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27
Before a hurricane brushed the coast, Governor McCrory warned us not to put on our “stupid hats.” Then Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s foreign policy for not being more visionary than “don’t do stupid stuff.”
 
Well, call me stupid, but I’m so confused by the world today that “don’t do stupid stuff” sounds pretty smart.
 
ISIS or ISIL (which one is right?) is beheading people, so we may go back into Iraq on the same side as the Syrian government, which we don’t like. Islamic terrorists all over the place want to attack us or take us hostage, but we don’t want to pay ransom. Young Americans go to the Mideast to join the jihad, kill people and sometimes blow themselves up. Egypt and the UAR attack somebody in Libya, and we’re not happy about that. Israel and the Arabs are at war again, or in a cease-fire again, or not. Then you’ve got the Russians and the Crimeans and the Ukranians at each other’s throats. The Chinese are doing something in the ocean somewhere. And I can’t keep the Sunnis and the Shiites straight.
 
The world made sense when there was the USA and the West on the side of good and the Soviet Union on the side of evil.
 
Now Obama's critics want him to "do something." But remember what happened the last time a President (namely George W. Bush) decided to “do something” (namely, start two wars that lasted a decade). That looks stupid in retrospect.
 
I like having a President who’s in no rush to put on his stupid hat.

 

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26
It’s refreshing to see real brains working on the other side of the political aisle, rather than just mouths mouthing talking points. (In fact, it’s refreshing to see that on your own side.)
 
So this “Tsunami Watch” memo by my Republican pollster friend John McLaughlin and his brother Jim caught my eye. The subhead is “Polling results cast doubt on an anticipated midterm GOP wave.”
 
The memo quotes Carter, which makes it even more credible.
 
The Brothers McLaughlin ask: “With the president receiving such a negative rating, Obamacare being disliked, and the belief that the economy is still in a recession, why are so many voters still undecided and not breaking for Republicans? Why aren't these undecided voters breaking against the unpopular president and his party?”
 
Their conclusion: “Over four years ago….we identified the tea-party movement as a major asset to Republicans that would eventually help them regain their House majority. Since then, the president and his allies in the media have relentlessly attacked our friends and allies in the Tea Party, and four years of attacks have taken a toll. Today, the Tea Party is as polarizing as the president.”
 
They add: “Finally, we asked a question that longtime friend and successful Republican strategist Carter Wrenn suggested to get to the heart of the deadlock: ‘A lot of Americans are fed up with typical Washington politics. Who do you think is most responsible for our broken political system?’ The plurality of voters, 43 percent, say both Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party, versus President Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Only 26 percent blame Obama and the Democrats....Most of those who are undecided for Congress, 65 percent, now blame both parties. Among the undecided voters, only 16 percent blame the Democrats and only 12 percent blame the Republicans. As long as these undecided swing voters are blaming both parties, they will remain undecided for Congress and deflate the midterm tsunami.”

 

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25
Ten years ago this month, Barack Obama first streaked across the political skies with a rousing Democratic Convention speech in which he famously proclaimed there wasn’t a red America and a blue America, only one United States of America.
 
Today President Obama presides over an America bitterly divided between red and blue. He doesn’t seem at all happy about it, and nobody seems happy with him. He couldn’t even summon up a moving speech on race after Ferguson, always his go-to specialty.
 
He has visibly aged, and he seems dispirited and disengaged. Red and blue America alike slammed him last week for going golfing after denouncing the beheading of a journalist.
 
The state of our political discourse today is that some people seem angrier about him golfing than about these savages beheading a human being and broadcasting it to the world. Nevertheless, the President would have been well advised to take a mulligan on that tee time.
 
All Obama has done in six years is get us out of two bloody wars, save the economy from free fall and begin bringing down the deficit that George W. Bush gave us after inheriting a budget surplus from Bill Clinton. But no good deed goes unpunished.
 
Even Democrats pile on him now: He’s not spending enough time with us! He hasn’t made all those divisions go away! They seem torn between missing Bill and wishing for Hillary.
 
Republicans oppose anything he does and stop anything he tries to do, then blame him for getting nothing done. If they win the Senate this year, imagine how productive the next two years will be.
 
For Democrats, the upside of Republicans controlling both houses of Congress will be the certain election of a Democratic President in 2016. As the GOP proved in North Carolina, they will overreach.

 

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19

 

About one minute after sitting down Sean launched off into a tirade saying the border children ought to all be shipped home – then he stopped and was asked, Suppose one of those children fled El Salvador (or wherever) because she’d been repeatedly gang-raped – would you send her home too?
 
He said, Absolutely. Yes. She broke the law.
 
Now if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly put the power in your hands to settle the fate of the border children would you ship them all home – knowing you could be sending one back into the arms of a rapist?
 
That’s a question conservatives don’t like to hear and there’s a similar question liberals don’t like to hear: Would you allow all the border children to stay, even if you knew you’d be letting a gang member who crossed the border to evade the law settle in America for the rest of his life?
 
Finding a victim fleeing terror means a Republican can’t say, They’re lawbreakers, send them all home, andfinding a gang member makes it harder for a liberal to say, Keep them all here.
 
This is a peculiar debate and the roadblock isn’t immigration or just immigration: It’s our odd (and near total) incapacity to address a not very complicated moral question except with black and white answers like ‘send them all away’ or ‘keep them all here.’

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18

 

The battered and bedraggled Tea Partiers have been taking it on the chin – they’ve gotten pounded, losing races in Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi so, now, the press is humming their funeral dirge while Washington Republicans are chortling the Tea Party’s headed for the elephant graveyard of political movements.
 
So is saying the Tea Party’s kaput a political canard, a media feeding frenzy or clear-eyed truth?
 
The Tea Partiers got whipped in six Senate primaries by sitting Republican Senators – but it’s also a fact nothing in politics is harder to do than defeat an anchored in place incumbent Senator or Congressman.
 
I can’t recall an incumbent Senator losing a Primary in North Carolina in forty years and there’re plenty of reasons why: An incumbent starts with millions in the bank while his Tea Party opponent starts out broke.
 
An incumbent starts out well known and well liked by Republican voters in a primary – while nobody ever heard of his Tea Party opponent.
 
An incumbent has campaign (and helpful Senate staffs) in place on day one while a Tea Partier starts out with a handful of folks who enjoy talking to one another on the Internet but have never been troubled with the grind of building a multi-million dollar campaign.
 
There are a handful of Super PACs lending Tea Partiers a helping hand but there are more – and, more important,  richer – Super PACs fully armed and anxious to ride to the rescue of incumbents.
 
An incumbent Senator’s not quite as secure in his job as a tenured professor at Chapel Hill but it’s close. So it’s no shock – and hardly a political trend – that Tea Partiers are losing to incumbents.
 
The Tea Party’s been whipped and its popularity’s been battered but saying it’s dead as a doornail is more political spin;--wait two years, until the Republican Presidential primaries, when there’s no incumbent, then if the Tea Party gets trounced, write its obituary.

 

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14
Well, looking back, it was bound to happen. 
 
First, John Boehner decided to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare laws and most of the House Republicans went along on the theory even if they didn’t like Obamacare the laws are the laws and the President can’t just change one whenever it suits him.
 
Then never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, to turn the tables on Republicans, Obama rolled out a bevy of spokesmen who proclaimed, Boehner’s getting ready to impeach the President, which worked out fine for Obama and brought the Democrats a windfall of cash from agitated Obama supporters.
 
Of course, on the other hand, most people sloughed off the whole brouhaha as just one more example of political foolishness – except for one group of folks who devoutly hoped it was true: The Tea Partiers.
 
To them impeaching Obama sounded just fine. 
 
Next, right in the middle of the impeachment flap, Attorney General Roy Cooper stood up and announced he wasn’t going to lift a finger to fight the federal court ruling that could strike down North Carolina’s gay marriage ban.
 
Amendment One, Cooper said, was kaput.
 
And from there it was inevitable.
 
Impeachment was infectious.
 
So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a State Senator, speaking to his local Tea Party group, announced he wanted to impeach Attorney General Cooper, added the Republican leaders in Raleigh were just the folks to do it, and added the wheels were already in motion.
 
What State Senator Norm Sanderson missed was what struck him – and the Tea Partiers – as a grand idea didn’t look so grand elsewhere; his call to impeach Roy Cooper landed in the News and Observer with a dull, uncomfortable thud and the Senate Republican leadership, sensing a backfire, announced no one, nowhere, no how in the State Senate was planning to impeach Roy Cooper and, suddenly, Senator Sanderson vanished as if he’d been quarantined.

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06
There was a history program on Frontline the other night about the war in Iraq and the first part was about the foibles of George Bush and Dick Cheney but I did learn something new: How General David Petraeus came up with the novel idea of buying off the opposition to the Maliki regime by paying 100,000 Sunnis $400 million in cold hard cash so they’d fight alongside rather than against the Americans.
 
After that, it was hard to fault Obama for wanting out of Iraq.  
 
But, it turned out, Obama didn’t fare much better than Bush. Granted, he had the misfortune of being President when the inevitable skedaddle took place but before, during, and after the Marines left Iraq he sounded and looked like a President waiting for a bad play to end so he could skedaddle back to the White House.
 
Next, after Frontline, the World News came on and it got worse: There in all his glory was Vladimir Putin looking tough as nails followed by Obama sounding articulate (as always) but looking  like a school boy who’d just had the misfortune of running head-on into the meanest bully on the playground.
 
Failed stimulus plans and Obamacare websites crashing are troubling problems but when you see the President of the United States face to face with a foreign varmint – and the varmint’s the one saying, Go ahead.  Make my day – a deep-seated, bone-crushing anxiety takes root.

 

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04
The mention of the phrase ‘public schools’ conjures up a vision of nurturing teachers and faithful laboring principals but it turns out ‘Big Education’ is a kingdom teeming with ‘Big Players’ from teachers’ unions to textbook publishers to testing companies all battling for promotions, contracts and a bigger piece of the billions spent on public education – the warring camps fall into four tribes:
 
The Advocates for Social Justice are a tribe of dyed-in-the-wool multiculturalists tracing their genealogy back to a fearsome place: The 1960s Counter-Culture. They see our education system as the ill-bred progeny of capitalist exploitation, are determined to free the next generation from the shackles of our Western heritage and believe our public schools have a sacred duty to lead a crusade to cure the wrongs of social injustice.
 
The Human Potentials are against memorization, drill, rote learning, structure, discipline and routine.  This tribe believes open (and unstructured) classrooms are a step on the road to enlightenment and, more than anything else, believe schools must nurture students and build their self-esteem so they flower and fulfill their human potential. 
 
The Traditionalists favor all the things the Human Potentialists see as wicked: They’re for phonics, memorization, flash cards and teaching the virtues of Western Civilization.
 
The final group, the Structuralists, see our schools as antiquated. As an out of date monopoly. And an albatross. To them future lies in charter schools, vouchers, school choice and tuition tax credits. Their spiritual godfather is Milton Friedman.
 
‘Big Education,’ like big health care in Washington, turns out to be a swamp filled with special interests, so next time you see the teachers' union whacking a state legislator remember: You may really be watching a Structuralist slamming a Human Potentialist who’s trying to get his (or her) hands on more of ‘Big Education’s billions.

 

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28

After President Obama bombed Libya into submission I wouldn’t have expected to hear anyone calling him an isolationist but according to Dick Cheney that’s exactly what he is.

John McCain’s not exactly happy with the President either; he’s upset with Obama for not doing more in the Ukraine.

But the isolationist who’s done the most to rile what we’ll call the ‘International’ wing of the Grand Old Party up in arms isn’t Obama – it’s Rand Paul, who got taken to the woodshed by Rick Perry after saying he had his doubts about sending his son (or anyone else’s) back to Iraq.

After a decade of wars with unhappy endings a little peace and quiet seems like a relief but, then again, Cheney says if we don’t straighten out the mess in Iraq we’ll have terrorists landing on our doorstep and McCain adds that Putin’s such a varmint if we don’t tie a knot in his tail right now in the Ukraine there’ll be hell to pay.

It’s all troubling and eerily familiar.

A decade ago when Cheney and company believed we should invade Iraq they said Saddam Hussein was such a villain we had no choice but when the smoke cleared it turned out it was something they hadn’t said that mattered: They’d promised victory would be easy and swift, that we’d whip Saddam with 150,000 men and a few smart bombs and barely break a sweat. General Colin Powel warned them that, yes, we would whip Saddam’s army but after we’d conquered Iraq we’d own it (and 30 million quarrelsome Iraqis) and then 150,000 men wouldn’t be enough.

It wasn’t.

Fast forward a decade and now we’ve got many of the same folks arguing we have to save the rebels in Syria and stop the rebels in Iraq and put the kibosh on Putin but whipping Putin’s going to be a lot tougher proposition than whipping Saddam Hussein – so next time a politician starts talking about anything like sending in the Marines and promises, This will barely hurt at all, let’s run the scoundrel out of town on a rail before he does any real harm.

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24
It sure looks, Richard said politely, like John Boehner could have found something else to sue President Obama over.
 
Fifty-four times John Boehner and the Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare so it seemed odd to Richard, a retired businessman, that Boehner was about to sue Obama for not enforcing the Obamacare Employer Mandate.
 
It didn’t strike Mike, who’s thirty years younger than Richard and a Republican with a unique talent for seeing one side of every issue, as odd at all: He said. What’s wrong with that?  The President should enforce the laws that are on the books – even the bad ones.
 
Vic, who like Mike, has a talent for seeing one side of every issue (only from the opposite direction) said, Think of the ads we Democrats can run: Republicans say Obamacare is bad. But they’re suing Obama for not enforcing Obamacare; Mike snorted, That’s about what I’d expect, and Vic grunted, There’s as much truth in that as saying ‘Robin Hudson sided with child molesters.’
 
Welcome to a modern political debate.
 

 

 

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