When presidents go on vacation

August 16, 2014

Having written about presidents and worked for presidents I can tell you that there are some misconceptions about presidential vacations.  Some things happen like the rest of us.  Some things don’t.

First there is the idea that the president is the boss and can take off when he wants.  Actually, he is at the mercy of other people just as we all are.  For example, he must co-ordinate with the legislative calendar on Capitol Hill.  If he is not in Washington to help lobby his own bills in congress both his legislation and his presidency will suffer.

Likewise, the timing and planning behind visits from foreign Heads of State are calculated well in advance.  If the president cancels a visit in favor of a sudden vacation with the kids to Disney World he can ruin a relationship or trigger an international crisis.  And if the president insists on taking a scheduled vacation when the rest of the world is falling apart he risks a political uproar.

In 1983, when the Soviets shot down a civilian Korean Airlines, Reagan cut short his time at the ranch in California and flew back to the Oval Office to address the nation.

Some people get upset if the president isn’t in the Oval Office with his sleeves rolled up.  But actually the work of a president is making decisions and that process does not stop, not for Eisenhower on the Golf Course, Kennedy at the beach, or Obama on a bicycle.

Woodrow Wilson, who had been the president of Princeton University, and brought an academic mindset to Oval Office decision making, was scandalized by the pace.  He told his wife and daughters that he didn’t have time to think, that he couldn’t even take a walk before making a decision.

The Oval Office was only built in 1909, which means that most presidents never worked there at all.  And today’s West Wing Oval Office was built in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt.  Many presidents, such as Richard Nixon, only used it for ceremonial purposes.  He did his real work in a more expansive office in the Old Executive Office Building which is adjacent to the White House mansion.

Some presidents, like George W. Bush, were not paper shufflers.  They got much of their work done through conversations and that could take place anywhere. The staff had to turn it all into paper. When presidents travel their communications network travels with them, as well as a miniature White House staff.

You will hear a lot of people talk about how Air Force One has ushered in a new era of the traveling president.  Not really. American presidents began extensive travel with trains.  At their peak presidential trains crisscrossed the continent and were a virtual traveling White House.  At one time each cabinet member had his own available train.

Presidents have always been criticized for taking time off, beginning with George Washington who often visited Mt. Vernon.  President Obama recently took a lot of hits for taking a vacation in the midst of world crisis but former presidents of both political parties won’t criticize one of their own for getting some rest. “I don’t agree with your politics,” Richard Nixon said to John F. Kennedy, after the latter won the 1960 election, “But I will never criticize you for taking a vacation.”

Perhaps the biggest misconception about presidents is how well informed they are, and how their morning intelligence briefing keeps them in the loop, even while on vacation.

It depends on the president, of course, but almost all of them become isolated in office.  It is the nature of power.  A memo sent to the president is stamped “The President Has Seen” and becomes an official document of government that will one day be seen by the world.  And so staffers who once told their boss everything are reluctant to send information that others will one day see and judge out of context.

While it’s true that because of their security briefings presidents have information that the rest of us don’t have, even on vacation, the fact is that we sometimes have information that they don’t have!  It is a story as old as the Emperor’s Clothes and it is strikingly seen in George W. Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina and the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans. While the whole nation watched as mothers and children were trapped in 90 degree heat on rooftops without water, food or toilets, and an obvious major health crisis was in the making, the president was at his ranch and not to be disturbed. It was a costly mistake.

Having worked on senior staff at the White House I was often astounded and surprised at what the president knew and what he didn’t know.  There just isn’t time for anyone to know everything.


Is Obama too big too fail? Why is he acting so strangely?

July 26, 2014

President Barack Obama’s shameless fundraising tours in the midst of a world in chaos have brought immediate comparisons to Ronald Reagan.   Led by his erstwhile advisers, such as Michael Deaver, who understood imagery, Reagan would have been back in the Oval Office, looking presidential and sounding like the statesman he was.  Reagan would likely have brought his government together, State Department, NSA, Pentegon, CIA and taken an assessment of how it could all impact on American economy and lives.  He would likely have given a national address, reassuring the nation and signalling the world how we expect civilized people to act.

On the surface, Obama’s actions are incomprehensible.  There is no explanation.  Obama appears transcendent, not responsible for his own administration and uncaring about the world around him.

It has been the Obama style from the beginning. The economic crisis was the fault of the previous administration.  When his own stimulus program could not produce one of the one million jobs he promised, it was replaced with more of the same and  blame on congress for failing to immediately enact more of what wasn’t working.

The president declared that he had no responsibility for the IRS which was blatantly being used for political purposes, he had nothing to do with the failed Healthcare website and nothing to do with the Veteran’s Administration which was corrupt on his watch. Whatever happened to Harry Truman and his Oval Office motto, “the buck stops here?”

It was not just that the president was not in charge of anything, or seemed to know anything, or should be blamed for anything, it was also when we found out differently he didn’t apologize.  When we learned, for example, that the $678 million , no bid, Healthcare website was awarded to Michelle Obama’s buddy from Princeton, the White House ignored it all.  When a news agency asked about it they were charged with racism.  When the president’s hand picked political lieutenant at the IRS claimed she had lost her emails the president defended her.

Sometimes, these juxtapositions can get downright comical.  Recently, General Motors was fined millions of dollars by the Justice Department for faulty ignition issues when, in fact, at that time, the company was owned and being run by the U.S. government.  Should the Justice Department fine itself?  When Obama ran for re-election he bragged about saving the auto industry?  But he has no responsibility for the company he bought.   The President is too big to fail.

On closer examination, Obama’s recent actions make sense.  He is angling for his post presidential role.  He will either be the Secretary General of the United Nations or else he will be some NGO equivalent.  Thus, he spent the week campaigning for the Democrat Party and ultimately Hillary Clinton whom he will need as an ally if he is to realize his ambition.  Nor would he want to poke the Russians more than necessary.

And the Federal Aviation Administration’s sudden cancellation of all flights to Tel Aviv?  At a cost to Israel of millions of dollars?  At first we were told that the president didn’t get involved in such things.  And given the fact that the president isn’t responsible for the economy, the IRS, his own Healthcare namesake and the Veterans Administration, to name a few departments, then one could almost believe it.    What does he do with all that free time?  But if he is now on track for his post presidency then it makes perfect sense.  The U.N. votes solidly against Israel, with only American on her side.  Obama will need to have some more of these anti-Israel moments to shore up his support from the African and Arab nations who dominate the the U.N. and will dictate the reach of any international role.

There was an awkward scene on CNN last week.  Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg snapped at Wolf Blitzer.  The CNN reporter had asked if the FAA decision represented policy.  Given Obama’s anti Israel record it was a reasonable question.  And it had just been raised by a U.S. Senator.  A testy Bloomberg was outraged at Wolf Blitzer for daring to ask such a thing.  It was another shameful moment.  Bloomberg has taken a lot of heat for his slavish support of Obama, in spite of his record toward Israel.

The irony was that Bloomberg’s very appearance was proof of the politics of the policy. If Tel Aviv was safe, and Bloomberg could fly there, then why was it ordered closed to all American airlines?  And if it wasn’t safe, why was it opened up again after the American people reacted to the FAA’ decision with outrage?

Oh, by the way, as someone who once worked in the White House, I can tell you that no one at the FAA would make such an unprecedented and politically charged decision without the okay of the president of the United States.  Sorry.

It all points to this very likely scenario.  We will have Barrack Obama on the world stage for a very, very long time to come.

 

Below was a controversial “what would Reagan do” moment during the Egyptian crisis and the Arab spring.  On this segment, several years ago, I voiced a lonely position that turned out to be prophetic.


It’s the end of America as we know it

July 2, 2014

Happy Fourth of July. It’s the end of America as we know it.  And by the way, its the end of baseball, motherhood and apple pie as well.  Baseball has morphed from a game of statistics into a reality show with players always in search of a better and less detectable steroid.  And don’t get me going on apple pie.  Which usually isn’t.  We are edging closer to Soylent Green every day.

The changes for motherhood and women and race are major advances in civilization but the rest is a mixed bag.

What is becoming of America  should give us pause.  We are in what I call a “post Constitutional drift” and it worries me that we so easily, without debate, are confidently moving away from our foundations.

There have been two provocations for this. The first was the attack on 9-11.  President George W. Bush seized unprecedented power for the executive branch of government.

The second has been our Great Recession.  The last time we had the Great Depression it sparked the rise of Hitler and Stalin and World War Two.  You cannot have that much wealth taken from that many people without sociopolitical repercussions.  But it also gave the world FDR and Churchill.  As a student of history I wondered what cataclysmic changes our Great Recession would birth.   And lo and behold, the biggest change was us.  President Barack Obama seized on economic events to assert government involvement on a breathtaking scale. Even former socialist countries in Europe were aghast.  Welfare was increased to the masses while corporate welfare was even more lavish.  The result?  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer at an astounding rate.

In Bush we had our moment of nationalism, in Obama, socialism.  Unless we can recapture the ideals of our American Constitution quickly we are destined to experience our own American version of National Socialism.

We wage preemptive wars, torture our captives and monitor our own citizens on a massive scale.  Our government agencies are accountable to no one and openly defy, even lie to Congress.  Consider this, only a few years ago a president could not get a wire tap without a judge.  Now he can kill you.

In 1946 we joined an international tribunal which indicted Nazi war criminals.  One of the four counts was defined as “war of aggression.”  Our prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, made an eloquent case against what is now American policy, the immorality of a so-called “preemptive war.”

Jackson’s opening statement at Nuremberg should be required reading for television pundits.  He pointed to the June 30, 1934 Blood Purge as the turning point in German justice.  Without formal charges or a trial Hitler ordered the execution of Nazi Brown shirts, (terrorists) who were suspected of planning a counter revolution.  “In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people,” Hitler later reported to the Reichstag and the nation, “And thereby I became the Supreme judge.”  The decision was applauded in Germany as a move back toward moderation but Jackson asserts that it was this abandonment of Germany’s own constitution that began its descent into lawlessness.

Barack Obama’s decision to kill American citizen, Anwar al-Awaki, is instructive.  Al-Awaki was a one man Islamic propaganda machine.  His online sermons of hatred inspired terrorism.  In Nuremberg, only one top Nazi propagandist was in the docket.  He was Hans Fritzsche, a popular Nazi radio voice.  But as repugnant as his words had been, the American, Soviet, British and French judges acquitted him.  How can you hang a  man for free speech no matter how repugnant?

Months after the al-Awaki death, his sixteen year old son, an American citizen born in Denver, Colorado, with no ties to radical Islam, went to Yemen in search of his father’s body.  He was likewise killed by an American drone.  We call it a mistake.

Throughout our history we have condemned torture.  The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”  Our motion pictures and culture have shown the barbarism of our enemies.  The Japanese and the Germans tortured, so did the North Koreans and later the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.  Who can forget Michael Cimino’s gut wrenching scenes from Deer Hunter?

Now, in the new post constitutional America, we too, torture.  For legal purposes we do “a little sidestep” in the tradition of Charles Durning in The Last Little Whore House in Texas.  We torture outside the United States and thus our Justice Department contends we are not violating the Constitution.

It isn’t too late. There are about fifty men and women in this country who run the television industry.  They are far more powerful than members of the Federal Reserve, or elected officials, such as members of congress.  They and their television companies have the power to open up a debate on all of this.  If not, we are in the process of losing the great American experiment without even a chance to say goodbye.  It’s the end of America as we know it.

 


Hands on Diplomacy: the foreign policy failure of America

May 14, 2014

American presidents can’t keep their hands off of other heads of state.  It has become embarrassing.  They touch their shoulders, their backs and hold their arms as they guide them to places to stand or sit.  It is as if their guests were little children or blind men who need the assistance of the almighty American president-father.  Kings, Queens or common dictators?  It doesn’t matter.   Our presidents manhandle them all, especially  the women.

Not since George H.W. Bush have we had a president who has enough foreign policy experience to know what most American tourists have learned from their own world travels, namely, that you should not touch other people without permission.  In some countries of Asia and Africa it is considered unsanitary and dirty, the ultimate offense.  You respect the body of the other person.  Shaking hands, a western habit, has only been recently accepted and even it is an offense to many of the masses. One can see the awkwardness in the faces of our visiting heads of state.   Except in rare political instances, such as Queen Elizabeth’s encounter with Michelle Obama, they don’t touch back.  They don’t say, “Thank you for helping me find my spot for the photo op, I was lost and couldn’t read my name on the floor of the stage.”  Or, “Say, thanks Mr. President, for the assist in getting into my chair.  Although I am younger than you I was afraid I was going to take a tumble.”

One can see when they are the host in their own country and our president is the guest, they are not hugging or manhandling him.  He isn’t required to kiss on both cheeks in France.  He is allowed to stand tall, with dignity, not inches but feet away from the French president.  The ushers, doormen and military aides in many foreign capitals (including  France) actually still wear white gloves.

My guess is that there are diplomats and analysts in the U.S. State Department who are horrified by this presidential behavior and have written eloquent, respectful memorandum, tediously explaining the toilet habits of masses of people from different cultures, offering excellent explanations for why and how these traditions have evolved.  And why no matter how close they feel to their leader counterpart, it is often an offense to the people to see their nation’s leader pawed over.   If so, such memorandum never made it past the White House sycophants who cannot stop telling the president-emperor how wonderful he looks in those clothes of his.

The fact is, the emperor is naked.  America’s ignorant presidents from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama make us look patronizing, rude and condescending.  Their obsessive manhandling of foreign leaders and their small gestures of touch and feel, meant to endear, have had their part to play in the collapse of America’s foreign policy.  It is not what the actions themselves have done as much as the contempt they express toward other nations and their cultures.  If an American president is so isolated that he can’t get this obvious memo from Foggy Bottom, then what else is he missing?  What other, more outrageous and idiotic mistakes are being made?  No wonder America has moved from a country that is hated to a country that is now ridiculed in jokes around the world.

In years past I have despised the soft on communism apparatchiks at the State Department.  Now, I admit that we need them to assert themselves.  Someone needs to blow the whistle.  American is losing its public relations battle worldwide out of ignorance and arrogance.  We can see it on television.  Yes, this touchy-feely tendency is only a symptom but it shows that the corruption is complete.  Even our recent secretaries of state have been too cowed by the all powerful American celebrity president.  Somebody needs to speak up.

George H.W. Bush, experienced as a diplomat and ambassador, a former head of the CIA, was America’s last respectable foreign policy president.  He accomplished something that history had never seen.  He united the world behind the effort to enforce the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.  Yes, he didn’t finish off Saddam Hussein but that was part of the price for world unity and Saddam was clearly kept in check.  Today, having finished off Saddam Hussein and seeing the death of tens of thousands, Iraq has turned into an Islamic nation.  Christians who trace their  heritage back to the apostle Thomas have been tortured, murdered and burned out.   Being Gay or even looking gay has become a death sentence in Baghdad.  Al Qaeda now operates freely in Iraq. And the American economy, suffering from a $2 trillion war that was off the books, has fallen into its second worst depression in history.

Critics are now berating President Barack Obama for backing down from world leadership.  Maybe we should leave him alone.


Presidents and their mothers

May 11, 2014

“All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother, God bless her.”

- Abraham Lincoln

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to confirm that most of America’s presidents are “mama’s boys.”

It must make Sigmund Freud smile for one of his most enduring discoveries was how the perceived favorite child of a mother is empowered for life.  Consider the overwhelming evidence that mothers play a key role.  Many recent presidents were literally named after their mothers but none of their many siblings.

Ronald Wilson Reagan named after his mother Nelle Wilson.

Richard Milhous Nixon named after his mother Hannah Nixon.

Lyndon Baines Johnson named after his mother Rebecca Baines.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy named after his mother Rose Fitzgerald.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt named after his mother Sarah Delano.

Woodrow Wilson named after his mother Janet Woodrow.

And on and on it goes back into history. Rutherford Birchard Hayes named after his mother Sophia Birchard.  Of course it is not a perfect formula or Marvin Pierce Bush would have been elected president, not his older brother, George W. Bush, but it is common enough to defy any odds.

“You are a Delano,” FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano used to tell him, “not a Roosevelt.”

“I was a mama’s boy,” said Woodrow Wilson, “no question about it, but the best of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.”

“God bless my mother,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to his law partner William Herndon,” all I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

Keep in mind, the above famous quote, attributed to Lincoln’s law partner, may never have really been uttered.  Yes, it is featured prominently in almost every biography of Lincoln and appears in the first pages of Pulitzer Prize Award winning books but recent research shows that  the time and place named by Herndon  just couldn’t have happened and so, now even the quote is suspect.  But there is no denying that Lincoln loved his mother and perhaps, even more, his stepmother, who gave him the gift of books.

When I wrote The Raising of President I blind copied some of the above information to five psychologists, asking them to each give me their opinion.  I was especially intrigued why so many of the children who were namesakes of their mother went on to become presidents.

All five answered back with the same conclusion. When the mother took that infant to her breast she felt a special bond with the child who would bare her name for life and the infant could feel it.

I am only a layman who doesn’t pretend to understand such things but if it is true, if a baby can “feel” favoritism then just imagine the power and the impact for good or bad a mother, or a father’s words have on their children?   I was reminded of the experiments conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society.  If the human voice can empower a plant, then it must surely cause powerful reactions for good or bad on a human being.

There is a very predictable family formula for strong leaders, good and bad.  They have an attachment to the mother and an absent father.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedung all fit the pattern as neatly as Washington and Jefferson.

Andrew Jackson’s father died before the future president was even born.  His mother died when he was 14 years old.   Even when alive, she was often gone .  As a nurse she tended the wounded during the Revolutionary War.

When Andrew Jackson died as an old man, many years later, his body was full of bullets, including one lodged near his heart and too dangerous to remove.  They were the result of a life of action, including duels and wars.  It was as if he wanted to be worthy, the equal of those Revolutionary War soldiers who took his mother away from him as a boy.

In a sense, Andrew Jackson’s life was one long  journey back into the arms of his mother.

Start reading The Raising of a President right now on Kindle.  Order it for your mother.


Not another Clinton – Bush election? Please!

April 10, 2014

Get ready, we may indeed see another Clinton – Bush election.  This time, Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and former Secretary of State pitted against Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.  It’s like being Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been here before?

Both candidates have something to prove.  Clinton wants to scrub her husband’s impeachment off the books and this would do it.  In a hundred years when some ten year old boy scans through the list and sees that Bill Clinton was impeached but his wife was elected president shortly thereafter he will make the ready conclusion, “The impeachment must have been political or else the country would never have turned so quickly to his wife.”  And Jeb Bush is running to prove, well, that not all Bushes should be judged by the last one.

How did it come to this?  There are three dynamics at work.

1.) Political dynasties are active in both parties simultaneously.

Normally, one can count on the opposition to raise a fuss.  If there was a Democrat dynasty the Republicans would howl.  If there was a Republican dynasty the Democrats would be outraged.  But now two have appeared at the same time.  No Democrat will raise the issue of corruption and attack the idea of the Bush family dynasty and risk alienating the powerful Clinton’s.  And no Republican will attack the Clinton’s and risk alienating the Bushes?  Even if the latter prove weak and Jeb Bush fails to show well in the primaries, the GOP nominee will have to have that powerful, fundraising machine supportive in the general election.

Now, in a very rare moment of history, the two dynasties have cancelled each other out.  As a result? There are dynasties gone wild. The electric fence is down and the cows are roaming all over.  The Cuomo’s, the Paul’s, the Kennedy’s, the Carter’s don’t get me started.

2.) Journalism is dead.

Normally, one can count on a vigorous Fourth Estate.  No less than Joseph Pulitzer railed against the idea of Robert Todd Lincoln running for president.  Throughout American history the media has been vigilant.  Attempts at family dynasties were always shot down.  This was America, not a monarchy.  After the Revolutionary War, when George Washington was presented a massive family genealogy by the English government he rejected it, pointing out that in these United States success or failure was determined by the choices of the individual not the bloodline.

This is not the Philippines.  This is not Indonesia.  This is not Panama, where fifteen families rule the country.

But in case you haven’t noticed, journalism is dead.  If a reporter can’t even pronounce Sevastopol what hope do we have that they are telling us anything accurate about Russia and the Ukraine?  We now live behind our own iron curtain.  News has become entertainment and the Clinton’s, Bushes, Kennedy’s all sell well.  Don’t expect any help from the media.

3.) Obama has failed.

Finally there is Barack Obama.  His election has been a great historic milestone but by just about any measure, including his own, his presidency is ending in disaster.  For example, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer at a rate that would make an Eastern establishment Republican blush.  The Nixon administration spied on its enemies but the Obama administration spies on its friends too and on its own political allies in the U.S. Senate.  Having tried an “outsider” like Obama, the American electorate is now more likely to turn to an “insider,” a Bush or a Clinton.  Better to have someone who doesn’t have to learn on the job.

While a Clinton – Bush rematch might just happen, almost any historian will warn that the idea of multiple presidencies in the same family is a recipe for abuse and disaster.  Having been in power and then spending time out of power, a family can muse about what might have been.  Who was loyal and who was not?  What should be done if given another chance?  How could the office have been better monetized?  Who should have been an Ambassador?  Whose corporate jet would be better appreciated and useful, added to the fleet of corporate jets loaned out to a former president?  What government contracts could legitimately go to whom and why?  How can the next family power contender be groomed?

America, already beginning to experience the corruption of a Third World nation, doesn’t need to grease the skids to fall any deeper into the abyss.  Clinton – Bush?  It may happen.  But if it does, expect America’s post constitutional drift to gain full sail.  The abuses won’t be pretty.


Why Rand Paul can beat Hillary Clinton

March 9, 2014

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky may be the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.

Paul decisively won last Saturday’s CPAC straw poll with 31%, his neo-Libertarian sidekick, Senator Ted Cruz, was second at 11%.  Jeb Bush and the Karl Rove faction of the party registered 1%.  According to a recent column in The Washington Post, Rand Paul is now leading the Republican field.  This is showing up in some recent presidential preference polls. It is puzzling to many political pundits.
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Polls don’t usually mean much this early in an election cycle. It’s usually all about name recognition. Former Secretary of State and former First Lady, Hillary Clinton obviously leads among Democrats, with Vice President Joe Biden trailing far behind.  In the GOP contest, former Governor and FOX television star, Mike Huckabee polls well, so does former governor Jeb Bush and so does former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.  All the other candidates who ran for president last time register small numbers too.  But why Rand Paul?
Yes, his father, former congressman, Ron Paul, ran for president three times but in a career that spanned a whole generation he never led the GOP in a national poll. 

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Part of the reason lies in the fact that, if he wins the nomination, Senator Rand Paul will be the first nominee since Ronald Reagan to lead a political Movement.  In this case, the “Constitutional Movement”, which includes conservatives, libertarians and others across the whole left to right spectrum. In fact, it represents more than a movement it represents a new political re-alignment, the first of its kind in several generations.  
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During most of our lifetime the debate was about the role of government in the lives of the people.  Liberals wanted a “liberal” use of government involvement, conservatives wanted a “conservative” use of government, relying more on free markets.  But the point of reference was always the role of government in meeting peoples needs, it was in relation to that point that one was liberal or conservative.
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The U.S. Constitution was a factor, but mostly over the issue of the Second Amendment and in understanding the politics of the Cold War where conservatives were actually more liberal about spending for defense and liberals more conservative.  Conservatives said providing a common national defense is Constitutional. Liberals said all of this military spending was robbing the poor of this country and hurting our own people.
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Liberals accused conservatives about not caring for the poor.  Conservatives accused liberals about being soft on communism and flirting with national destruction.
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In the past, candidates were touted as liberal or conservative but only Reagan and Goldwater were considered to be actual leaders of an ideological Movement.  Liberal Movement leaders?  FDR?  Later, Adlai Stevenson?  Hubert Humphrey?  Maybe?  But not really.  All were successful politicians and thus too involved in the process to have the ideological purity of a movement leader.
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Today the old liberal – conservative argument is almost obsolete.  The end of the Cold War has been a big factor.  There is no life and death struggle about left and right.  We have settled on a range of responsibilities that government should be able to assume and are now quibbling over details. “You said I could keep my own doctor, you’re a liar.”
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Foreign observers can hardly tell a difference between Republicans and Democrats.  It is the Red team versus the Blue team, not really much of contest over ideas. Just a contest over power between two societies. Oh, it is passionate, like all internecine conflicts. And the public is emotionally invested, like they are with their favorite college football team. They may shed real tears or not eat for days if their side loses.
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A good illustration of how irrelevant the philosophical argument has become was the recent presidency of George W. Bush.  In his last year in office, facing a worldwide depression, this Republican president nationalized American banks.  It took Socialist President Francois Mitterrand to do that in France.  And yet we call George W. Bush a “conservative Republican.” Meanwhile, liberal Democrats build no statues to him and conservatives still defend him.  It’s two teams with bitter past histories.  Liberals never applaud conservatives when they do something liberal, such as George  H.W. Bush extending the first White House invitations to Gay activists.  And conservatives never applaud a liberal, like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton, for doing something conservative, like balancing the budget
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The Constitutional Movement represents a new realignment of the political landscape.  It includes a variety of voters from the left to the right and everything in between.
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The argument is less about liberal and conservative and more about getting back to the Constitution. It is about ending corruption.  The special deals.  It is less about left and right or even, up and down, the rich and the poor, and more about in and out. Insiders are seen to be gaming the system, taxes, Wall Street, the regulatory agencies, banking.  There is great cynicism about this and even despair.  It’s as if only suckers depend on a free marketplace.  The American dream is over.
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It is not lost on many that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer on a massive scale under Barack Obama.
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While many poor people and certainly all people of color celebrate the rise of Obama, now that he is passing, some on the left are wanting to get serious about doing what they thought a person of such humble origins would do, namely, reform the system. Stop the looting.  End the cycle of corruption.
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Hillary – as a woman – represents a dynamic cultural moment and that will be hard to resist.  The media will be transfixed by the idea of a woman following an African American into the White House.  But no one seriously believes that this woman, who in 1979 miraculously turned a $1,000 commodities investment into $100,000 within ten months, is going to do anything about reversing the corrupt system that has clogged our economic arteries. She can only win a Red-Blue contest.  It will only be an argument about who gets the power and which insiders get the taxpayers’ money.
If 2016 become a contest of significant ideas on how to end the corruption Rand Paul will win.  He is the only candidate who has any.
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(Clip from 2012, when Rand Paul was stopped by the TSA.)


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