Inmate Manning…

Inmate Manning was arrested for and convicted of one of the most grievous breaches of national security ever committed by a single individual. Inmate Manning was was accused and convicted of violating the espionage act and sundry other charges for making public 750,000 military and diplomatic documents. The inmate may have been convicted of espionage, but in my mind those actions are nothing less than treason. I can’t imagine a crime more vile or a creature so loathsome than a traitor.

Even more appalling, of course is that after serving only seven years Inmate Manning was granted clemency by the outgoing administration. It seems the inmate couldn’t even manage to find the personal fortitude to serve the time for the acts admittedly committed. It was clemency offered by and accepted from an administration that’s spent the last few months raising three kinds of hell about foreign influence on American elections, freeing known terrorists from confinement, and and generally leaking like a sieve.

This… “person”… betrayed the United States of America, put American lives at risk overseas, and was belatedly rewarded for the effort. I’d dearly love to say I’m surprised, but it feels ever more like business as usual in a world where up is down and good is evil.

Spectacle…

While the airwaves are filled with commentators, opinion makers, protestors, and politicians both for and against, the one certainty is that in just about 87 hours President-Elect Donald Trump is going to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United
States. Baring something unprecedented and Inauguration 2005.jpgunforeseen, he will be president, notwithstanding the calls of “not my president,” “not your president,” whatever. He’s going to be sworn and take office. Whether you voted for him or not, whether you find him appealing or appalling, whether you march in protest or toast the victory, this inauguration will roll forward with every bit of pomp and ceremony officialdom of the United States can muster.

Despite my grave disquiet at being out among large groups of people, I’ve attended two inaugurations. The first, in 2001 was the last staged in the era before “big terror” was an issue. The crowds came and went and security was the occasional glimpse of a rooftop sniper or mounted police officer working through the throng. The second, four years later was the first inauguration of metal detectors, fenced pens, and bomb sniffing dogs. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark.

I can’t imagine a circumstance where I’ll ever attend another inauguration in person. I’ve not got enough patience now for the crowds or the five hundred yard wait to process through security. Sill, though, it’s one of those uniquely American experience I’m glad I’ve had. Standing on The Mall, half frozen, the 21-gun salute booming in your chest, the simple and utterly remarkable act of a peaceful transfer of power, and the sense that what you’ve just been a small part of is something historic is a moment that sticks with you.

We here in this happy land may have thrown off the cloak of monarchy in our long ago fit of revolutionary anger. The inauguration of our president, though, is one of those rare moments in the life of the republic when we give ourselves over fully to the purely ceremonial; when we celebrate the office if not the man. It’s really something to see and an American experience worth having, regardless of party affiliation.

Who I want at my disaster…

Some of the news outlets are making hay about President Obama staying on vacation while Louisiana floods. Some say he should be back in Washington monitoring the situation while others say he should have flown directly into the flood zone. Now I’m no particular fan of this president and his policies, my take on that situation is a healthy “so what?”

If my house were sitting up to the rafters in water, the very last thing I’d want to see is the president and his host of support staff, security, and journalists descend on my street. Frankly at a time like that the only people I’d want to see are the ones who are there to physically help with the clean up process. If I had to speculate, I’d say that when you’re up to your eyeballs in water a presidential handshake and photo opp are far less valuable than a guy with a pump or shop vac.

What no one sees behind the scenes of a concerned president feeling the nation’s pain is the massive logistical operation involved in moving him anywhere. What appears calm and perfectly scripted on screen only does so because 1000 people are peddling like mad just out of the shot. I’m guessing Louisiana doesn’t need that kind of help right now.

There are plenty of good and reasonable reasons to criticize the president and his handling of the nation’s issues… but sorry, folks, this isn’t one of them.

Every forth lustrum…

I cast my first vote for president in the 1996 contest between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. I’ve cast votes in every presidential primary and general election since then. Next week, for the first time in twenty years, I’ll actually vote for a candidate running in a race the outcome of which isn’t a foregone conclusion. By the time the primaries roll around in Maryland the nominee is usually running away with it. In the general election, mother Maryland is so reliably blue that all I’m doing at the polls is decreasing the Democratic nominee’s margin of victory by one vote.

Even knowing that the results in my home state are almost never contested, I’ve felt that it’s important to take those few minutes and participate in the process. It’s that much more important this year, because the results really are still in question and so many of the pieces on the board are still in play.

I won’t bore you with the numbing detail of local races, but I’ll say with firm conviction that I still support Governor John Kasich as the best Republican in the race and the candidate from either side of the aisle best suited be the next President of the United States. Next Tuesday he’ll have my vote.

Consulting your pocket Constitution…

So here’s the thing, a sitting President of the United States has the constitutional authority to nominate someone to the Court right up until the moment the next guy takes the oath of office. Last-year-ofterm appointments are  almost always challenging and no president ever expects a smooth confirmation process, especially for a nomination to the Supreme Court. Anyone who tells you something different is lying.

Now over in the Senate they have the constitutional responsibility for providing advice and consent to the presidential appointment. What “advise and consent” means is determined entirely by the Senate. That means they’re well within the scope of their authority to call a vote immediately or delay a vote for the next 57 years. Anyone who tells you something different is lying.

You may have noticed I didn’t raise any topic of the politics of court appointments, just a bit of commentary on the mechanics. I’ll leave it to others to try telling you about the politics involved. Just try to remember that if your news source is telling you the president has to do something or the Senate has to do something else they’re probably lying to you. The scope of what the executive and legislative have to do in this situation is pretty well defined if anyone would bother consulting their pocket Constitution before running off at the mouth.

Common sense…

In the wake of today’s presidential decree of executive action on the issue of gun control I keep hearing the refrain that we need “common sense” legislation. That leads inexorably to the discussion of how we define common sense. The very definition of those two words will be very different depending on whether you happen to be one of my gun grabbing friends on the left or my open carry friends on the right. What smells like common sense to me likely wouldn’t satisfy either group. Perception is a bitch like that.

Until we arrive in a place where one side isn’t viewed as wanting to put a rifle in every hand and the other side isn’t viewed as wanting to melt every barrel for scrap, I don’t see a way towards even a basic definition of what “common sense” legislation might look like. Until we find that definition we’ll continue to have what we have today, which is both sides entrenched and able to hold the other largely in check indefinitely.

As long as we’re locked into an argument where the slightest retreat by either side is seen as threatening the collapse of their entire position, I can’t imagine what common sense might look like. I foresee only continued entrenchment and both camps racing away from the middle of the discussion.

They’re not master debaters…

Tonight is the next in what promises to be a mind-numbingly endless series of Republican primary debates. Say what you may about the group of people who have ended up on that stage, but you don’t tend to rise to that level in American political life without convincing a fair number of people – and more than a few people with very deep pockets – that you’re The One.

One thing I know based on observing the last go around with this bunch, but none of them are master debaters. I didn’t see any sign of one of them being able to simply mop the floor with the others. I don’t expect any of them to land a knockout punch tonight. Hitting that hard just isn’t likely when you’re in the ring with that many other people. We’re still in the phase of the nominating process where death by a thousand cuts is most likely. I fully expect some of the old familiar faces will fall and a few new ones are yet to make an appearance before we get around to any real voting (or caucusing – Iowa, you freak).

This early in the game I’m not sure I even know what a “win” for tonight looks like. For some, it might be as simple as not wetting themselves on national television. For others it might be advancing a policy point or two. For Donald Trump it’s probably to say something outlandish enough to make sure none of the others get any coverage at all after the event.

All I know is we’re still one hell of a long way from Election Day 2016… and I’m not sure I can deal with watching these guys playing with themselves that long.