Going High

This is how the White House describes her:

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Last night, this is how Michelle Obama described the United States:

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!

I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up during her speech last night. I’m not ashamed to admit I felt something of a restoration of my faith in the idea of America, a faith that has been under assault by that country-bashing racist in an orange mask. Delivered in less than 15 minutes, Michelle Obama’s speech was able to counter months and months and months of negative talk about our country—depressing, debilitating, damaging talk about a nation constructed on principles that, so far, have survived every test.

Below is her remarkable speech, one for the ages, but I want to first quote another beautiful passage, one where Mrs. Obama touched on just what it is that has made the Obamas such special people—such special Americans—despite the indignities and insults they have endured for nearly eight years now:

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level.

No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

I can’t promise that if the country goes low in November that I will go high. I can only say that if the country does go low, there will be no doubt that its highest point will have been Barack and Michelle and Sasha and Malia Obama “in a house that was built by slaves.”

Our (!!!!) House Of Representatives At Work

I am happy to pass on a report that the U.S. House of Representatives, as part of its ongoing tribute to Tea Party-induced paranoia, has momentarily stopped its futile attempts to repeal ObamaCare and taken on a more important task: prevent the government from getting enough bullets to kill us all, or at least those of us foolish enough to pick a gunfight with the feds.

Via The Hill:

The House late Wednesday voted to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from entering into new contracts to buy millions of rounds of ammunition until DHS reports to Congress on the need for the ammo, and its cost.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) proposed an amendment to the DHS spending bill for 2014 that would require the report to Congress before it can pursue plans to buy 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition. Meadows said the speed bump is a necessary reaction to news of the huge purchase, which alarmed many Americans and prompted conservative groups to suspect that the government was stocking up on the rounds to fight citizens.

How ironic and delicious is the fact that House right-wingers are now afraid of the monstrosity—Homeland Security—that House right-wingers mostly created.

Congressman Meadows is one of those House right-wingers who believes that President Obama’s administration “has trampled on our Constitutional safeguards” and that “our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is absolute.” Yep, alone among Americans, gun-toters have absolute rights.

Now, most readers of this blog, not being Obama-haters and not having the gun lust, may not know that across the country there has been a shortage of ammo. Some conspiracy-minded folks believe the government is stockpiling ammunition in order to have enough on hand to support Barack Obama, when he finally decides to take over the country by force—which could be any day now, given that Michelle has had it with hecklers.

Others, more sober-minded reactionaries, believe the President is hoarding the lead as part of an effort to make it more difficult for Ted Nugent to get rich selling the stuff.

The truth, though, is that fear and paranoia among gun freaks—much of it generated by Ted Nugent types—is mostly responsible for the shortage. Many of these fearful folks belong to a group of delusively vigilant Americans who call themselves “Oath Keepers.” Yes, that’s right. There are out there a lot of people who swear that when Big O decides to quit trampling on the Constitution and start trampling on people, they,

will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or to place them under martial law and deprive them of their ancient right to jury trial.

We Oath Keepers have drawn a line in the sand. We will not “just follow orders.”

Our motto is “Not on our watch!”

These folks are serious.  They call themselves “Guardians of the Republic” and claim they “are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our own troops.” And, of course, God must be on their side:

Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

It is unclear how God will help these folks defend the Constitution, should the President declare war on Americans. Because, after all, God also has an obligation to Obama, since, as the Bible declares, Obama wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for the Almighty:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Whoops! Something has to eventually give here. Either God has to admit He made a mistake in appointing Barack Obama as the Commander-in-Chief, or He has to abandon the Oath Keepers and leave them to the mercy of Obama, after the President fires up those black helicopters and starts shooting.

Since God hasn’t admitted to a mistake since the sixth chapter of Genesis, I’m betting that He won’t repent of appointing Obama as president and that Ted Nugent and the Oath Keepers will have to handle the upcoming battle without the benefit of fire and brimstone from on high.

In the mean time, the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives will do all it can to save the country from its government, a government once, now laughingly, characterized as “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Democrats

I love Democrats.

Oh, there is plenty to lament over the long history of the Democratic Party. It hasn’t always been a party of inclusion, of hope, of promise for all.

But on Tuesday night it was my party, a party I could believe in, a party I could be proud to lock arms with, no matter the outcome in November.

I loved the night, full of speeches, from the Cincinnati firefighter, who turned from a Republican to a Democrat because of anti-union action by his state’s Republicans;

to Harry Reid, who still refuses to give up on Romney’s secret tax returns;

to former President Jimmy Carter, who Democrats are not ashamed of, unlike the convenient Republican allergy to George W. Bush;

to Joe Kennedy III, who is running to replace the venerable liberal Barney Frank;

to Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq and is now, not ironically, running for Congress in Illinois;

to Stacey Lihn, fighting to keep her emotions in check as she spoke of her daughter Zoe, who has congenital heart disease and whose vulnerability is why ObamaCare is not a political liability but a reason to celebrate because it provides such families with “security and relief“;

to Ted Strickland, former governor of Ohio, who told the truth about Romney by saying that, “to him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet,” and that he “has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.” He quoted the Bible, saying,

the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it’s well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.

Strickland said that President Obama “stands up for average working people” and “now, by God, we will stand up for him.” He said the President is an “economic patriot,” and the differences between him and Mitt Romney are such that we can’t “sit this one out.”

I loved Kathleen Sebelius extoling the virtues of “ObamaCare,” which she called a “badge of honor,” adding accurately that such laws “reflect the best of our values.”

I loved Lilly Ledbetter who celebrated the first bill President Obama signed into law, one named after her and that, “because of his leadership, women who faced pay discrimination like I did will now get their day in court.”

I was exceedingly impressed by the rousing speech delivered by the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who followed Romney in that job. He attacked Republican philosophy, but admonished his own party:

If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe.

Backbones, I believe, were stiffened.

I enjoyed meeting future Democratic star Julián Castro, whose orphaned grandmother from Mexico with a fourth-grade education came to America and worked hard, raising a daughter who would be the first in her family to graduate from college, the daughter in turn raising two sons, one now the mayor of San Antonio and the other on his way to Congress this fall.

Then there was Michelle Obama.

Earlier in the day my 17-year-old son had asked me what were the essential differences between Republicans and Democrats. Mrs. Obama began to explain those differences with this:

Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

Yes! That’s it. “Give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” That’s who we are as Democrats.

But that’s not all of it.

I couldn’t explain the ultimate difference between Democrats and Republicans better than Michelle Obama did in this passage from the finest speech, from beginning to end, I have ever heard given at a political convention:

He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work. Because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.

He’s the same man who, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew.

That’s the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering their questions about issues in the news, and strategizing about middle school friendships.

That’s the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him.

The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care. From the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities.

I see the concern in his eyes and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through, Michelle, it’s not right. We’ve got to keep working to fix this. We’ve got so much more to do.”

Ah. There it is: “Michelle, it’s not right.”

Democrats make that value judgment. They’re not afraid to do so. They see something wrong in society and declare “it’s not right,” often, “it’s not right!  And then they go about the hard job of fixing it. Republicans see things that aren’t right and say, “That’s the way it is.”

And that’s the biggest difference between the parties, between the philosophies that guide them.

I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are,” Mrs. Obama said. And she added that when a president is making the hard decisions that American presidents have to make,

as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.

What could be truer than that?

And Barack Obama’s values, his vision, the stuff that makes him who he is, should give us confidence that, even if we disagree with him at times, even if we wonder why he is so reluctant to openly and defiantly call out his political opponents, we can still, as far as it is humanly prudent to do so, trust him.

GOP Playground

There will always be people who don’t like me.”

—Michelle Obama, to CBS News

 

Here is a comment I found today (written by a conservative blogger) on a Fox “News” story on the new book about Michelle Obama:

…there is a anti-white racist muslim living in the WH!

Ah, come on, you say. That’s just a wacko. That guy, who lists among his “favourite websites,” Bill O’Reilly, Fox Nation, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Newsbusters, and The Blaze, doesn’t represent mainstream conservatism’s critique of President Obama.

Oh, yeah?

Well, while that guy may have a problem with subtlety, while he may need a couple of lessons in nuance, he does represent the white angst out there—like, for instance, the kind that has quasi-racist Pat Buchanan on the verge of losing his MNSBC gig. (I have previously discussed Buchanan’s strange book that is causing him problems with the network.)

And that poisonous angst is not limited to attacks against Barack Obama, but extends, as it always has, to his wife, “Moochelle.”

Remember back in November when reports were that Michelle Obama was booed at a NASCAR event?  Poisoner-in-chief, Rush Limbaugh, whose angst about the Scary Negro in the White’s House is only slightly more refined than the commenter above, said this:

I’ll tell you something else — we don’t like paying millions of dollars for Mrs. Obama’s vacations. The NASCAR crowd doesn’t quite understand why, when the husband and the wife are going the same place, the first lady has to take her own Boeing 757 with family and kids and hangers-on four hours earlier than her husband, who will be on his 747. NASCAR people understand that’s a little bit of a waste. They understand it is a little bit of uppity-ism. First ladies have not been known to hop their own 757s four hours ahead of their husband when they’re going the same place.

First, what does the phrase “hangers-on” mean?  Let’s look at a couple of definitions:

Merriam-Webster:

Definition of HANGER-ON

: one that hangs around a person, place, or institution especially for personal gain 

Synonyms: bloodsucker, freeloader, free rider, hanger-on, moocher, parasite, sponge, sponger

Hmm. Since Rush was talking about an African-American, maybe what he really meant by hangers-on was “posse.” Let’s look at a definition of that word from the Urban Dictionary:

your crew, your hommies, a group of friends, people who may or may not have your back

Okay, that’s much better.

Now, let’s look at that other term he used, “uppity-ism.”  I wonder what that might mean?  Since Rush was talking about Michele’s uppity-ism in the context of NASCAR—”The Most Southern Sport on Earth“— let’s go back to the Urban Dictionary for a definition related to southern culture [I edited it]: 

Word used by racist old white Southerners to refer to any black person who looks them in the eye. Usually followed by ni♥♥er. 

That uppity ni♥♥er is not working in the cotton field like he should be.” 

Writing for The Grio, Goldie Taylor wrote:

First used around 1880, uppity was a word used to describe someone who was prone to “taking on airs” or “assuming liberties beyond one’s social station”. By the early 1900s, the term was almost exclusively used to describe black people who did not show the appropriate level of deference with whites…

Let’s be clear, the word “uppity” has become nothing more than synonym for a “ni**er” that doesn’t know his or her “place”. For me, it’s an ugly reminder of what America used to be and, in some quarters, still is. When they say they want their country back, it isn’t a silent dog whistle. It’s a demand. [her edit]

On Monday, Rush was at it again, so obsessed is he with the blackness of the Obamas. The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor has written a book on the Obama White House and naturally the right-wing is all over the juicy parts. That’s okay, the Obama’s are not beyond criticism and neither is the Administration.

Rush was obsessed with the “revelation” of a 2009 Halloween party, which he characterized as “this big decadent Hollywood-esque type Henry VIII bash.” Whatever. But here are other things he said on his Monday show (the bracketed notes are mine): 

The point about this is, though, if you look at Michelle Obama and her vacations and her separate travel, she does consider herself royalty.  And I have a theory, folks.  I’m not retracting anything I’ve said about liberals, Marxists and their ideological aims, their idea-driven aims. 

But I also think that there is something else that explains all of this, the Solyndras, the health care waivers, the entire regime — and I really think it’s nothing more complicated than money.  I’ll never forget Marion Barry [an African-American], the 1984 Democrat convention, San Francisco.  And I don’t know what specifically he was referring to, but the theme of his speech was, “Tonight, tonight we’re on the inside,” meaning, “Okay, finally we’ve got our chance to be in charge of things.”  And then when Mayor David Dinkins [an African-American] was elected mayor for life in New York City, I remember some of the civil rights coalition people saying, “All right, now it’s our turn to have the money.” […]

…I think if you look at the way the Obamas live — with Michelle and her separate vacations and not being concerned about how much it costs to take separate airplanes — there’s no question in my mind, whatever else they view this as, that they view this as an opportunity to live high on the hog without having it cost them a dime…

They justify it by thinking, “Well, we deserve this or we’re owed this because of what’s been done to us and our ancestors all these years.” Who knows? I think it’s part of it…

So when you have a big time Hollywood party like this or any other show of extravagance, to me it’s patently obvious what’s going on here: A bunch of people are taking advantage of having control over all that money, a chance to get a lot of it without having to work for it — under the guise of being entitled to it, pulling the strings — because in their view, this is what all their predecessors have done.

Now, you might say that Rush Limbaugh is a conservative extremist, outside the mainstream, and his views don’t reflect the establishment. Well, just this morning, John Sununu, about as establishment as you can get in the GOP, who has been a major spokesman thus far for the establishment’s choice, Mitt Romney, said of the attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital experience:

You’ve got folks like National Review, Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and others pointing out that these guys are attacking the fundamental principles of free enterprise and capitalism, which is the way you do create jobs and the way you do solve things.

So, I think you’re gonna see that get a little bit hotter for a short period of time and some adult supervision’s gonna come into the process and tell these guys to knock it off.

Rush Limbaugh” is part of the coming “adult supervision“?

What a playground is the Republican Party.

It’s About Time NPR Fired Juan Williams

The buzz this morning on Morning Joe was over National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams.

The consensus was that NPR acted irresponsibly and with great political correctness over Williams’ comments to Bill O’Reilly regarding O’Reilly’s spat with a couple of The View girls over his statement that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”  Billo had asked Williams what he thought about that statement, to which Williams replied,

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Williams went on to try to explain to the hard-headed O’Reilly that it was dumb to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few extremists and it appeared that Williams, a regular on the Republican “News” Channel, was trying to “reason” with the unreasonable host.

Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, and other Morning Joe regulars were beside themselves over NPR’s reaction, spouting the usual conservative line about political correctness and other nonsense and suggesting that NPR should hire him back.  They blamed left-wing bloggers (who, by the way, blog in their “underwear,” according to someone on the show) for starting the wave that ended in Juan Williams’ departure from NPR.

But while I agree that Williams’ comments in this case weren’t in themselves worthy of dismissal, the truth is that any regular listener to NPR, no matter one’s political affiliation, recognizes that NPR is merely protecting its brand of journalism, a brand that has behind it a steadfast commitment to the profession, as opposed to some of the stuff one witnesses on cable news channels day in and day out. 

Juan Williams, while still affiliated with NPR, decided to forsake his credibility as a journalist and associate himself with the mostly faux-journalism practiced on the Republican “News” Channel.  Good for him.  I’m sure he is paid well for his trouble.  NPR’s problem was that it didn’t fire Williams when he first made his move away from NPR’s brand.  NPR waited too long to cut him off and the exchange yesterday with O’Reilly was just a way to do something it should have done long ago.

Just recently, NPR issued a directive to its employees not to participate in Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” or Stephen Colbert’s “March to Keep Fear Alive.”  Participation in those events, which NPR will cover as a news outlet, would violate NPR’s Ethics Code.  Here are just two restrictions from the code:

1. NPR journalists may not run for office, endorse candidates or otherwise engage in politics. Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist’s impartiality.

2. NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.

The point is that journalism is a profession and journalists ought to act professionally.  News reporting should be as free from personal prejudice as possible, even if a reporter does have strong feelings about the issue on which he or she is reporting.  Prohibiting its employees from associating with the Stewart-Colbert rallies is an important example of NPR protecting its reputation as producing reliable journalism.

On the commentary side, NPR listeners, me included, who have listened to Juan Williams’ contributions to NPR  for years, were dismayed by his moonlighting at the Republican “News” Channel, particularly his association with Bill O’Reilly, where he has sometimes filled in for the blowhard.

In fact, in 2009, after Williams said some things about Michelle Obama that were right out of the right-wing nut playbook, NPR asked the Republican “News” Channel to stop identifying Williams as an “NPR news political analyst,”  even though many long-time NPR listeners believed, rightly, that he should have been fired for that appearance and those comments.

It’s been a long time coming, but NPR has finally done the right thing by getting rid of Juan Williams, who with every appearance on O’Reilly and other right-wing shows, tainted NPR’s brand name.  I know most conservatives believe NPR is a “liberal” news source, but then again those same conservatives think the Republican “News” Channel is “fair and balanced,” so it really doesn’t matter what they think. 

What matters is that NPR doesn’t succumb to the tendency these days of abandoning real journalism in favor of what passes for journalism today on cable “news” networks, particularly one that has an unapologetic and symbiotic relationship with the Republican Party.

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