Is Government ‘Elitist’, Or Just Showing Leadership?

Are the citizens of a nation always right?  Today as I followed the news that question came to mind, again.

Two examples in two different countries point to a larger issue that I think should be thought about.

In the United States President Obama and the Democrats in congress urged the public to understand that the health care component to the larger economy was in dire need of repair.  A plan was fashioned, voted on, and signed into law.  A loud segment of the nation found the law unsupportable and are striking back in the mid-term elections.

Meanwhile in France  a seventh day of strikes and clashes are taking place.  The problem has grown to such an extent that France has begun importing electricity as the wave of strikes against pension reforms takes hold of energy supplies.

The news is so bad that President Sarkozy warned that the economy and jobs could be hit if the disruption did not end quickly.

I think these two issues should make us think a bit.

Here in America the Democrats have often been labeled as elitist and out of touch.  ‘How dare they preach to us, or try to ram their national policies down our throats’ is the common type of refrain often heard on the campaigns trail from those who are upset.

But is it not the role of leaders to outline a problem facing the nation and then find ways to remedy it?  Does fulfilling the role of leadership make Obama and the Democrats ‘elitist’ for thinking about a matter and acting?  Is Sarkozy ‘elitist’ for taking a stand on pension reform and thinking France needs to have a higher retirement age?

Given the populist wave in America against those who are educated, study the issues, and work to find remedies then should I assume the Tea Party would be on the side of the protestors who are angry at  Sarkozy?  And if not, why not?  Are the citizens of France not fighting the ‘elitist’ attitudes of government too?

Or is the Tea Party only opposed to smart people living within their own country?

The idea that smart people are to be shunned from office, and only those who somehow yell loud enough are worthy of election is a frightful thing.  To be called elitist because one actually cares enough to read, study, and care about an issue is a really horrible way to frame an election. 

It would also be a dreadful way to run America should they win in numbers large enough to matter.

The Oval Office Has Been Remodeled

It looks grand!

While President Obama was on a much deserved vacation the Oval Office was given a needed update.

I think one of the perks of being President or First Lady would be the chance to update and redecorate the various rooms of the White House.    With so many pieces of art and historic artifacts to choose from the possibilities would be endless. 

When it comes to the Oval Office there are some things that remain regardless of the person serving the nation.  For instance, the golf shoe marks left by President Eisenhower near the door in the Oval Office.   But for the most part the rest is up to the President to decide on how it looks.

Even though I am one who places more color into rooms than most I must say I love the color scheme for the office.  It looks professional, powerful, and yet warm and inviting.

Gone is the sunburst rug that Mr. Bush loved so much; designed by his wife, Laura, he used to say it evoked a spirit of optimism. In its place is a more muted, mostly wheat and cream-colored carpet featuring the presidential seal in the center, and ringed on its edge with five quotations selected by Mr. Obama – four from former presidents (Lincoln, Kennedy and both Roosevelts) and one from the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Bush’s yellow brocade couches have been replaced with two custom-made sofas of brown cotton that resembles velvet. They face a boxy table, fashioned from American walnut and mica, that features a fruit bowl – not flowers – as its centerpiece. There is a lone navy blue pillow on one of the couches, which pulls in the blue from some new, modern table lamps.

The new wallpaper is striped, gold and yellow, but the pictures – portraits of Lincoln and Washington – have remained, as has the grandfather clock. Mr. Obama reupholstered Mr. Bush’s two mahogany chairs and kept the desk, called the Resolute, that every chief executive since Rutherford B. Hayes — with the exception of Johnson, Nixon and Ford — has used.

Shirley Sherrod Plays Hardball With Obama White House

I am very supportive of the actions that Shirley Sherrod is employing in her attempt to right her name, and focus the attention on those who should have stepped up and acted more forcefully during the past days. 

This morning Shirley Sherrod made news, and put the focus on the White House.  There will need to be a reaction from the White House.   Placing President Obama in the center of this controversy will make many squirm.  He will not be where he wants to be, but it is where he needs to be, and should have been, from day one.  There are two national conversations that need to be had.  First, is the one over race.  Second, is the one over the  prigs on the right who think they can do anything, and say anything, and be touted as reasonable when they are pure slime and need to be called out for what they truly are.  The President of the United States needs to enter the fray and make a statement and stand alongside Shirley Sherrod in the Rose Garden.  Given how she feels right now I think Obama might want to move quickly on this matter before she gives another interview……

Shirley Sherrod is correct in the media relations part of this story, as she needs to stand up for herself.  There have been a limited number these past days in Washington that have done so on her behalf.  While I understand those in the White House who think it is their duty to protect the President from getting dirty on this matter, I also know it is the President’s administration that allowed this crap to stick to the wall.  If my readers think I am a bit pissed at the Obama White House this morning, you are correct.

Now let’s get cracking at the White House to remedy this wrong! 

BULLETIN — George Stephanopoulos: “[O]n ‘GMA,’ Shirley Sherrod says that she’s not ready to accept Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s job offer. She wants to hear more from the Secretary and his boss – President Obama. ‘I can’t say that the President is fully behind me,’ Sherrod told me. ‘I would hope that he is…I would love to talk to him.’”  solve the issue of racism in USDA. … They talked about the Office of Outreach, and dealing with discrimination within the agency. … I haven’t seen the offer: The Secretary said he would e-mail it to me — I have not seen it yet. So before I say ‘no’ totally, I would like to look at that, to weigh it.

–Sherrod, to Meredith Vieira, in-studio on “Today”: “I really would not like want the president to apologize to me. I would love to have a CONVERSATION with him. … I’d like to talk to him a little … bit about the experiences of people like me — people at the grassroot level, people who live out there in rural America, people who live in the South. I know he does not have that kind of experience. Let me help him a little bit with how we think, how we live, and the things that are happening.”

–Sherrod goes after Breitbart: “I didn’t know of him before this. But the things he’s doing, … they’ve been done more to divide us, so we CAN’T move on. … He knew his actions would take Shirley Sherrod down — he didn’t mind doing that. … He’s never offered to apologize for what’s he’s done. … It would be HARD for me to forgive him at this point.”

–TICK-TOCK — Sherrod still asserts Ag invoked White House when firing her: “I stand by that. … The FIRST call I received said, ‘We’re putting you on administrative leave.’ I had to explain to my leadership staff, because we were quite a ways from the office, in a meeting. … I told them, ‘I have to leave and turn this government car in and get my car and go home.’ … The next call was, ‘Shirley, we’re going to have to ask you to resign.’ And then, ‘THE WHITE HOUSE wants you to resign.'”

–Sherrod tells Meredith she’s inclined to say “NO” to the offer: I would not want to be that individual that the [Agriculture] Department and everyone is looking to to solve the issue of racism in USDA. … They talked about the Office of Outreach, and dealing with discrimination within the agency. … I haven’t seen the offer: The Secretary said he would e-mail it to me — I have not seen it yet. So before I say ‘no’ totally, I would like to look at that, to weigh it.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Political Cartoons

See these, and more here.

Barack Obama Says He Has “A Mandate To Move The Country In A New Direction”

I was waiting for this word, the ‘M word’ if you will, to be used by Barack Obama.  

When the Supreme Court gave George Bush a one vote victory in 2000, the Republicans acted like they had a mandate.  It is truly good to hear the word ‘mandate’ used propetly after the resounding victory this month at the polls where votes were actually counted, and trust was truly placed on the shoulders of a candidate.

“We had a decisive win … and so I don’t think there is any question we have a mandate to move the country in a new direction,” Obama said at a press conference.

For those that might disagree with that, and one can only do so for purely political reasons, lets examine why Obama indeed does have a mandate to change the nation.

By historical standards, Obama’s win fits relatively nicely into the mandate category.

He took 365 electoral votes and 52.6 percent of the popular vote, totals that compare very favorably to George W. Bush’s electoral and popular vote counts (286, 50.67 percent in 2004; 271, 47.88 percent in 2000) as well as those of former President Bill Clinton who took 379 electoral votes in his 1996 win over former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole (R) and 370 in beating then President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

(Obama’s win does not constitute a landslide by modern historical definitions, however, as his vote totals don’t come close to the 525 electoral votes and nearly 59 percent of the popular vote then President Ronald Reagan took in his win over former Vice President Walter Mondale of Minnesota.)

And, Obama also assured the sort of downballot majorities — a gain of 24 seats in the House and seven seats (and counting) in the Senate — that typically accompany so-called presidential mandates.

Bloggers Serve Important Role Over Sarah Palin

I was amused at how Sarah Palin views the blogging world.  She thinks, as stated in a recent interview, (one of those things she was not able to do during the campaign) that liberal bloggers are in pajamas stationed in their parent’s basement.  She knows that the blogging world played a role in illuminating her to the nation, and is of course, not pleased.

This blog, as many others around the nation, seem to be on overdrive when it comes to Sarah Palin.  Some agree with my desire to post every aspect about the controversial choice as the Republicans Vice-Presidential nominee.  Others take exception; one even noting weeks ago that the liberals would discover all the coverage would only make her more of an asset on Election Day. 

I post on Sarah Plain for two reasons.  First and foremost, I am fascinated with the political story that seems more fiction than reality.  In my wildest writings for pleasure, I could never concoct her storyline and make it seem plausible, yet every morning the newspapers have the latest real-life chapter about Palin above the fold.  Second, I post about the Alaska Govenor because I think John McCain’s choice for a vice-president was so flawed, and insane, that it needed as much grassroots exposure as could be gained.  Like many others bloggers can attest, Sarah Palin is great for readership numbers every day.  Many fellow Americans are as interested, or concerned, as I am.

Today I read a most powerdul article about the rationale to post on Palin.  Andrew Sullivan is one of those bloggers that we all envy just a bit with his daily hits.  He writes what I feel, and I suspect many of my fellow bloggers also feel, as we look back over the past couple of months.

Let’s be real in a way the national media seems incapable of: this person should never have been placed on a national ticket in a mature democracy. She was incapable of running a town in Alaska competently. The impulsive, unvetted selection of a total unknown, with no knowledge of or interest in the wider world, as a replacement president remains one of the most disturbing events in modern American history. That the press felt required to maintain a facade of normalcy for two months – and not to declare the whole thing a farce from start to finish – is a sign of their total loss of nerve. That the Palin absurdity should follow the two-term presidency of another individual utterly out of his depth in national government is particularly troubling. 46 percent of Americans voted for the possibility of this blank slate as president because she somehow echoed their own sense of religious or cultural “identity”. Until we figure out how this happened, we will not be able to prevent it from happening again. And we have to find a way to prevent this from recurring.

It happened because John McCain is an incompetent and a cynic and reckless beyond measure. To have picked someone he’d only met once before, without any serious vetting procedure, revealed McCain as an utterly unserious character, a man whose devotion to the shallowest form of political gamesmanship trumped concern for his country’s or his party’s interest. We need a full accounting of the vetting process: who was responsible for this act of political malpractice? How could a veep not be vetted in any serious way? Why was she not asked to withdraw as soon as the facts of her massive ignorance and delusional psyche were revealed?

This deluded and delusional woman still doesn’t understand what happened to her; still has no self-awareness; and has never been forced to accept her obvious limitations. She cannot keep even the most trivial story straight; she repeats untruths with a ferocity and calm that is reserved only to the clinically unhinged; she has the educational level of a high school drop-out; and regards ignorance as some kind of achievement. It is excruciating to watch her – but more excruciating to watch those who feel obliged to defend her.

Her candidacy, in short, was indefensible. It remains indefensible. Until the mainstream media, the GOP establishment, and the conservative intelligentsia acknowledge the depth of their error, this blog will keep demanding basic accountability.   

My point is not to persecute or hound some random person. I wish I had never heard of Sarah Palin. I wish this nightmare had never happened. I wish totally innocent by-standers, like Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston and Heather Bruce and Trig Palin, had not had their lives disrupted by this circus. It’s distressing to everyone, which is why most journalists left many aspects of this charade alone. But Palin is claiming vindication, is on every cable show, is at the National Governors Association Conference, and is touted as a future leader of the GOP. There comes a point at which you have to simply call a time out and insist that this farce cease and some basic accountability and transparency be restored to the process. Since no one else seems willing to do so, the Dish will stay on the case. So where are those medical records anyway?

Lots of Andrew Sullivan’s fellow bloggers are shoulder-to-shoulder with him on this issue.

Best Paragraphs In Sunday Paper: African-Americans In White House

History was made this week with the election of Barack Obama as the next President.  But what does it really mean in historic terms?  We can all answer that with a quick recall of our nation’s past.  But take a few past examples from the new home to the Obama family, and it all becomes even more clear.

In a pre-election conference call, Mr. Obama referred to the powerful symbolism of his daughters playing on the South Lawn of the White House, a building built with slave labor. And John McCain, in his concession speech Tuesday night, alluded to a private dinner that Theodore Roosevelt had with Booker T. Washington in 1901 that set off a poisonous controversy.

Responding to that dinner at the time, The Memphis Scimitar called it “the most damnable outrage which has ever been perpetrated by any citizen of the United States.” A former Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, wrote a letter to the House of Representatives, read on the floor in the election year of 1904, declaring that he had never done such a thing as invite a black man to dinner in that house.

John Stauffer, author of “Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln,” observed, “The racial history of the White House is a wonderful symbol of the racial history of the nation as a whole.”

The house itself was built by crews of black laborers — both slave and free. In 1801, a year after it opened, Thomas Jefferson brought nearly a dozen slaves from Monticello, and slaves would constitute much of the house’s staff until the death in 1850 of Zachary Taylor, the last slaveholder to be president.

Many lived in the servants’ quarters on the first floor, but some slept on the first family’s second floor — an intimacy that was a frequent source of tensions with non-slave servants.

The most prominent black caller to the White House in its first century was Frederick Douglass. He came three times while Lincoln was president, and his last visit was perhaps his most important. The White House had been thrown open to the public to celebrate the president’s second inaugural, but the guards turned Douglass away — apparently on standing orders that blacks were not to be allowed in. Douglass sent in his card, and Lincoln ordered him admitted.

The president asked Douglass how he had liked the speech, adding, “There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.”

“Mr. Lincoln,” Mr. Douglass answered, “that was a sacred effort.”

In those years, a black dresssmaker and former slave, Elizabeth Keckly, was Mary Todd Lincoln’s confidante. And in the next three decades, black singers, including the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Marie Selika Williams and Sissieretta Jones, entertained at the White House. But none of the singers were invited to stay for meals, a taboo that would last well into the next century.

Lou Hoover, the wife of Herbert Hoover, found that to be a problem in 1929, after Oscar De Priest became the first African-American elected to Congress since Reconstruction. She was admonished not to invite Mr. DePriest’s wife to her traditional tea for Congressional wives, so instead she arranged a separate tea party for Mrs. DePriest. But the event still drew a resolution of criticism from the Texas Legislature.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who was Theodore’s niece as well as Franklin’s wife, famously included African-Americans among her many guests at the White House, and she, too, was criticized — including when she invited Marian Anderson to follow her concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 by singing at the White House before the king and queen of England.

The postwar wave of independence that swept the world changed Washington’s diplomatic scene. Black diplomats became regular guests at state dinners, and African heads of state were invited to sleep overnight. Still, most presidents reserved the White House guest rooms almost exclusively for family and close friends.

But African-Americans were gaining in political power — in Congress, in the cabinet, as aides — and starting in the 1970s became familiar figures in and near the Oval Office.

The first African-American guests invited to sleep in the White House are believed to have been Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife, Altovise, in 1973, by Richard Nixon. Mr. Davis was struck by the history. He later joked that he turned down the chance to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom in favor of the Queen’s room. “I thought to myself, now I don’t want [Lincoln] coming in here talking about, ‘I freed them, but I sure didn’t want them to sleep in my bed.’ ” (The singer Pearl Bailey, a friend of Betty Ford, also stayed overnight, after Nixon’s resignation.)

Still, there remains the enduring poignance of the not-so-distant past that was alluded to on election night — best expressed, perhaps, by an incident during Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

Bess Abell, who was Johnson’s White House social secretary, vividly remembers a state dinner at which Sarah Vaughan sang but, after dinner, disappeared.

“I found her in this office, which had been turned over to her as a dressing room, and she was sobbing,” Mrs. Abell said in an interview. “And I said, ‘Mrs. Vaughan, what’s wrong? What can I do?’ And she said, ‘There’s nothing wrong. This is the most wonderful day of my life. When I first came to Washington, I couldn’t get a hotel room, and tonight, I danced with the president.’ ”

Hispanic Vote Critical To Democratic Win, Future Of The Party

It is no surprise that many understood the political suicide that would result due to conservatives beating the immigration issue over the past eight years.  Much of the debate from this segment of the electorate was mean-spirited and racist.   The hopes among a vocal segment of the GOP was to somehow punish hard-working people who desired much the same as so many others that came to our country in the past.  The result of that vocal outcry was the movement of large segments of the Hispanic and Latino vote to the Democratic Party in 2008.  That trend will greatly assist the party in upcoming elections, and makes for a powerful constituency that the GOP will find difficult to move into their column.

The Los Angeles Tmes writes on the matter, and was reprinted in part in Politico.

Texas in Democrats’ sights: Latinos could play a role in changing the state from red to blue,” By Peter Wallsten: “A multiethnic bloc of Latinos, blacks, young people and suburban whites helped to broaden the party’s reach Tuesday well beyond its traditional base in the Northeast and the West Coast — carrying Barack Obama into the White House and expanding the party’s majorities in Congress. That new formula was evident in state exit polls and county-level election results showing that Democrats scored gains from a voting base that is growing progressively less white than the population that helped forge Republican advantages in past elections. In state after state, from GOP strongholds like North Carolina, Indiana and Colorado, minorities made up a larger share of the vote than in the past, and in each case they helped turn states from red to blue.

“A major shift in the Latino vote took place in Florida and the Southwest, where the Obama campaign spent at least $20 million on targeted appeals and organizing, including one television ad in the final days featuring the candidate reading Spanish from a script. Latinos made up a greater share of the electorate than in the past in every Southwestern state, according to exit polls compiled by CNN. And in each Southwestern state, as well as Florida, the Democrat pulled a bigger percentage of the Latino vote — a turnaround from 2004, when President Bush cut deeply into Democrats’ hold on Latinos and won that bloc in Florida, where many Cuban Americans remain loyal to the GOP.

***“‘The Democrats have built what looks like a coalition they can ride for 20 or 30 years,’ said Simon Rosenberg, head of the pro-Democratic group NDN, which has spent millions of dollars targeting Latino voters. Obama’s winning coalition, some Democrats said, could mark a turning point in history: Republicans can no longer achieve an electoral college majority with their decades-old strategy of winning whites in the South and conservatives in the heartland. Now, Democrats have a path through the Rocky Mountains and even some states in the old Confederacy.”

This was one of the points I was making in my post about Coloma, Wisconsin, and the future of the GOP.