Smart v. Stupid
A game changing week in politics
These are the stories we'll be talking about until fall
About once a year, so much big political news happens that a single column can’t be devoted to a single topic. This is that week. So lace up your running shoes….
In gay rights, two important things happened. The least of these would be huge in any week—the Maryland Senate voted to provide marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The governor has already announced he will sign the bill and it’s expected to pass the House, making Maryland the sixth state where gay couples can marry, by as soon as this July.
But that event was overshadowed by the Justice Department’s decision that the Defense of Marriage Act – a law more properly called the Discrimination against Gay Marriage Act – is unconstitutional and not worthy of defending. Despite the reporting, this sort of refusal to defend is not unprecedented. The law even provides for it, requiring the Department of Justice to notify Congress whenever it happens. But it is highly unusual. And it amounts to an official endorsement of equal rights for gay couples. Combined with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, first term of Obama Administration is sure to be remembered as the civil rights era for gay Americans.
In partisan politics, the governor of Wisconsin—self-styled union buster Scott Walker—let slip that he’d considered planting troublemakers among the demonstrators but decided he didn’t need to. He thought he was having a private conversation with dirty-industrialist David Koch, a major campaign contributor. This, of course, is a tactic not seen since the Nixon Era, when Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover recruited operatives to infiltrate anti-war demonstrations and incite violence as a way of turning public opinion against peace demonstrators. Nixon would later try to rig an election to ensure he won a second term and then resign in disgrace when he got caught. Just sayin'.
In international news, Libyan protesters have taken over much of the country, despite the dictator Gaddafi’s use of planes to bomb and mercenaries to shoot, rape and beat them. You may remember that George Bush bragged about making nice with Gaddafi. Nice. Most lately the dictator is trying to link protesters to Osama Bin Laden and drug use. It’s his last ditch effort to rally western governments to his side. But it seems pretty certain he’s finished.
At home, Obama opponents are highly critical of his tepid statements about the Libyan revolution. However with large numbers of Americans still in-country, it would be highly irresponsible for our president to paint a target on their back. Sure enough, the president announced unilateral sanctions within minutes after the safe exit of a ferry of U.S. refugees.
In economic news, GM’s TARP-financed recovery led to its first full year of profits since 2004. The latest estimate says the entire $700 billion TARP loan program will cost less than $25 billion dollars. TARP—a political disaster—is shaping up to be a huge economic success.
And in juicy political scandal, the Rolling Stone is reporting that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general, ordered Psy-Ops (Psychological Operations) troops to figure out how to manipulate U.S. senators, including John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Al Franken. Reportedly, the goal was to get a bigger war budget.
Head games are a part of every war, but usually they get played on the other side. The choice of McCain was a kind of “aha” moment for me. I’d always thought that he came back from his war theater visits with a kind of rabid look in his eye; I’d blamed it on post-traumatic stress. Lieberman would also be easy to manipulate, given his zealous defense of all things Israel. Franken? Who knows?
One wonders how long this has been going on or how deep it goes. There is some reporting that the military had already tried a cover-up, punishing soldier whistle-blowers. Expect Caldwell to be fired within ten days but the story to unfold for a good bit longer.
Whew! With all the national and international developments, domestic milestones, and emerging scandal, journalism has never been more necessary. But that’s another column entirely.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”