Monday, July 23, 2012

Get Rid of the Damn Guns

There's been so much said since the horrific shooting deaths in Aurora, CO Friday. But our nation's leaders, in particular President Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, have been woefully silent on the one subject that counts: gun control. Not one word one about the need for new legislation from the two men who wish to be president for the next four years. Quite frankly, it's shameful and infuriating, and demonstrates the unstoppable power of the NRA and the gun lobby in our country today.

We've heard all the requisite yet meaningless nonsense about the need for "prayer" and "strength" and for Americans to "come together" during this time of tragedy. But several dozen people 'came together' in that Aurora movie theater, and unfortunately so did a murderous psychopath armed like Rambo with various semi-automatic assault weapons. When the hell are we going to actually do something, other than regurgitate empty sermons, to ban these weapons and get them off the streets and out of the hands of these violent monsters who commit such diabolical acts? Both Obama and Romney referred to the killer and his heinous act as "evil," yet both resorted to the same old tired compassion-speak about 'coming together' and prayer.

On the Sunday talk shows it was no different, as surrogates from both parties spewed their political rhetoric. While calling for action on Fox News Sunday, California Sen. Diane Feinstein cautioned about the timing: "I think this is a bad time to brace a new subject." Seriously? Is there a better time to push for gun control legislation than after a horrific shooting like this one? Feinstein, like so many of her colleagues in Congress, lives in mortal fear of the NRA and its influence on millions of voters.  

Speaking on the same program, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) spun the standard conservative rhetoric: "I really would hate to see a tragedy like this used to promote a political agenda to reduce Americans' freedom. Enough of our freedoms have already been taken away. We don't want to lose anymore." I'd like to know exactly which 'freedoms' he speaks of that have been "taken away" from him or anyone else. And, mind you, his very statement is just the sort of politicizing of the tragedy that he purports to be condemning. Johnson also suggested that if someone else was armed in that theater then maybe the killer would've been shot before he committed his carnage. This is another typical gun lobby spin. Yeah, that's exactly what we want. Let's have Old West-style gunfights in movie theaters, malls, parks, schools, offices, stadiums, supermarkets, libraries, etc. That'll reduce the body count, right?

This is a simple issue, people. It's a choice between allowing serial killers to easily purchase assault weapons and ammunition or not. We can stick our collective heads in the sand and "come together" to talk about God, prayer, healing and sing Kumbaya, but none of that--let me repeat...none of that--will stop the blood from spilling again. Have we learned nothing in the past thirteen years from the deadly massacres at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon etc? Unless, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (the only nationally prominent politician with balls) demanded, our elected officials pass new legislation outlawing assault weapons, our streets will continue to be littered with innocent dead bodies.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Who is the Real Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney's biggest problem is not that he's uber-rich. His problem is that he tries to pretend he's not. To be sure, Romney is not an everyman. He's a son of privilege, born on 3rd base yet arrogantly thinking he's hit the proverbial triple. He's a have with a capital H. But his real offense is in his clear and utter disdain for the have-nots.

Rick Santorum was right: Romney has no core. He will do and say anything to win favor and votes. He's redefined political expediency. The thing that voters hate more than a politician is a politician who doesn't own his own truth. And Romney's truth--be it his wealth, his questionable global investments, his dubious record at Bain Capital, or his record as Massachusetts governor--is precisely what he's been running from faster than Michael Johnson chasing another Olympic gold medal. 

To be president of the United States means having principles, values and a vision for America. Romney lacks all three virtues. I may disagree with everything former president George W. Bush stood for, but I have much respect for him, especially afforded the luxury of hindsight. I'm sure that sentiment will arouse ire in many of my liberal pals, but those folks can't see the forest through the partisan trees. Objectively speaking, Bush lacked many things, but what he had was conviction. Love him or hate him, you always knew where he stood. And as president, he executed his vision, albeit with the most controversy perhaps of any president in modern history.  

Barack Obama frustratingly falls somewhere in the middle of ineffective waffler and provocative visionary. He has a solid core and a strong moral compass. He's been a slow yet astute student of presidential politics, and I don't think we've come even close to seeing what he could ultimately deliver. While those who read this blog know I've been an extremely vocal critic of his over the years, I suspect that, if given a second term, he will rise to a level of accomplishment and greatness that will be an appreciable return on the Hope and Change investment. 

The danger in a Mitt Romney presidency is that Americans are in a conviction-vacuum, lacking any meaningful insight into his true beliefs and vision. The billion-dollar question is, would he lead as a moderate, as he did in Massachusetts, or is the real Mitt Romney, the 2012 Tea Party-poisoned automaton, the candidate whose current rhetoric is so far to the inflammatory right that he makes Bush seem like the compassionate conservative he set out to be.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Rep. Joe Walsh is a Coward

Rep. Joe Walsh is a coward. Not because he's never served in the U.S. military, but because he's so egregiously picked on a woman who did, and who lost both her legs defending America's freedom. Freedoms which have given Walsh the inalienable right to attack a true hero like Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth is a 20-year veteran, earning the rank of Lt. Colonel. In 2004 her legs were amputated after the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq was shot down with rocket-propelled grenades by insurgents. The attack almost destroyed her right arm as well. She'd chosen to pilot helicopters because few other combat roles are open to women. It Her service earned her multiple military awards including a Purple Heart, an Air Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. She currently serves in the Illinois National Guard along with her husband, Major Bryan W. Bowlsbey, also an Iraq War veteran. She hails from a military family. She's a Daughter of the American Revolution and her father is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Upon her return from combat she embarked on a mission to improve benefits for servicemen and women, serving as the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walsh, who Duckworth is now battling for his Illinois 8th Congressional district seat, has never served in the military and has never done a single thing for veterans. But that didn't stop this Republican blowhard chicken-hawk from attacking her patriotism and impugning her record.

The Tea Party freshman, speaking at a Town Hall meeting in Elk Grove this week, called Sen. John McCain a "noble hero" because he was reluctant to discuss his military service while campaigning in 2008, unlike Duckworth: “Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.

"I have so much respect forwhat she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country,” he continued, as he lowered his voice and leaned in dramatically. “Ehhh. Now let’s move on....What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh."

This sort of ugly, reprehensible attack on Democratic veterans is nothing new for these Republican cowards. Remember Georgia Rep. Saxby Chambliss's despicable smear of his opponent, Rep. Max Cleland, a decorated war hero and triple amputee? Saxby never served either. He dodged Vietnam through student deferments and a medical deferment for bad knees caused by a football injury. And remember the swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004? His five medals and two volunteer tours in Vietnam's treacherous Mekong Delta was apparently less patriotic than George W. Bush's missing year in the Texas Air National Guard or Dick Cheney's five deferments.

There was a time when the uniform of the American soldier was simply green, not blue or red. Military service was sacred; highly revered, respected and 100% of-limits from political attack. But sadly that's changed. Politics has become such a filthy dirty business that nothing is off-limits anymore. It's in that now-acceptable framework that a coward like Walsh feels entitled and empowered to attack a hero like Duckworth. What's even more reprehensible is the fact that many Americans condone this shameful behavior and reward it with their votes.

Having recently celebrated Memorial Day, where we honor those who died serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and in a week where we're commemorating America's independence, Walsh's smear of Duckworth is an especially cheap, detestable, contemptible attack not just on her but on the entire U.S. military and anyone who's honorably served and bravely defended our great nation.