Month: May 2014
How Much of One Are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Other?
A “Billboard” posting that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed from something called the “Heartland Institute” contained a picture of Barack Obama together with Ben Franklin. Below each picture was a quote from each man but not before observing the caption that reads: “It’s embarrassing how low our leaders have sunk.”
The following are the quotations that appeared in the posting:
“I think it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
The intent of this message, obviously, is to insinuate how badly Obama has abandoned liberty and justice for all–that Obama is the leader that has sunk so low when compared to the values held by Franklin. However, I think the institute has conveniently forgotten that it was not Barack Obama who initiated the programs that critics claim our most whittling away at our privacy and liberties but, in fact, it was a conservative president, George W. Bush who initiated those programs when he signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001. Ironic, isn’t it? And how things change?
I imagine the Heartland Institute had, at one time, championed President Bush and his policies as being good for the nation. I wonder why the Heartland Institute was not so concerned about this topic regarding the limits placed on liberty when George Bush was President. Has the Heartland Institute had a change of heart? What’s up next for the Heartland Institute? Before you know it, they’ll be championing Edward Snowden as a patriot (if they haven’t already).
The Heartland Institute’s posting seems a bit foolish in that the institute fails to recognize that both quotations are really saying the same thing: American society needs to make choices. One of the most obvious side effects of achieving increased liberty is that it has a tendency to produce a general reduction in the security that can be provided by government. Finding an acceptable balance between liberty and security becomes one of those choices American society needs to make.
The quotations are not contradictory, but, in fact, are complementary. Nor is there a measured degradation of value between the two quotes as is implied. But, the Heartland Institute is betting their spin regarding something so obvious won’t be recognized by their target audience. Sadly, given that their target audience already has a disposition to being so polarized, they are probably right about that assumption.
Ben Franklin made a good point but it doesn’t really make President Obama’s point any less worthy. Both statements have implied questions in them: “America, what do you want: more liberty or more security and how much of one are you willing to sacrifice for the other?”
Benghazi: And So, I am Not Very Smart, I am Told
The definition of Hogwash, according to TheFreeDictionary.com, is: “Worthless, false, or ridiculous speech or writing; nonsense. Garbage fed to hogs; swill.” That definition pretty much describes what Republicans have been doing since September 11, 2012. I was told a few months ago that I am “not very smart” because I choose to ignore the Republican propaganda about Benghazi, their petty political crusade against Obama and their ongoing attempt to paint him as the chief architect of a dastardly scheme to cover-up the identity of the Benghazi attackers for political gain.
This Benghazi thing has been going on for a little more than a year and a half now. It has wasted too much taxpayer’s money we can ill afford to accommodate given the current state of our economy. And, it has gotten so completely out of hand to the point where I have been told that I am “not very smart” for holding an opinion much different from the one the Republicans want to propagate.
A year and a half ago when this story first broke, I tried to take an extreme viewpoint to make a point. There was more of a cover up by President Bush over Iraq than there was a cover-up by the Obama Administration over Benghazi. President Bush has more responsibility in allowing 911 than Obama has in allowing the Benghazi incident. On 911, thousands of innocent American lives who had no official appointment whatsoever were lost, not in some distant foreign land, but, here on American soil.
How could Bush have let that happened? What kind of a competent President could have let such a disaster as 911 happen? How could Bush lie to the United Nations by concocting and fabricating a story that Iraq housed weapons of mass destruction? Thousands of American soldiers, an additional number of American lives, 4,488 of them, were lost because of that lie. Where was the Republican outrage during this obvious conspiracy while their Big Business cronies sought to secure their oil interests in Iraq? Does this mean the Republicans place more value on the lives of diplomats than they do on the lives of the thousands of ordinary Americans that, apparently, are expendable and less important in their eyes?
Of course, the implications of those previous statements are absurd, a little sickening and probably more than a little misdirected. American lives were lost on 911 for one single reason and one single reason alone: because a group of deranged, horribly twisted human beings thought it was their mission to kill thousands of innocent lives. The only people to blame for the attack are the perpetrators of the attack and nobody else. I don’t blame President Bush for 911 nor do I believe there was some great conspiracy that President Bush was somehow behind nor do I think Bush intentionally “lied” to the United Nations to get us involved in Iraq. But, you cannot convince some of my ultra-liberal Democratic friends of anything different.
Similarly, you cannot convince some of my ultra-conservative, rank and file Republican friends that there isn’t some grand conspiracy on the part of the Obama administration, politically motivated so that Obama could make himself look good right before the 2012 Presidential election. Just as nutty, in my mind, as any JFK conspiracy theory that you can pick out of a hat, crazy, ridiculous sounding, unsubstantiated rhetoric continues to flow from the Republican media machine, unrestrained and followed up by a seemingly unending stream of evidence offered that is ambiguous at best and only conjecture and innuendo regarding anything else.
When I try to point out to my Republican friends that it wouldn’t matter whether the attack was by an unorganized mob or whether it was by an organized group of conspirators, the story would still be bad for the President regardless and one version not really any worse than the other, it just falls on deaf ears. Think about it: an unorganized mob of people should be a little easier to outsmart than a group of sophisticated, highly trained al-Qaeda operatives–don’t you think? The President can still be accused of not providing adequate protection for our diplomats in both scenarios (and maybe that accusation becomes a little stronger in the case where responsibility was assigned to a mob).
In either case, the attack is no less an act of terror–which is exactly what President Obama called it in a speech a day after the tragedy happened (on September 12, 2012). Other factual accounts seem to go over their heads too, such as: the CIA’s talking points did contain a statement indicating that the “attack began ‘spontaneously’ in response to the Cairo protest.” Both of these are easily discoverable facts (see factcheck.com, www.intelligence.senate.gov, etc.). Additionally, according to CNN, the “The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Benghazi” released on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, had this to say: “It also blasted U.S. intelligence for inaccurately reporting — without ‘sufficient intelligence to corroborate it’ — that a protest might have led to the attack.” Lastly, any political gain the President could hope to accomplish would be so insignificantly small, meaningless; especially when you consider the capture of Bin Laden a year earlier, it is inconceivable that anybody in the White House would have thought up such a harebrained idea let alone attempt to implement it.
More plausible, the choice by the President to not immediately refer to the attack specifically as “terrorism” would seem to have had more to do with the diplomatic scene at the time, the reference to “spontaneous attack” in the initial CIA report and the confusion caused by the unrest still ongoing in Cairo. If the Benghazi attackers were protesters angry over the video, similar to the protesters in Cairo, a different response but no less committed might be required to avoid increasing the already high tensions in that volatile region of the world. Bottom line, I think the President’s motives for not explicitly acknowledging the incident as “a terrorist attack” were much different than the nefarious motives the Republicans want to present. Although, it has crossed my mind, more than once, that the Republicans would think the worst of somebody because, if the roles were reversed, that’s exactly how they might behave.
The President may not have explicitly labeled the Benghazi incident as “terrorism” but it is hard to argue against the statement “acts of terror” meaning anything else other than terrorism. Anybody who employs terror is, by definition, a terrorist. So, it doesn’t really matter who was responsible for the attack nor should we quibble about whether the President stated “terrorism” or “terror.” Given the speech the President made the day following the attack, this is absolutely made clear: people who commit murder are murderers. People who commit acts of terror are terrorists.
That seemed obvious to me from the start and it seems even more obvious to me now. Benghazi should have been a tragedy that would remind all of us that we need to stand together against terrorism and against unprovoked violent attacks by anyone who has chosen to make America their enemy. Instead, the Republicans have used this incident to divide the country, purposely, using deflection to obliterate any unity that might have normally resulted (a unity, obviously, that might have also endangered Romney’s election chances at the same time).
The fact that Republicans chose to exploit Benghazi for their own political gains is quite troubling. Republicans certainly seem to have abandoned any fondness they may have ever had for the old adage “United we stand, divided we fall” that was once their mantra. What a dismal state the Republican Party seems to have sunk into since the days of the “House Divided” speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1858. I wonder what President Lincoln would think of his party today?
Being told that I am “not very smart” because I choose to be more pragmatic in my thoughts is very sobering but disturbing at the same time. There needs to be a little more objectivity, a little more presumption of innocence and a little more benefit of the doubt. It is really what our country is all about: fairness and justice for all.
Even with this latest nonsense served-up by the Republicans over these past few weeks, the so called “smoking gun” that Republicans claim was found in an e-mail, it is painfully obvious that the sender of the e-mail was still under the impression that the Benghazi incident was a “spontaneous attack” by a group of protesters. In the e-mail, instructions outlined an included goal “to show that these protests were rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” This is the “smoking gun?” Hardly, to me it just confirms that the Republicans will stop at nothing to continue to sow the seeds of division wherever possible. The last thing we should do as a society is allow or encourage this pretentious witch hunt that truly is reminiscent of some McCarthy style Fifties mindless crusade.
There are several problems with this e-mail being the “smoking gun.” First and foremost, the statement the Republicans cite does not specifically reference the alleged Benghazi protest. In fact, a good argument could be made that it is referring to all the protests against the video that were in progress at the time. But, even if the statement was intended to reference the Benghazi protest, so what? White House advisors were still under the impression, based upon the initial CIA reports, that the incident was the result of a spontaneous attack inspired by the Cairo protests.
Second, the e-mail is not just specific to Benghazi but covers a wide range of different topics regarding current events in the Middle East. Lastly, Susan Rice is nowhere to be found in the list of recipients. I’m not sure if this really makes any difference but I thought I would note it anyway given that stories in the press seem to make it appear that it was an e-mail sent to Susan Rice. You can read the e-mail for yourself, here (page 14 of the “Judicial Watch” delivered document): declassified email. This so called “smoking gun” is more like a broken, dripping water pistol.
What I have seen over this Benghazi incident is an embarrassment; a demonstration of dirty politics at its worst, causing me to lose almost all respect for a Republican leader that I had once supported and, I am embarrassed to admit, had voted for in 2008. What these Republican leaders did and are still doing is reprehensible. Most of all, it is unfair. It’s not fair to be so condemning of the President for an intention that is pretty clear, never existed. My opinion is not limited to just President Obama in this regard but applies to any other President who has ever been unfairly judged, including President Bush, President Reagan, President Carter, President Hoover, etc.
Regardless, if it turns out, even after everything is said and done, that I am “not very smart” for giving the President the benefit of the doubt, then I am consoled by the fact that, at least, I am in the majority who do think pragmatism and levelheadedness less prone to political saber rattling are worthwhile investments that still have a certain degree of value in America. I wish the Republicans leadership would get on board with that type of thinking. In fact, I wish both parties would get on board with that type of thinking. If they did, we might actually be able to accomplish something positive for our country again. It might even result in bringing people together rather than tearing them apart. And for that last achievement, there is a hope, even a propensity for all of us to be just a little bit smarter.