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The Articles of Impeachment Should Have Been These Instead

Image result for trump impeached headline

            Donald Trump deserved to be impeached. He deserves to be convicted in the Senate.

            Every president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors that could justify impeachment.

            But not on these charges. Not for threatening to withhold $400 million in aid that we shouldn’t have been sending to Ukraine in the first place, not as long as 38 million Americans are poor. Not for trying to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden; American voters have the right to know that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and his son are on the take.

            Certainly not on the nonsensical count of contempt of Congress, which punished the president for the crime of using the legal system to defend himself.

            Impeachment is a political process that only has legitimacy when it’s bipartisan. In 1974 Democrats drafted wide-ranging articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. They appealed to constituencies across a wide spectrum of interests: corruption, financial fraud, bribing witnesses not to testify, privacy violations, opposition to the Vietnam War.

            The Nixon articles were crafted in order to attract support from Republicans. The media claims that the GOP has never been in thrall to a president as slavishly as it is to Trump but people who remember Nixon know better. Still, Nixon’s hold on Capitol Hill Republicans eroded as the latter realized they could no longer defend conduct like his wiretapping of and siccing the IRS on political opponents.

            Nancy Pelosi’s microaggression-based articles of impeachment against Trump couldn’t peel away a single House Republican.

 

            Here are the articles of impeachment I would have drafted instead.

 

  1. Racist foreign policy. President Donald J. Trump’s comportment as head of state and top official in charge of foreign policy has brought shame, contempt and opprobrium upon the United States of America. He has used his Twitter feed and spoken comments in order to insult foreign heads of state and call them names. A brazen racist, he has referred to sovereign nations in Africa, and Haiti, as “shithole countries.” If the U.S. should set the highest standard of conduct, Trump’s sets the lowest, recklessly destroying our relationship with the world. Threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, a nuclear power, is the kind of behavior that sparks conflicts. Few Republicans want another pointless war.
  2. The President may be psychotic. The president’s temperament and demeanor not only fail to rise to the bar expected of the office of President but bring disrepute upon the citizens of the United States he is tasked with representing. Anticipating the possibility that we might someday face a situation similar to that in England under King George III, the Founding Fathers conceived impeachment in large part as a way to remove a head of state who might be mentally ill, addicted to alcohol or other drugs or, in the flowery language of the time, indulge in “frequent and notorious excesses and debaucheries, and…profane and atheistical discourses.” A president not in full command of his mental faculties is an albatross; his tenure represents a threat to national security. Under the War Powers Act, the president has the right to deploy troops. He may decide whether a condemned prisoner is pardoned or executed. He can unilaterally order a nuclear attack without provocation. Although it is impossible to determine whether President Trump is mentally ill or under the influence of narcotics, his behavior is so unsteady that it is only prudent to plan for the worst and remove him before he causes a catastrophe. Republicans know he is dangerous.
  3. He endorses murder. After the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, President Trump repeatedly sided with the murderers. “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. The president’s statements makes it impossible for other countries to take us seriously when we pontificate about human rights. Republicans cannot and do not find what happened to Khashoggi acceptable.
  4. He endorses fascism. After white nationalists and other bigots gathered at a violent right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the murder of a peaceful progressive activist, President Trump pretended there was equivalence between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protesters. There “were very fine people, on both sides,” he said. No there weren’t. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died fighting fascism during World War II. President Trump dishonors them and increases the chances that fascism will rise again. Republicans do not agree with neo-Nazis.
  5. He is lining his own pockets at the public trough. Call it “emoluments” if you want to make voters’ eyes glaze over, call it what it is if you want to speak plainly: bribery. Trump has visited his own properties 400 times, filling rooms at full price with his retinue at taxpayer expense. Saudi Arabia has bailed out his failing hotels. He even suggested his own resort as the site of a G-8 summit. When foreign officials pay our president, they are buying influence. Republicans wouldn’t tolerate this behavior from their employees. The president is our employee.
  6. He kidnaps children—and loses them. The Trump Administration forcibly separated 5,400 kids from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many were locked in cages. After federal courts ordered them returned to their parents, the White House admitted that they couldn’t locate them. They were lost. Thousands may be never be reunited with their families due to neglect and bureaucratic incompetence. Trump has asked for two years to find them. Even anti-immigration Republicans do not agree with stealing people’s kids.

 

            I can think of other impeachable offenses—continuing and expanding Obama’s drone assassination program, backing Saudi Arabia’s genocidal proxy war in neighboring Yemen, airstrikes against Syria. But this column isn’t about what I care about. It’s a list of articles of impeachment that might have had a chance of attracting bipartisan support and thus resulting in Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

            Instead, Democrats have indulged in a pro forma charade that will set an awful precedent, tempting the House of Representatives to impeach every president of the opposite party over every little thing. They’ve trivialized an only-in-case-of-emergency process into a rushed lark, ignored what really matters and squandered the opportunity to hold the president to account for his many crimes and sins.

            Enjoy your “win,” liberals. Like your decision to abolish the judicial filibuster for nominations to the bench—in 2013 some Democrats actually thought there would never be another Republican president—you will soon rue it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

 

 

Media Censors the Opinions of 37% of Americans. And Now They’re Gloating About It.

1-3-18Thirty-seven percent of American citizens are socialist or communist. That’s far more people than voted for either Hillary Clinton (28% of eligible voters) or Donald Trump (27%) in 2016.

The majority is voiceless. A privileged minority rules. The United States is a political apartheid state.

If the Left were allowed on the ballot in this fake democracy, given space in newspapers and on television, invited to join political debates, and if it wasn’t brutally suppressed by the police and FBI, the Left wouldn’t need to wage a revolution in order to take over the country. Leftists could easily win at the ballot box if America were a real democracy.

Media censorship plays a major part in the conspiracy to deny the majority Left its rightful role as the nation’s rulers. Socialist and communist Americans read newspaper editorial pages and draw the false conclusion that they’re members of a lunatic fringe. More than 1,000 papers—yet not one single leftist opinion columnist or editorial cartoonist on staff?!?

Leftist Americans exist by the millions but many are isolated from one another. They watch CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews and figure they’re all alone. None of the three major cable news networks employs a single left-wing commentator. They go to the polls but there’s no left party on the ballot. Or if there is, they’ve never heard of it and don’t want to waste their votes.

To be a Leftist in America today is analogous to how black people felt until recently while watching TV: you don’t see anyone like you. The powers that be want you to feel like the Invisible Man, as though you didn’t exist. You know you exist. But you can’t miss the system’s message that you don’t matter.

American politics is a party to which you have not been invited.

This has been the state of affairs for as long as I can remember. Even as more Americans become disgusted by runaway capitalism, censorship of the Left has become increasingly thorough and ferocious.

There used to be a little space. In the 1990s lefties like me were granted occasional mentions in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and NPR. Even FoxNews had us on to serve as punching bags. Shortly after 9/11 we disappeared along with the Twin Towers, relegated to a few blogs and alternative weeklies. Now newspapers and cable TV news and corporate news websites never give space or air to representatives of the Left. (Don’t email me about AOC. She’s a Democrat, not a leftist.)

Censorship of the really-existing Left is impressively thorough. You’ll find exactly as much opposition to the government on the media here in the U.S. as you’ll find in North Korea.

Ashamed and afraid, the gatekeepers used to have the decency to keep secret their suppression of people whose political sin is that they really, truly believe that all humans are equal. They didn’t even think they were biased. They thought they were reasonable. Moderate. Middle of the road.

Censorship with a smile is no longer enough for America’s corrupt news media. Now they’re brazenly contemptuous. The bastards even seek to elevate censorship of the Left to a proud American value!

On May 12th the Times ran another in a string of hit pieces on RT America, a television network it described as the cat’s paw of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.” RT, the Times complained, “amplifies voices of dissent, to sow discord and widen social divides. It gives the marginal a megaphone and traffics in false equivalence.” Imagine that: giving airtime to people we’ve always censored! “Voices of dissent” must never be “amplified.” They must be silenced.

This has become a standard talking point.

“RT America has a modest audience, exploring stories of dissent, injustice and poverty within the U.S. that it says American news outlets ignore,” NPR sneered in 2016, as if dissent, injustice and poverty were standard fare on corporate media outlets. Anyway, if RT’s audience is so small, why is the political establishment so worried about them?

The formerly-liberal Guardian has gotten into the act: Fringe opinion takes centre stage [on RT],” it wrote in 2017. “Reporting is routinely bolstered by testimony from experts you have never heard of, representing institutions you have never heard of.” It is true that RT rarely interviews “experts” like John Bolton and William Kristol, neocon architects of the Iraq War who despite their evil idiocy pop up everywhere from CNN to the Bill Maher show. Far more often, they interview people who have been right year after year about issue after issue—people like me.

I get interviewed by RT often. (Disclosure: I am a frequent guest on RT’s sister radio network Sputnik News and draw cartoons for them too.) Never once have they told me what to say or not say. I wish I could say the same about many “mainstream” U.S. media outlets.

Many attacks against RT originate with the U.S. government’s national security apparatus. The Times piece blithely cites the RAND Corporation, Molly McKew, a right-wing lobbyist for the anti-Russian government of Georgia, and the Director of National Intelligence to support its allegations. A 2017 report issued by the DNI groused: “RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use. RT has also focused on criticism of the U.S. economic system, U.S. currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the U.S. national debt.”

Notably, the report did not question the accuracy of those assertions.

It certainly didn’t suggest that the U.S. stop doing all those things that make it look so awful.

To U.S. corporate propagandists the solution is clear: censor more and censor better.

Make censorship good.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Trump’s Foreign Policy: Hated by Pundits But Popular with Voters

Image result for doha peace talks afghanistan

President Trump keeps coming under attack for his foreign policy, predictably by Democrats but also by legacy Republican leaders.

“I’m very concerned,” Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said about Trump’s plans to bring troops home from the Middle East.

“It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances and empower our adversaries,” said Marco Rubio.

Trump’s late-2018 announcement that he planned to withdraw 2000 US troops from the meatgrinder of Syria’s brutal civil war prompted bipartisan dismay. Next the new Doha peace framework to end US involvement in Afghanistan had   establishment politicos and pundits reviving their hoary, false canard that America’s “abandonment” of Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew in 1989 led to 9/11. Now he’s getting attacked for trying to reach a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea (possible bonus: a formal end to the Korean War).

Deescalation? Why, that could cause peace! What could be a more dangerous threat to American interests?

Meanwhile, Trump is still in Syria. He’s expanded Obama’s drone assassinations. He wants to spend even more on defense. The pro-war wise men of the media have zero problem with hawkishness, no matter how stupid or immoral.

Conventional wisdom holds that this criticism will cost Trump. I disagree. While the president’s America First foreign policy has no constituency within the leadership caste of either party, it has one he cares about more: the voters.

Interestingly, a high percentage of Americans (65%) disapprove of Trump’s handling of international affairs generically. No doubt they’ve been influenced by “Trump is a child on foreign stuff” coverage.

Yet when it comes to specifics, Americans mostly approve of his moves to deescalate tensions overseas and reduce foreign entanglements.

77% of Americans approved of the first summit between Trump and Kim. 54% thought it went well. That’s significantly more than the portion of Americans who approved of his presidency in general, indicating that on this issue he enjoyed support from many Democrats.

Support for withdrawing troops from Syria is close to 50-50, not stellar yet significantly better than his overall mid-40s approval rating.

Afghanistan is a no-brainer for the president. Most Americans want immediate withdrawal and a whopping 70% say that we never should have invaded in the first place.

Trump’s disentanglement policies are popular. The reason that his overall numbers on international matters run low has more to do with the tone and image he projects than the policies he has promulgated. People like what he’s doing but not how he looks and sounds as he does it.

Trump got elected in large part by ignoring GOP dogma and selling his ideas directly to the American people. Voters were tired of an immigration crisis created and prolonged by both parties and they were angry about deindustrialization and vicious “free trade.” Trump’s proposed solutions—the Wall and a trade war—might not be intelligent or effective. But he addressed both issues when others, especially Hillary Clinton, would not. Voters prefer a president who does something stupid to fix a problem to one who pretends it doesn’t exist.

With foreign policy, Trump is trying to pull off a similar trick as he did with domestic issues in 2016: addressing the “endless war” problem that spun out of control under Bush. If not for Trump neither major party would have touched a Pentagon with so many bases abroad it can’t give you an exact number. The question for 2020 is whether voters — who traditionally decide how to vote based on the state of the economy — will give Trump credit for nibbling at the edges of America’s militaristic bloat.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Divide and Conquer — Why Does the U.S. Hate Peace?

Give peace a chance, the song urges.

But the United States won’t have it.

Olympic diplomacy seems to be working on the Korean peninsula. After a pair of South Korean envoys visited Pyongyang, they issued a promising communiqué. “The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the statement said. Considering that the Korean crisis and a derpy emergency management official had Hawaiians jumping down manholes a few months ago, this news comes as a relief.

Then comes the rub. The South Korean statement continued: “[North Korea] made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed [my emphasis].”

In other words, the DPRK is saying — reasonably — we’ll get rid of our nukes but only if you promise not to invade us. That guarantee would have to be issued by two countries: South Korea and the United States.

This would directly contradict long-standing U.S. foreign policy, which clearly and repeatedly states that the use of military force is always on the table when we don’t get our way in an international dispute.

Kim Jong-On has good reasons to be afraid of us. In a speech to the UN President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. President George W. Bush declared them a member of the “Axis of Evil”; we invaded and currently occupy Iraq, one of the two other supposed Evildoers. After deposing and enabling the execution of Iraq’s president. Last week Bush’s UN ambassador John Bolton published a legal argument for nuking North Korea without provocation.

Believe it or not, this is the soft side of U.S. foreign policy.

For decades South Korea has tried to deescalate its relationship with the North, not infrequently expressing its desire to end formal hostilities, which legally never ended after the Korean War, and move toward the long-term goal of a united Korea under a single government. And for decades the United States has stood in the way, awkwardly trying to look reasonable as it opposes peace. “We do not seek to accelerate reunification,” a State Department spokesman said recently.

To say the least.

“South-North talks are inextricably related to North Korea-United States relations,” South Korean President Kim Dae Jung said in 2001, after Bush canceled dialogue with the North. The South, dependent on more than 20,000 U.S. troops stationed along its northern border, was forced to suspend reunification talks too.

The Reagan Administration pressured its South Korean ally to break off reunification talks in 1985.

Nixon did the same thing in 1974. After Nixon’s resignation later that year, President Gerald Ford opposed a UN resolution to demilitarize the border by withdrawing U.S. troops.

Even Mr. Reasonable, Barack Obama, refused to listen to South Koreans who want peace (and to visit long-lost relatives in North Korea). Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, Obama threatened to loose the dogs of war: “The United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always. That is what we do.” What Obama would not do was allow North and South Korea to sit down and work out their differences. Before talks, Obama said, North Korea would have to denuclearize. After which, of course, there would be no need for talks because, hey, regime change is fun!

Why, a sane person might ask at this point, would U.S. policymakers want to risk World War III over two countries that repeatedly say they want to make peace and get back together?

For my money a 2007 analysis by the geopolitical thinktank Stratfor comes closest to explaining what’s really going on inside the Beltway: “The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives.”

The U.S. is the Great Global Disruptor. “As powers emerge, the United States follows a three-stage program. First, provide aid to weaker powers to contain and undermine emerging hegemons. Second, create more formal arrangements with these powers. Finally, if necessary, send relatively small numbers of U.S. troops to Eurasia to block major powers and destabilize regions.” For example, Iran is the emerging hegemon in the Middle East. The U.S. undermines Iran with trade sanctions, props up rivals like Saudi Arabia with aid, and deploys U.S. troops next door in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Similarly the U.S. keeps China off-balance by propping up Taiwan and setting up new U.S. bases in the region. We play India against Pakistan, Europe against Russia.

A united Korea would create a new power center, potentially a new economic rival, to the U.S. in the Pacific Rim. So the U.S. uses threats (“totally destroy”) against the North and incentivizes the South (free border security).

It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so sick. Here’s to the day the two Koreas see through us.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Freaked Out About Not Freaking Out About the Freak

President Trump has continued to lash out with bizarre and outrageous public pronouncements. He has threatened to destroy North Korea. He says athletes who protest police brutality should be fired. And he has no sympathy for the people of Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by a pair of hurricanes. In any other country, people would take to the streets to demand that the president be removed. But we’re chill…too chill.

Trump’s Maniacal First 100 Days

Trump’s political genius is centered around his manic style. He issues one outrageous statement after another, so that the media and critics can only begin to respond to each before it gets eclipsed by the next one, with the net effect that nothing ever gets fully processed. If elected president, he’ll probably do the same thing. Hey, it worked for George W. Bush!

The Leftie Who Came In From The Cold

After a hard-fought primary campaign, Bernie Sanders capitulated and endorsed his rival Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In the final analysis, Clinton gave up little more than lip service to Bernie’s agenda of a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition at public universities, and universal healthcare. To the contrary, Clinton is now moving to the right, considering a general as vice president and asking the platform committee not to oppose the TPP free trade agreement.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The First 100 Days: What Would Donald/Hillary/Bernie Do?

http://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/world/2015/07/20/what-was-donald-trump-up-to-while-john-mccain-was-a-prisoner-of-war/donald-trump.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox.jpg

If Donald wins the general election, who the heck knows what he’d do as president?” —Ted Cruz

March 15, 2017 — In the most devastating attack on American soil, a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile carrying at least two nuclear warheads struck downtown Seattle just after 8 am, killing tens of thousands of residents at the height of the morning commute. “There’s nothing left…the city is just gone,” a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced after hours of silence from the nation’s capital, which went on lockdown after the explosion. There has been no word from President Trump, who has presumably been taken to a safe location.

“The imperialist forces should now understand that Seattle is but the beginning, and the whole of the United States might turn into a sea of fire due to the foolhardy insults of the American tyrant,” Pyongyang announced in a statement released through its official Korean Central News Agency.

Tensions between the DPRK and the U.S. increased after Trump took office and began taunting North Korean leader Kim Jung-in as “Little Kim,” and threatened to “punch the little twerp in the face.”

January 20, 2017 — Derided as a carnival barker who can read a crowd but never reads a book, President Donald Trump defied the pundits at an inauguration ceremony observers from across the American political spectrum called artful, unifying and universally inspiring.

Taking the microphone on a chilly but beautiful Washington morning before a crowd of several hundred thousand spectators — all of whom were treated to a People’s Breakfast on the Washington Mall beforehand — Trump focused on bringing the nation together after last year’s brutal four-way race between him, Democrat Hillary Clinton and independents Bernie Sanders and Paul Ryan.

“We may disagree about how to make America great again,” he said, an open smile across his face, “but we all want to make her great — and we love her. Toward that end,” he said, citing presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Mine will be a team of rivals — a team of smart, talented, diverse people. And I will listen to them!” he said, drawing applause as he pointed to Vice President Clinton and new economic czars Sanders and Paul Krugman.

Referencing one of his key campaign promises, he pledged to “begin building the wall” along the border with Mexico, but allowed that “there’s no way we can or should ask Mexico to pay for it.” At the same time, Trump said, “I’ve been listening to my excellent brain and my conscience, both of which say the same thing: if you haven’t committed a serious crime, you’re welcome to stay here — in your new home — and citizenship is yours if you want it.”

December 24, 2016 — During her primary battle against Bernie Sanders, President-Elect Hillary Clinton co-opted many of Sanders’ campaign promises to alleviate poverty and income inequality, and to go after Wall Street. Analysts say tacking left helped her seal the deal with the progressive base of the Democratic party.

Today, however, the Clinton transition office released a list of her cabinet picks — which read like business as usual. “It’s as though the Bernie surge never happened,” approvingly editorialized The New York Times, which endorsed Clinton.

Clinton’s choices are drawn from familiar center-right figures who served in the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations. Private equity executive Timothy Geithner is returning to his former post as secretary of the treasury. Clinton plans to nominate controversial Harvard economist Lawrence Summers to replace Janet Yellen as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank. In a move sure to dispirit liberals, she plans to nominate Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch — “best friend I ever had in the senate” — as secretary of state and, most controversially, nonagenarian Henry Kissinger as national security adviser and to a new position, Director of Unmanned Aerial Defense — running the nation’s drone program, which Clinton announced last week she plans to expand.

With all the major posts filled, liberal supporters are pushing for ex-Obamaite Van Jones to get a spot like deputy undersecretary of agriculture.

January 21, 2017 — As expected, newly inaugurated President Bernie Sanders threw down the gauntlet, telling a joint session of the Republican-dominated Congress, “Enough is enough. The American people elected me to carry out a political revolution and now, goddammit, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Decrying Republican intransigence — “the politics of saying no for its own sake, and for the sake of the top 1%” — Sanders warned congressmen and senators that they would pay a heavy price if they refuse to pass three pieces of legislation within the next 10 days: a $15 minimum wage, free public college tuition and Medicare for all.

“You can do this the easy way, and respect the mandate represented by my victory,” he said, “or you can make tens of millions of Americans come here to Washington, surround your offices and your homes, and refuse to leave until you do the right thing.”

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell struck a defiant tone following Sanders’ speech, calling it “blackmail” and “using democracy as a cudgel.” But GOP insiders say Sanders is likely to get much of what he wants.

“He ran on this income inequality stuff,” said a top-ranking party official who requested anonymity. “He’s been talking about it for decades. No one can claim there’s a bait and switch, or that they didn’t know exactly what he’d do if elected. How can we justify blocking the people’s will when it’s this clear?”

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)

 

Too Stupid To Nuke

Libya agreed to give up its nuclear program and had its government overthrown. Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t have one and got invaded. If the Iranians, with their long experience of American interference, agree not to build nuclear weapons, they would be idiots.

ANewDomain.net Essay: Cuba, North Korea, Cop Killers: As Conservative Tactics Fail

Originally published at ANewDomain.net:

Conservatives have been spoiled. For at least as long as I’ve been alive – I’m 51 – right-wingers have scarcely had to break a sweat in political debates. Until recently, all it has taken to reduce a liberal to a blubbering, conceding mess was a cheesy ad hominem attack.

You hate the troops!

You hate the cops!

Why do you hate America so much?

Though undeniably tentative and fragile, there are indications that the Right’s reign of terror in public discourse may come to an end someday.

A case in point is President Obama, whose first six years in office were characterized by relentless timidity even when he enjoyed amazing poll numbers and control of both houses of Congress. After the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in November 2014, he was expected to follow the liberal Democratic tradition of accepting that the Republicans should get their way on everything because that was obviously the will of the American people.

Instead, he inaugurated his lame-duck final couplet with aggressive moves on immigration reform and, last week, normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, both through executive action. Republicans howled – but nothing happened. To the contrary, Obama seems more powerful than ever.

Some sort of turning point in the ideological zeitgeist seems to have been reached with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearance on “Meet the Press” two weekends ago. Blisteringly belligerent as usual, Cheney didn’t even try to appeal to logic or reason while defending “enhanced interrogation techniques” under the Bush Administration in the wake of the Senate torture report.

“Torture, to me, Chuck, is an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York City on 9/11,” Cheney said.

For many years after September 11 attacks, this was the kind of off-the-cuff mindfart that progressives and Democrats didn’t know how to counter. (No, that’s not torture. That’s tragedy.) Anything that harkened back to 9/11, no matter how irrelevant or stupid, was rhetorical kryptonite to liberals who didn’t want to appear weak in the War on Terror.

Not this time. The Internet ate Cheney for lunch. And he was roundly ridiculed, not only on the cable TV satire shows, but by fellow Republicans.

Cheney caught the worst of it, but standard Republican talking points and rhetorical style took a beating over the last week on a number of issues.

Arizona Senator, Vietnam POW and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain reacted to the alleged hack of Sony Entertainment by the North Korean government in his standard bellicose way, declaring it “an act of war.” An act of war, naturally, calls for a military response.  The declaration by President Bush that 9/11 was an act of war, for example, prompted Congress to authorize the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by a nearly unanimous vote. (Which worked out splendidly!)

Interestingly, McCain’s ferocity fell largely upon deaf ears. More in touch with ordinary Americans was President Obama, who countered that the hackers had actually carried out “an act of cyber-vandalism that was very costly, very expensive.”

In a sneak preview of the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, likely contender and Florida Senator Marco Rubio catered to part of his Greater Miami constituency of Cuban exiles by calling for the continuation of the half-century-old trade blockade of the Caribbean island. “I don’t care if the polls say that 99% of people believe we should normalize relations in Cuba,” he said. It’s not quite that extreme yet, but most Americans do support Obama’s decision to recognize the end of the Cold War 23 years after the fact.

Rubio’s rhetoric was met with a yawn (and lucky for him). Obama’s actions are largely seen by the political class as a fait accompli, all over but the shouting at passport control in Havana.

This is a remarkable transformation. Twenty or even ten years ago, any Democrat who had endorsed, much less carried out, such a move would be deemed to have committed political suicide. Republican talk radio would have screamed that it was un-American, procommunist, and treasonous. Sure, they’re saying the same thing now, but no one cares because, well, it’s stupid.

Of course, it would have been stupid back then. The difference is, people can see that now.

Then, in New York City, there was Saturday’s shooting of two police officers as they sat in their patrol car in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, apparently by a deranged man with a long criminal record. New York’s new mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive Democrat whose political allies don’t include top NYPD figures, took a blast of heat from police union leaders, one of whom spat that de Blasio has blood on his hands. (Apparently he drew a straight line between the shooter’s post-Ferguson/post-Staten Island anti-cop rants on Instagram and the mayor’s revelation that he tells his biracial son to be careful when he encounters police officers.)

To be sure, de Blasio is having trouble with the NYPD — but this kerfuffle is nothing close to the existential crisis a liberal Democratic mayor in the same pickle would have had to endure just a few short years ago. Most New Yorkers recognize that this is police overreach. A few weeks after New Yorkers of all races reacted with disgust to a grand jury decision not to indict the Staten Island police officer who murdered Eric Garner on video, not even the cold-blooded assassination of two cops on the streets of Brooklyn erases that memory or allows a return to the Giuliani years, when cops could do no wrong in the eyes of officialdom. If the mayor tells his kid to watch out for the cops, who can blame him?

So what has changed?

It might be a bona fide political shift from right to left, but that’s not my take. What we are seeing, I suspect, is popular exhaustion with right-wing talking points and bullying rhetoric. There’s a certain point at which repetition stops working and becomes annoying – and it feels like that’s where we’re at.

In the future, if conservatives want to be taken seriously, they’re going to have to go back to the old William F. Buckley days and attempt to construct calm, logically reasoned arguments in favor of their ideas. Name-calling and appeals to rank emotionalism aren’t cutting it anymore.