Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obomba !

The Bush Doctrine is still alive and well. The belief that every security threat to our nation and our national interest must be met with force has grown tiresome. Newt Gingrich is now the current purveyor of this Doctrine, apparently a willing disciple of the previous president.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday” that he would have disabled the long-range missile before North Korea launched it, saying too many people “do not appreciate the scale of the threat that is evolving on the planet.”

“One morning, just like 9/11, there’s going to be a disaster,” Gingrich said. “I have yet to see the United Nations do anything effective with either Iran or North Korea.”

Reacting to President Barack Obama’s speech in Prague, Gingrich called the plan for a Global Summit on Nuclear Security a “wonderful fantasy idea,” saying Russia and other nations can’t be trusted.

“What are they going to promise, and why would we believe them?” Gingrich said. “It’s very dangerous to have a fantasy foreign policy, and it can get you in enormous trouble.”

Host Chris Wallace asked Gingrich: “So you’re saying that President Gingrich would have taken out that” missile?

Gingrich replied: “There are three or four techniques that could have been used, from unconventional forces to standoff capabilities, to say: ‘We’re not going to tolerate a North Korean missile launch, period.’ I mean, the world’s either got to decide that North Korea is utterly dangerous … I’d recommend, look at electromagnetic pulse, which changes every … equation about how risky these weapons are.”

It appears that Gingrich is doing his insane best to fill the Republican Party's leadership vacuum by spouting one outlandish statement after the other. But at least you'd think that a man of his supposed intellect wouldn't try to bamboozle the American people by offering a counterproductive response to North Korea's threat of launching a missile.

All of Newt's responses are madly inappropriate. Russia is a greater threat. But he's not calling for an attack against a Russian missile launch. China is a bigger threat. But he's not calling for an attack against a Chinese missile launch. There's been several in recent months.

But little North Korea, who we all know is like a spoil, brattish child seeking attention from an indifferent parent, he wants to bomb.

"We got to show them who's boss. We got to show them that we mean business. We got to show them that we're sick and tired of them attempting to develop missiles that could reach Hawaii, Alaska, or our nation's mainland."

Gingrich leaves out that Kim Jong-il launched missiles, seven into the Sea of Japan, when the Bush Administration held office, and
Bush, then president, did nothing.

If we're to accept Gingrich's solution, Obama must respond more violently than Bush, notwithstanding that Defense Secretary Gates has stated that such an attack against North Korea is ill-advised and impossible to carry out.

His party not able to win the White House and establish a majority in the two houses of Congress, Gingrich is resorting to a Bush and Republican tactic of inducing change, not with hope, but with fear: “One morning, just like 9/11, there’s going to be a disaster,” Gingrich said.

If fear becomes the only weapon Republicans have to fight back, then fear will rule this country, fear will determine our foreign policy, and fear will dictate how we relate generally to the rest of the world.

According to Gingrich, “It’s very dangerous to have a fantasy foreign policy [the total elimination of nuclear weapons], and it can get you in enormous trouble.”

How about, then, having a foreign policy that's not a weaponized one, Newt?

Yet, Ronald Reagan, the Republican that all republicans worship, also proffered a nuclear-free world as a goal worth seeking.

When Obama proffers the idea, it's "fantasy," if Regan supported the same idea it coruscates with brilliance. The hypocrisy is so blatant that you'd have to have the lowest of opinions of the American people's intellect to attempt it.

But attempt it, he did.

If Iraq has taught us anything, it's that our military can't solve all the problems that this country faces abroad, that we don't have the fiscal means to wage wars around the world, that the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes supposedly to disarm an enemy before it has the means or the opportunity to strike us, is blatantly naive, and that if we're going to create a secure America, we can't, with every opportunity, create enemies where none need be.

And did I say, we can't bomb everybody we disagree with?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Storm in a Teacup, Much Ado About Nothing

The Queen and Michelle ObamaWe all remember Michelle Obama's fist bump, fist dap, or terrorist fist bump that seemed to land her husband, then presidential candidate Barack Obama, in hot water, especially at the FoxNews network.

Well, something of the sort almost happened again, but this time not to candidate Obama but to President Obama.

It seems that his wife, the First Lady, did the unthinkable, she placed her arms around the Queen, a faux pas of considerable magnitude that usually brings the offender a censure to equal the gravity of slighting Royalty.

"Touching the monarch is usually off limits, but as the first lady and the Queen cosied up at Buckingham Palace, were we witnessing a softening of royal protocol?

"Whoever briefed Michelle Obama on the things one does and doesn't do with one's hands when one meets the Queen must be wondering what went wrong.

"Within minutes of their first encounter at Buckingham Palace yesterday, America's first lady broke royal protocol by doing the unthinkable: she gave the Queen a hug. The monarch, for her part, responded with equally flagrant disregard for convention by returning the gesture.

"Proceedings had begun innocuously enough following the Obamas' arrival at the palace - polite handshakes, a curtsey and chit chat with the Duke of Edinburgh, who asked the president how he'd managed to stay awake all day.

"Then, at the "getting to know you drink", there was an exchange of dialogue between Michelle Obama and the Queen (they seemed to compliment each other on their shoes). At this stage, with everything going so swimmingly, the first lady put her arm around the Queen. The monarch appeared awkward at first, but after this initial surprise and hesitation, she seemed to respond positively by putting her arm round Obama's waist.

"So it was not quite a major diplomatic incident. And does it reflect a softening of the royal protocol that forbids physical contact with the Queen beyond handshakes? The Queen is widely regarded as formal but close observers point out that a number of traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been relaxed in recent times. Bowing, for example, is no longer required.

"Nor is Michelle Obama the first person to have initiated physical contact with Elizabeth without ending up in the Tower. At least four people are known to have broken this rule, the first being Alice Frazier, who hugged the Queen in Washington in 1991 during her 13-day US visit.

"The second was Paul Keating, the then prime minister of Australia, dubbed the "Lizard of Oz" by the British tabloids after he was photographed with his arm around her in 1992. The third was John Howard, Keating's successor in 2000 (though he subsequently denied there had been any contact), and the fourth was the Canadian cyclist Louis Garneau in 2002.

"Despite the outrage in some quarters, the Queen appeared to take no offence at their actions. Keating stayed as the Queen's guest in her private Balmoral home."

It seems that reporters misread the moment, and attributed to the First Lady a conduct that never happened.

According to witnesses that were near by, it was the Queen that actually initiated the hug, placing her arm around Mrs. Obama as she remarked playfully about the First Lady's height, adding the gesture of a hug to support her remarks.

The First Lady responded by placing her arms around the Queen. The embrace seemed spontaneous, and it was just as brief as it was spontaneous.

But it quickly became the hug that embraced the circumference of the world, printed up in newspapers, and seen on millions of television sets.

On slow news days, and a zealousness to put the Obamas' in their place, this is the kind of story that leads.

Surely the British, as a people, were not offended en masse by this brief show of affection and getting-alongness. No Monarch, Queen, King, Prince, or Princess, should be above receiving a hug from a commoner, even one that happens to be the first African American First Lady of the United States.

I'm sure they, as well as the Queen, were honored that the two struck this friendly cord so early, clearly reestablishing the fine relationship that both nations have enjoyed over the years.

I hear that the Queen was so taken with Mrs. Obama that she asked her to stay in touch. You see, Queens are people, too. They want friends as much as the next person. And it must get pretty lonely within the walls of Buckingham Palace, so it's nice from time to time to step out of the shadows of pomp and ceremony and just be yourself.

Also during the visit, Michelle Obama visited a predominately black all-girl school were she gave a "pep talk" to the student body after she was entertained with song from the school choir.

She told them about her humble beginnings, the unexpected path that her life has taken, and the value of education in making it all happen. She encouraged the young students to dream big, that the world needed their contributions.

The First Lady was clearly touched by an outpouring of affection from the students, many of whom received hugs from her. "She touched me! She hugged me!," several young girls exclaimed, visibly and emotionally shaken by the encounter, some with tear-stained cheeks.

We often talk about the impact that President Obama will have on blacks around the world, from Brazil to Nigeria. Little did we know that his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, may have an impact as great, if not greater than, his.

She will encourage, inspire, and empower young black girls and women around the world to cast off the shackles of low expectations, and the presumption of low achievements, with a can-do spirit that will bring to their respective countries--generation after generation--a wellspring of smart, intelligent, and capable leaders, leaders that will compete as equals with their male counterparts, taking their rightful place alongside the best of them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Invisible No More?!

Ralph Ellison wrote an award-winning novel many years back that became a staple in colleges, fueling discussions on race, and advancing a dialog critical to the way the races have come to understanding their respective places in a society that has for years relegated blacks to the back of the bus, and rendered them "invisible."

But not anymore.

WASHINGTON—A majority of African-Americans surveyed in a nationwide poll this week reported feeling "deeply disturbed" and "more than a little weirded out" by all the white people now smiling at them.

First witnessed shortly after President Obama's historic victory, the open and cheerful smiling has only continued in recent months, leaving members of the black community completely unnerved.

"On behalf of black people across this nation, I would like to say to our white brethren, 'Please stop looking at us like that,'" said Brown University psychology professor Dr. Stanley Carsons. "We're excited Barack is president, too, and we're glad you're happy for us. But giving us the thumbs up for no reason, or saying hello whenever we walk by, is really starting to
freak us out."

Added Carsons, "We just want to be able to stand in line at Home Depot without getting patted on the back."

To say that this amuses me would be an understatement. For some blacks it's not a laughing matter. It's as though one grand joke is being playing on us, or a plot for a new movie. We have always been here. We have actually fought in every American war--one of ours becoming the first fatality in the Revolutionary War, a certain Crispus Attucks, by name.

Here we're seeing the "transformative power" of one man, one that many in the country have tied their hopes to, hoping he will bring back a level of dignity and respect to the White House.

Now, many whites are seeing us in the way that they see Obama, through a kind of Obama lens. We're being reaccessed. Maybe we can do more than shuffle, say Yes Suh, and No Suh, and have actual ideas, and something intelligent and witty to say.

Black is now in, at least for the time being. I'm not sure how long the aura is going to last, or whether this new courtship will get past that critical ninety-days stage.

But for the time being, blacks should revel in their new-found attention, if not fame, and use the moment to advantage in a sort of Rod Blagojevich kind of way--the moment is just too golden to throw away.

Perhaps we should now seek out that loan that was denied us because of redlining, or because our color didn't inspire trust.

And if there's a white neighborhood you have always wanted to move into, but were afraid of an additional lawn ornament, such as a burning cross or two, now is the time seek out that white realtor and go for it.

And during these recessionary times maybe you should ask for that raise that's been denied you over the years, or, if unemployed, now's the time to approach that white establishment personnel officer which a resume.

"According to the poll, more than 92 percent of African-Americans have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of beaming Caucasians in their vicinity, as well as a marked rise in the instances of white people making direct eye contact with them on the bus, engaging them in pleasant conversation, and warmly gazing in their general direction with a mix of wonder, pride, and profound contentment.

"All respondents reported being "petrified" by the change.

"Yesterday, I'm pretty sure the cashier at the Giant Eagle winked at me," said Eddie Wilkes, a Pittsburgh resident who described himself as "not a politics person." "Then she said something about what a happy day it was and tried to bump fists. The whole thing gave me the willies."

"I can't even be at a bar anymore if they have the news on," said Chicago native and small business consultant Jarell Brown. "Obama gives a speech on the economy and people act like my team just won the Super Bowl. I didn't even vote for the guy. I'm a Libertarian."

Perhaps I've gone too far with the employment thing, but you get my point. Strike while the iron is hot. We don't know how long this courtship is going to last. Next week we may be back to being black and invisible again.

Here's the unvarnished truth: We're more comfortable with white hate than with white love. We've never had the opportunity to experience it that much over the years. We saw Jackie Robinson called names and spat on, and Cassius Clay hated on by whites.

This new love thing is a little hard to get used to, but we needn't worry, for every up there's a down--Obama's ascension has also increased membership in the various hate groups dotting the landscape. They're working hard to keep our feet on the ground, and not allowing all this new white love to go to our collective heads.

I forget: Is today April First?