President Ford Not Part Of Today’s GOP

It was the very first thing I read Thursday morning.  It was an article on-line from the Washington Post, and after reading it I was even more nostalgic for the common sense type of Republicans that once were plentiful in America. 

After reading the article I again lamented the sad state of the GOP today being dominated by the hard-core culture warriors, having no room anymore for the ‘Gerald Ford’ types. That is a shame.  Right-wing conservatives have taken hold of the GOP, and the moderates of yesterday such as Ford and Nelson Rockefeller would no longer be able to climb to political power.

What made me think backwards in time Thursday was the news article about the interview granted Bob Woodward by former President Ford three years ago.  At the age of 90 Ford was able to voice his disagreement over the Iraq war and see the shortcomings of Bush’s war policy.   Ford had granted the interview on the condition that it not be released until after his death.

Ford found the rationale of seeking weapons of mass destruction a lame argument for starting a war, and stated he would have sought ways to prevent the conflict, notably by extending the time for sanctions to work. Ford said he would have worked hard to find an alternative to war.  Bush has never been accused of working hard at any time in college or the White House so……

It should be noted that Ford’s death comes at the same time as a mighty sad statistic took place.  The deaths from the war in Iraq is now greater than the number of lives lost in New York and Washington on 9/11. Sadly, the deaths just keep happening as Bush continues to believe that his views about spreading democracy are more justified than the realities that the rest of us are aware of as we follow the news and recall world history.  It is also ironic that the democracy Bush hopes to spread in the Middle East runs counter to the democracy he seems so happy to undermine right here in America.  The pure folly of the war, and the fact that all these soldiers have died in vain in Iraq, is plain for all to see.  All, that is, except George Bush.

Ford also had a problem with the domestic surveillance program, which also sent this blogger up the wall a year ago.  Ford said in the interview he was “dumbfounded” when he heard that Bush had allowed this activity to take place in America.  I think I might have used stronger language at the time.

As we look back this week and recall the days when President Ford was in the Oval Office, we need to be mindful that in the GOP world today he would never have the chance to rise to power in the House, never would become Vice President, and never would be nominated at a national convention.  That is how far the GOP has moved away from the center as it lurched to the right in the past 30 years, and America suffers as a result.

The public policy lessons of the past that were produced by moderate Republicans such as Jerry Ford should not be forgotten or rejected by the hard core conservatives that run the nation today.  Those in the GOP who steer our nation into the ditch today should not discount the fact that Ford is recalled with warmth and affection because of both his comforting style and moderate policies.

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2007 Must Usher In Mideast Peace Talks

If we have learned nothing else from the Middle East over the past six decades, we should at least understand that military solutions are not the answer to long simmering problems in that region of the world.  The only route to a real lessening of tensions is a step-by-step political process where all sides have the opportunity to engage others with ideas and proposals.  The first step in any such process is to actually start talking.  To accomplish that there needs to a powerful and evenhanded broker that will bring all sides to the table.

That broker had been, until the year 2000, the United States.  With our power and prestige, an overall balanced approach to resolving the need for a Palestinian homeland, and powerful incentives to move talks in a progressive direction, the US had been the force that helped to produce results. The last major effort by the US towards peace between Israel and Palestinians however, took place in the last year of President Bill Clinton’s time in the Oval Office.  When President Bush took power the peace efforts were placed on the back burner as if a cooling off period would somehow benefit the tinderbox of the world. 

The result of not talking between the various sides in the Middle East, or our failure to dialogue with our enemies in the region, has produced complete instability.  The conflict that raged this year in southern Lebanon, or the complete breakdown of Iraqi society due to our invasion, is more than enough proof that festering problems not resolved through the political process will spiral out of control when a military ‘solution’ is added to the mix.  At the point when weapons are used the anger and resentment only is increased and each side becomes more polarized and separated from the other side.

What I have just written is all Diplomacy 101, yet there seems to be many in the Bush Administration that have not yet come to understand the need for real talks between Israel and the Palestinians, or between the United States and nations such as Iran and Syria. 

The main players in the Middle East have such a long and tortured past that they themselves cannot start talks with their sworn enemies.  The United States must seriously and quickly pick up the few shreds of credibility we have left after what President Bush has done to the region, and leverage it for peaceful resolutions of the regional problems.  Both Israel and the Palestinians need us to bring them to the table. Israel gets nervous when forced to talk but we must not allow the tail to wag the dog any more as the stakes are too high for our interests.

For instance there is now the small opening between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians that should be seized on as an opening for talks. There has been an agenda left undone, commitments made and not honored that can be discussed between each side.

The release this week of over $100 million dollars of Palestinian funds by Israel, and other overtures recently should be viewed in a larger context and marshaled towards talks between the sides.  At the same time the talks could be used to stop aggression from both sides, the latest being the building of another illegal settlement on the West Bank by Israel.

This coming year the crises in the Middle East demands the Bush Administration put aside their pettiness and arrogance and start serious diplomatic talks.  2007 needs to be the year for a serious diplomatic effort in the Middle East.  Come on, Condi, earn your pay.

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President Ford Showed Leadership With Pardon

It was not unexpected, and yet it is a national time of sorrow to hear that President Gerald Ford has died.  I think that President Ford well served his country by granting a pardon to Richard Nixon in 1974.  I wrote about this matter in a post just a few months ago.

There have been many points of view about the pardon over the decades but I still view Ford’s action to be one of the most sincere and brave decisions that any President has made in my lifetime.  I grew up in the final months of Watergate and was fascinated as a child by the events taking place in Washington.  I have spent the past 20 years as an avid reader and thinker about the life and times of Richard Nixon, and my bookshelves have more than 40 volumes about the man.  As a result I have a very firm set of beliefs about the actions of President Ford when he granted the pardon.  There is every reason to have wanted Nixon to be brought to justice, but President Ford understood that there was a difference between what the nation wanted, and what it needed.  It was because Ford showed real leadership that our national nightmare did end. 

It is a grateful nation that bids him farewell.

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Shame On Professional Football

My blog is free of professional sports 99.9% of the time. But I must post my thoughts over what the football leagues did on Christmas Day. 

Before I start, it is only fair to say I am not a football fan.  My father and I remarked a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, as we were both reading the Sunday papers, that neither one of us had ever watched an entire football game on TV.  Football was not a part of my growing up experience, and I feel just fine as a result.  As an adult I have no loyalty to any team, and am always at a loss as to what to say when some people mope around on Monday morning because their favorite team lost a game on Sunday afternoon.   And like my mom and dad I too don’t like to see 60 Minutes delayed on a Sunday night as the final quarter of a football game is finished on CBS.  When I lived in northeast Wisconsin folks would talk about the glory days of the Green Bay Packers and for many it seemed as if time for them had stopped. It was rather sad to see.   I was never able to relate to their conversations of a certain play in a football game decades earlier that somehow seemed heroic to them. 

But is was on Christmas afternoon that I was floored when I finally turned on the television and found that the NFL were playing games on a Holiday.  The idea that Christmas might be reserved for family and home seems to be old fashioned for the greedy bastards who own the teams, set the season football schedule, or who market the games on the broadcast networks.  The millionaires who play the game on Christmas may not be fazed about missing the Holiday, but I suspect the folks on the other end of the salary spectrum who are parking attendants and janitors might feel different.  The idea that Christmas might be held as a special day for our nation, and not subjected to the same crass commercialization that led up to the Holiday, seems too much to hope for.  The fact that the football leagues could not schedule their season without ruining Christmas for many Americans shows that family values are in short supply in professional sports.

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Bush Will Be The One To Watch In 2007

The quest for the White House in 2008 is well underway with candidates forming exploratory committees, stockpiling cash, and hiring the brightest political operatives in the business.  In fact, the race is so far ahead of where we normally are at this time that one candidate, Senator Bayh of Indiana, not only took the initial steps towards a campaign, but has already withdrew from the race, correctly understanding he was more a potential V.P. pick than a presidential nominee for 2008. 

While there is plenty of action to follow in the wide-open presidential race in the months to come as both Democrats and Republicans scramble for attention and money, I really think the best story to follow in 2007 will be President Bush.  Really.  Since being re-elected in 2004 Bush’s poll numbers have continually eroded due to his foreign policy decisions, and the erosion of our civil rights.  All national polling strongly proves that the pitfalls produced as a result of the Bush Administration’s actions over the last six years demand corrections.  The question I have, and what I will be watching during this coming year, is whether Bush has the ability to extricate himself from his self-inflicted damage?

From the war in Iraq where a military ‘victory’ is now long past possible, to his war on the U.S. Constitution, the President has many issues he can work on, and correct in 2007, if he has a desire to make a change.   Bush could just embrace the noble ideas that were found in the Magna Carta, and uphold the rights of those accused of crimes in this country, and his critics would have to admit an earthquake was taking place within George Bush.  I admit it very sad that we would even need to remind any President about the need for fair jury trials, having lawyers for the accused, and a full understanding of what charges were pending against the accused.  But such is the state of the American Presidency that today any movement towards those enlightened ideas would actually be news worthy.

As one who enjoys watching how any President leads the nation, and positions himself for the history books, I am going to be most interested this coming year in what Bush does, and how he communicates to a very nervous and anxious nation.  The fact that Bush actually won the 2004 race proves he is an effective politician.  In 2007 I will be watching to see if  he is able to shift his footing politically, and succeed with changing those policies that today are collapsing all around him.  Can he pivot his administration in a new direction through action and words, demonstrating an understanding for the need of a workable foreign policy? Can he start to revive his poll numbers?  Can he still play to the history books?  Will Congress treat Bush like a lame duck President, or respect any newfound Presidential luster should it emerge?  How far will his fellow Republicans distance themselves from an Administration that can’t right the ship of state?

Needless to say it is a daunting task for Bush, the former head cheerleader of an all boys high school.  Eighty percent of the most notable historians when polled in early 2004 for the History News Network already then viewed the Bush Presidency as a failure.  Recent polls of historians in the past weeks have again found Bush being relegated with the likes of Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding.  While it is true that decades must pass before one can see history from a more proper perspective and evaluate the effects of any President, the dire facts today from the Middle East, to the red ink in Washington, paint a legacy that does not bode well for Bush.

Ronald Reagan knew that in his final term he needed to be guided by the larger themes that would dominate the history books.   His bluster was blunted with more stable policy choices as evidenced by his work with the Soviet Union, along with the firm guidance of his wife, Nancy Reagan.  If Bush has any friends among his close advisers they will urge a sea change in direction, and a total removal of the arrogance that has prevailed for far too long in this Administration.  Laura would be wise to follow Nancy’s lead and use firmness in counseling her husband.

All the Presidential contenders will create interesting stories in 2007 but the real action will still take place, as it always does, with the current residence of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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This Little Girl Will Be Home For Christmas

She is five years old and will be out of the hospital tomorrow.  Not the type of opening one expects for a Christmas story.

I met this little girl earlier this year while I waited for something in a local shop.  She wore a hat in such a way that I could tell she had either lost most, or all of her hair.  She was in a chair alongside me, leafing through a large book of animals from around the world.  Her outgoing attitude drew me into conversation with her and soon I too was leafing through the book and making up stories that this or that animal lived in trees outside of homes with little girls who wore pink coats.  (She wore a pink coat.)  With each crazy thing I would make up she broke into a broad smile and laughed loudly.  I enjoy children, so it was fun to tease her and make her squeal with laughter.  Her mother was busy in the shop and was pleased her daughter was content.  I was to learn that the little child was related to the shop’s owner.

The next time I saw the child in the shop was when she was pictured on a poster for a fundraiser to help pay medical bills for her bone marrow transplant.  That hit me really hard.  I could tell when I had joked with her about the animals that something was wrong, but her continuous laughter blunted the harder facts of her illness, and made her seem healthy.

This week I talked with one of her close relatives and found that the medical procedure was successful.  While that was the best news of the day, I got a lump in my throat when I heard about this child’s care and concern for another sick child on the same floor of the UW-Children’s Hospital.  At night she would often hear this other child cry down the hall, and so when her daddy came to visit she would tell him to go and sit at the other girl’s bed to help her feel better, and not be so afraid and alone.  The father reacted, and did as his small daughter requested.  As you might suspect I think this little kid is pretty special.

It has been seven weeks since the bone marrow procedure and this little girl has not seen summer give way to fall, has not stomped in the colored leaves, or played with the small amounts of snow that has landed in our yards.  But tomorrow she is going home and will be back in her own surroundings with a family that has seen many valleys this year, and now have made it to the top of the mountain in time for Christmas.  I hope that their Christmas tree is loaded with lots of lights that glimmer and sparkle, and that it all is reflected in the eyes of a little girl with a continuous giggle and laughter.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the need for toys to be donated for the kids at the UW-Children’s Hospital.  These are the type of kids I was writing about.  Each child has a unique story just as touching and compelling.  There is still time to reach out and make a difference for the Holiday.

I wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!  I will return to blogging on December 27th.
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Citizens Heard, Coast Guard Backs Down

This is how the system is supposed to work.  After many hearings where the vast majority of those attending voiced strong opposition to the proposed live ammunition fire zones in the Great Lakes by the Coast Guard, the plan was been torpedoed.  The Coast Guard did the appropriate thing, and pulled the plug on a plainly horrible idea.

The fear of terrorism has created many poorly thought out ideas in our country, but blasting lead and copper bullets into the Great Lakes was so unsound that only fringe conservatives could find anything positive to say about it.  For those types of conservatives anything that pops loudly must be a good thing.  But for concerned citizens who really care about not polluting our lakes, or about the safety of those who use these bodies of water, the folly of this plan was clear from the start.

Members of Congress, led by the great Dave Obey from Wisconsin, joined other Representatives from Minnesota and Michigan to help stop this plan, which would have closed, from time to time, 2,500 square miles of the Great Lakes.  In addition two environmental groups are considering lawsuits against the Coast Guard for firing lead bullets this year on the Great Lakes, and thereby violating federal environmental laws.  Thousands of lead bullets in any one of the United States’ most amazing lake resources is a shame, and should be addressed in court.

Our fears over terrorism, and proposed plans to make us secure, should not make matters worse, but often that is exactly what happens.  I know a little old lady in Stetson, Maine who still believes that the ‘Russkies” (as she calls them) are going to come up the Sebasticook, a tributary of the Penobscot River, and take over the country.  She really has these concerns since she is a product of the Cold War.  Thankfully, she is not making defense policy.  And thankfully, the Coast Guard is not going to have their poorly thought out ideas on fighting terrorism bear fruit on the Great Lakes.

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Rep. Wieckert Poses As Ethics Reformer

It is always nice to see when a politician comes into the sunshine, and finally supports a bill that other concerned legislators and citizens have long backed.  Such is the case with Wisconsin State Representative Steve Wieckert of Appleton.

The Republican politician sent out a press release stating his support for the proposed ethics reform package that was announced last week with strong bi-partisan support.  Wieckert says the bill will place Wisconsin in the forefront of ethics reform in the nation, and praises the work of State Senator Ellis, who is the author of Senate Bill 1, which the new bill mirrors. 

Uplifting as all this sounds today, it must be remembered that Wieckert was one of those Republicans who on Tuesday May 2, 2006 at 5:34 P.M, decided to kill ethics reform in the State Assembly.  His vote to not suspend the rules, and take Senator Ellis’s bill (the same man Wieckert now praises) up for debate on the floor makes me think his new-found love of ethics reform is more show than substance. 

Wieckert, like other members of his party understand what happened to Republicans in Wisconsin on Election Day.  While his vote for reform now is welcome, I think it important to remind the voters that his press release is more about posing for Holy pictures than a sincere desire to see ethics reform in Wisconsin.  If Wieckert and other Republicans had stood up to Speaker John Gard and demanded a debate last May this matter would now be law….and Wisconsin would already be the talk of the nation.

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