President Obama is receiving uniform praise for his memorial remarks in Tucson, Ariz. Even conservatives are saying he hit the right notes, substantively and tonally. I agree, with a few qualifiers and gentle cautions.
Obama was eloquent in his tribute to the victims and appropriately acknowledged that "none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack ... or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind."
More importantly, he said: "But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. ... Let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy; it did not."
There are many heroes who showed indomitable courage and grace under fire during this weekend's horrific Tucson massacre. Blowhard Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was not one of them.
If the White House has any sense, President Obama will stay far away from the demagogic Dupnik and his media entourage when he visits Arizona on Wednesday to memorialize the victims. Indeed, if the White House is truly committed to unifying the country, it will explicitly disavow Dupnik's vulture-like exploitation of the shooting rampage.
Within hours of the bloody spree, Dupnik mounted more grandstands than a NASCAR tour champion. A vocal opponent of S.B. 1070, the popular state law cracking down on illegal immigration, Dupnik immediately blamed Arizona for becoming a "mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and others, it is predictable that some self-centered politicians and political commentators quickly assumed the killer must have been provoked by political comments.
Following on that conclusion, they naturally argue (notwithstanding their exposure last week in the House to the reading of the Constitution, including the First Amendment) that whatever political words may have provoked him to his irrational violence should be silenced.
But as news organizations have begun to flesh out the interests and activities of the alleged psychotic killer, I am struck by several non-political factors that may have both shaped his mind and provoked his action.
Here's the House of Representatives new rule: "A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution." Unless a congressional bill or resolution meets this requirement, it cannot be introduced.
If the House of Representatives had the courage to follow through on this rule, their ability to spend and confer legislative favors would be virtually eliminated. Also, if the rule were to be applied to existing law, they'd wind up repealing at least two-thirds to three-quarters of congressional spending.
Imagine the Saturday morning of congressional aide Mark Kimble. Kimble told of going to a Safeway for a typical meet-and-greet event with his boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Kimble said he went into the store for coffee, and as he came out, Giffords was talking to a couple about Medicare and reimbursements, and federal judge John Roll had just walked up to her and shouted “Hi” – when a gunman opened fire.
Nobody in America should greet this scene with any other initial reaction than horror. Six people were killed, including Judge Roll, several retirees, and a nine-year-old girl. Over a dozen others were seriously injured in the carnage. Giffords was shot in the head and remains in critical condition. Sadly, shamefully, within just minutes, a nasty political spin was kicking in without any brake for decency or evidence. Conservatives were to blame.
In the aftermath of the senseless wounding of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, and the murder of six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green, there will be many who will use this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.
Explanations will be sought and blame assigned. Necessary questions will be asked: Did the clerk at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson violate any laws in selling the Glock 19 9mm gun to the accused, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner? Loughner reportedly cleared an FBI background check. So why didn't that check discover what one Arizona official called Loughner's "mental issues" and should they have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon?
My wife, Gena, and I mourn with the rest of the nation over the murder and maiming of innocent citizens and lawmakers in Arizona this past Saturday morning. We, too, pray for the victims and survivors. It makes us even more passionate in our fight for human life and reminding the world that from the womb to the tomb, human life is precious and should be prized.
Last week, two questions dominated the political landscape regarding Obamacare. First, will the new 112th Congress repeal it? And secondly, if Obamacare didn't offer advanced directives for end-of-life planning (aka "death panels"), then why did the Obama administration just repeal a Medicare regulation and reference for it covered under the new health care law?
Those are both great questions. But the one question being overlooked by too many is this one: If the 112th Congress fails to repeal Obamacare, will it include "baby death panels" in the future? In other words, will taxpayer money be used to provide for abortions under the new universal health care law?
"You didn't fly here to celebrate me," Marco Rubio announced from the stage of the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
The comment could have been received as a bit jarring coming from Rubio. Hours after being sworn in as a U.S. senator, this former insurgent candidate who bucked his party's national establishment to challenge their hand-crafted candidate -- Charlie Crist, the sitting governor at the time -- was presenting himself as nothing but a working man starting out in a new office. Here, the latest hot ticket in town, being talked about as any Republican presidential candidate's favored running mate, was turning the humble on high. This was the party to be at. Everyone seemed to drop by -- an impression one got as liberal Minnesota Sen. Al Franken posed for pictures with some of this tea party king's most loyal supporters.
Can you imagine the sheer audacity of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sermonizing that repealing Obamacare would do "very serious violence to the national debt and deficit"? This is the woman whose four-year tenure as speaker saw the national debt explode from $8.67 trillion to $14.01 trillion.
She's the lady who boasted, "Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go." Such is the state of Pelosi's credibility that even 19 of her Democratic colleagues voted against her for speaker.
When it comes to a wide spectrum of issues, I'm not sure which planet Pelosi and her ilk of liberals inhabit, but the Obamacare fiasco takes their otherworldliness to another level altogether — and that's being charitable because it assumes they're innocently unaware of how wrong they are.
Fun fact: Bill Daley isn't the only new chief of staff in the White House with longtime ties to the Chicago Way. Yep, it's No Windy City Corporate Lawyer Left Behind Week in the nation's capital.
On the other side of the White House, deep-pocketed campaign finance mega-bundler Tina Tchen was named first lady Michelle Obama's new right-hand woman. Or rather, left-hand woman. The self-described "progressive" attorney from Chicago is taking over as chief of staff in the East Wing following the expected departure of Susan Sher. Tchen personally raised more than $200,000 for the Obama presidential campaign while a lawyer at white-shoe Skadden Arps. (No word on whether Mrs. Obama gave her the same anti-corporate lawyer, fat cat-bashing lecture she delivered on the campaign trail.)
Now, stick with me here as we diagram another Chicago shuffle. As usual, all roads lead to the Daley political machine:
Given the Democrats' track record of investigating Republican administrations, they will lack credibility when they protest Republicans investigating actions by the Obama administration. Oversight is a primary function of any Congress.
The new Republican House majority is expected to conduct several investigations. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has promised to lead six of them, including one that according to Issa's spokesman, Kurt Bardella, will focus on the "institutional culture of waste, fraud and abuse," within the federal bureaucracy. To be credible, these investigations must expose Republicans as well as Democrats because misspending the public's money is one of the few bipartisan activities remaining in Washington.
As we begin a new year, it may be useful to look back to one particular piece of advice that George Washington gave us in his farewell address. In paragraph 28, he reminded us that:
"It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"
His point was that no matter how well designed our constitutional mechanisms may be, the healthy future of our nation would depend upon the maintenance of private virtue — that self-government is only possible if our national character, made up of each individual character, yearns and acts for a free country.
New Year's Day in Washington dawned gray and wet — and cold. It was a perfect day for sightseeing, so my wife and I decided to sightsee. We went to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home — named, incidentally, after a British admiral, Adm. Edward Vernon, by George's elder half brother. Upon inheriting the mansion, George never saw any reason to change the name, despite the British army's many acts of rudeness to him. George was a big enough guy not to bear a grudge.
We arrived just as the estate opened, at 9 a.m., and we were about the only tourists in the place for the first hour. The very agreeable woman who sold us our tickets, noting our enthusiasm, inquired as to where we came from. "Twelve miles up the road," said my wife. "We don't get out much." Actually, we do, but not to sightsee. We both have been reading a lot about George Washington, so we visited Mount Vernon for the first time in years. Our reasoning is that with the tea party's arrival in Washington, we had best familiarize ourselves with the Founding Fathers, a goodly number of whom lived in Virginia. We started with George. Marx is out.
No matter how you rearrange President Obama's inner circle, it still looks, smells and tastes like a rotten Chicago deep-dish pizza.
Ready for the latest topping on this moldy old pie? It's a possible chief of staff slot for Wall Street banker/lawyer/wheeler-dealer William Daley, brother of outgoing Chicago mayor/machine politics mastermind Richard M. Daley (also the former boss of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and first lady Michelle Obama), whose retirement paved the way for former Obama chief of staff and Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. Phew.
The White House is reportedly looking to manufacture a "pro-business" aura with Bill Daley, who holds a "corporate responsibility" executive office at J.P. Morgan and once headed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the latter, a left-wing hate object and Obama punching bag leading up to the midterms.
The new House Republican leadership is smart to inaugurate their return to power by reading aloud the U.S. Constitution on the House floor. Recalling America's founding principles is never a bad idea. To some on the left, though, the Constitution doesn't mean what it says, but is to be interpreted by judges and politicians. To liberals, this means the document is useful only when it advances a "progressive" economic, political and social agenda. Otherwise, it must be considered a relic of a bygone era.
The Constitution, according to liberal thinking, was written at a time when people -- including some of its signers -- owned slaves and so we moderns must interpret and regularly update it, like computer software. These "interpretationists" are like people who appeal to biblical authority when it appears to support their earthly agenda ("turn the other cheek" means unilateral disarmament; numerous verses about helping the poor mandates government welfare), but ignore it when it offends secular pursuits (abortion, homosexuality, income redistribution, capital punishment).
Our national media elite reviewed 2010 with great sorrow for how America has besmirched itself in the eyes of the world with its “seething hatred” of Muslims. CBS anchor Katie Couric announced on her Internet show that there wasn't enough evaluation of“this bigotry toward 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide” which was “so misdirected, and so wrong -- and so disappointing.”
Couric even embarrassed herself by suggesting "Maybe we need a Muslim version of The Cosby Show." A ridiculous idea – unless it were to run every night instead of Couric’s lame half-hour “news” report.
While Katie crinkles her face that anyone could march peacefully to oppose a mega-mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, here’s what does not upset Couric or her colleagues: Christians getting slaughtered and maimed in the Middle East by radical Islamists during the Christmas season. That story rates barely a media eyebrow lift.
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleagues are intensely aware of public fury over how Congress operates. But following a lame-duck Congress that continued with business as usual, will this new Congress finally get it right?
As the 112th Congress officially convenes this week, the questions most of us have on our minds are: Will it finally...
The congressional Republicans' decision to read the Constitution aloud on the floor of Congress has forced some Constitution-contemptuous liberals further out of the closet, which is an instructive development to behold.
Blogger Ezra Klein of The Washington Post told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell that the constitutional reading is "a gimmick," and "the issue of the Constitution is not that people don't read the text and think they're following; the issue with the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done."
Sarah Palin deserves an apology. When she said that the new health-care law would lead to "death panels" deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not, she was roundly denounced and ridiculed.
Now we learn, courtesy of one of the ridiculers -- The New York Times -- that she was right. Under a new policy not included in the law for fear the administration's real end-of-life game would be exposed, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calls for the government to pay doctors to advise patients on options for ending their lives. These could include directives to forgo aggressive treatment that could extend their lives.
2010 may have been an encouraging year for political conservatives but it wasn't so rosy for America's culture. The most depressing result was the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granting our television networks the right to employ the nastiest curse words in front of children at any hour of the broadcast day.
In her opinion, Judge Rosemary Pooler insisted that the TV networks weren't pushing the envelope like “a petulant teenager angling for a better curfew,” they were good people with a “a good faith desire to comply with the FCC's indecency regime.” The judge should win some sort of Alice-in-Wonderland prize for declaring the absolute opposite of all the evidence right in front of her face. Here's my other choices for other cultural winners and losers this year:
Loser: Perhaps inspired by Pooler, CBS put out a sitcom with the title “[Crap] My Dad Says.” Critics were bored. Viewers flushed it.