Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

The Messenger is the Message

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

By Jeffrey Page

Close to 2 million people gathered in Paris on Sunday to condemn the murderous attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket that resulted in the deaths of 17 people. One of those attending the march was David Cameron, the British prime minister. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as there. So was Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were there as well.

Oh, and Jane D. Hartley was there to represent us. Hartley is the United States ambassador to France, and probably known to as many Frenchmen and women as the French ambassador to the United States is known to Americans. You know; whatsisname, Gérard Araud.

But President Obama couldn’t make it. Nor could Vice President Joe Biden. Nor could Secretary of State John Kerry. Apparently nobody from America could make it, so we sent Jane D. Hartley.

And in doing so, Obama revealed an insensitivity not worthy of a world leader. France, after all, is America’s oldest ally, and you just don’t treat old friends quite as shabbily as Obama has with France and its people.

While President Obama may have been too busy to travel to Paris, his counterpart, François Hollande, took the American disrespect gracefully and, speaking through a spokeswoman, declared that he had not been offended. “President Obama supported France in their common struggle against terrorism,” he said.

As though imitating a Ringling Bros. clown stepping into a bucket, Obama caused further embarrassment to himself by giving some of his sharpest critics a free ride for a couple of news cycles.

–Sending Jane D. Hartley to the Paris march was “beyond crass, even for this administration,” said Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

–“Our president should have been there,” Senator Ted Cruz wrote in Time Magazine.

–Obama is “a failure when it comes to fighting Islamic jihadists,” said Mike Huckabee.

–“Skipping this rally will be remembered as a new low in American diplomacy,” said Rick Perry.

–“There’s a plethora of people they could have sent,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

They’re right.

No one would remember “Ich bin ein Berliner” if John Kennedy had ordered some deputy assistant secretary of state no one ever heard of to deliver it. Nor would anyone recall “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” if it had been uttered by anyone but Ronald Reagan.

Sometimes the messenger is the message.

Hypocrisy 101

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

All you needed to know was that President Obama was in South Africa for the final tribute to Nelson Mandela and that no matter what he said or did, he would be mocked and dismissed by Limbaugh and his fawning acolytes.

Sure enough, President Obama spoke movingly about what Mandela had achieved for his country after 27 years in prison, having been convicted of the South African felonies of being black and wanting freedom and equality. President Obama’s described the love the South African people have for Mandela, and for this Limbaugh savaged him. The First Amendment says you can do this; common decency forbids it.

Limbaugh’s hypocrisy is astonishing. For example, he spoke for the hard conservative core in his contempt for the Johannesburg handshake, the one between President Obama and Raul Castro, president of you-know-what and brother of you-know-who.

The handshake served as the catalyst for Limbaugh’s millionth dismissal of President Obama as “a socialist” and/or “a narcissist.” How does he make this connection? “He doesn’t get a thrill shaking Raul Castro’s hand,” Limbaugh said. “He’s hoping Castro gets a thrill shaking his hand.” (That’s been a Limbaugh trademark; to inform his listeners precisely what the people he loathes are thinking at any given moment.)

The Limbaugh line of course is that good people don’t go around shaking the hand of a guy named Castro from an island called Cuba. But let’s see just how consistent Limbaugh is.

In 1985, President Reagan agreed to lay a wreath at the Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, the last resting place of about 2,000 German soldiers who died in World War II. All right, time heals many wounds and 40 years after the war ended, the United States and Germany were allies and remain so.

But there were other interments at Bitburg, such as the graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS, which was essentially the 1 million-member private army of the Nazi party commanded by Heinrich Himmler. These were the troops that provided the military muscle to carry out the Holocaust.

Americans were aghast that President Reagan would go anywhere near the SS graves, but he rejected their pleas.

The Limbaugh connection to Bitburg? There was none. I checked the internet, The New York Times and other sites looking for a cautionary word from Limbaugh condemning, or merely questioning Reagan’s judgment. But from 1985 through yesterday Limbaugh apparently had nothing to say. What I did find was that 11 Republican senators (and 42 Democrats), plus 84 Republican House members (and 173 Democrats) condemned Reagan’s planned trip to Bitburg, which, incidentally, was scheduled to be made immediately after an earlier stop at the Bergen-Belsen death camp, where the Nazis murdered 50,000 Jews. If anyone can point out a negative reference by Limbaugh to Reagan’s Bitburg atrocity, I’ll be happy to print it.

So, President Obama shaking hands with President Castro, or President Reagan laying a wreath for some SS troops? For Americans there are two questions: Which is more offensive, which is more nauseating?

The answers are not complicated.

Living the Iron Lady’s Legacy

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

President Barack Obama slipped the controversial "chained CPI" formula for cutting Social Security cost-of-living increases into his 2014 budget, angering liberal Democrats in the Senate, the House, and progressive organizations.

By Emily Theroux

When Barack Obama introduced his 2014 budget today, one controversial item made it look more like the kind of austerity plan that might have been devised by formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher than a fiscal proposal by a “stateside” Democratic president.

That’s because, for the first time, a Democratic president has dared to propose cutting increases in Social Security benefits — the linchpin of the American social safety net. His inclusion in the budget of “$230 billion in savings from using a chained measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments” broke a campaign promise not to cut benefits for current or near-term retirees. The move infuriated progressives, who delivered 2 million petition signatures to the White House yesterday, demanding that the item be expunged.

An Obama adviser termed the infamous “chained CPI” budget item a “goodwill gesture” to Republicans. The president himself, according to Politico, viewed it as serving “a tactical purpose” by proving he’s not afraid to “flout party orthodoxy.” Liberal organizations like MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the National Organization for Women, and the Campaign for America’s Future called it a betrayal.

I call using the left (by goading them into a heated public confrontation purely to score points with his opposition) unmitigated, full-throttle political posturing.


New formula would cost retirees $112 billion

Robert Reich

President George W. Bush, barnstorming the country to hawk his much-maligned Social Security privatization plan in 2005, got zero, zilch, nada for his trouble. No one was buying Dubya’s scheme to turn the popular entitlement program into a high-stakes casino.

Obama might have paid more heed to the lessons of recent history before attempting to foist chained CPI on the American electorate. This ill-advised modification of the formula for calculating the consumer price index — a “market basket” of goods and services on which annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to Social Security are based — would result in what the AARP has understated as “not a small benefit change” for the oldest and most vulnerable retirees, as well as for military veterans.

As economist Robert Reich observed in a videotape last week introducing an anti-CCPI petition later submitted to the president:

“The idea is that when prices go up, most people substitute lower-cost items. So a true calculation of the cost of living should take account of this substitution effect. This makes no sense for seniors, because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and they can’t substitute lower-cost alternatives.”

AARP estimates that chained CPI will cost Social Security beneficiaries $112 billion and veterans $25 billion during the next decade. Because the formula compounds benefit reductions over time, it will result in an annual benefit that is “roughly $1,000 (in 2012 dollars) lower by the time a beneficiary reaches age 85,” according to AARP’s Josh Rosenblum. “Eventually, … beneficiaries would lose a month’s worth of benefits every year.”

For veterans, the cuts are even worse. “Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by … $3,200 a year at age 65,” wrote AARP’s David Certner.


CCPI ‘an idea not befitting a Democratic president’

“Mr. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors. It’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president. If you want to reform Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share by lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.”

That was the message delivered by former Secretary of Labor Reich’s petition. On this side of the pond, liberal economists like Reich and  Paul Krugman agree with advocacy groups for retirees and veterans that CCPI is a raw deal for Social Security recipients.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher/Getty Images

Yet Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, would no doubt have applauded Obama’s heartless formula. (Thatcher, Reich tweeted, “gave Ronald Reagan the courage of his misguided conviction.”) She didn’t cotton to coddling “the less fortunate,” whom she regarded, as many on the extreme right do, as moochers, malingerers, and reprobates. Baroness Thatcher would have been right at home with Mitt Romney’s opinion of the “47 percent” of Americans who, in his flawed estimation, “believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Mme. Thatcher once opined:

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand, ‘I have a problem; it is the government’s job to cope with it,’ or ‘I have a problem; I will go and get a grant to cope with it’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ … They are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”


Even tax-averse millionaires hate chained CPI

Chained CPI has a single dubious claim to fame: virtually everyone loathes it, from wealthy investors to veterans, from aged “pensioners,” as the Baroness would have called them, to hordes of boomers on the brink of retirement.

Everyone, of course, except Thatcherites “dismissing Britons in need as parasites and wastrels” (in the words of progressive blogger Richard Eskow), like-minded congressional Republicans  — and, now, our own inconstant leader. The Barack Obama of hope and change has transformed himself into someone that his once-loyal liberal base no longer recognizes.

Our peerless 2008 presidential nominee, whom we hurried to endow with shimmering waves of potentiality and purpose, turned out to be a mirage. Like the Nobel committee did a year later, we pinned on Candidate Obama our most quixotic aspirations, as the seemingly interminable nightmare of the Bush/Cheney oligarchy neared its bitter denouement.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker/AP photo

But our champion inevitably let us down. President Obama didn’t prosecute the torture-mongers for war crimes or the Wall Street banksters for the financial crisis. He didn’t slip on that pair of comfortable shoes and march with union members protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s legislative assault on collective bargaining rights. He didn’t advocate single-payer health insurance, fight institutional racism, or battle poverty. He didn’t swoop in to advance gay civil rights or create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. He didn’t close Guantanamo or reject indefinite detention of prisoners or halt drone warfare, but instead took their precepts to lengths no one could have envisioned.

Despite an impressive record of policy achievements, Barack Obama is not now, nor has he likely ever been, the transformative president he vowed he would become if we worked our collective asses off to put him in office. Home safe after his successful reelection; dissed and thwarted by GOP obstructionists so many times, you’d think he swear off any notion of a “grand bargain,” he’s still trying to burnish his bipartisan cred. The far right may brand him a socialist, but Obama governs, as many on the left complain, like a predictable, center-right Clintonian Democrat or a moderate Republican — not the progressive icon we so badly needed him to be.


Congressional firebrands take action

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders/AP photo

I’m not alone in uttering this heresy. The din of disillusionment has been almost deafening in the blogosphere and on Twitter for the past week. If Congress cuts Social Security by implementing this callous adjustment — a deliberate and unnecessary “sacrifice” that, as Reich points out, the Republicans haven’t even asked for —– Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as members of progressive groups, have suggested there may be 2014 primary challenges to Democratic members of Congress who vote for it. As for the House, Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano collected the signatures of 29 progressives who vowed to vote against any bill that includes Social Security benefit cuts.

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson

Did Obama at least mean well, before ascending to the tantalizing pinnacle of power? We’ll have to leave that question to history. No one can imagine, before the fact, what it’s going to be like up there, in that rarefied stratum that’s only been attained by 44 Americans in the brief span of almost 237 years.

In the words of the troubadour, it’s lonely at the top, and — as I’m sure the Iron Lady could have told us if her lips weren’t sealed against anyone’s ears but Saint Ronnie’s —– as magnetic as the polar north.

Me and Betty Ford

Monday, August 27th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

For some reason unknown to me now or then, The Times Herald-Record sent me to Kansas City to cover the Republican National Convention of 1976. I wasn’t much of a political reporter, but the editors were interested in feature stories about local delegates and party leaders.

And off I went to the heartland.

The 1976 convention was exciting. After all, here was Gerald Ford, a man who was appointed vice president after Spiro Agnew had to resign and who then became president when Richard Nixon quit. And here was Ronald Reagan mounting a serious challenge to Ford, the never-elected incumbent. And here was Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina carping that Reagan’s vice presidential choice, Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, wasn’t conservative enough. There was talk of William F. Buckley’s mounting a challenge to Schweiker.

And finally, with Ford’s nomination, there was Reagan’s concession speech in which he paraphrased St. Matthew and referred to America as “a shining city on a hill.” It was that single line in that single speech that brought the house down and which would identify Reagan for the rest of his life. Conservatives fell in love with him after being out in the cold since the Goldwater rebellion of 1964.

Now in Kansas City, the GOP made news, I wrote features. And then Republicans seemed to come this-close to nominating me for president of the United States.

I think it was the second night of the convention. I was in the press tent a few hundred yards from the Kemper Arena, where the convention’s public business was conducted. The Kemper was a huge venue, holding about 20,000 people. I had been on the phone with an editor in Middletown and missed the last bus over to the arena. With my credentials dangling from my neck I hoofed it to the Kemper.

I was drenched with perspiration – Kansas City is not pleasant in summer – and I looked like I’d had a bad night at McNulty’s Saloon. I found an open door and walked in. If there were security guards on duty that night, they were practicing the art of invisibility.

So now I was in the arena but wasn’t sure of how to get to the press area, which I knew was not far from the rostrum, where speeches were delivered, promises were made, Jimmy Carter was dismissed, and where Reagan would come close to snatching the nomination from Ford.

I walked the perimeter of the arena and finally came to an inclined corridor leading to arena itself. I walked up the stairs and just as I reached the third or fourth step from the top, all the lights in the Kemper Arena went out. I couldn’t see a thing. The darkness didn’t stop the delegates. They just kept cheering, yelling, whistling and applauding. A voice on the PA system was saying something but I couldn’t make it out.

From across the arena a single spotlight shone up and down and side to side, like it was searching for something. Then it landed on me and stopped and 20,000 people in the Kemper started cheering even louder. I mean cheering with passion. The band played some music; I forget what it was.

I began feeling a little panicky in just that one light and with everybody cheering me. The sweat rolled down my face and chest. My shirt was soaked. I looked like hell. And still they cheered. Then I did what I knew might seem like a joke; I looked behind me, thinking the person they were expecting would be there. Or that security guards were finally arriving to drag me off to jail. But they never showed up.

So I did what had to be done.

I waved.

Nothing big. Not like Eisenhower used to do with both arms up, but just a modest little wrist shake to acknowledge the delegates’ worshipful feelings toward me. I thought about the old Frank Capra movie “Meet John Doe,” and wondered about an unknown (me) assuming leadership of a major political party. Of course Doe had to do it by threatening to commit suicide; I was not ready for that.

I would like to tell you that I also thought about who I would pick for my running mate and what I would deal with in my first 100 days, but I had no such thoughts. I simply stood there, dumbstruck and not having a clue about what to do next.

I waved again. The house lights came on and I understood what had happened. In a major breach of security, I had walked up a corridor to the point on the circumference of the arena where friends, family members and guests of Republican VIPs were seated.

They weren’t cheering me. They were cheering Betty Ford, who had been introduced by the guy in the PA system and was being seated at the moment I climbed those stairs.

Betty waved. The delegates forgot me and responded to her. They loved Betty Ford. Didn’t we all?

But I was severely annoyed. This meant that no matter what happened on Election Day, I wouldn’t be able to appoint John Lennon as my secretary of state.