Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hillary and Bill, Huma and Anthony

Can the past help make sense of the Clintons and Weiners today?

Breaking up is hard to do, sang Neil Sadaka half a century ago, but go back further to Karl Marx, “History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce.”

Or as Hillary and Bill try to distance themselves, the more apt Marx may be Groucho: “I don’t want to belong to any club that takes people like me as members.”

True, as Maureen Dowd chirps, Weiner is off the charts: “Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals and the writers of ‘The Good Wife,’ Carlos Danger is also a gift to political-scandal survivors. His behavior is so outlandish and contemptible--the sort of thing that used to require a trench coat and park--that it allows Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to act huffy.”

Yet, if a politician’s sex life should be judged on how it affects his performance in office, the former Comeback Kid and now most popular ex-president on the planet has more to answer for than any of his fallen comrades.

In 1992, Clinton, with Hillary standing by her man, went on 60 Minutes to weather the story of a 12-year-affair with Gennifer Flowers (who had tapes of them together) with a slippery near-confession, “I have acknowledged causing pain in my marriage.”

After winning the White House, he got himself impeached over Monica Lewinsky and her semen-stained dress, but forgotten now about that nasty episode is how it may have contributed to a failure to take out Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

Back then, the New York Times has noted that "during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled."

In 2007, Clinton reacted with fury to a TV mini-series portraying him as so distracted then that he failed to focus on the emerging threat of bin Laden. Yet, the program's advisor was 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, and there was evidence that Clinton might have done more about bin Laden if not for fear of public reaction that attacking him would be seen as a "wag the dog" diversion from impeachment.

In judging Weiner and lesser bozos of both parties, this kind of connection between public and private is as apt as seeing JFK’s sexual peccadillos as allowing J. Edgar Hoover to blackmail him and stay in office to hound Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

JFK and Bill Clinton are now rightly regarded as among the best of modern presidents, but their “private” sexual behavior was not the kind of joke that Weiner, Spitzer and their ilk are now.

Time to stop laughing and get back to serious issues.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Growing Cracks in Tea Party Cups

You can’t hold your breath and say no forever. As the President turns his back on Congressional tantrums, some sane Republicans are starting to gasp for breath.

The national political debate is slowly shifting from Tea Party vs. Obama to an internal GOP rift over avoiding defeat in 2014 and 2016.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn predicts that shutting down government to block funds for ObamaCare could destroy his party. “The strategy that has been laid out is a good way for Republicans to lose the House,” he says.

It’s “the dumbest idea I've ever heard,” adds North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

Meanwhile, the White House concentrates on taking its case to the country and avoiding another fiscal cliff on the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew insists there will be no negotiations this fall to avoid a default such as those that led to a downgrade of the nation's credit rating in 2011:

"Congress is going to have to pass a debt limit that can reach bipartisan consensus in the Congress and that the president can sign into law."

The President himself tells New York Times interviewers he is concentrating on those “who are working really hard, are trying to figure out how they can send their kids to college, are trying to make sure that they can save for their retirement.”

If Congress is willing to work with him, he is ready but if the Republican response is “no on everything,” he won’t “sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days.”

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is also looking beyond that time as he hosts Hillary Clinton at a White House lunch today. No doubt one of the subjects of their conversation will be what happens next if the GOP doesn’t get its act together on mending the growing cracks in its Tea Party cups.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Middle East Exhaustion: Tipping Point

If new bloodshed in Egypt is a wakeup call, could Syria be the last straw?

Cairo is aflame again, with scores of protesters killed, bloody fruit of an Arab Spring that keeps yielding more death than democracy. As tolls rise, it is past time to rethink the Bush-Cheney Neocon doctrine of a strong America bestowing freedom on benighted nations across the world.

Now the Joint Chiefs give Congress a report that overthrowing Bashar al-Assad in Syria would be “a vast undertaking, costing billions of dollars, and could backfire on the United States...Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

John McCain, of course, dislikes that assessment, but the reality of the past decade is expenditure of American blood and treasure in the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan and elsewhere with, to put it charitably, mixed results at best.

No responsible critic would advocate, in the light of a nuclear Pakistan and wannabe Iran, complete withdrawal from the region, but isn’t it past time for a lighter footprint?

Even the President of the Arab American Institute concedes that “the region is on a path leading to self-destruction. What, if anything, can be done to reverse course?

“Syria is committing suicide--tearing itself asunder in a civil war that, with the support and prodding of outside forces, has increasingly become an exercise in sectarian blood-letting. American combat forces may have left Iraq, but the country has not found a way to make peace with itself. Daily terrorist bombings are killing scores of civilians, while a dysfunctional sectarian government appears to be focused more on prosecuting and persecuting its opponents than providing for the needs of its people...

”Lebanon, reeling from the pressure emanating from Syria next door, is once again teetering on the brink of civil conflict. Meanwhile, the conflicts raging around Jordan are having a destabilizing impact with that country receiving yet another massive influx of refugees.”

What the region needs now, the Arab spokesman asserts, is “a unified revolt against sectarian division and recognition of the futility of its self-destructive path.”

Before outsiders can truly help in that undertaking, the US is like a club-footed giant in the region, stumbling around with the best of intentions but more likely to bring damage than democracy with its blundering attempts to be helpful.

Haven’t we reached a tipping point?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Christie Challenges GOP Park-Your-Heart Politics

If nothing else, Chris Christie will be pumping blood into hardened Republican arteries between now and November 2016.

Naming Rand Paul among “any number of people” who project a “dangerous strain” of libertarianism on domestic surveillance, the Governor cites families in his state who lost loved ones on 9/11:

“These esoteric, intellectual debates--I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have...

“The next attack that comes, that kills thousands of Americans as a result, people are going to be looking back on the people having this intellectual debate and wondering whether they put...”

Christie cut himself off, but his comments at an Aspen Institute panel of GOP governors challenge his party’s herd mentality on Obama-bashing, bringing up George W. Bush.

The policy the current President is following, he told them, “hasn’t been different because they [sic] were right and because we haven’t had another one of those attacks that cost thousands and thousands of lives.”

As Republicans "nerve up" to shut down government over Obamacare and the debt ceiling, Christie offers a glimpse of an alternative to another 2016 kamikaze campaign for the White House.

How far he can go in primaries like those of the last presidential election where ideological purity reigned is open to question, but his bluntness is a promising sign.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sidelining Schmucks

Ideological and ethnic opposites Anthony Weiner and Steve King are redefining shameless stupidity and uniting their own parties against them but, in our media-salivating world, getting more attention than comparatively sane office holders.

Republicans have already moved away from King by dissuading him from running for the Iowa Senate seat next year, but Weiner is still a candidate, even as a New York Times editorial advises him to “take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”

While President Obama pledges “to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again,” American government is gridlocked by Tea Party politicians as weirdly out of touch as Weiner and King but sounding rational only by totally ignoring reality.

“Congressional Republicans,” reports the Times, “are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.”

Weiner and King are on the fringes giving new meaning to the definition of “schmuck,” a Yiddishism for the male member as metaphor for stupid, foolish, or simply clueless, and now earn the highest rank in the lexicon of penile designations for unwise, total “putz.”

While Weiner is caught in post-disgrace sexual tweets and King opines that undocumented immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” they are only distracting voters from the stupidity of John Boehner’s troops, those lesser schmucks who have to be voted out of more years of disabling Congress next November.

In any language, they all have to be sidelined.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Next Royal Baby

Now that Prince What’s-His-Name has made his fashionably late arrival and media royal womb watchers are all agog, it behooves a former member of the fraternity to offer the benefit of his experience to help them move on from their current trauma.

In the 1980s, as a woman's magazine editor duty-bound to run cover stories about the new baby’s super-celebrity grandmother, I published one showing her holding up Prince William, with a line reading "Princess Diana Faces the 'Terrible Twos' and Baby No. 2," based on nothing more than a suspicion that the royal timetable called for a backup prince sooner than later.

The day the issue came out, the Palace announced Diana’s second pregnancy, and I was besieged by phone calls from reporters about how we knew. To my shame I responded with exquisite bad taste, "Inside information."

Far-thinking royalty journalists should be marking their 2015 calendars since, even with the monarchy bench now three-deep, William and Kate are not likely to want to rear an only child.

Meanwhile, a retired member of the fraternity will be watching all the jubilation with pure pleasure at news that for a change doesn’t make him sick of the human race.

The Queen’s great grandson was only one of more than 300,000 babies born all over the world yesterday, but even just hours old, he is what used to be called a bundle of joy.

Update: The new prince is no longer nameless. He has three: George Alexander Louis, a long handle for such a short person but, as he grows, the media will find ways of shortening it. Prince Lou has a nice ring to it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Life in Black and White

Now that Barack Obama has turned personal about race and started a national debate, an older witness is impelled to step forward and testify.

Nearly 90 years ago, I was born to white shopkeepers in the black ghetto of Harlem, living in back of a small store, selling things to people even poorer than they were. Their customers were descended from African slaves, while they themselves had left behind a Europe where their kind would soon be killed by the millions.

We were all safe here from servitude and slaughter, but not fully American, free but far from equal.

When I was three and seriously ill, my parents gave up the store and moved away, but my father kept working in Harlem for the next forty years. When I was old enough, I would sometimes go with him on a Saturday for the fourteen hours he spent in a pawnshop there.

The patrons came parading through, most of them well-dressed, almost all black, carrying clothes, jewelry, musical instruments, cameras to offer as hostage for the few dollars they had to have for a few days or weeks.

Some seemed down and defeated, but many were jaunty, with the aliveness of people always dancing on the edge. Seeing me, they flashed white smiles from their dark faces, surprised and amused to find a kid among the forbidding figures guarding the pawnbroker’s cash box. I always smiled back, trying to drink in some of their joy.

Pawnbrokers made loans to the desperate, with higher interest than banks were allowed to charge. In earlier days, they were little more than fences, acquiring stolen goods cheap to resell. Now strict laws required them to be wary--but it was a sad business, bordering on usury, profiting from human misery. For my father, it was simply where he worked sixty hours a week to earn sixteen dollars.

Once he brought home an autograph, from Colonel Hubert Julian, an American pilot who single-handed had opposed Mussolini’s air force in Abyssinia to become known as Haile Selassie’s “Black Eagle.” What led him to a Harlem pawnshop I never learned, but for years I saved that scrap with the flamboyant signature of a genuine hero.

In the windows of Harlem shops, black-on-yellow placards showed the week’s offerings of local movie houses: Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen (huge letters) in “Gone With the Wind” with (much smaller) Clark Gable, or “The Big Broadcast of 1937” starring Rochester and (footnote size) Jack Benny. There was so little to nourish pride on those streets that when Joe Louis (called by newspapers, without irony, “a credit to his race”) knocked out Max Schmeling in their 1938 rematch for the heavyweight title, Harlem erupted in riotous joy.

From the Bronx, I commuted to City College, walking ten blocks to and from the subway station every day through a sea of dark faces without fear or harm.

After returning from World War II and being shot at by white people, I graduated and went to work at that Harlem campus, where I fell in love with a beautiful, brilliant young woman. But a decade before Barack Obama was born, we--certainly I--did not have the courage to marry and bring interracial children into a world so little changed from the time of my own childhood.

Soon afterward, I went to work as an editor in midtown Manhattan and was eventually hired by George H. W. Bush’s father-in-law as the first Jew among hundreds of employees. Needless to say, everyone there was white.

In 1955 at Redbook I assigned the first article in a national magazine on 26-year-old Martin Luther King during the Montgomery, Alabama bus strike. Ten years later when I was editor of McCall’s Dr. King wrote a memoir for me about leading young African-American gang members from Chicago on non-violent Freedom Marches in Mississippi where “they were to be attacked by tear gas. They were to protect women and children with no other weapons but their own bodies.”

When I became head of the American Society of Magazine Editors, I began an effort to recruit African-American college students as summer internes, but that program was watered down by fellow editors and subverted by a young black woman hired to recruit applicants who was found to be urging them not “to buy into the system.”

Martin Luther King was killed, and so was any white naivete about easily changing a culture so deeply ingrained in American life.

Looking back at that time and the years that followed brings a heavy sense of swimming against powerful tides that now seem even stronger than ever in the wake of an African-American president.

Yet there is hope in TV panels of black faces debating uncomfortable statistics on crime in their own communities and old white people trying to sort out what they can do for a better future.

Barack Obama has opened up biographical soul-searching. If it can slowly begin to change minds and hearts, the generations that follow us will be the better for it. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Netflix Hijacks the Emmys

Talk about voter fraud, consider this: The brain-damaged “House of Cards” gets nine Emmy nominations this year while Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly flawed “Newsroom” is barely cited.

The hyped-up news is that “the online streaming network Netflix, best known until recently for rerunning other companies’ old shows and films, officially joined its cable and broadcast counterparts in the race for television’s most prestigious prizes, picking up more than a dozen nominations, including a best drama nod for its political thriller ‘House of Cards.’”

Turn the deck face up and you can see the truth. “Cards,” a bad re-do of a sly 1990 British series of the same name, is rated by Netflix viewers at two stars (“didn’t like”) while its predecessor gets three (“liked”).

If Netflix’s Emmy coup represents anything deeper than a change in content providers, it is the McDonaldization of TV drama, an instant delivery of 13 slabs of fatty spiced-up stuff for those who might mistake it for filet mignon.

Chalk it all up to Netflix’s wooing of Academy voters, along with their possible discomfort over the openly liberal political tone of “Newsroom.” Corporate show biz is still the scared-rabbit venue it was back in the Joe McCarthy days of blacklisting. So it’s safer to cite Jane Fonda and Jeff Daniels rather than the series itself.

“House of Cards” will win its share of Emmys but the public knows better.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Obama's Calm Coda to a Painful Week

“Trayvon Martin,” Barack Obama tells the nation, “could have been me 35 years ago.”

In an unannounced, unscripted White House press room appearance the President caps a week of heated national introspection with his usually calm demeanor yet the most personal public 20 minutes of his presidency.

Talking about “a history that doesn’t go away,” he says : “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

“There are probably very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me--at least before I was a senator.

“There are very few African-Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off...

“For those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?”

In pointing out that “things are getting better,” Barack Obama nonetheless asks Americans not to get into a finger-pointing political debate but look into their own hearts, as he is doing, to find ways of doing better still.

He ends his appeal for racial conciliation by indirectly invoking Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.

“Am I judging people,” he asks Americans to ask themselves, “as much as I can based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? [Dr. King],” adding “Those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature [Lincoln] as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.”

No one, it would seem, could quarrel with that, but Fox News brings on Sean Hannity, George Zimmerman’s brother and others who do.

For many of us, however, it was a return of the Barack Obama we admired in 2008 and in whom we invested so much hope. We would like to see more of him in the next three years.

Update:  A New York Times editorial sums up the rational reaction:  “It is a great thing for this country to have a president who could do what Mr. Obama did on Friday.  It is sad that we still need him to do it.”

Self-Inflicted Snowden Wounds

Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world, Vladimir Putin is not far behind. Why are they straining their relationship in a schoolyard spat over a 30-year-old in a Moscow air terminal?

Now the White House threatens to cancel a September summit over the Edward Snowden impasse and snipes at the Russian justice system in an escalating war of words that has no bearing on significant issues between the two nations.

Is this any way to run a nuclear world?

From the start, something has been askew in the Obama Administration’s response to Snowden. Put his revelations into context, yes, but why get caught up in a melodrama to capture and prosecute him? Why give credence to Glenn Greenwald’s assertions that the self-proclaimed whistle blower has more to spill?

Barring any truth in that, it would have made more sense to declare Snowden a fugitive and let him get asylum in Russia, Venezuela or on the moon. But the White House has been keeping him in the headlines and ramping up foreign policy strains over him.

All this has made even Putin sound reasonable as he tells reporters, “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services.”

From the other direction, reliable Lindsey Graham is pushing to move the G-20 meeting out of Russia altogether and have us boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic to be held there.
Just what we need now, a brain-damaged replay of the Cold War even as the temperature starts to cool in Washington with John Boehner harrumphing about some House movement on immigration.

Conflict is media meat, but promoting it in foreign policy should be enough to make vegetarians of us all. Why don't we stick to arguing over the "glamorous" Rolling Stone cover of the Boston bomber?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trayvon Martin Rorschach Test

America’s past and possible future converge as Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton speak up about the Zimmerman verdict. What they have to say reverberates far beyond the limits of a local murder trial and into the heart of what is becoming a wider debate about the nation’s values and, even deeper, the state of its heart.

The case that refuses to go away is turning into a Rorschach test. In the ink blots, Carter sees “the right decision” in “a nation of laws.” Clinton discerns “deep, painful heartache” for families who “have to fear for their child walking down a street in the United States of America.”

Now that Juror B37 has had her long Confessional with Anderson Cooper and been rebuked by others, a deep division emerges between those who expect everything to be rational and those who know that such mastery of the mind is beyond human reach.

Journalists strive to be objective, but they soon learn the impossibility of such a goal. Being fair, dispassionate and aware of one’s own prejudices is as good as it gets. Politicians are not called to be that way, but the very best try. Lawyers are paid to be truth-twisting advocates.

As the talkative juror pours out her story, what comes through is a state of mind manipulated into a literal reading of a set of facts blinkered into “following the law” but abandoning common sense and human feeling, a robotic concession to courtroom reality.

Over the years, during jury service, I have often been amazed at the ability of a dozen disparate strangers to evaluate what they have seen and heard and come to what struck me as the right decision. Their wisdom may have been turned into a melodramatic cliché by “Twelve Angry Men,” but such a basic collective sense of reality is, in the main, undeniable.

Jimmy Carter’s response to the verdict is, for a long-time non-admirer, typical of the man—-a brilliant parser of facts that led him into being a President with no emotional intelligence or empathy whatsoever to complain about “a national malaise” that he himself helped create.

In last year’s election, voters responded to a huge Rorschach test by seeing beyond the many Mitt Romneys flashing before their eyes.

Now, as the Zimmerman case eventually fades away as it must, three improbable figures are in New Hampshire—-Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two Tea Party Latinos, and Rand Paul, the Anglo from Mars.

What will be voters see as those cards flash before their eyes? 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Lows for Tea Party Meanness

House curmudgeons are working on a trifecta of malice and spite. Not only are they gutting the Senate immigration bill, John Boehner’s Scrooges are taking food out of the mouths of poor children while renewing subsidies for corporate farmers who don’t need them and trying to hobble a 2010 law with new food safety provisions before it goes into effect.

Patriots with “the bloodlines of the Founding Fathers” are resisting a “huge influx” of low-wage foreigners who would become a burden on the federal government. “You bring in foreigners who are going to be net tax producers, not net tax consumers,” says one House sage.

They want to reform immigration in “bite sizes,” spending billions on border security now while, like Scarlett O’Hara, promising to think about pathways to citizenship tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the House passes a 608-page farm bill, the first since 1973 not to include food stamps. Eric Cantor says they will act on those “with dispatch” but does not specify when.

Such patterns of disdain for the poor and helpless, coupled with concern for wealth and power, have become so pronounced that they are parodying themselves. Little wonder that a new Gallup poll finds “Hispanics of all ages in the U.S. today are more than twice as likely to identify with or lean to the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party.”

If voters act with awareness next year, such Tea Party antics may be gone with the wind, but for now, we have the departing Michele Bachmann warning that immigration reform would give the President “a perpetual magic wand, and nobody’s giving him a spanking yet and taking it out of his hand.”

Symbolically, as Bachmann sounds off, one of her aides is being arrested for “a string of burglaries” at the House Office Building. Not all redistributions of wealth, it would seem, are off limits.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why Must Self-Defense Be Lethal?

“Trayvon Martin,” says a New York Times editorial, “was an unarmed boy walking home from the convenience store. If only Florida could give him back his life as easily as it is giving back George Zimmerman’s gun.”

Much of the furor over the verdict has focused on racism, as it surely deserves to be, but in an even broader sense, we are back to guns again. In an age obsessed with self-defense, is killing a perceived attacker the only way to stop him? In the heat of feeling threatened, is murder the best and only answer?

In a healing statement on the case, the President observes, “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.”

The answer, of course, is no. George Zimmerman was carrying a concealed Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm semi-automatic pistol that night, which costs about $239 and fires lethal bullets. For as little as $19, he could have armed himself with a stun gun that would have immobilized Trayvon Martin without murdering him.

As distasteful as the image of electronically zapping human beings may be, we live in a society that finds it more acceptable to spare cattle by controlling them with such devices than human beings.

What all this suggests is that, since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reinterpreted the Second Amendment into a NRA slogan in 2008, we are living in a country that values a previously non-existent right to shoot people dead over the victims’ right to life.

George Zimmerman won’t be the last lost soul to benefit from that distortion.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Amen to the President's Summation

As always, Barack Obama is the nation’s mourner-in-chief. He deserves the final words on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case:

“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”

Amen to that.

American Verdict

The irony of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin is that, for the first time, he may sense how his victim must have felt that night.

While the jury deliberated, Zimmerman’s lawyer was telling an interviewer that, even if his client were to be freed, his life would change forever.

"I believe his life is at risk, and I don't say that for dramatic effect," Mark O'Mara said before the jury freed his client. "There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough, they could react violently."

Rightly or wrongly Zimmerman will know how it feels to be hated for who you are and to have unknown people disposed to harm you, not for how you interact with them but based on prejudice, a literal pre-judgment that can lead to dramatically distorted encounters such as the one on the night Trayvon Martin died.

The end of the media circus about all this can leave no one elated. The verdict will be grist for days more of deep-think about American justice and race, little of it edifying or helpful with the pain left behind, and then public attention will shift back to dysfunction in Washington.

Hopefully, no one will try to harm George Zimmerman, but he will have to be even more wary of those who try to shower him with money and praise for what he did on the worst night of his life.

If he resists it might help him to see Trayvon Martin as a fellow human being.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hillary's Lively Hibernation

The former First Lady/Secretary of State may be out of the news, but she’s not lolling around on a hammock to catch up on summer reading.

Hillary Clinton’s hibernation includes time in New York and Washington offices, working on Obama-years memoirs and traveling around the country giving speeches at $200,000 each, arranged by the same agent who wheels out Dick Cheney at $75,000 a pop.

Clinton, who turns 66 in October, is politically at an awkward age, not officially running for anything in 2016 but doing just what she would if she were.

Her $8 million book deal with Simon and Schuster will be a platform next year for setting the record straight on Benghazi and other Issa smears, while taking a victory lap on 60 Minutes et al to remind supporters why they admire her just as GOP presidential hopefuls turn up the volume for their nasty primary fights.

This tome will have no Monica Lewinsky bombshells like its predecessor, but there will be enough inside stuff about nailing bin Laden and other Obama foreign policy goodies to remind voters of Clinton’s crucial role in all of them while maintaining her distance from any new embarrassments like Eric Snowden that arise between now and then.

Meanwhile the GOP smear machine is tuning up just in case. A spokesman for a “politically conservative action committee” says it’s too early to send operatives to Mrs. Clinton’s speeches, but they are watching from a distance “to monitor whether she’s hobnobbing with investment bankers in New York City that might seem like favoritism down the line.”

It won’t be long before the Koch brothers spring for the price of tickets, but meanwhile Hillary Clinton will be smiling all the way to the banks to deposit her speech gratuities and book royalty checks. She may even run into her husband on the way.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Trial of Treyvon Martin

The umpteen hours of cable TV courtroom melodrama are finally over, and the reaction of an intermittent viewer is to recall the old cliché that used to pervade rape trials: “She asked for it.”

An unarmed teenager is shot dead, but like the sexually assaulted victim with her “provocative” clothing and behavior, the issue has been contorted into whether Treyvon Martin somehow provoked George Zimmerman into killing him.

Technically Zimmerman has been facing charges, but his victim has been on trial to justify what he did.

This is being written as the jury starts to deliberate, but whatever the verdict, American life has been damaged by both the crime and its aftermath.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Price Tag for Taking Back the Country

Bill Clinton’s “arithmetic” lesson at their 2012 convention should be on the front burner again as Democrats parse the price of wresting Congress—-and the nation—-from Tea Party control.

A new report by the Campaign Finance Institute shows that winning a House seat last year cost the victor twice as much as it did a quarter of a century ago: $1.6 million, compared with $753,000 in 1986.

Such an increase comes when most races are not as competitive as they once were. The heavy spending was in a small number of battlegrounds that allowed the GOP to retain its majority and offers a road map for Democrats who want to win back the House next year.

This month backers of immigration reform are spending $1 million dollars in the districts of John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Darrell Issa and eight other Republicans to blast them for refusing to deal on the issue. What would it take to get Democrats on offense again in the 2014 contests to raise and spend whatever it takes to retake full control of the House?

As Cantor announces new obstruction for next month, it should be a wakeup call for those who really want to get the country unstuck. How much would it cost to yank Tea Party naysayers out of enough seats to end their stranglehold on the American future?

Fifty million? A hundred? More? There must be millions of frustrated Americans willing to pay the price.

If someone will organize the means for letting them put their money where their minds and mouths are, they can make the difference.