Jeb Bush: At this writing, Jeb Bush is at the top of the charts in the race to win the crown of Republican Presidential Nominee. Without actually divesting himself of his family name, he is seeking to identify himself as his own person, free of all business and political activities that might tie him to his brother’s and father’s presidencies. He’s got an early lead, both in fundraising and in the polls, and I’m thinking that despite his campaign posters, which just call him JEB, the Bushes are a tight family. On the one hand, this is a wonderful thing, but we are all too familiar with the legacy of that particular family, a legacy which for some might be a draw, but for others, not so much. He says he’ll run with heart, and to win. Well, I’m sure he will, but I for one would like to hear him call the war in Iraq a costly, deadly mistake, and acknowledge that lies were told, hateful alliances were exposed, and torture became part of our military strategy. I want to know more about his thoughts on the subjects of life and war.
Ben Carson: Mr. Carson is actually Dr. Carson. He has a record of having been a fine and brilliant neurosurgeon, which he seems to think gives him special privileges to have opinions about Obamacare. These opinions, as you might guess, are not supported by the Supreme Court’s recent decision. He’s also a popular guest on Fox News, where he fits right in, reflecting Fox’s fear and loathing of President Obama and anything that smacks of caring about the public at large. One of the problems is that he talks about how he hates Washington as it is, but has only a few vague ideas about what he would do to fix things Carson style. Yet, he claims that even though he’s a newcomer to politics and government, he knows what America wants. Clearly, he is not referring to Americans like me.
Chris Christy: Christy declared his candidacy with a speech akin to a Town Hall meeting, in which he said, in as many ways as possible, that the government has failed us: The President has failed us; the Supreme Court and Washington haven’t served us. Christy claimed that he’s ready to take on the fight for the people, that he is proud to let us know that he is a candidate for President of the United States of America, and that if we vote for him, he’ll make the USA into a leader again. Then he took more shots at the President, telling us that after seven years, Obama cares more about being loved than leading, and it’s time for a change. Then he moved on to Hillary Clinton. He referred to her as something like the President’s helpmate, and dismissed her as just another Democrat who won’t do what the country needs. He then promised, as if being Governor put him a notch above other humans, "to be the national truth-teller." He also mentioned that his political handlers don’t tell him what to say. Hmmm, I wonder what those handlers have to say about that. Well, we’ll see.
Ted Cruz: Cruz is the Junior Senator from Texas, and the first to throw his ego officially into the ring. He was educated at Harvard, or at least went to school there, and clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, yet he seems to have come away from both experiences with an odd sense of the world. And yes, he is the first Hispanic or Cuban-American Senator, and proudly talks about his father’s move from Cuba with only $100 in his pocket. Yet, Cruz seems to have done too little to support the issues most pressing to “his people.” Plus Jeb Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish, and Marco Rubio, who is also Cuban, are after the same demographic. It seems to me that Mr. Cruz’s grasp of current issues is even below the level of the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs & Ham, which he used as part of his almost-a-filibuster against Obamacare. He claimed that Obamacare was like Green Eggs and Ham, which he read in its entirety to prove that nobody, even those already signed up, liked Obamacare. But the poor guy seemed to miss the point of the book: “I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM,” is the first line. Then the story depicts a myriad of places Sam won’t eat said eggs and ham, then the book offers, “YOU DO NOT LIKE THEM. SO YOU SAY. TRY THEM! TRY THEM! AND YOU MAY, I SAY.” I’ll skip to the last line, which is, “SAY! I LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM! I DO! I LIKE THEM, SAM-I-AM!” So, the metaphor for Obamacare is actually: you may think you don’t like Obamacare, but once you try it you will! I don’t know about you, but I personally do not want anyone who misses the point of a book written for 4-year-olds to be running my country, dealing with foreign affairs, or, like him, suggesting that states ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court.
Carley Fiorina: Republicans seem to be counting on Fiorina to counteract the very existence of Hillary Clinton and make sure there’s a woman present when their perspective candidates take the stage at the Republican debates. She seems smart; she’s got business acumen. Like many high-powered women, she started out as a secretary and worked her way up, eventually becoming CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina says she wants to see the same opportunities for others. In a June speech, she offered, “Here in this country, where women have more opportunities than anywhere else on earth, we still can make our country a better place by fully tapping the potential of every woman.” She strives to reclaim the concept of feminism, which she says is embodied by “a woman who lives the life she chooses.” Her website says that she wants women to have greater power to pursue their dreams, whether that means homeschooling their kids or becoming a CEO. The site also says that “since leaving HP, Carley has focused on giving back. She has served in a large number of advisory and policy-making positions for national and state governments. She has also led a number of charities and nonprofits, serving as the Chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, which annually hosts CPAC; the Chairman of the world's largest product philanthropy organization; and the Chairman of a Christian faith-based organization that helps lift millions out of poverty worldwide.” Smart lady.
Lindsey Graham: He is one of the contenders for the nomination with an idea of what he’d do if elected, to “save the nation.” I read the following quote in The Atlantic: “I think I understand exactly the mess we’re in…. Leaving Iraq too soon is just as bad as not having enough [troops] when you went in. At the end of the day, Syria is hell on earth. And there’s no way to fix Iraq unless you fix Syria, and you’re not going to fix Syria until you deal with [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, ‘cause no Arab army is going to just fight ISIL.” I’ve written about Lindsay Graham (along with his buddy John McCain) before on the Blog, so I’ll just keep quoting him. Sometimes he gets very creative with reality: “Mr. President, you have never once spoke directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq. What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland?” Or how about: “His responsibility as president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here!” And lastly, “You want to know how this war with Radical Islamic Extremists ends? We win, and they lose. I lay down every night and wake up every morning determined to protect this country. We must fight them over there to keep them from coming here.” I'll let you be the judge.
Bobby Jindal: Jindal is the virulently homophobic Governor of Louisiana, a state that I forget isn’t all like New Orleans, where I’ve been lucky enough to spend time for both business and pleasure over many, many years. It’s hard to understand that the people there tolerate, let alone elect, someone who actually says out loud, “It is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within.” Apparently Jindal either forgets, or pretends not to remember, that there’s a reason why so many residents still love to chat in French, or in their native African languages. Trust me when I say that he basically means he only wants to allow those who think like him to migrate to our country. Jindal has been one of his party’s most outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage. In an op-ed for The New York Times published in April, he enthusiastically backed controversial “religious freedom” laws in Indiana and Arkansas, which some have argued could be used to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. He also has said, “As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath. In 2010, Louisiana adopted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. However, given the changing positions of politicians, judges, and the public in favor of same-sex marriage, along with the potential for discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses that comes with these shifts, I plan in this legislative session to fight for passage of the Marriage and Conscience Act.” Well, that’s enough of Jindal for me.
Mike Huckabee: I always think of Huckabee as being older than I am, but it appears, unless he’s like a Hollywood starlet of old chopping years off of her age, that I am quite a few years older. I also had forgotten how conservative he is. Maybe it slipped my mind; maybe I never knew, or didn’t care that he went to work for Fox. But now that he’s given up Fox to make a run for the nomination, I looked him up. Once again, he gave me a surprise. Here is what he wrote on his site: “My experience dealing every day with real people who were genuinely affected by policies created by government gave me a deep understanding of the fragility of the human spirit and vulnerability of so many families who struggled from week to week. I was in the ICU at 2 a.m. with families faced with the decision to disconnect a respirator on their loved one; I counseled fifteen-year-old pregnant girls who were afraid to tell their parents about their condition; I spent hours hearing the grief of women who had been physically and emotionally clobbered by an abusive husband; I saw the anguish in the faces of an elderly couple when their declining health forced them to sell their home, give up their independence, and move into a long-term-care facility; I listened to countless young couples pour out their souls as they struggled to get their marriages into survival mode when confronted with overextended debt…” I could have written that paragraph at one point about my own life, yet we have wound up at opposite poles with an entire world between us. Huckabee: 1) strongly opposed to abortion; 2) opposed Obama's health care plan; 3) opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions; 4) joked at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention about transgenders saying "Now I wish that someone told me when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E.; 5) voiced his support of intelligent design; 6) supports concealed carrying of weapons; 7) and much more!
George Pataki: Pataki was the 53rd Governor of New York (1995-2006). He beat incumbent Mario Cuomo, defeating him by over a three-point margin as part of the Republican Revolution of 1994. Well, ya can’t win ‘em all. Pataki has been a long-time advocate of tax cuts during his administration and his time in the state legislature. He signed and sponsored several tax cuts during his first term in office and in addition, made spending cuts to the budgets he proposed. This has included a push for privatization of state entities. Pataki started to hold open sessions with legislative leaders on budget issues, and included the minority leaders of the Senate and Assembly in these discussions. Pataki has been a long-time advocate of Native American casinos in upstate New York. He has proposed the creation of several casinos throughout Upstate with the revenue being shared by the state, tribe, and municipal government. He was an advocate for gay rights, but not for marriage, unless he recently changed his mind. Under the Pataki Administration a number of new healthcare programs were created focusing on expanding care to the state's poorest citizens. In 1999, Governor Pataki signed into law comprehensive healthcare legislation that provided health insurance coverage, under Family Health Plus, to lower income adults who do not have health insurance through their employers. Pataki has long been regarded as an environmentalist and he has made the environment and open space preservation a top priority of his administration, which makes him a cut above many of his Republican compadres, who either stupidly believe or pretend to believe for stupid constituents that Climate Change isn't real. In fact, he's knowledgeable, responsible, and has done great work on the preservation of the planet. After leaving the governorship, Pataki joined the law firm Chadbourne & Parke in New York City, joining their renewable energy practice. In September, 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Pataki as a United States delegate to the 2007 United Nations General Assembly session.
Rand Paul: Republican presidential hopeful and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the son of an earlier hopeful, Ron Paul. Rand Paul came up with what I’m sure he thinks is a great idea: to sell off all federal government lands and privatize America’s national forests and other precious public landscapes. And I quote, “You run into problems now with the federal government being, you know, this bully, this big huge government bully,” Paul said. “You would have less of that if you had more local ownership of the land. State ownership would be better, but even better would be private ownership.” Right, then some big capitalist corporation could charge you a month’s salary to see the Grand Canyon, forget about Yosemite — a family of four couldn’t make the downpayment. What was he thinking? He does have some of what he must think of as practical approaches to other aspects of government, or limiting the reach of government. He says he’s 100% pro-life: “It is the duty of our government to protect this life as a right guaranteed under the Constitution." Excuse me for thinking that only a “huge government bully” would think they had the right to manage women’s pregnancies and family planning. He also says he’s an advocate for expanding opportunity through education, which makes me worry that he might want to teach creationism and eliminate feminist studies and human rights studies in favor of the rights of land owners. Maybe he forgets that it’s 21st century.
Rick Perry: Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 1998 and assumed the governorship in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Between 2000 and 2007, Texas created almost one-third of all new private sector jobs in the United States. Without the 1.5 million jobs Texas created, Perry’s website says, the United States would be net negative more than 400,000 jobs. Perry, again according to his website, acted decisively to protect the people of Texas and this country from an unprecedented surge in illegal crossings of our southern border by surging state law enforcement and deploying the Texas National Guard to the region. It will be interesting to see how he and Donald Trump, should Trump stay in the race that long, talk about how to defend the Mexican border. Here's more on that and other things in his own words:
- "There is no indication that further normalization will do anything to actually liberate the Cuban people or advance American interests.” — Press Release, July 1, 2015
- “President Obama’s overtime-pay mandate is filled with job-killing incentives that will drastically increase the cost of hiring new workers.” — Press Release, June 30, 2015
- “The Supreme Court’s stay necessarily puts lives in danger by allowing unsafe facilities to continue to perform abortions.” — Press Release, June 29, 2015
Marco Rubio: Marco Rubio is the junior United States Senator from Florida, having served since January, 2011. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Rubio is a Cuban American native of Miami. He has an easy smile and public persona. Perhaps that’s why he was chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address in both English and Spanish. He has voted against an expansion of background checks for gun purchases, aligning with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who introduced the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013. The act proposed to add more transparency to America’s foreign assistance programs to make sure they reflected our values and interests overseas. In 2014, Rubio asked Pope Francis, "to take up the cause of freedom and democracy" in Cuba after helping negotiate the release of Alan Gross. In 2015 at a summit organized by Concerned Veterans for America, Rubio said that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs was "simply buckling under the weight of its own bureaucracy," as he endorsed their proposal to open veterans care to private providers, which may or may not be a good thing. Frankly, it seems to me that if we send our fighters into harm’s way, the least we can do is to make sure those who sent them guarantee the costs associated with their service.
Rick Santorum: He actually said, and I’m sure believes, the following: “We Need to Fight Gay Marriage More Than Climate Change.” I can’t even imagine that there are voters either so uninformed, or so bigoted that they actually put their mark or pulled the lever to vote for this man. Of course, he’s only one of the many climate-denying, homophobic GOP candidates seeking the nomination. Sadly, there seems to be an anti-science cult that is popular within the most desperate of Republicans, which indicates that they are either too out of it to understand the reality of the history of the planet or the impact that human habitation has had on the earth, which is in fact our home, or that they just calculate that too many voters take the Bible literally when it comes to the creation myth to upset the apple cart with these anti-reality voters. He accused the Supreme Court of judicial overreach with its historic Same Sex Marriage decision, which demonstrates his misunderstanding of what has transpired. Yet he actually believed that foolishness enough to let himself say out loud, “Instead of doing their proper limited job, they’ve decided to step into the realm of politics.” He promises to reform the judicial branch if he is president and use “the bully pulpit” to fight Same Sex Marriage. He said, "Marriage is no longer about kids, it's simply about adults.” Clearly, his wife Karen must attend the parent events at their kids’ school, or he’d have seen a whole bunch of healthy happy same sex parent couples there with their children. Thinking back to his statement about gay marriage, not climate change, being the real threat to the planet, it dawned on me that he might just rather persecute gay folks than provide a clean healthy environment for future generations. Or maybe he’s beholden to deep pockets and corporations that exploit the environment. I have no proof of that, but his way of thinking makes me wonder. As for his plans for the Supreme Court, too bad! Too late! It’s a fait accompli! Live with it!
And then there’s...
Donald Trump: Trump is a man who wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico because, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best; they're not sending you," as he said in his announcement speech. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with them. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." CNN’s Don Lemon challenged his run-on, trumped-up, self-aggrandizing drivel, while some other Republican contenders for the nomination chimed in with slightly more civilized versions of Trump's spiel. But the Donald deserves a special place among the group, and I don't just mean that he’s at the top, but because he is an unrepentant bigot and continues to fly off the handle in a manor unbecoming of an adult. He has released an announcement that his wealth is estimated at $8.5 billion, yet he expresses some simple-minded and dangerous points of view that he makes up as he goes along. The man puts no particular value on the truth, though I think he convinces himself that whatever he says is true. I have seen him in several settings, thanks to the monumental amount of coverage he’s given. I am surprised that none of the other wannabe candidates are protesting about their lack of similar access, even on FOX. But then, truth has never been a litmus test for FOX. Look up Trump's ideas on Iran, but take a guess first, if for no other reason than to see how predictable this wildcard can sometimes be. And one other thing to think about is: how much damage do you think he might be able to do to America’s standing in the world? Is he someone you want to see around a table of world leaders? Poor rich Mr. Trump. I pray never to live in the kind of delusion his money affords him. Lindsay Graham calls Trump a wrecking ball to the Republican Party's future. I call him God's gift to the Democrats. David Letterman says, among other things, that when having sex he calls out his own name.
Scott Walker: Wisconsin was the first state in the United States to provide collective bargaining rights to public employees in 1959, and the state flourished. After being sworn into office in 2011, Scott Walker introduced a budget repair plan that limited many collective bargaining powers for most public employees. The legislation led to significant historic protests at the state Capitol in June, 2012, and a failed effort to recall Walker. This was the point at which I became really interested, because a fervent activist friend, Joan Juster, was so crazed by Walker’s behavior that she flew from San Francisco to Madison to join the protest called the "I (heart) UW" campaign, where students delivered valentines to Walker on February 14th. Joan said of the event, “The Wisconsin we know and deeply loved vanished in the hands of Scott Walker.”
He can’t relate to the needs of the people in his own state, let alone all Americans. He has little empathy for, and cannot be counted on to fight for their rights, though he says, "Going forward the world must know, there is no greater friend and no greater enemy than the United States of America." So this guy wants you to picture him as president, and says he wants America to be a world leader. How is that going to happen with a “leader” of the country who fails to honor the rights of all Americans? He disrespects students, healthcare workers, intellectuals, educators, immigrants, minorities, artists, writers, deep thinkers, people who care for those I just listed, and by the way, women, whom he seems to mistrust. But he won't tell you that. Here’s what NARAL thinks he believes: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, telling pregnant rape and incest survivors what they need, that anti-choice doctors should lie to women about their reproductive options, and that men should sue for emotional distress brought on by abortion. He’s very happy to spout anti-immigration rhetoric while trying to excuse it: "I know this will be termed somehow as anti-Hispanic or anti-immigrant, but I would just say that immigration policies should be policies that serve the interest of the American public." I agree, but he doesn’t mean anyone left of his own ilk, which would take us back to being the “most hated nation” as we were when George W. Bush was President and I was traveling and working in many countries, and being yelled at for being American.
I noticed that few of the politicians above made impassioned statements about the travesty in Charleston, or evidenced any serious desire to dive into the challenge of race relations that the events there presented. Yet, fires were still raging in Churches in the South as I typed. But, I was delighted to discover that while speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on June 20th, Hillary Clinton challenged the United States to go beyond condemning individuals like Roof and to stand up against racism in all the pernicious ways it goes unchallenged across the country. I’ve included some excerpts below and links to the full video and transcript of the most stunning, heartfelt speech I’ve heard from her in ages. I hope you’ll take the time to watch or read her impassioned statements.
"After the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and so much else, how can any of these things be true? But they are. And our problem is not all kooks and Klansmen, it's also the cruel joke that goes unchallenged," Clinton said, according to NBC News. "It's the offhand comment about not wanting 'that kind of person' in the neighborhood." Clinton criticized the mentality of other national leaders who have sought to downplay the vicious racism that fueled the terrorist attack, announcing that Americans "can't hide from any of these hard truths about race and justice in America." During the rest of the speech, Clinton thoroughly highlighted the challenges facing people of color across the country, from mortgage discrimination to systemic racism among police forces. Though she also endorsed tougher gun laws, the focus was on race.
Why it's important: Clinton wants the American people to understand that it's not enough to pretend that racism doesn't exist in the United States, a notion as ridiculous as some Russian politicians' insistence that there are no gays in Russia. Instead, she made the case that the struggle is far from over by pointing to an immediate event in our recent collective memory as an example of the damage racism still causes.
But she didn't stop there. By tying racism to the everyday conversations and attitudes many Americans have, Clinton attacked the kind of implicit racism that runs rampant in polite society, and asked well-meaning individuals to challenge it wherever it pops up. She also made it clear that solving racism will require people across America to actually change their attitudes towards race — particularly white people, who despite boldly proclaiming themselves non-racist in increasing numbers, continue to hold screwed-up opinions about people of color.
She called out what racism is: Roof didn't emerge from a vacuum. He grew up in a culture that tolerated racism, instead of fighting to root it out. Clinton has broken the tepid moratorium on calling out America's stagnation on civil rights, which has troubled the country in many more mundane ways than singular and disturbing terrorist attacks.
Racism is when black people get herded out of their own communities. Racism is when black men in poor communities experience permanent economic recession. Racism is when powerful politicians say explicitly racist things and then just shrug it off like they never opened their mouths. Racism is when white folks insist that merely saying "I'm not racist" is a "get out of jail free" card. Racism is the separation of the lived experience of people of color from the political discourse that determines how they will be treated by the rest of society.
If Americans don't want to be racist, then they can take Clinton's challenge and step forward to defend the principle that all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of the color of their skin. Or they can shrug and hesitate, and say "this was a terrible tragedy, but...." and let whatever privileged position of their own choosing fill in the rest of the blank.