Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How President McCain Might Have Handled Iran

Days like today are one reason I supported the no-nonsense war hero John McCain over Barack Obama.

After the presidential election in Iran was apparently stolen, thousands of protesters took to the streets. Instead of the United States boldly supporting the cause of liberty, and defending dissidents, President Obama meekly said, "It's not productive given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling."

That -- of course -- was not a great moment in leadership.

President John F. Kennedy did not say we would "bear any burden -- so long as we don't interfere." Nor can one imagine Winston Churchill saying, "We will fight on the land -- so long as we don't meddle." Nor can one imagine Ronald Reagan saying "Tear down this wall! -- if you're cool with it..."

If the strongest nation in the free world is not willing to take a stand and at least provide moral support for those willing to risk their lives for liberty, the America I know is long gone. While it is understandable for Obama to not invade a nation over this injustice, it is quite another thing to not even bother to forcefully condemn it. Having a humble foreign policy does not preclude one from moral clarity.

Meanwhile, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a statement calling on Obama to "take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses." Cantor added that the United States has a "moral responsibility to lead in opposition to Iran's extreme response to peaceful protests." Cantor's full remarks are here.

We'll never know what President McCain would have said, but it's pretty safe to say that he would have taken a forceful stand -- once again positioning America as a beacon of freedom and the last, best hope on Earth.

Instead, we risk becoming a cynical nation that makes decisions based on perceived short-term diplomatic gain.

That's not change I can believe in.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Text of President Obama's Inaugural Address

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Palin Attacks Media Over 'Very Scary' Reporting

Former VP candidate accuses journalists of believing 'gossip and lies'

Palin attacks media over 'very scary' reporting Sarah Palin, still smarting over coverage of her vice presidential run, calls the media's reporting on her family "very scary" and says there may be "a class issue" that explains the more sympathetic treatment of Caroline Kennedy.

The Alaska governor also took a swipe at Katie Couric over the CBS interview in which Palin stumbled badly, saying: "Katie, you're not the center of everyone's universe."

Palin did her venting Monday with John Ziegler, a conservative radio talk show host turned filmmaker, who posted excerpts online to promote the sale of a forthcoming DVD titled "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected." "I think this woman was assassinated by the media," he said yesterday.

By turns aggravated and bemused, Palin complained in the video that her press office is still getting calls about rumors that she is not the mother of her infant son. She called this "quite absurd," saying she is "frustrated that I wasn't believed that Trig was really my son.

"When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially? It's a sad state of affairs in the world of the media today, mainstream media especially, that they're going to rely on bloggers, anonymous bloggers, for their hard news information."

Mainstream news outlets reported the rumor in September only after John McCain's campaign revealed the pregnancy of Palin's teenage daughter Bristol, citing the chatter about Trig as the reason for the disclosure. Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan — who is hardly anonymous — has questioned why Palin would not release medical records to prove she is the boy's mother, but has also posted information supporting her account.

'Is it sexism?'

Although her campaign brushed aside most inquiries on the subject, Palin asked: "What is the double standard here, why reporters would choose to believe lies, reporters especially not just taking one extra step to get to the facts . . . Is it sexism? What is it that drives someone to believe the worst and perpetuate the worst, in terms of gossip and lies?"

Palin also objected to reports that Bristol and her fiance, Levi Johnston, are "high school dropouts and they're going to just look for government handouts to raise their child and stuff, nothing could be further from the truth. And I've asked some in the media to correct that, and they haven't corrected it, and that gets frustrating." Palin contacted People magazine, the Associated Press and the Anchorage Daily News last week. She said Johnston — who, according to the Anchorage paper, recently quit his job as an apprentice electrician — is taking a high school correspondence course, and that Bristol is still a student.

Palin was hit by an avalanche of coverage after her surprise nomination in August, some of it critical of her Alaska record and her qualifications for the vice presidency, and some of it more personal, questioning how she could handle the job with five children. Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" impersonation cemented an impression of Palin as a bit of a ditz.

Ziegler showed Palin a clip of Fey saying, "I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers." Palin's reaction: "Cool, fine, come attack me, but when you make a suggestion like that that attacks a kid, that kills me."

Palin questioned whether Kennedy's bid for the Senate "will be handled with kid gloves," and if so, "we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here" when contrasted with the scrutiny of her campaign. Kennedy, of course, is trying for an appointment to be one of 100 rather than running for vice president, and has drawn critical coverage lately for a series of halting interviews.

Palin criticized the McCain camp's decision to send her back for a second round with Couric, and tried to explain why she declined to name a single publication she reads. Palin said she interpreted Couric's question as "Do you read, what do you guys do up there," but conceded: "Perhaps I was just too flippant in my answer back to her." However, Couric made no reference to Alaska in her question, asking, "What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this?"

Accuses press of ideological 'hypocrisy'

Asked by Ziegler how she would have fared as Barack Obama's running mate, Palin accused the press of ideological "hypocrisy," saying: "I think they would have loved me as a candidate. . . . You would have seen an absolutely different and . . . much prettier profile of Sarah Palin and the Palin family and my administration."

Would she do it again? "That's a darned good question," Palin said, before concluding that she would. But she doesn't want people in the "Lower 48" being "sucked into believing what too many in the mainstream media want them to believe."

Ziegler, whose film will be sold online next month, said Palin was "very concerned about appearing whiny" before the 50-minute sit-down at her Wasilla home. He said he found her Republican convention speech "awesome" but had wondered about the media portrayal of her as "a diva or a wack job." He now believes that "the fact that she's mocked is a travesty."

On his Web site, Ziegler says that when Palin saw a picture of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, "she literally let out a shriek and, pointing to his photograph, declared, 'THAT guy is EVIL!' "

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Palin Takes Aim at Fey, Couric

Sarah Palin is credited with making Tina Fey a world-wide star and boosting Katie Couric's ratings at CBS.

But in a recent interview with conservative John Ziegler, Palin said both "exploited" her twelve-week candidacy — a fact, she said, that "says a great deal about our society.”

In a new interview with a fellow conservative, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lashed out at actress Tina Fey and news anchor Katie Couric, accusing them of exploiting her and her family. She also suggested the press treated her more harshly due to background. Palin, center, with her family in 2007, has described herself as a "hockey mom" living a typical Alaskan lifestyle.(Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)

Fey's widely-applauded portrayal of the Alaska governor boosted SNL's ratings, while Couric’s audience grew after a series of interviews during which Palin now-famously faltered.

“I did see that Tina Fey was named entertainer of the year and Katie Couric’s ratings have risen," Palin said in the interview. "I know that a lot of people are capitalizing on, oh I don’t know, perhaps some exploiting that was done via me, my family, my administration — that’s a little bit perplexing, but it also says a great deal about our society.”

The Alaska governor was particularly upset with an SNL skit during which Fey's version of Palin said, "I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers."

The line was a clear reference to Palin's 18-year-old daughter Bristol and her fiancé Levi Johnston. The two announced shortly before the GOP convention that they were expecting a baby and had plans to marry.

"The mama grizzly rises up in me, hearing things like that," she said of a skit. "Here again, cool, fine come attack me. But when you make a suggestion like that that attacks a kid, it kills me."

“I knew it didn’t go well the first day, and then we gave her a couple of other segments after that," she said. "And my question to the campaign was, after it didn’t go well the first day, why were we going to go back for more…going back for more was not a wise decision either.”

During one of those follow-up interviews, Palin took heat for appearing to be unable to name the newspapers or magazines she reads: "Um of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years," was the Alaska governor's response.
In the interview with Ziegler, Palin called that answer "too flippant" and suggested the question itself offended her.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What if John McCain had been elected president?

Before we throw Barack Obama under the bus for giving a prominent role to a conservative pastor, let’s imagine the reaction if things were reversed.

By Chris Crain

What if John McCain had been elected president? I know the idea is a bit of a throwback, considering the shellacking the Arizona septuagenarian got from the Illinois senator with the funny name. But just imagine for a minute.

Conservatives would be gleeful, Sarah Palin would be on cable news 24-7 (actually, that happened anyway), and President-elect McCain would be planning his inauguration. Then imagine, in a conciliatory gesture toward Obama supporters, McCain selects Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, to give the invocation. In a nod to his own supporters, he chooses the evangelical leader Rick Warren to give the benediction.

We know what the response would be. The Republican right would be furious: What a kick in the teeth from McCain to choose a minister whose elevation was an indictment of their core religious beliefs, and who advocates the destruction of traditional marriage and the murder of millions of aborted fetuses!

Gay rights groups and bloggers, still reeling from Obama’s unexpected defeat, would be cheered by McCain’s unexpected and courageous attempt at reconciliation. Press releases from progressives would defend McCain against charges of betrayal, chastising conservatives for their intolerance and their insistence on dividing, not unifying. Besides, they would point out, the benediction will come from Rick Warren, who opposes gay marriage and supported Proposition 8 in California.

You see where I’m going here? We know that, happily for us, history unfolded in opposite fashion, and Barack Obama chose Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation, and civil rights hero Joseph Lowery, who supports full marriage equality, to say the benediction.

Yet the response from many gay bloggers and rights groups has been every bit as reactionary and intolerant as the Republican right would have been toward Robinson. Aren’t we better than that?

Can’t we see how any meaningful attempt by President-elect Obama to unify the country must include McCain voters, including the 31 million who bought Warren’s best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life,” and the additional millions who agree with gay marriage opposition?

Can’t we keep our eyes on the prize? This inauguration will install the most pro-gay president, by far, in the history of this country. If reaching out to conservatives buys Obama some additional political capital, that is to our great benefit.

Aren’t we the ones who have argued till we are blue in the face for the separation of church and state? It’s always been a core part of our movement to oppose any attempt by one set of Americans to demand their religious views receive official favor, or that those with contrary views be excluded.

And yet here we are, basically demanding the president-elect remove one minister from his role in a public ceremony because of his religious beliefs and replace him with one whose beliefs we find more acceptable. Are we proving we are no better, when we have access to power, than our conservative opponents?

The misuse of public ceremonies to show official favor for one group over another runs afoul of the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” which prohibits the establishment of an official religion, or from sending signals that some faith groups or views are preferred over others by government.

That’s why the courts won’t permit sectarian prayers in public schools, and why we no longer have manger scenes at Christmas time in front of city hall. That’s also why Roy Moore, the virulently anti-gay chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was booted from office after he insisted on a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse rotunda.

To be fair, it is partly Obama and Warren’s fault that church and state are entangled here. The president-elect’s decision to include inaugural prayers at all, while noncontroversial and in keeping with tradition, opened the door to this debate. What’s more, marriage as an institution is a conflation of church and state, “vesting power” in ministers to officiate at a religious ceremony with civil legal effect.

Warren makes matters worse by basing his opposition to gay marriage and support for Proposition 8 on his own religious beliefs about homosexuality. If you think about it, exclusionary marriage laws are also contrary to the First Amendment, since the primary intent -- repeated by politicians and pastors alike – is to preserve “the sanctity of marriage.” The government ought not be choosing which faith group’s views about marriage will be enshrined in the law or excluded from public ceremonies.

Those of us so exorcised by the idea of Warren saying a two-minute prayer would be much better served by arguing for church-state separation, in marriage laws and public ceremonies, than by demanding the president-elect show favor to friendlier religious beliefs.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade and five other gay publications and now edits He can be reached via his blog at



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