what is left, the essence of what is going on. After Tr-mp’s Electoral College-only victory in November, Speaker Paul Ryan falsely claimed Tr-mp “just earned a mandate.” But Ryan’s imaginary mandate for Trmp is very real for Paul Ryan. He sees the opportunity to get done what Image result for trump discusses north korean missile at mar a lagoonly seemed like a Randian dream before. And that’s why there is a very strange tolerance for very strange behavior, like when Tr-mp scandalously equated a murderous Vladimir Putin with past American leadership, or when he, on Saturday, discussed with dinner guests—in public at Mar-a-Lago—the launch of a North Korean missile. If any Democrat had said or done anything like that, Washington would still be on fire with conservative rage.

Republicans, as I have said many times, are the only ones who can put a stop to the madness we have seen and are seeing—including Tr-mp’s solicitation and toleration of Russian interference in our election and what may be, as the Flynn controversy demonstrates, a plan for compensation to the Russians for helping elect Tr-mp. But GOP leaders have their partisan and ideological priorities, which clearly don’t include protecting the integrity of any of the nation’s institutions from a sick, shady man who most of them know is a sick, shady man with a lot of not-so-sick but oh-so-shady men and women around him.

Image result for ted lieu on joy reidSince I have written about the issue for months now, I was glad that on Sunday, three different times, the issue of Tr-mp’s mental health came up, in a serious way, on television. On MSNBC, Congressman Ted Lieu, of California, brought up Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist formerly affiliated with Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Dr. Gartner, who specializes in certain personality disorders, said recently:

“Donald Tr-mp is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president,” says Gartner, author of “In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography.” Tr-mp, Gartner says, has “malignant narcissism,” which is different from narcissistic personality disorder and which is incurable.

Congressman Lieu, after quoting Dr. Gartner, properly asked, “What do I do with that as a member of Congress? Do I ignore that? Or do I raise the issue?” Well, Lieu isn’t ignoring the issue. He is filing a bill that would require a shrink in the White’s House. About Tr-mp Lieu said,

His disconnection from the truth is incredibly disturbing. When you add on top of that his stifling of dissent, his attacks on the free press and his attacks on the legitimacy of judiciary, that then takes us down the road toward authoritarianism. That’s why I’ve concluded he is a danger to the republic.

On another Sunday program, NBC’s Meet The Press, Senator Bernie Sanders chimed in about Tr-mp’s behavior, saying to Chuck Todd, “right now we are in a pivotal moment in American history. We have a president [sic] who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar.” Todd asked Sanders, “Can you work with a pathological liar?” Sanders said,

Well, it makes life very difficult, not just for me. And I don’t mean, you know, I know it sounds, it is very harsh. But I think that’s the truth. When somebody goes before you and the American people, say, “Three to five million people voted illegally in the last election,” nobody believes that. There is not the scintilla of evidence. What would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion.

Just one of many lies. One of many delusions.

On CNN’s Sunday program, Jake Tapper asked Senator Al Franken about his prior remarks on Bill Maher’s show during which Franken claimed that in private some Republican senators have “great concern about the president’s [sic] temperament.” Here’s how that went:

TAPPER: So, I know that was comedy, but is it true that Republican colleagues of your express concern about President Tr-mp’s mental health?

FRANKEN: A few.

Image result for al franken on cnnTAPPER: Really?

FRANKEN: Yes. It’s not the majority of them. It’s a few.

TAPPER: In what way?

FRANKEN: In the way that we all have this suspicion that—you know, that he’s not—he lies a lot. He says thing that aren’t true. That’s the same as lying, I guess. He—you know, three million to five million people voted illegally. There was a new one about people going in from Massachusetts to New Hampshire.

TAPPER: Thousands and thousands in a bus, yes.

FRANKEN: Yes. And, you know, that is not the norm for a president of the United States, or, actually, for a human being.

Senator Franken, my early choice for president in 2020, also said to Tapper:

I think that Tr-mp and his group are trying to make Americans more afraid. I think that’s part of how they got elected: Just make us more afraid.

Of course that is true, absolutely true. That’s why Tr-mp described, and still describes, America so darkly. But what is also true, and perhaps more important in the long run, is that Tr-mp makes Republicans in Congress more afraid, afraid they are just a Tr-mp tweet away from being primaried in two years. And that fear of losing their jobs, at least for those who see how mentally disturbed Tr-mp is, is enough to keep their thoughts about Tr-mp’s instability to themselves or limit their comments to whispers behind closed doors.

I have quoted three Democrats in Congress on the subject of Tr-mp’s mental health and have criticized Republicans for staying quiet about what is so obvious. Now, to finish up, I want to turn to a philosopher I respect very much. Daniel Dennett told The Guardian:

The real danger that’s facing us is we’ve lost respect for truth and facts. People have discovered that it’s much easier to destroy reputations for credibility than it is to maintain them. It doesn’t matter how good your facts are, somebody else can spread the rumour that you’re fake news. We’re entering a period of epistemological murk and uncertainty that we’ve not experienced since the Middle Ages.

I suppose only a philosopher thinks in terms of “epistemological murks,” but that is exactly where we are. In the Middle Ages, such murks were survivable. Here in the Nuclear Age, they may not be. Truth and sanity must prevail, but there is no guarantee it will. As Dennett said, reputations for credibility have to be maintained. Right now they are under siege nearly everywhere we look. But Dennett has hope:

I’m an eternal optimist. Every Republican senator has an opportunity to grow a spine and stand up for truth and justice and the rule of law. My other hope is that if Trump has to choose between being president and being a billionaire, I think he may just resign.

I’ll leave it to the reader to calculate the odds of either one of those two hopes becoming reality. But I’d bet a tax cut for the rich that the odds are long.

What John Belushi Tells Us About Bob Woodward

Like a funhouse mirror, Woodward’s prose distorts what it purports to reflect.”

—Tanner Colby, co-author, Belushi: A Biography

A as a connoisseur of news reporting, I have never quite recovered from what I considered a genuine scandal related to Bob Woodward and his demonstrably false suggestion that a high official in the Obama administration—turns out it was Gene Sperling—threatened him for reporting the truth about the origin of the sequester.

I just can’t let it go, even though we have had a pretty good discussion about it on this blog.

Now comes Tanner Colby, writing for Slate (“Regrettable: The troubling things I learned when I re-reported Bob Woodward’s book on John Belushi”) and offering the perfect description of Woodward’s weaknesses as a reporter and as an author. If you care about journalism, about history, about how it matters who gets to write history and how it is written, then you should follow the link and read Tanner Colby’s most readable and enlightening piece.

And it helps if you remember how talented was comedian and actor John Belushi.

Most people who follow politics don’t remember that Woodward wrote a book about Belushi, who died of a drug overdose at 33. The book, which carried the sensationalistic title,  Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, was not well received by those closest to the Saturday Night Live comedian, as Colby makes clear:

When Wired came out, many of Belushi’s friends and family denounced it as biased and riddled with factual errors. “Exploitative, pulp trash,” in the words of Dan Aykroyd. Wired was so wrong, Belushi’s manager said, it made you think Nixon might be innocent.

That Nixon reference, of course, is to the role that Woodward, along with his Washington Post reporting partner Carl Bernstein, played in the Watergate scandal that brought down the 37th President of the United States.

Helping to destroy the most powerful man in the world was no small feat for a young reporter, and Woodward has managed to mostly stay on top of the reading world with his sixteen books to date, a dozen of them top bestsellers, all of them about politics and government—except Wired.

Tanner Colby was hired by Judy Belushi, John’s widow, to help her write “a new biography of John,” a job that eventually “turned out to be a rather fascinating and unique experiment.” Colby explained:

Over the course of a year, page by page, source by source, I re-reported and rewrote one of Bob Woodward’s books. As far as I know, it’s the only time that’s ever been done.

And what Colby found, when coupled with what we learned about Woodward during the Gene Sperling episode, is quite revealing:

Wired is an infuriating piece of work. There’s a reason Woodward’s critics consistently come off as hysterical ninnies: He doesn’t make Jonah Lehrer–level mistakes. There’s never a smoking gun like an outright falsehood or a brazen ethical breach. And yet, in the final product, a lot of what Woodward writes comes off as being not quite right—some of it to the point where it can feel quite wrong. There’s no question that he frequently ferrets out information that other reporters don’t. But getting the scoop is only part of the equation. Once you have the facts, you have to present those facts in context and in proportion to other facts in order to accurately reflect reality. It’s here that Woodward fails.

Colby’s account of a love scene Belushi did in the box office failure Continental Divide is a must read, especially considering the tragic effect that failure had on Belushi and how Woodward “missed the real meaning of what went on.”

But perhaps the most telling description of Woodward’s style as a writer, and his inability to sometimes see the green forest for all the trees with gray bark, is when Colby notes the famous reporter’s reputation as being “little more than a stenographer” :

In Wired, he takes what he is told and simply puts it down in chronological order with no sense of proportionality, nuance, or understanding.

To make that point, and to then send you away to the source, I conclude with this passage related to Belushi’s legendary problem with drugs:

Of all the people I interviewed, SNL writer and current Sen. Al Franken, referencing his late comedy partner Tom Davis, offered the most apt description of Woodward’s one-sided approach to the drug use in Belushi’s story: “Tom Davis said the best thing about Wired,” Franken told me. “He said it’s as if someone wrote a book about your college years and called it Puked. And all it was about was who puked, when they puked, what they ate before they puked and what they puked up. No one read Dostoevsky, no one studied math, no one fell in love, and nothing happened but people puking.”

Keep that in mind the next time you crack a book, or read an article, with Bob Woodward’s name on it.

“There Is No Crisis”

E. J. Dionne, one of the top liberal columnists in the country, has joined the small but growing chorus of folks who refuse to accept that America is fiscally “broke” and that we’re in a time-to-panic crisis.

As I have said repeatedly, we’re not bankrupt and we shouldn’t be making decisions in panic mode.  And I believe this point needs to be hammered in the heads of the American people.

Dionne wrote on Monday:

We’re not broke. Yes, nearly all levels of government face fiscal problems because of the economic downturn. But there is no crisis. There are many different paths open to fixing public budgets. And we will come up with wiser and more sustainable solutions if we approach fiscal problems calmly, realizing that we’re still a very rich country and that the wealthiest among us are doing exceptionally well.

He continued:

We have an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, yet further measures to spur job creation are off the table. We’re broke, you see. We have a $15 trillion economy, yet we pretend to be an impoverished nation with no room for public investments in our future or efforts to ease the pain of a deep recession on those Americans who didn’t profit from it or cause it in the first place.

Dionne references a speech given by Senator Al Franken last December, when the fight over the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was dominating the news.  And what a speech it was. I don’t know how I missed it, but I did. I recommend all go watch it.

Here are some highlights:

According to the Economic Policy Institute, during the past 20 years, 56 percent of all income growth went to the top one percent of households.  Even more unbelievable-a third of all income growth went to just the top tenth of one percent. 

When you adjust for inflation, the median household income actually declined over the last decade.  During those years, while the  rich were getting richer, the rest of working America was struggling to keep up.   We’ve been growing apart.  And the American people know this.  And now, working Americans are forced to listen to the Republicans as they demand “Everyone needs to share the pain.  We’re all in this together.” 

The IRS published a study analyzing the tax returns of the wealthiest 400 Americans.  Together, in 2007, they brought in nearly $138 billion dollars.  Want to take a guess at what their average effective tax rate was?  Just over 16 and a half percent.   Is that really sharing the pain?  Are they really sharing in the pain just like everybody else?  

He pointed out that,

Bill Clinton inherited the largest deficit in history from George H. W. Bush and then handed George W. Bush the largest surplus in history.  And George W. Bush nearly doubled the national debt.  He also handed Barack Obama the largest deficit in history.

And part of the way Bill Clinton handed over the largest surplus in history (as well as 22.7 million new jobs) to Bush was through the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, which set the marginal rates that the Bush tax cuts repealed.  Not one Republican voted for that responsible tax policy, and Franken quoted some prominent Republicans at the time:

Newt Gingrich.  Remember him?  On August 5, 1993, he said, “I believe this will lead to a recession next year.  This is the Democrat machine’s recession, and each one of them will be held personally accountable.”

Senator Phil Gramm.  Remember him?  He said, “The Clinton plan is a one-way ticket to recession.  This plan does not reduce the deficit…but it raises IT and it puts people out of work.”

Governor-elect John Kasich said, “This plan will not work.  If it was to work then I’d have to become a Democrat.” Congratulations, Ohio, on electing a Democratic governor. 

When you hear Republicans (and some Democrats, too) talk about sharing the pain of fiscal responsibility, ask yourself just why they aren’t talking about the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, one of the most successful pieces of legislation in the past 40 years, one that turned deficits into surpluses while the economy was creating  millions upon  millions of jobs.

Ask yourself why anyone who claims to be serious about our so-called fiscal crisis refuses to acknowledge that not that long ago we had a tax policy that corresponded with our spending, and that Republican economic philosophy destroyed that delicate balance.

The answers won’t surprise, of course.  That Republican economic philosophy, which failed most of the country, does have a small, but powerful, collection of beneficiaries.

And I can confidently say that nearly everyone reading this today is not among them.

The Corporate Internet?

“Allowing corporations to control the Internet is simply unacceptable. ”     

—Senator Al Franken 

Tomorrow, according to Senator Al Franken, is a big day, if you care anything at all about whether corporations will ultimately control the Internet.  The Federal Communications Commission will meet on Tuesday to discuss new regulations related to the issue of “net neutrality.”   Here’s Franken:

As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.

This principle is called “net neutrality” — and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it. 

Franken complains that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, an Obama appointee, has been courting the very corporations he is supposed to be regulating in order to get them to endorse the FCC’s newly proposed regulations, which Franken says are “worse than nothing.”  He says, 

grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we’ve been had. Instead of proposing regulations that would truly protect net neutrality, reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal, which would destroy it.

No chairman should be soliciting sign-off from the corporations that his agency is supposed to regulate — and no true advocate of a free and open Internet should be seeking the permission of large media conglomerates before issuing new rules.

Although I don’t want to press this point beyond the appropriate boundaries, in too many ways, the Obama administration—vilified on the right for being a socialist “regime”—resembles the prior administration, in terms of its deference to corporate and business interests. 

That’s not to say that the administration should be the enemy of those interests, it’s just to say that the administration should be the friend of the consumer, of the public, of we the people. 

Many of us believed that when we sent Barack Obama to the White House, he would act as a check against moneyed interests, protecting the public—via the regulatory arm of the government—from corporate domination.  But in the case of the FCC and net neutrality, what is happening seems like a familiar Bush-era scenario: make regulations so innocuous as to get corporate support for them. 

After discussing the various ways that large media giants could manipulate the Internet to make profits for themselves, Franken ends with this:

Imagine if a cable news network could get its website to load faster on your computer than your favorite local political blog. Imagine if big corporations with their own agenda could decide who wins or loses online. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist.

That’s why net neutrality is the most important free speech issue of our time. And that’s why, this Tuesday, when the FCC meets to discuss this badly flawed proposal, I’ll be watching. If they approve it as is, I’ll be outraged. And you should be, too.

The Right-Wing Hate Sweepstakes

Admittedly, I have been highly critical of contemporary conservatism’s caustic critiques of President Obama and the Democrats. I have even claimed that the level of vitriol directed at Obama is to some extent historically unprecedented.

Now, I’m not so sure.

clinton in kosovoRecently in Kosovo, an 11-foot statue of Bill Clinton was unveiled to honor our 42nd president. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians were celebrating Clinton’s role in launching NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 that saved their lives and culture from the attempted ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Serbians. As some chanted “USA!,” “USA!,” Clinton was honored as a hero.

The attention on President Clinton’s good deed—which, of course, was also America’s good deed—was not prominently featured on right-wing media outlets. All of which made me start to remember the days of the Clinton administration, most of which were filled with endless attacks on Bill and Hillary emanating from people I considered to be my ideological allies at the time.

I don’t want to go into all of the lurid details, so I will just cite a couple of passages that sort of bring back the flavor of those times:

Timothy Noah, writing a review of former conservative David Brock’s, Blinded By The Right, for Slate in March of 2002, said:

We know, well before picking up Brock’s book, that an appallingly well-financed hard right was obsessed with smearing Clinton, and that a large proportion of Clinton’s hard-right accusers failed to conform to hard-right notions about morality, being either adulterers, homosexuals, or begetters of aborted fetuses. We know further that Clinton was placed deliberately into a perjury trap, whereupon he committed perjury.

Senator Al Franken (take that Rush Limbaugh!) wrote in his book, Lies (And The Lying Liars That Tell Them):

…did you know that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian? And that, despite her homosexuality, she was having an affair with Vince Foster? Who then had to be murdered to cover up Whitewater? And did you know that Foster’s execution was only one small part of a killing spree that claimed nearly forty lives, including those of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and the wife of an Arkansas state trooper who apparently didn’t “get the message”? And did you know that Clinton, to finance his own gargantuan cocaine habit, had struck a deal with the CIA and the Contras to smuggle duffel bags filled with coke into Arkansas?

If you didn’t, you weren’t reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the American Spectator, or the Washington Times.

Reading these short summaries of the 1990s reminded me of some things I had forgotten, like how fervently publications like the American Spectator had attacked Clinton, and then how those unfounded attacks made it into the mainstream media, sort of like how today some of the nonsense on Fox “News” makes it into the New York Times. Conservatives learned in the 1990s that if you throw enough dook at the wall, some of it will eventually stick.

Franken also reminded me of just how disrespectful conservatives were of the office of the presidency, as they employed epithets for Clinton like: “scumbag” (Rep. Dan Burton from Indiana), “sociopath” (Craig Shirley), “perpetual preener” and “rapist “(George Will), “craven miscreant” (Michelle Malkin).

Clinton ChroniclesAdditionally, Franken reminded me of the little publication, The Clinton Chronicles, which attempted to link the Clintons to “dozens of murders.” According to Franken, The Clinton Chronicles sold over 100,000 copies, “thanks in large part to the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who cofinanced, publicized, and distributed the video…

Snopes.com had to begin “The Clinton Body Count,” as the bodies of people killed by Bill Clinton were starting to pile up—the last count was “close to fifty.”

Damn! How could I have forgotten that?

So far, Sean Hannity hasn’t had anyone on his program accusing Barack Obama of murdering one of his cabinet members (like when Sean had on Chris Ruddy, who wrote, The Strange Death of Vince Foster). But stay tuned. It’s early yet, and so far no member of Obama’s cabinet has died in a “mysterious” plane crash, so the right-wing hasn’t had much to work with.

At this point I will have to recant my previous claim, and give an edge to Bill Clinton in the Right-Wing Hate Sweepstakes. But, as conservatives continue to document Obama’s plan to destroy American culture—gifted to us by white Europeans—Obama is at least gaining on him.

(Photo credit: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA)

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