Do Not Forget Cardinal Rule In Politics

A cardinal rule in politics and governing is that one’s opponent on an issue or policy yesterday will be an ally on a different policy or pressing matter today. While we may never really forget that fact, in the heat of politics and the heightened nature of our rhetoric, we too often set aside that working wisdom.  Over the past week, the back-and-forth of working alliances was again clearly demonstrated.

Pro-Ukraine think tankers on Monday brought Johnson to a private lunch in Dallas, Texas, to meet two dozen of the state’s leading conservative figures, including politicians, donors and captains of industry.

The message Johnson was there to deliver was simple: America must stay the course in Ukraine.

While I am an absolute and staunch supporter of the brave men and women of Ukraine and know Russia must be repelled from attacking a sovereign nation, my views of Johnson are, let us say, not very charitable. His lies that led to Brexit and his caddish personal lifestyle define the man.  But when it comes to the international goal of defeating Russia, we all can stand shoulder to shoulder with those who share our values against military aggression.  

“I just urge you all to stick with it. It will pay off massively in the long run”. 

The former U.K. prime minister flew to Texas as a growing number of conservative lawmakers, candidates and activists have started to question the size of the U.S. support package for Ukraine as it attempts to fight back against the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022.

But Johnson told Texan Republicans on Monday: “You are backing the right horse. Ukraine is going to win. They are going to defeat Putin.”

The lunch was not the first time Johnson has lobbied U.S. lawmakers on Ukraine’s behalf. He visited Washington in January, where he publicly urged the U.S. administration to give Ukraine fighter jets, and privately met Republican lawmakers on the same trip.

This weekend I read that Russia wants to arrest South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham following his comments related to the fighting in Ukraine. Following his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the conservative Republican described the U.S. military assistance to the country as “the best money we’ve ever spent’.

Photo via Reuters

There are many examples of Graham coming unglued and acting less than polished in the years following the death of his very good friend, John McCain, but once again the cardinal rule of governing applies concerning his work in Ukraine. On the matter of steadfastness with a policy to remove Russia from a sovereign nation the words and understanding from the senator allow us to be part of a larger group for a most justified conclusion.

The ever-moving series of alliances and working relationships in politics are often overshadowed by the bluster and desire to play to the base where money is raised and votes in elections are secured. That is easy enough to understand. But the work of governing demands that personal regards be put aside for the betterment of the people or the advancement of a policy. The cardinal rule of politics must always prevail. I am deeply pleased to see it working on behalf of Ukraine.

Senator Tammy Baldwin Has Nothing To Worry About With Anti-F-35 ‘Crowd’

Tuesday’s April 18th Wisconsin State Journal published a letter to the editor stating Senator Tammy Baldwin needed an anti-F-35 jet challenger in the 2024 statewide election. “Baldwin’s priorities are out of sync with Madison residents”, Steven Klafka wrote. Hardly, since I am a resident on the Madison isthmus, have heard the F-16s take off and land since becoming a homeowner in 2007, and strongly support the placement of the Air National Guard F-35s at Truax Field. Many in this city share an internationalist view, knowing we have a role to play in the world. It is the role of our nation to work in concert with our allies, and as a team fashion policy through our alliances, in order to meet the needs of our time. That can be achieved, in part, through our military might which includes F-35s.

Every single member of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation supported the placement of the F-35s at Truax. And for solid reasoning, ranging from military soundness and international concerns to the economic muscle that these jets along with the men and women associated with them bring to Dane County. I am never sure if the average person in Madison fully appreciates the amount of money that rolls into the local economy due to Truax.  Using 2020 data based on F-16s meant that this air unit employs 1,200 men and women. Nearly 500 of them are full-time employees, while 700 are traditional guardsmen.  The end result is a payroll of $62 million being pumped annually into our housing, auto, and so many other brick-and-mortar businesses in our local area.  Those who calculate such numbers have placed the economic impact in this region at $100 million.   Obviously, no elected official is going to spit on that powerhouse to our economy. Nor do the voters.

I have found in personal discussions since 2017 in relation to opponents of the F-35s there has been a constant theme. When digging a bit deeper into their reasoning it is soon discovered a strong antagonism exists about the military and a raft of policies of a military type our nation has engaged in. It does not matter that a military presence at Truax has proven to be a good neighbor for over 70 years. It does not matter that the men and women who work at Truax are on the local softball teams, our fellow church members, or are next to us at Brat Days on the Alliant Energy Center grounds. In one conversation a person opposed to the jets asked me, “Do you remember Guatemala?” (I had to look it up, as the CIA events in that nation took place in 1954!)

As I read the letter to the editor I thought back to a weekend news story last month about a Madison group marching in their attempt to thwart F-35 jets coming to Truax Field. I counted seven marchers. Not really enough to support a statewide senate candidate.

Pragmatism and the need of the international community must always be a part of the military placement of jets of this kind and the staffing needed to fly and maintain them. As such, when it comes to F-35 jets being stationed in Madison, there is only one side of the coin to be on—the same one as the 115th Fighter Wing. In the end, the F-35 jets will arrive at Truax, and the ones now fevered and fretting will move on to some other ‘diabolical’ plot that must be stopped.

Senator Baldwin made the correct call about the F-35s. The vast majority of the voters across Wisconsin support the decision.

Jack Teixeira Rooted in Christian Nationalism And White Supremacy

Jack Teixeira gets grouped with Bradley Manning (my second cousin) when it comes to the unacceptable act of releasing government documents. An online chat group site was where the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman placed highly classified material that very well might undermine war efforts in Ukraine regarding our efforts to thwart Russia. When I wrote about Wikileaks and before knowing Manning, (now Chelsea) was involved I stated, “it is imperative that candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries not be open to the general public in this manner.”   When it comes to the national security of a far higher order in the midst of war there can be zero tolerance given to anyone who releases such documents.  Governments have secrets and should have the ability to secure those they deem important.  (One can make that clear statement about military documents and still rightly argue that government often uses classified markings to secure too many facts from the general public, but that is another topic.)

What we are learning of Teixeira, 21, is troubling and begs the question of how he ever received clearance for having access to highly classified military documents. It is reported he would sometimes show up to class at Dighton-Rehoboth High School wearing camouflage and carrying a “dictionary-size” book on guns and tanks.  The New York Post reported that students recalled that Teixeira displayed some alarming behavior in school, including making purportedly racist remarks, and once showing up to class in a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of an AR-15 a day after the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.  

Leaking hundreds of sensitive documents about the war in Ukraine is astonishing in and of itself, but having access to such documents by one who, as the Washington Post reported, posted a video of himself wearing protective glasses and ear covers at a shooting range as he “yells a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target” is beyond the pale.

Jack Teixeira seems mired in a racist swamp where one can find many young white men, who then act dangerously. In his case he provided online group information and data about the war in Ukraine, the very type of documentation our government strived to keep away from the eager eyes in the Kremlin. That he is white and strongly associated with Christian nationalism and white supremacy (in his own words) fits a broader profile that is one which this blog often notes to be a problem in this nation. When we think of anti-Jewish rants the names of the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers come to mind. The video of Teixeira in this regard is most telling.

Many have discussed how the racism and listing of grievances on right-wing media are aimed at the easily led demographics. A large segment of Fox News’ viewer base was lulled into Tea Party politics and then further down the hole with Donald Trump, autocratic actions, and even supporting the undermining of a presidential election.  So when we see the anger—and yes, releasing military secrets and documents is a very visible act of anger—the nation is looking at it with the knowledge that white males in America have lived on a rainbow, but still are angry.  The entire power and governing structure of the nation were designed, from the drafting of the Constitution, to accommodate white males. And yet they are angry.

Trying to figure out what spurred Jack Teixeira will doubtless take us to right-wing media, a source of vitriol where President Obama or Vice-President Kamala Harris are scorned, mocked, and far worse. While there is a long list of cultural issues or economic matters such as large banks and past bailouts and COVID funding and now of all things, (drag shows!) that stir the rage of these people, the heart of it is always about race.

After all, a white majority population in America is not the future.  The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction.  And quickly.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way to social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment.  But it also allows for a certain segment to lash out and act in ways that society, or a democracy, cannot abide by.

The world of Jack Teixeira is about to be investigated nine ways to Sunday, as my folks might have termed it back home, and sadly, I suspect one of the legs of the stool will be racism that fed his hatred and then his treacherous actions.

Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence, $144 Million Settlement What America Needs To Face

I was pleased to learn from a radio newscast that the Department of Justice reached a tentative $144.5 million settlement agreement with the victims of the 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With the continuing list of mass shootings making headlines weekly, you can be forgiven for not recalling which mass shooting that happened to be.  So let me add here for the benefit of my readers it was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas. Well, as of this posting.

Former Air Force member Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire in November 2017, during a worship service which quickly resulted in twenty-six people being slaughtered while 22 others were injured. The $144 million settlement would resolve the federal government’s drawn-out legal battle with the families of the victims and survivors of the mass shooting after a federal judge found the government largely responsible for the attack.

The lawsuit has been interesting to follow for two reasonsFirst, gun violence must carry a huge price tag so to demonstrate to the public what is at stake when constructive efforts are not undertaken to control the ‘old wild west’ mentality across the nation. If the dead bodies of school children will not move a nation to act, then perhaps the financial factor is what will resonate within people where morals once existed. Secondly, this case showcases the lack of accountability by those who knew or should have known the mass shooter’s previous domestic assault conviction. 

Kelly had attacked his former wife and baby stepson, and that alone showed what a weak man he was.  That information should have been planted in our national database, and if it had been so inputted there is a strong probability that the mass shooting may not have occurred.  An intervention might have prevented him from buying deadly guns from licensed dealers.  I had been heartened in this slow-moving legal case when a federal judge ruled that the Air Force was 60% liable for the mass shooting because they were negligent in placing data into the national system.  Adding to the justified anger the victim’s families can feel is the fact the Defense Department, when conducting an investigation into the case, discovered that the Air Force failed six times to follow reporting procedures during the shooter’s five-year service. 

I have stated umpteen times that given almost 400 million guns are loose in the nation, there will need to be laws and processes undertaken to stem the unacceptable level of gun violence.  But to learn such a blatant lapse in sound judgment and prudence from the Air Force regarding a clearly angry male, and knowing no steps were taken given the law already on the books(!) so to lessen his chances of committing further danger to others requires that a massive financial settlement now occurs.

Gun violence must result in a steep price to be paid.  If knowing children need to be scraped off school classroom floors after bullets from assault-style weapons (which were meant for war) obliterate their small bodies does not move the conscience of the nation, then we need to find what will move Americans. Since greed and selfishness, sadly, are factors that move a fair amount of them, I strongly concur with the large DOJ settlement and urge more such legal constructions in cases around the nation.

After all, a Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence

House Republicans Can Show Leadership With Defense Spending For Pacific Forces

The most memorable Christmas for many of us occurred in 1991 when the Soviet flag that had for decades flown over the Kremlin came down. I suspect every living room in the nation had a television set turned on and though muted with folks all about as the holiday unfolded, watched as the world changed. It was far more than symbolism as the flag slipped away.  It was further confirmation of the continuance of massive changes that would move faster and reshape a once superpower where millions of people were caught up in the darkness of totalitarianism. Many have looked at the collapse of the USSR and asked with hindsight what we missed when thinking long-term about the next global challenges to be faced after the collective emphasis on fighting the Cold War was removed.  We should have focused on China.

9/11 shook the foundations of the American psyche, it was obvious we were not an insulated nation from the storms of the world.  But then with recklessness, we misapplied our outrage with the absurdity of an invasion of Iraq. Terrorism was a real and thorny issue to deal with, but there must always be pragmatism built into the construction of foreign policy.  After all, there were many reasons that President Bush (41) did not remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following his ouster from Kuwait.  Some argued that it would have run counter to UN agreements, others that the Arab allies would have left the coalition, but Bush and his advisors knew a vacuum of power in Iraq would prove highly troubling. What Bush knew then is what we all would come to agree with in the decades that followed. We spent so much time chasing the wrong goals for eight years under President Bush (43). We should have focused on China.

From the Cold War to the terrorism that consumed much of the bandwidth of some pols and state department staff there simply was not enough thinking about the next large global approach that needed to be considered.  The last (roughly) 500 years of Atlantic-dominated power from Western Europe to the Americas was giving way in varying ways and at varying speeds to the energetic and highly competitive nations and people of Southeast Asia. Over the years trade routes and supply lines and military threats have increased.  The interconnected nature of the world has increased, and with it has the threats to world economic stability should military strife occur. While President Obama was pivoting his administration to a new reality in that region, he was followed in the White House by a failure of monumental proportions in international relations at every turn starting in 2017. 

Over the past weeks, reports of a new emphasis on preparations for military assets and requirements designated for the Pacific forces have been coming from the Defense Department.  More of the details of what is being sought regarding defense funding caught my attention with a news report from Politico.

Alongside President Joe Biden’s budget request for next year, the Pentagon will submit a new $15.3 billion plan to fund Pacific forces, according to an unclassified version of the report obtained by POLITICO. That’s more than twice what DoD asked for last year, $6.1 billion, and a significant boost from what Congress authorized, $11.5 billion. The money will go toward buying missile defense systems, radars and space sensors, as well as increasing exercises and training.

The report warns of China’s rapid military buildup, and the increasing pressure on countries in the region to bend to its will. It follows a concerted push by the Pentagon in recent weeks to expand American military influence in the region, including a flurry of new deals with regional partners. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently traveled to Manila to announce an agreement with the Philippines giving the U.S. increased access to bases there, and the Marine Corps in January activated a new base on Guam.

The need for more defense funding is never a popular issue on my side of the political aisle. But alongside the correctness of trade agreements with other nations in the region (which also gins up misplaced angst from my side) and the strengthening of resolve from the US by aligning with nations for security deals we can and must send the correct message about the needs of the international community.  At a time when many scholars are asking if the mindset of the American Century is passing away it could be argued that with this new test of commitment and purpose, the US can renew its centrality to a world that needs a democratic-based adult on the world stage.

The question that will be answered, in part, by House Republicans who are blustering and threatening all sorts of things relating to our federal budget is if they will demonstrate our understanding of this global moment in Southeast East by placing our resources behind what we should have focused on since the Soviet flag came down from over the Kremlin. Last fall in the midterms, House Republicans had outlined a number of policy aims, with one being about investing in an efficient, effective military. What that meant was not outlined, but now might be the time for the House GOP leadership to commit to standing alongside liberal democracies and committing themselves to international law and rules of conduct.

Most Important News Photo From February 8th, 2023, The West Has Vested Interests In Defeating Putin

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy

While much of the nation ruminated over the disgusting rancor and deep embarrassment caused by some despicable Republicans at the State of the Union Address the international community was paying attention to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.  While conservative Republicans needed to explain away the truly monkey-like behavior from some of their caucus, the world was focused on Ukraine’s mission of “wings for freedom”. Leadership abroad and the severe lack of it within the GOP were on full display.

The pacing of sending the needed military weapons to the forces in Ukraine who are fighting with courage and success has been a concern on this blog for the past year.  There is no doubt that sending combat aircraft to help turn the tide against Russia’s offensive is a vital and essential aspect in the defense of a nation that underscores what can happen when the international order is threatened by an autocrat. Whatever reluctance remains to take that step with military aircraft, just as the case with top-grade tanks, must be removed sooner rather than later. 

I have been concerned with the stodgy process, as any reasoned person would be, regarding high-end military hardware getting to the places where it can do the best in reclaiming territory taken by Russian soldiers. While I applaud the promise from Britain to train Ukrainian fighter pilots to fly “sophisticated NATO-standard fighter jets” I am mindful of the troubling end of that sentence being “in the future”.  As noted in this blog, the process of consideration and study within the White House and among the Western powers requires some modification to meet the real-time needs of the Ukrainian soldiers who are doing the work on the battlefield.

Our nation has a vested interest, a “national interest” using the parlance from the days of my youth when the Cold War was raging, to use our international power to help defeat Russian President Putin’s efforts to re-vision the geo-political map.  I recall the words from my history teacher who fled Europe for these shores as Hitler came to power.  She made it clear that President Franklin Roosevelt did not beef up his moves on Europe due to a real threat to our homeland, but his awareness of what happens due to a real threat to the destruction of the liberal order of governments and world order should tyrants’ rule.  I suppose my views opposing illiberal moves that now are seen in places from Italy to Hungary, etc., started in that classroom with those real-world conversations.  

Our national interest today, as we stand with Ukraine is to defend a sovereign nation against a military threat from a thug who would not stop at the destruction of one nation.  And with that destruction is the dagger that would rip into the heart of the liberal world order.  Ukraine must have the military jets they need to fight today, so to prevent a larger disaster upon the world.

U.S. Correct To Supply Abrams Tanks To Ukraine, Putin Needs Reality Check

The United States’ policy to supply Abrams tanks to Ukraine is the proper course of action to take.  The fact we are months late in taking such a course of action is the concerning part.  We can be proud of the commitment our country and other Western democracies have shown in the face of Russian aggression against a sovereign nation.  At the same time, we must be mindful of the mushy ground that those like Congressman Mark Pocan planted their feet when dealing with this war, a move in 2022 that still deeply offends.

In 2022 Progressive House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden asking that he pair the military and financial support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a “proactive diplomatic push” that involves direct talks with Russia. It remains one of the most serious mistakes that the group made by playing into the efforts of Russian President Putin to lure some members from the Western alliance to make concessions. Since no one should make concessions to a nation that has committed war crimes goes without saying. But what was equally damaging was promoting a course of action that only would result in prolonging the war.

It was most troubling that Progressive Democrats signed the letter, with seemingly no awareness, that Putin has every intention to change the historical narrative of the last hundred years, not just the years following the end of the Cold War. He wants to make Ukraine, Europe, and indeed the whole world conform to his own twisted version of history. There can not be an inch of wiggle room when it comes to what Putin gains from this act of aggression. The letter was a sign of weakness and damaging to the long-term interests of the NATO alliance. But, hey, there was probably a quick and fleeting political upside that more concerned the signators.

I like peace, compromise, and diplomacy, but first, the aggressors that blasted homes, schools, and hospitals must be removed from Ukraine. No one starts negotiating the wishes of the madman when he still holds a dagger to the throat of the victim.  Therefore, the news that we will supply 31 M1 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of one Ukrainian tank battalion, is a solid move and worthy of praise.  But the reluctance for months to make the move is concerning and warrants attention.  While it seems Germany may have been the force to push the Biden White House to make the shift in policy, it must not be seen as the last move our nation will be required to take with heavy armaments as this war progresses. The process of consideration and study within the White House requires some modification so as to meet the real-time needs of the Ukrainian soldiers who are doing the work on the battlefield.

Not only are the tanks a solid and lethal way to address Putin’s military, but it sends a clear and unmistakable statement the West will not relent or bend the way of Congressman Pocan. Talking can only occur with a real reduction in attacks by Russia and a removal of their troops from the soil of Ukraine.  

Putin has been delusional in his views about a reconstructed Soviet type-era of countries for a long time.  He has often talked of Russia having been “robbed” of territory going back to the 1920s when the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was established.  In his mind, one that is consumed with paranoia and visions of grandeur, Ukraine can only be sovereign in partnership with the homeland, Russia. To that fallacy, the West says, NO. The M1 Abrams tanks will go far in alerting the autocrat to the limits of his delusions.

GOP Senators Correct: MiG-29 Fighter Jets Required For Ukraine

Wednesday night while driving home NPR reported one of those ominous news stories, which sadly, is the kind we are coming to expect multiple times a day since Ukraine was attacked. In a throw-everything-at-the-wall moment, the Kremlin had accused Ukraine of planning to use chemical weapons. It did not take many rotations of my fast-moving car before I knew what this meant.

Russia is plotting their PR move, so to have a false claim to justify their own perverse use of these weapons which are banned under international law. Not that Russian President Putin, mind you, is at this point worried about international law.

It is due to the next steps that Putin is obviously considering that require Western governments to reevaluate the steps which need to be taken to stop Putin.

As akin to many of my readers, I thought the pandemic was the worst thing to befall the world in a very long time. With it ebbing globally there was a collective hope there might be a reprieve of sorts. For everyone. But I sit in front of the television with tears filling my eyes due to what is happening to children in Ukraine. Or the grandmother who was crying as she lost sight of the child she was helping flee their country.

Many arguments have been presented as to why a military reaction from NATO–overt or covert–needs to be measured or limited or not taken at all. Funneling anti-tank weapons to Ukraine is not a secret to anyone. That is acceptable by Western leaders. But the use of Polish jets in the hands of Ukraine, who have pleaded for the aircraft, is deemed a step too far.

There are analysts describing Putin as in a corner, and it now is the requirement of the West to find a way to let him see a way out of the carnage he created. That sounds nice if this were all some theoretical scenario being played out at a war college. But this is reality, and tough responses are required. After all, we are not dealing with fostering dialogue and a working compromise with a rational person. Putin is a madman wedded to delusional visions of conquest.

I have not been reticent about the need for taking a tougher stance following the first missile launched into Ukraine or the first tank that invaded that sovereign nation. As such, I align with professionals who work in international relations such as former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and experts in foreign affairs within our government.

As such, I watched and listened today as Senate Republicans urged President Biden to support Poland’s proposal to transfer MiG fighter jets to Ukraine to defend against Russia. And I fully concur with their reasoning and logic. (This also is a good lesson as to how our country should work. We need not be of the same party to find common ground.)

“The administration claims the reason they blocked this transfer is a concern about escalation. Really? Vladimir Putin is aware that American-provided stingers are killing Russians today. And our president knows that, too.” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said.
“America should be doing everything we can, short of boots on the ground or in the air, to protect Ukraine. Our message today to the president: Send the MiGs, arm our Ukrainian friends right now.”

The senator I truly gravitated towards today was Mitt Romney as his argument is where I have been from the start of this crisis.
“We’re not going to stop the killing in Ukraine until we in NATO fear Putin less than he fears us,” added Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
“It’s time for him to fear what we might do because, frankly, his military is bogged down in Ukraine, and if NATO were to get activated in some way by his provocation, obviously, he’d be in a very weak position.”
Strength is not a provocation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “They need this assistance and they need it right now.”

In no way am I being light or flippant about the risks associated with action, but without a doubt taking anything softer than a full-out resolve to stop Putin will only increase the deaths in Ukraine, and add more possible threats to Western Europe.

The world is watching. And history will judge us. I can argue why letting Putin’s army grind deeper into a hole it can not win while Ukrainian lives are lost and depravity is let loose by Russians must not be allowed to continue. The threat of an expansion of the war with chemical agents by Russia must never be allowed to begin.

It simply has to end…and that will only be achieved if Putin is stopped.

And so it goes.