Friday, August 29, 2008



"All across America something is stirring -- Change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time."
(Barack Obama's Nomination Acceptance Speech, August 28, 2008)

While the pundits are for the most part missing this central call to action in Obama's speech, and Juan Williams on NPR today referred to the speech as one that will NOT be memorable (I suspect pundits said the same thing after FDR's early speeches), all Americans who are suffering and desiring a change from the failed Republican policies of the last eight years will beg to differ!

Unlike those media pundits and Republican operatives who are detached from the real sufferings of many Americans, Obama understands the roots of the demand for fundamental change, and in last night's speech finally addressed the call of many to spell out the details of the kind of change he will bring to Washington.

But, as he noted, he can't do this alone. Bringing change to Washington first requires that we make sure he is elected, and will then require that we all dig in to do the work of change, since even if Obama is elected, he will not be able to bring the change we need without the constant and firm pressure of all of us working to push progressive initiatives forward.

So its time for all of us to dig in and get to work. Obama last night provided a stirring call to action. Now we must all rise up to do the work required to get him elected, turn back all the efforts the Republicans will exert to prevent Obama's election--including lies, distortions, and interference with a fair voting process--and then get to work to transform the policy priorities of the nation. For we need not only a new politics, but also new policy for a new time....

Thank you, Barack Obama, for preserving the spirit of ML King's glorious speech 45 years ago, and for calling Americans to action in that spirit. I hope Americans will now prove themselves worthy of your faith and trust.


Text of Barack Obama's Democratic Nomination Acceptance Speech

"The American Promise"
Democratic Convention
Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Denver, Colorado

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia - I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart - that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land:


This moment - this election - is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives - on health care and education and the economy - Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors - the man who wrote his economic plan - was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.

So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice - but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans - have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits.

What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past.

You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.

Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Open Appeal to President Bush to Alter the Character of His Historical Legacy During his Final Year in Office

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, President Bush has been spending some time discussing and contemplating his historical legacy. This article paints a picture of Bush as paradoxically both a sadly isolated and yet spiritually serene man, who takes refuge in his faith that he is "doing the Lord's work," even while he struggles to understand the burdens of his historical situation, and the shadow his presidential legacy will pass on to the future. For the sake of us all, and for the sake of this President's historical legacy, I sincerely hope he has not already reconciled himself to simply continuing the disastrous course he is on.

Although time is increasingly short, he still has more than twelve months to chart a dramatic turn-around and change of policy, if only he is willing to summon the spiritual will to admit the severe mistakes of his past course of policy, and summon the best minds to his side to chart out an alternative course to address the massive policy challenges related to global warming, poverty, and war that will otherwise be his administration's dark legacy to the future.
Amid the tumult, the president has sought refuge in history. He read three books last year on George Washington, read about the Algerian war of independence and the exploitation of Congo, and lately has been digging into "Troublesome Young Men," Lynne Olson's account of Conservative backbenchers who thrust Winston Churchill to power. Bush idolizes Churchill and keeps a bust of him in the Oval Office.
But I wonder if any of the sages, and especially the historians and philosophers, who have met with Bush have really challenged him to confront the most fundamentally destructive aspects of the legacy his Presidency will pass on to the future of this country, its people, and the world--a legacy that consists of:
  • greatly increased violence as a result of the massive destabilization of the Middle East caused by the ill-considered and poorly planned imperial adventure to "save" Iraq and promote democracy abroad with little understanding of how such imperial adventures work instead to destroy the chances of democratic development abroad and undermine democracy at home in the US (because of the costs and pressures of war that undermine truth and trust in government and the fundamental institutions of society).
  • a legacy of perpetual war and massive military spending that is wasting billions of dollars a month in Iraq that could have been used to address many of the major domestic social problems in the US that a truly "compassionate conservatism" would have addressed: poverty, collapsing infrastructure (getting so bad that major bridges, like the one in Minneapolis, are beginning to collapse), Social Security, Public Health.
  • An entire decade of missed opportunities and precious time lost for addressing the crisis of global warming, which by itself may quickly become the darkest legacy of this President, through his inaction, as the toll of catastrophic climate change begins quickly to mount in the decade ahead.
Indeed, the inaction and interference of the Bush regime in global efforts to begin to address global climate change in the first decade of the 21st century may, within the next decade, become the foundation of the harshest historical judgments of all on an administration that may come to be blamed for inaction during the most critical decade for turning the tide on global warming.

Instead of taking up the noble and necessary battles against global warming and global poverty and disease, the Bush administration chose to waste this country's great resources, energy, and vital life and blood on a fruitless and ill-considered foreign crusade, corrupted by war profiteering and incompetence.

Is this the Historical Legacy the Bush administration wishes to pass on to posterity, for all to remember it by?

If Bush seeks a more positive legacy, he now has less than 18 months to chart out some dramatic changes of course, by first openly admitting the terrible mistakes of the past, coming clean with the American public about those terrible and fundamental mistakes of historical judgment and hubris, and in all humility before God and his fellow humanity, demonstrating in the time remaining to him that he has truly repented of his past errors and wishes to begin to make amends for the mistakes of the past by charting a new course into the future.

And if he truly wishes to salvage his historical legacy, so that future historians will be able to write that he at least finally came to admit the error of his ways, and began to pave the way to a dramatic change of course for the next administrations after him, then the way for him to begin is to make dramatic changes of course in three policy areas that will most dramatically shape his historical legacy: war, poverty (the dramatically increased gap between rich and poor, and the destruction of the middle class), and climate change:
  • On climate change, President Bush should declare his intention to work with Congress to pass, before the end of his presidency, the most dramatic change in the country's energy, environmental, and climate policies, to reduce global warming emissions by a minimum of 80% by 2050, and to dramatically increase fuel efficiency standards of US-produced autos by requiring that the fleet of new US autos produced in 2018 achieve at least 40 mpg avg fuel economy, and provide government investments to guarantee that major US auto manufacturers are able to introduce affordable plug-in hybrids for sale by no later than 2012.
  • On the war, President Bush should admit that the whole strategy for intervening in Iraq was fundamentally misconceived, and clearly declare and commit the country's best diplomatic resources to working with ALL the countries in the region to negotiate a region-wide settlement of the Iraqi conflict, to be policed by the countries of the region in collaboration with the best leadership of the UN, with full support and funding by the US. If the US could spend billions of dollars a month on an ill-planned war strategy in Iraq, it should now commit itself to spending at least 10% of that to support a diplomacy-driven strategy of regional cooperation and settlement that funds the UN to take leadership and play the role it should have been allowed to play from the beginning.
  • On poverty and the rising gap between rich and poor in the United States, as a result of the decimation of the middle class through the loss of middle-income jobs, the President can reverse course and begin to build a brighter legacy for the future by reversing his strategy of tax cuts for the rich, which have placed ever greater financial burdens on the middle classes of people. He can chart a dramatic reversal of policy by declaring his intention to support the Democratic Congress in a campaign to bring back greatly increased rates of progressive income taxes on both the salaries and the investment incomes of the wealthy who earn over $300,000 a year.
If President Bush truly wishes to bring light to the dark shadows that the legacy of his first six and a half years in office are already casting over the future, he can begin to change how he will be remembered by making dramatic alterations in his policy in each of the three areas noted above, while also committing himself to getting rid of the most secretive and civil liberty-destroying aspects of the PATRIOT Act.

On the other hand, if President Bush wishes to guarantee that history will view him as one of, if not the, worst Presidents in the history of the country, then all he needs to do is continue on the path he has already charted for himself, believing against all evidence to the contrary that he has been "doing the Lord's work." If he wishes to persist in that terrible delusion, he is of course free to do so, and the supine Congress will probably allow him to get away with it for another sixteen months, with what dire consequences for the country and the world we can still only imagine. But if the past is prologue, chances are things will only continue to get even worse, if the President continues in his current direction. And this Legacy may grow even darker than we can yet imagine.

An Open Appeal to the President of the United States

So, dear President Bush, I appeal to you, for the sake of this country, for the sake of democracy, for the sake of the future of the world, as well as your own historical legacy: If you really care about not only your own historical legacy, but about the kind of world you will be passing on to the next generations of this country's children, please make dramatic changes in your present course of policy.

Would you not like the children of the future in their history classes to be able to learn of President Bush, that he had the courage in his last year of office to admit his mistakes and to begin to pave the path that would allow the United States to begin to pick itself up from the terrible missteps it took after 9/11, and to rise to the great challenges of global cooperative leadership that the world would require of the United States in order to help it to address the great twenty-first century problems of global warming, terrorism, poverty, and disease?

Would you not hope that this is what the future will be able to write of you? Or would you rather force future historians to write of you that instead of changing course even when almost everyone told you the country was headed in the wrong direction, that you stubbornly persisted on a path that drove the country ever deeper into chaos and left the next several administrations after him burdened with dealing with the disastrous impacts of terribly failed policies on both the domestic and international fronts, so much so that the United States was never able to recover its former respected role of leadership in the world of nations?

Which destiny will you write for yourself, Mr. President? The answer is up to you: Only you can change the history that will be written about you, and however much you might try to hide the real history of your past administration, you should know that the mere evidence of your administration's efforts to hide the facts of the history of the present from future historians will be enough to condemn and convict you in their eyes.

For history, in the end, is about truth before humanity and the Eternal; and this Truth will not be denied. It cannot be hidden; it cannot be refuted; it cannot be subverted or silenced. It will out in the end. So the only way to alter the truth of the history of your administration and its legacy is by changing the nature of its truth--by dramatically admitting the errors of its previous policy, and fundamentally changing its policies to address the growing crises of poverty, disease, climate change, and perpetual war (including terrorism).

Again, Mr. President, the choice is yours, for better or worse--for the sake of this country, its people, and the fate of the world, as well as your historical legacy. The choice is yours, and I hope for the sake of us all that you will make the right one--



Friday, July 21, 2006

The Slippery Slope Into the War in Iraq, and the Failures of Democratic Nation-Building

From Common Sense for a Time of Crisis:

Addressed to the Citizens of the United States: A People that sacrifices its liberties to achieve security is deserving of neither, and will end up losing both-- "Without Vision, the People Perish!"
Because of the fundamental confusion of private and public interests in framing the rationale, policy, and the means for going to war in Iraq, the United States was doomed to get bogged down in a tragic quagmire because it took upon itself an ideologically-motivated mission of democratic nation-building, without having first rediscovered for itself what democratic institutions for its own self-government were required of both the leaders and agents of democracy in any country.

Democratic institutions within the United States were already failing, for lack of understanding and nurturing, and in such a context of self-inflicted blindness the new executive of the United States took up a mission of democratic nation-building in Iraq. From the beginning, unfortunately and tragically for all, this was a mission of the blind leading the blind.

The failure of this imperial mission, for anyone with eyes to see, was inevitable. Without Vision, the people and democracy both perish. And it has become all too obvious that beyond the lies that helped move the United States into war, the fundamental lack of democratic vision made the people and institutions of the nation not only susceptible to being manipulated by those lies, but set it up to fail utterly in the fundamental tasks of democratic nation-building once Saddam Hussein had been overthrown.

If the new leadership that took over the White House in 2001 had, for example, paused for just a moment to consider the first and most basic principle of democratic nation-building, which is that you cannot impose democracy on a people by military means, our government would not have made the first great mistake in the conduct of the Iraq War, which was to assume that the only important planning was the military planning that went into overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Anyone truly interested in, and committed to, democratic nation-building at home or abroad understands that the second key principle of democracy building is the need to support, nurture, and provide a secure and safe environment for the development of the civil institutions of democratic society. Such understanding would have put a premium [as the United States did after World War II in its occupations of Germany and Japan,] on the importance of providing the kinds of military police and security forces that would have established secure order and peace, immediately after the formal end of the war.

That neither of these two fundamental principles seems to have been clearly comprehended, either by the executive administration, the Congress, or the Press (which was largely uncritical of the conduct of the war), only underlines the degree to which the basic understanding of the fundamental institutional prerequisites of democracy had disintegrated among the political and cultural leadership of the United States.

But because our country’s leadership is by no means simply stupid, we must enquire more deeply into the reasons this most basic understanding of the two primary principles of democratic nation-building was so easily and completely ignored in the conduct of the Iraq War--in ways that have had fatal consequences for not only every family of the 2400+ US soldiers killed, and the tens of thousands maimed in Iraq since May 2003, but also for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and maimed since Bush gave his “Mission Accomplished” victory speech on the deck of the USS Lincoln.

Why were these fundamental democratic principles of nation-building not part of the planning or conduct of the war in Iraq? If they had been, the insurgency might have been suppressed from the beginning, and tens of thousands of American casualties, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, might have been spared.

This is where the confusion between private and public interests becomes pivotal for understanding the failures of not only the war in Iraq, and the so-called war on terrorism, but also the ongoing failures of our government’s response to Katrina, and its failure to serve the real needs of national security and civil liberty within the United States. In the absence of clear distinctions between public and private interest, and the democratic vision that can develop only on the basis of such distinctions, these failures, and many others yet to come, are inevitable.

In the absence of any clear distinction between private corporate interest and the common good of the peoples of the United States and Iraq, the military intervention became a corrupt game of war profiteering, and the profits of the few came at the price of the blood of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Demand Leadership to End Global Warming Now!

Remember when people argued that global warming doesn't exist? (Exxon/Mobil, of course, still does, but we know why they want to obfuscate the truth.)

As we move into another summer of chronic wildfires and drought in western states, and melting icecaps and glaciers, it's hard to ignore evidence of global warming's devastating consequences. And all the while, energy prices continue to rise, along with the oil industry's profits.

But for all the dire predictions, there are also sensible solutions. America has the technological know-how to reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, reduce wasteful emissions which are causing global warming, and make our economy more energy efficient. We as citizens must demand that elected officials act now to develop policies to stop global warming before our environment is irreparably harmed.

Today I participated in the League of Conservation Voters' new summer campaign - The Heat is On! Demand Global Warming Leadership Now! - to raise awareness about global warming. Please join me in calling on Congress, the President, and both political parties to make global warming a central issue in the upcoming elections in November. Just click here.


Demand Global Warming Leadership Now!

Sign the Global Warming Leadership Petition. Send a message to political leaders, and those running for re-election in November, that Americans want energy leadership from their government. We have the technological know-how to turn the tide on global warming and the energy crisis. We as citizens must demand that elected officials act now to develop policies to stop global warming before our environment is irreparably harmed.

Sensible solutions to global warming and our energy problems already exist - we can own our energy future and reinvigorate our economy. Sign the petition and demand that politicians and candidates for office make global warming and clean energy a priority in the 2006 elections. Just fill out the form.
Send this petition to:

* President George W. Bush
* Democratic National Committee
* Republican National Committee
* Your Congressperson
* Your Senators

I am concerned about the disastrous effects of global warming and our continued reliance on oil, therefore I strongly urge you to make these issues a priority in the coming 2006 elections.

Make global warming and energy security issues during the election -- in speeches, at town hall meetings, on your web site, at campaign events, in advertisements and flyers. Let voters know which global warming solutions you support. And encourage your colleagues in Washington to do the same.

Future leaders hold the key to solving our epic energy problems, and the 2006 elections is the starting point.

Join the Campaign against global warming now, before it is too late!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Some Real Questions for Journalists to Ask the President, if they want to avoid being like Larry King

From Policybusters:

As many commentators have noted, this country is facing a perfect storm of mounting crises of national and global significance. Yet members of the Press, like Larry King, who have rare opportunities to seriously interview or question the President, continue to fiddle with the President and members of Congress, and to offer us lovefests rather than serious interviews, while the country burns (perhaps this was a condition of permitting Larry to do the interview: Did you have to sign a prior restraint agreement, Larry, promising to ask only lovefest questions? If not, all the more reason you should be ashamed of yourself for not fulfilling your obligations as a journalist to your fellow citizens--)

There is a growing constitutional crisis over the Executive Administration's deliberate defiance of Congressionally-mandated laws like FISA, as well as multiple international crises (the worsening wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the missile crisis in N. Korea), and growing domestic crises related to the previously mentioned problems....

Meanwhile, the President and Congress are fiddling while the country is burning (in some places literally: witness the many fires burning in the West, which a recent scientific study has attributed to global warming)--

So for all journalists who might have an opportunity to ask the President or others in the Administration a real question or two about what is really happening in this country, here are a few sample questions you might ask, to begin to put some real pressure on politicians for real answers:

(For background reading on basis for some of these questions, check out two great articles by New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer:

THE HIDDEN POWER: The legal mind behind the White House’s war on terror

THE MEMO: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted


Real Questions for the President:

Mr. President, in a recent profile of the Vice-President's Chief of Staff David Addington for the New Yorker (by Jane Mayer), Addington is said to have asserted that he and Dick Cheney were interested in "merging the VP's office with the President's office into a single Exec. Office." Any comment?

In accepting the Office of President of the United States, you swore to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution reads:
"The Congress shall have power to …provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; [The explicit stated powers of Congress include]:
"To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
"To declare war, …and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
"To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces"--

Do you believe that during time of war the President has the authority to ignore any of these congressional powers in the name of national security?

Your administration obviously believes in a strong and robust executive authority in relation to Congress. Do you believe that your authority as commander in chief during time of war extends to ignoring or circumventing Congressional authority to oversee and limit the power of the president in accord with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, or to set aside congressional statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance, as in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

Example: The US War Crimes Act passed into law by Congress, forbids the violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, which bars cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, as well as outrages against human dignity. By not accepting the relevance of Common Article 3 in your conduct of the war on terror, and the establishment of detention centers at Guantanamo and elsewhere, are you not ignoring or contravening laws established by Congress?

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has stated that a state of war does not give any President a blank check to ignore constitutional limitations on presidential power. Do you disagree with Justice O'Connor?


Do you believe that in the name of national security you have the authority to ignore or defy congressional oversight laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or to set aside congressional statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance?


If the American people, through a majority of their elected representatives in Congress, pass a law that says the President cannot do such and such a thing, as happened after Watergate in response to Nixon's abuse of executive powers when Congress enacted the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] law to protect civil liberties and keep future Presidents from abusing their authority-- do you believe the President has the right to ignore or defy that Congressional legislation?


The famous presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger has stated that this administration has turned historical aberrations of executive overreach, such as Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus rights during the Civil War, into a regular policy of government. Any response?


Your administration's interpretation of law has been challenged on several major issues, including your conduct of surveillance in seeming defiance of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and your appointment of military commissions, along with your very liberal use of signing statements (over 750 so far)—

This has suggested to some that the policy strategies being employed by your administration amount not only to defying Constitutional law, which gives Congress significant responsibilities of oversight, but to setting your office in defiance of basic constitutional doctrine of checks and balances. Any comment?

On Signing Statements:

The American Bar Association has recently started an investigation into your use of signing statements as a potentially unconstitutional method for simply ignoring the laws passed by Congress. Instead of being accountable to the public by openly vetoing the law or committing yourself to following it, you seem to be reserving the right to ignore Congressional legislation as you wish.

Bruce Fein, a lawyer and former deputy attorney general in the Reagan admin, and someone who voted for you in both elections, argues that Addington’s signing statements are “unconstitutional as a strategy,” because the Founding Fathers wanted Presidents to veto congressional legislation openly, as part of the balancing process, if they thought the bills were unconstitutional, and that this was a way of keeping both the President and Congress accountable to the American people for their actions. Fein has also stated the Founding Fathers would be shocked by what you have done…. Why are you using signing statements in a way that seems to make you unaccountable to both Congress and the American people?

On Military Commissions:

David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, has been directly involved in the creation of the military commissions that the Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional, even as other senior cabinet officials, including Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, were left out of the process of decision-making related to the creation of those commissions--

Since there has been so little positive progress on this issue, and now that the Supreme Court decision has declared these commissions to be unconstitutional (as you were warned they would), do you have any regrets about the form of decision-making within your administration, which seems to have handed over to one person in the VP's office unprecedented latitude to define the policy of your administration on such important issues as this? Have you learned any lessons about the positive value of involving a much wider number of senior cabinet officials, such as the secretary of state, in key decisions such as this?

Any thoughts of taking responsibility for these mistakes of overreach by asking David Addington (who is also involved in the signing statements and in articulating the administration's position on surveillance issues) to resign?


Fourteen prominent constitutional scholars have written an open letter to Congress arguing that the N.S.A. surveillance program violates constitutional law, because your administration has not amended the FISA law, but has chosen simply to ignore it--

After the abuses of executive power by President Nixon that led to Watergate, Congress passed laws designed to protect civil liberties and curb abuses of executive power in order to protect civil liberties and try to insure that no President would repeat Nixon's abuses. Yet it is a matter of record that within your administration head legal advisors, such as David Addington, Cheney's Chief of Staff, and Cheney himself, believe these laws are not legitimate because they put too much restraint on the president's power. Do you agree with Cheney and Addington in thinking that the legal restrictions placed on presidential power after Watergate ought to be abandoned?


All of these questions address real and serious crises that need immediate attention and strategic action NOW, not 2 or 4 years from now. Yet none of these crises are being meaningfully addressed by the President or Congress or the Press in a sustained way, even as much energy is focused on debating symbolic issues like flag burning, and on depriving gay people of the right to marriage and a family, all in the name of so-called "family values."

Perhaps some day all the so-called "family values" folks will wake up to realize that preserving a democratic constitution and fighting the sources of global warming and poverty are more important than fighting for legislation that discriminates against gay families. Let us hope they wake up before it is too late to do anything about global warming, which will harm all families--including those who choose to ignore it....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Troops Home Fast" Begins Across the Country

Over this holiday, thousands of people across the country joined a fast, coordinated by CodePink, to begin to mobilize a new nonviolent movement of spiritual/political action in this country directed toward bringing about significant change in our country's policies of violence.

While CodePink initiated this action on July 4, people across the country will continue to build this movement over the summer through this hunger strike action, modeled on the satyagraha movement of Gandhi in India. You may join this effort by signing on with the national organiner, CodePink, and by finding or creating your own local manifestation of this movement, as the people of Bangor, Maine, are doing--

Invitation to Join a Rolling Fast to Bring the Troops Home
in Solidarity with Code Pink
From July 11th to August 6th (Hiroshima Day)
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. --Mahatma Gandhi

US soldiers have been forced to put their bodies on the line; the lives of the Iraqi people are at risk every day. It's time for us to do something to show the depth of our commitment to bring our troops home and allow the Iraqis to rebuild their own nation.

That's why CODEPINK and Gold Star Families for Peace, together with activists across the country, will be starting an open-ended hunger strike. With your help, this fast will awaken the public, pressure elected officials and move us closer to peace. Please join us for a day or more as a show of support for the Iraqi people and our soldiers, and your commitment to bring our troops back home-FAST!

Friday, June 30, 2006

"Troops Home" Hunger Strike to Begin on July 4

A Message and Invitation from Troops Home Fast organizers:

President Bush makes a stealth visit to the Green Zone in Baghdad for a quick photo op with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, while Iraqis are plagued by ongoing violence PROVOKED by the very presence of the US troops. Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, supports the war and believes we shouldn't set a timetable for withdrawal. And when elected officials finally make a positive move, in both the House and Senate, by passing an amendment against permanent bases in Iraq, the amendment is simply yanked from the bill in the conference committee. If we don't do more to stop the US occupation of Iraq, we will be there for DECADES to come, and our children and children's children will live is a state of perpetual war.

US soldiers have been forced to put their bodies on the line; the lives of the Iraqi people are at risk every day. It's time for us to do something to show the depth of our commitment to bring our troops home and allow the Iraqis to rebuild their own nation. That's why CODEPINK and Gold Star Families for Peace, together with activists across the country, will be starting an open-ended hunger strike, called Troops Home Fast, on July 4th, in front of the White House and around the country.


As a sign of solidarity with Cindy, CODEPINK and the other long-term fasters, we are asking you to join us by fasting for at least one day. It could be on July 4, our launch date, or any other time during the summer. You can fast from wherever you are, or better yet, join us in Washington DC. We've already received commitments from hundreds of people, including Susan Sarandon, Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Dick Gregory, Dolores Huerta, Eve Ensler, as well as military veterans, religious leaders, students, and women's groups. Go to our new website to see who's fasting and to sign up.

Diane Wilson, who has engaged in several other hunger strikes in her history as an environmental activist, says she will not set an end date to her fast. "My goal is to bring the troops home. I don't know how long I can fast, but I'm making this open-ended," she says. "I plan to take this as far as I've ever taken anything in my 58 years. I fear our future is at stake, and I'm ready to make a major sacrifice." Click here to read more about Diane's reasons for making this commitment.

Throughout history, fasts have been used to end wars, gain the right to vote, free political prisoners, improve conditions for workers (click here to read more). With your help, this fast will awaken the public, pressure elected officials and move us closer to peace. Please join us for a day or more as a show of support for the Iraqi people and our soldiers, and your commitment to bring our troops back home-FAST!