Category Archives: politics

How “undocumented immigration” has destroyed Obama’s America

Immigration Reform may or may not end up being the hot button issue for 2010, but as the end of year reviews and one-year assessments of the Obama Administration hit the press, one thing is certain: Barack Obama’s presidency owes a good deal to the undocumented immigration meme.

Looking back at the October 2007 democratic party debate as a turning point in Obama’s journey to the nomination, it is quite possible that had Hillary Clinton not stumbled on the question about Real ID and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, Obama would not have reversed the polls of that month which showed Clinton with a double digit lead.

During the waning days of the 2008 campaign, as Obama looked nearly invincible against the aging and incredibly lackluster John McCain, McCain’s veep candidate Sarah Palin started questioning   where Barack Obama was born. The blatant subtext was that barack Obama was an undocumented immigrant and had no legitimate claim on the presidency. The trope of being undocumented connoted illigitimacy and danger.  Obama was too different, too foreign, too black, too “muslim”, too threatening to ever be president.

Such “know-nothing” attempts to discredit the legitimacy of Obama presidency didn’t cease when he took office. Quite the contrary: It spread virulent attacks against Obama which have made fiction of the democratic process.

During Obama’s address to both chambers of congress, Joe Wilson shouted “you lie”  when the President declared that HCR would not cover undocumented immigrants.

The breech of decorum aside, Wilson’s outburst was an exclamation mark framing the idea that deliberative democracy in America is gone. It has been sabotaged by Obama’s right wing opposition which is now favored to have a resurgence in 2010.

So, here’s the bigger question, what is it about the “undocumented immigration” meme that permits its use as a cudgel on democracy?

Undocumented immigration hay have destroyed America, but not the way political conservatives would have us believe.


Obama responds to street violence in Tehran

Keith Olberman tonite started with President Obama speaking about the street violence in Tehran, which he finds deeply disturbing. He cites Iran’s lack of tolerance for political dissent as running against the currents of international law.

But Obama’s words only went so far. the prevailing wisdom is that Obama cannot speak too stridently about the stolen election because Mousavi would then be perceived as a stool pigeon of the U.S. government.  Obama said US does not want to make decisions for Iranians.

Here’s a supplementary take. President Obama risks being branded a hypocrite due our our own stolen 2000 election, which we did nothing about.  Was the 2000 election stolen? Yes. ask Greg Palast. Better yet, ask Justice Souter.

That’s right, the suggestion here is that Obama’s words are limited by America’s  own diminished moral authority, a plague that  spreads into several other Bush era wrongs that have yet to be remedied. 

Obama moral voice here is constrained because  we did nothing when our “Ahmadinejad” became president for 8 years. It serves notice that the president’s voice and actions  might well be constrained on several other fronts as well, unless we act.

What Obama’s Inaugural told me about His Immigration Policy

With all his rhetorical might, Barack Obama in his Inaugural Address endeavored to pull the country back into the realm of the rule of law.  Although this sisyphusian task will require a great deal more work than rhetoric, this is where it starts and already perhaps this indicates a reverse of course. It certainly feels good to see the new president playing to his strength and using his force of his words to serve notice on the planet that the false choice between security and liberty is over and the constitution has returned.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.  Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.  And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born:  know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

 Similarly, Obama also served notice that

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, not does it entitle us to do as we please.  Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Such is his attack on the sovereignist approach to power that is derisive of the rule of law. Obama reminds us that such power is doomed because it is discordant with the “justness of our cause, the force of our example.” Obama here is referring to the integrity of our institutions in their treatment of individuals when integrity is measured against the American character which is recognizes is rooted in the immigrant and slave experience.

Obama also reclaimed the immigrant basis for its own identity, appealing to the small town in Congo where his father was born.  The ideal for Obama is to be found in the immigrant experience.

His use of the immigrant experience in this speech is anathama to the immigrant control system that has been developed over the past eight years.   Put simply, Obama entered office with a strong commitment to end the injustices experienced under the Bush Administration.

It seems clear that an Obama Administration will use much different tropes when framing the immigrant.  than the ones the country has been forced to endure under Bush.  The question I have is whether this is enough of a commitment to actually reverse course, given the inordinant amount of government resources already exhausted on immigration control.  Keep in mind his address bore no refere3nce to immigration reform; it spoke of cleaning up other messes in concrete terms but his references to immigration were vague and abstract.  America’s greatness lies in its immigrant past; its character built on the backs of immigrants and slaves.  But will his appreciation of immigration translater into concrete policies that reverse the Bush abuses of power?   It remains to be seen if the President’s attack on sovereign approaches to power will translate into concrete efforts to extend constitutional law into the immigration field. 

What Bill Ayers Tells Us about John McCain (revised)

Today at a Colorado fundraiser, Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of hanging out with terrorists.

“Our opponent, though, is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect — imperfect enough that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” 

Her use of the word terrorist at this stage in the campaign of course is a not so coded attack on Obama’s name, race and plays on lingering false beliefs about Obama’s religious affiliation. Palin’s snarky comments suggest Barack is hanging out with “those People” way out there, those islamofascist terrorists that Rudy spoke about during his failed campaign.

Actually Palin was referring to the caucasion Bill Aires, professor of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  As the NYTimes reports today, Obama had no affiliation with the terrorist Bill Ayers, whose “terroristic” activities occurred 39 years ago (Weather Underground) when Obama was eight years old.  Palin knows as much and should be held responsible for her misstatements.

Rather, Obama has had casual contact with Bill Ayers the educational reformer, whose much lauded work Obama supported, and was financed by Walter Annenberg, Republican stalwart, and onetime confident of President Richard Nixon.  

The real issue here is that Walter Annenberg has had more to do with the success of Bill Ayers the academic and reformer than Barack Obama ever did.  Had Palin a conscience, she’d attack Annenberg (not Obama) for having made his research and writing possible. 

But Palin cares not one whit for facts, as she showed during the VP debate, and has no curiosity about larger social truths, as she made abundantly clear in the Couric interviews.

So clearly, her attack on Obama is nothing more than the latest McCain talking point and is an opening salvo of the final month of her national ambition.

I happen to agree that Bill Ayers provides some rich fodder for political discussion during the next five weeks, but not for the reasons evoked in the press. There is nothing to Obama’s association with Bill Ayers, as if there is any real problem if they really were pals.  so what. 

here’s the salience of Bill Ayers to the 08 campaign. It brings us back to a reexamination of McCain’s wrongheaded and irrational thoughts about the Vietnam War.

The Bill Ayers of forty years ago had his counterpoint in John McCain.  In the midst of a violent period domestically in the US when the US was engaged in a war that many believe should never have been fought, McCain supported it and Ayers opposed it.  McCain took up arms in support of the war effort, as tens of thousands of soldiers did.  Ayers took up arms as well, a highly controversial and unpopular move in the anti war movement. I am not suggesting a moral equivalence here between ayers and McCain, although I am suggesting these two figures represent polar extremes present in the cultural torment of the 1960s.

Ayers long go left behind his Weather Underground past.  I don’t think McCain ever left Vietnam.  John McCain’s current candidacy is rooted in milking his Vietnam legend.  And for sure, McCain’s Vietnam experience informs his position on Iraq, Iran, even Russia and Spain.  Regrettably, his psychic wounds likely left him with dangerous lessons that he would apply were he elected president. 

The lessons:

1) McCain thinks Vietnam was winnable. A near consensus of scholars and historians disagree.

2) War opponents are unamerican; potential terrorists; and to be considered the enemy.

That is why Bill Ayers casts such a large shadow over McCain. He remains a very current enemy to John McCain.  To John McCain Barack Obama= Bill Ayers. 

To understand this consider that the real cause of Mccain’s wounds over Vietnam involve his relationship with his dad. His father, who was commander of the pacific forces during Vietnam, ordered the bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia and was widely discredited for his actions and held as one person responsible for “losing Vietnam.”   McCain never forgets what war opponents (Ayers included) did to his dad.  In his mind they ruined him.

Does this oedipal story sound familiar?  Dubya & Papa 41?  The Ayers saga reminds us that if John McCain is elected president, the presidency once again could become a therapist couch used to work out unresolved feeling about how the country mistreated John McCain II.


So, Bill Ayers offers a lot more than a cheap, unfounded way to attack Barack Obama. I think he helps open the door into some scary secrets of John McCain’s mental torment and anguish. yikes!

Debate Question for Palin

Of the many questions Gwen Ifill could ask Sarah Palin, the one I would like to hear has to do with reconciling her Couric interview response that here is an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution, with her opposition to a woman’s right to choose (Roe v Wade) 1973 and a couple’s right to contraceptives (Griswald v Connecticut, 1965, which recognized a penumbra right to privacy protecting Planned Parenthood in giving info about contraception to married couples).

This is what she said during the interview:

Couric: Do you think there is an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah. I do

It would be a novel constitutional move indeed, to defend supporting an inherent right to privacy that resulted from Griswald and Roe, without supporting these two cases, and actively opposing the myriad of public policies spawned since 1965 and 1973 respectively.

The obvious answer is she cannot defend her statement, which leads to plenty other questions.

Gwen Ifill vs Sarah Palin

I think the real person on the hotseat this evening is going to be Gwen Ifill, steady and able PBS broadcaster, who has been roughed up by the McCain campaign during the past several days. In fact they have gone after Ifill more than they have gone after Biden, her opponent.

If it is true, as I believe it is, that the rules and reffing (enforcement of the rules) of a contest can and often do determine the winner, then all eyes should be on Ifill.   As moderator, she is the procedure-person in chief.  In addition to the strain of a broken ankle, she will walk into the hall with Paliniacs saying she has secretly written a book favorable about obama. Well she didn’t the book wil be published this january but there is no secret. It was announced and Ifill talked about it in July and August. As we learned in the Palin-Couric interviews, the problem here is that Paliniacs don;t read or watch the news all that much.

Assuming Ifill has let all this run off her like water off a duck’s back, then the key will be in the follo-up questions, or whether Biden has the opportunity or takes it, to challenge her on the snappy bromides she is sure to offer. The tapes from Alaska 06 show that Palin could be quite formidible in this seting. She has camera experience as a sportscaster, and knows ow to “seduce” an audience. This is the Palin that Shoeneman and Schmidt have been recreating the last two days; the former beauty pageant winner who, as SNL’s Couric suggests, gets more “adorable” with every cornering question. 

Hopefully Ifill will not tolerate such nonsense. It’s not Palin’s politics that should piss her off; rather its the sophmoric cutsy/dumb stuff that hopefully will claw at her broken ankle and force her to blow Palin’s seductions off like McCain did to Obama last night when Obama went over to shake his hand.

A Leader You Can Count On?

John McCain is in charge of what exactly? Not the Republican National Committee. Not Republicans in the House of Representatives, Not Republicans in Arizona.  Not right wing commentators and journalists. Not even of his own campaign. Never has there been such fractured leadership in a Republican Party on the eve of an election.  McCain himself has taken credit for the bailout, although it failed, and he failed to bring along his own state delegation in the House vote yesterday. They voted against the bailout.

As my two year old says, “scared.”  That’s how republicans ought to feel this week, with 35 days to go, losing by about 5% in the tracking polls, that is, unless they have already thrown in the towel this election year and are now looking forwarding to rebuilding during the next 4-8 years. 

Ask David Frum and George Will who are saying publicly that the repub ticket is unfit for office. They seem to be saying they wish the election were over already, so they could begin again. Look at it this way. Given the trainwreck that is McCain-Palin,  Frum and Will seem flat out embarassed by the sort of leadership being offered by the two heads of their Party.  

In addition to leading a failure of a campaign, Mccain-Palin also highlight the death of an ideology, which presents is greater challenge to the likes of Frum, Will, Brooks, and others, than merely casting about post election for a better candidate and campaign organization.  The credit crisis is providing more evidence than a rational voter ever needs that the republican party’s anachronistic deregulatory neo-liberalism is flat out responsible for the mess we are in.


McCain may not be the leader you can count on,  but he is the man who is likely to seal the demise of the Reagan Revolution. Not a bad tribute to his mentor in chief?