Have Americans Lost Control of Their Government?

The current state of our government and, in particular, the chasm that exists between Republicans and Democrats, seems like a child’s food fight rather that an ongoing adult conversation. Each side is doing what is called, “right fighting.” That is, each side is so convinced that it is right that the art of compromise seems to have gone out the window. An old cliché says that a fish stinks from its head down. Our government right now is exemplifying that more than ever.

Our government was via the Constitution set up with three branches, none of which was supposed to have more power than the other. But our present Congress is so fearful of doing the next right thing, and its job, has abdicated in favor of the Executive Branch. Article 2 of our Constitutes delineates the powers granted the President. What amazes me the most is that Article 2 section 3 clearly states that the President “. . . from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient . . . “ The framers of the Constitution left many parts of it vague as they judged that with the passage of time necessary changes to the Constitution or different interpretations of It would be necessary. But it is my opinion the Article 2 Section 3 is rather clear in its intention; that being that changes to law and policy may be suggested by the President and that Congress would then act upon them. The Constitution is also repeatedly clear that a 2/3rds vote should be the standard for passing any legislation.

Over the years, however, Congress has made changes to what is necessary for certain measures and that being a simple majority favor the law.

Most recently, President Trump made the unilateral decision to scale back some remote (Utah) national monuments at the behest of industry. He has also charged his Interior Secretary to find other locations to which he can to the same. The idea of National Parks and National Monuments was the idea of President Theodore Roosevelt when he created Arcadia National Park and Yosemite National Park. “The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.” (Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/legal/american-antiquities-act-of-1906.htm). The law is quite specific in saying that the President is obligated to preserve “objects of historic and scientific interest. Pres. Trump has chosen to ignore this law and turn over these precious lands to commercial interests, destroying artifacts that favor the public interest and the scientific community.

The Constitution, and all its framers in their writings, made very clear that the first job of the Federal Government is to act in the best interest of the people. But for decades now our Congresses and Presidents have only too frequently done the bidding of powerful interests and PACs. It would be only too easy to show how the Republicans Party over the past 6 years or so has worked mostly in a self-serving manner. But that would less than truthful. The fact remains that the Democrats are equally responsible in bending to the will of powerful and well-monied interests instead of the people. The Democrats have not had control of Congress for many years now and the Republicans have been able to run rough-shod over them by passing bills that make a simple majority vote the rule of Congress. No Democrat has been able to find the inner fortitude to challenge such bills in front of the US Supreme Judicial court.

Time-and-again the Republican Congress has passed bills which are clearly unpopular with the people of the United States. The most visible action at present has been their persistent attempts to gut and eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Their most recent move has been to tied changes to the ACA to the government funding bill now in Congress. Such actions are referred to “rider bills.” It is the blatant attempt to circumvent the proper way to have a bill passed, a “clean bill.” That refers to a bill which has no riders and is voted up or down on its own merits.

Both parties in Congress are not doing the “right thing” but rather doing the most self-serving thing. That has never more true when Senator Mitch McConnell declared that he would not allow then President Obama to seat a new Supreme Court justice when Justice Scalia unexpectedly died two years ago. Not only was that self-serving but it went entirely against the spirit of our Constitution and the manner in which all justices have been confirmed since 1789. Such actions must stop. This means that U.S. Citizens, regardless of political favor, must make Congress accountable for its actions.

A majority of U.S. citizens of both parties has said they do not trust congress to do the right thing. There is an easy solution to that; stop re-electing your representatives and senators.

There is an old saying, “nothing changes if nothing changes.”


The Presidency is not for Amateurs

Until the most recent presidential election, this country has never had a president who had absolutely no experience working within the government. Lincoln is the closest be he did hold a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives and was a captain in the state’s militia. Trump, however has had no such experience what-so-ever and it is beginning to show in spades.

Our country has had several presidents who held no previous elective offices but all were army generals. Two, Polk and Grant, were no good as president and served just a single term. But even they had some understanding of the nuances of governing. Historically, flag officers, generals and admirals, have had to deal with politicians if only to promote a part of the military needing funding or other political favor. As an aside, of the 44 individuals who have served as president, only 13 had no military service. But of those 13, FDR had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and William Howard Taft served as Secretary of War.

In the 19th Century and into the beginning of the 20th Century, our country was isolationist. We were far more worried about what was happening on the home front than on being a force, either economically of militarily, on the world scene. World War 1 brought us part way out of that malaise, and World War 2 ended any lingering effects of isolationism. The United States had become a world leader first militarily and then economically. And since 1945, our responsibilities in both areas have steadily increased to where the rest of the world, even those countries who do not like us, look closely at what we do. This is particularly true of our economic and military partners.

President Trump just showed on the world’s stage how ill-suited he is for the job of president. He took a victory lap for landing a billion-dollar military deal claiming it will mean jobs for Americans. It may mean a few jobs, but the truth is, the contracts will be for equipment American companies are already producing and those companies are not likely to find the need to add many, if any, new employment positions. But Trump missed the more important deal to be had. Saudi Arabia flatly refused to put sanctions on ISIS groups existing within its own borders. Trump’s move was to leave the country with no military deal. For all his bluster about getting tough on ISIS, when the first chance for him to back up his rhetoric, he cowered. He seemed to forget that Saudi Arabia needs us more than we need it.

We live in an extremely dangerous world. There is no shortage of governments who want to take shots at the United States. Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and a number of other countries are not our allies and each has been known to give aid to terrorists. And while we have been able to clamp down on Iran and have decent trade pacts with China, neither of these countries would come to our aid.

The middle east is likely to remain unstable for years, if not decades, to come. Extremist groups in middle eastern and central Asia are not likely to be neutralized any time soon as can been seen in Afghanistan. But a more present danger lies in North Korea. The North Korean leader seems hell-bent on creating a war in his region. The peace that has been experienced on the Korean peninsula has been a tenuous one at best since 1953. One of our staunchest allies is South Korea but even with the tensions that exist there now, President Trump has not seen fit to schedule a visit. Why?

Not far from Korea is a long-time friend we are fast losing, the Philippines. I had the chance to talk to a well-educated Filipino recently and he informed me that even though his country has begged the United States for assistance militarily, none has been given. There is an insurgency in that country that if successful would put the Philippines at odds with U.S interests. My fear is that since the Philippines do not present the military or economic power to gain front page news, something negative will happen there if we do not treat them respectfully, recognize their difficulties and work with them for a resolution.

The Presidency is not place for amateurs and yet that is exactly what we have there now. He has surrounded himself with his billionaire friends who also have no government experience. The American people should consider this to be a most troubling of the Trump regime. Is difficult to navigate a mine field when you know what you are doing and impossible when you do not.

Is Massachusetts Turning Republican?

Twenty years ago such a question would be laughable.  Even today some might scoff at it considering the makeup of the Massachusetts legislature is overwhelmingly Democrat.  I am, and always have been, a registered Democrat.  But I suspect that like me, many of my fellow Democrats in this state are rather fed up with the arrogance shown by the state’s Democrats.

Massachusetts has elected the occasional Republican to state-wide and national office, Edward Brooke and William Weld in the more distant past.  But they were more the exception.  State politics has been large dominated by Democrats since the FDR administration, and to some degree prior to that with James Michael Curley.  But recent events where Democrats have been accused and convicted of felonious acts has given the state’s voters reason to question their elected leaders.  The worst thing they have done, which is not a crime but a betrayal of faith, has been the arrogance of the party leadership in the state.

Two national offices are being heavily contested in the state right now, that for a U.S. Senate seat, Brown vs. Warren, and US Representative seat, Tierney vs. Tisei.  And in some sense, Mitt Romney too, although I view him as truly a Michigan native rather than a Massachusetts resident.

In the case of Brown vs. Warren, we have a very affable Republican in Brown who is the state’s Republican US Senator being opposed by a very cerebral and professorial sounding Warren.  And that is her biggest problem.  She claims to come from blue-collar America but sounds anything but.  If anything, she comes across as preachy and professorial.  She is difficult to identify with at much of any level.  Brown, quite simply, comes across as entirely middle-class.  He is a middle-class veteran that I can more easily identify with than Warren’s academic persona.  If history teaches us anything, it is that people vote for who they best identify with which does not necessarily mean who is best qualified.  In this case, however, I cannot say that Brown is not best qualified to both serve and properly represent me.  That, it is my guess, is the question Warren needs to respond to more than any other and which, I doubt, the Democratic leadership of this state will come to terms with.  In the end, I expect Brown will be re-elected.  And even though I cannot say for certain right now, he may well get my vote.

Tierney is a case of absolute arrogance.  I do not, for a second, want Tisei to win this race however I feel he has an excellent chance of doing exactly that.  Not so many years Thomas Finneran had the same arrogance being displayed by Tierney.  As it turned out, Finneran was guilty of, at the very least, comprising the public trust for his own personal ends.  I think Tierney is guilty of the same thing.  It is difficult to believe that a man, as intelligent as he is, had no idea of his family’s involvement in illegal gambling activities long before it became public.  I have to admit that my distrust of Tierney pre-dates that.  It goes back to the mid-1990s when he was opposed by a man named Peter Torkilson, a Republican.  I voted for Torkilson back then on a gut feeling that he was simply the better man.  Unfortunately I am no longer in that district so I cannot have any say in that election.  I do not believe, however, that the state’s Democratic leadership has properly and fully addressed the charges leveled against Tierney by the Republican party.  It simply and arrogantly believes he will get re-elected because you have to go far before anyone’s memory to find a Republican being elected from that district.  The thing is, I know that district to be more conservative than party leaders tend to believe.  It would not take much for more conservative Democrats, like myself, to turn the present election in favor of Tisei.  And that is exactly what I believe is going to happen.

Right now probably few people in Massachusetts believe that Mitt Romney will carry his declared home-state in the presidential election.  The last time that happened was when Al Gore failed to carry his home state of Tennessee.  And as likely as it is that Obama will carry Massachusetts, it should not be taken for granted.  And yet that is exactly what Democratic leadership is doing.

In the latest round of political debates, Warren, Biden, and Obama each lost their respective debates.  Tierney and Tisei will not have any public debate forum although they should.  The point is, Democrats seem to be riding on their laurels thinking they have the upper hand.  They do not, by any stretch of the imagination.  Since those debates, each of the Democrats has lost their lead in the respective race to their Republican opponent.  That is extremely significant because it shows a reversal of fortunes.

I think most Americans find it difficult to believe much of anything politicians say, even those they vote for.  You frequently hear them state they are “voting for the lesser of two evils.”  How can that ever be a good thing?  I noted in the debates that when asked direct and simple questions, those question largely went unanswered.  The politician being asked did a tap dance around the truth, but seldom gave what was a clear and simple answer.  Would it not be refreshing to hear a candidate just once say, “I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”

I do not think Massachusetts is suddenly going to become a state in which Republicans rule the roost.  But I do believe, at least in the two contests mentioned, that Republican will prevail.  I think it good that Republican should have more of a say in this state’s politics.  It makes the Democrats more honest, or possibly honest in the first place.  But maybe, just maybe, it will knock some of the arrogance from the state’s Democrat Party.