Was George W. Bush right after all with his war on terror?

October 11, 2014

I almost choke while asking this question but: could George W. Bush have been right all along to declare a war on terror? With the threat of what seems like the most diabolical enemy ever, at least in modern times, that is ISIS, with its beheadings and mass killings, it seems we need to confront this and do it now. I’m beginning to miss the good old days of the Cold War when it seemed there was less violence.

But then again, there was Korea and Vietnam and other hot wars. There is always war. But the Cold War with the two super powers did seem to keep some things in check.

Mostly it was just two super powers, the U.S. and the now defunct Soviet Union, threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear missiles, meanwhile each controlling or having hegemony over their respective halves of the world.

But America has grown soft in its wealth and luxury (financial crises notwithstanding).

Presidents cannot even think of asking or urging Americans to really sacrifice.

In a previous post I said something to the effect that there is no value in shedding any more American blood in Iraq, or did I say the whole Middle East? No difference. I don’t think there is, either way, especially since this nation quit fighting wars to win after World War II.

Well actually I would consider Korea a sort of win in that we did push the communist forces back across the 38th parallel.

I don’t believe in the concept of “limited war”. I don’t think you can limit war. You either fight to win or you end up losing. But fighting to win can be a major investment and a major risk. Victory is not guaranteed. So you have to pick your battles.

Right now the forces of ISIS do indeed seem to pose a threat to the whole world. So it would seem that it would be worth it to go at it with them head on. But President Obama is fighting back only reluctantly and in a limited fashion for now.

He has committed air power in Iraq and finally into Syria, after initially backing down from his promise to not let the Assad regime cross a red line — and actually that is separate from the current threat by ISIS, except related in that all of it has to do with an ongoing civil war in that nation that pits disparate forces against Syrian strong man Assad and each other — all very complicated.  Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the power vacuum and confusion in Syria, and of the weakness and internal struggles in Iraq. ISIS (a split-off from the more familiar Al Qaeda) is the real threat now (and I guess there are other similar factions, but let’s not get into that). This group of thugs appears to want to take over the Middle East and then maybe the whole world. And with modern transportation and technology this is a serious threat.

Obama seems to think that only our air power alone in some limited fashion is the best way to go, and let indigenous forces, on our side (do they even exist?), do the ground work. We tried letting the South Vietnamese ground forces do the dirty work once upon a time, but they wisely decided that it was better to live and let the other guys die (that is Americans). And I apologize to the families of any South Vietnamese soldiers who did give up their lives. I’m just talking the big picture. But we soon found out we had to commit our own forces in Vietnam, for it was really our war (we had chosen to make it our war already).

I doubt the American public, although spooked no doubt by the beheadings and massacres inflicted by ISIS, is in the mood to commit large numbers of troops in the fight at this time. And the public is never asked outright to pay for war, it is all but hidden in special appropriations. I think it must be hard to wage a successful war when you have to almost secretly fund it.

Enemies of the free Western world have only to look to the history of the past few decades to see that America has lost its resolve to fight battles and win.  An example. In the first Iraq War we did not defeat Saddam Hussein in that we did not go all the way to Baghdad and arrest and hang him then and there. In the second war with that nation, we finally just left without actually finishing the whole job (although the Iraqis themselves did hang Hussein), only to have problems flare up all over again.

And, according to Wikipedia, we lost almost 5,000 American troops between 2003 and 2014 in Iraq, and of course thousands were severely maimed or wounded. And still we left without finishing the job it seems. It could well be argued that we should not have gone in there in the first place, but the fact is we did and we put a major investment into the job. Talking dollars and cents, what is the figure? More than a trillion dollars spent on the project over the past decade.

I think it is a crime to commit any forces, be they air or ground or both, if you do not have the resolve to do what is necessary to win. I think that is more of a crime than choosing to go to war for questionable reasons. The justification of wars can always be debated. But there is no justification for asking or forcing people to die or be maimed for life for no reason.

We need to confront the threat of ISIS (and other such groups). Military strikes might not be the answer or only part of the answer. We need to go after the economies or economic entities or people who support our enemies.

But again, as to military action, we need to have the resolve to fight to win. If we can get by with a limited response, well good. But we have to be willing and able to be in for the long haul.


And whatever action we take it should be in our own interest. I mean we lead the free world, but we always have to look out for ourselves first.

Bush disrespected; pressure on Obama…

January 21, 2009

(Copyright 2009)

Just a little cleanup from yesterday’s inauguration. I watched it on CNN and I thought at the time I heard some boos when outgoing president George W. Bush made his first entrance, but I don’t think the CNN commentators made any mention of it. I did pick up on the idea that some folks nearby seemed to be avoiding him and he did look kind of lonely.

But my oldest daughter who lives in another town mentioned to me that some in the crowd were singing the hey hey, na, na goodbye song (or whatever it is) and that seemed a little disrespectful. I read in today’s newspaper and on the web that indeed there had been some boos and other signs of disrespect, including that song.

While I think all that was in poor taste, I certainly don’t think George W. showed a lot of respect for the nation. I’m sure in his own tortured logic he felt he did and he no doubt feels that time will vindicate him. As I have mentioned before in this blog space, he might become the Republican version of Harry Truman – reviled while in office and later, particularly after his death, brought up to the status of near sainthood. Even Herbert Hoover, usually the symbol of the Great Depression, gets some good marks in the revisionist approach to U.S. History (actually, I would like to go back and study about what he did and did not – for all I know, he might have just needed more time).

But George W’s apparent ignorance of our own history and world affairs, his inability to use the English language any where near correctly, his chicken hawk history of avoiding combat by pretending to be in the National Guard but not showing up for all the meetings and then parading around on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and committing troops to a war of choice with no clear objectives and a deficiency in troop strength and materiel that may have increased our casualties, his ineptness in the Katrina event that led to unnecessary human suffering, and his snicker when with super rich folks joking that “some call you the richest folks in America; I call you my base”, and his attack on science in favor or religious beliefs and money-making beliefs, well all that and more is what has engendered some disrespect.

But George W. has gone back home to Texas and he is history – we hope.

No man has ever had as much pressure on him as President Barrack Obama does today.

Good luck! For all of us.

P.s. Bush’s singular accomplishment by his own admission it would seem was that he kept us safe since 9/11. I have to wonder, would another president have not? And is that somewhat akin to my next door neighbor spreading elephant dust around his house for the past eight years and bragging that it must be effective because no elephants have stampeded in?

Unexpected drama part and parcel to presidency

November 25, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

Most or all of my knowledge of President John F. Kennedy’s administration is like a video tape rolling in my head. I watched so much of it on TV as an adolescent. But that doesn’t mean that everything in there is accurate. I just got through madly searching Wikipedia and anything else I could find on the web concerning Kennedy’s immediate public reaction to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and didn’t have much luck.

Even though several sources indicated that he took “full responsibility” for the failure, I did not find what in my head I always assumed to be fact. I always have pictured him making one of those solitary oval office television addresses, such as the one on the Cuban Missile Crisis, acknowledging his mistake concerning the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. But nowhere could I immediately find that.

So, maybe I’ll get back to that point later after more research.

History tells us, though, that the fiasco was not only covertly supported by the U.S., but that it was what you might call an open secret at the time. It had been set in motion by the Eisenhower administration, who informed the incoming president Kennedy of the plan. Kennedy went along with it, but apparently decided that he would not get our armed forces involved in it should things go wrong. Unfortunately, that was not what the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency-backed Cuban expatriates who invaded were told and the end result is that they were left stranded on the beach with not so much as air cover (that they expected), eventually being killed or captured by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s forces. The U.S. was at odds with Castro, who had become a follower of the Soviets.

It was an embarrassment for the new administration, but it moved on. Later the Cuban Missile Crisis came along and Kennedy redeemed himself by standing up to the Soviets.

Some conspiracy theorists think that the CIA was so mad at Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs and for the purported notion that Kennedy was ready to pull out of Vietnam (the U.S. still being in an advisory role in that fight against the communist insurgency) that they were behind his assassination. Kennedy of course was assassinated on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, 45 years ago.

Faulty memory or not, I can tell you this, the assassination was one of the most bizarre things I have ever witnessed (via TV and newspapers). The president was shot while riding in an open limousine on the streets of Dallas, and then the apparent shooter was assassinated by a gunman as he was being taken on what we might call today a “perp walk”, one of those contrived occurrences where a criminal suspect is marched in front of the cameras, usually in shackles. In this case they were moving Lee Harvey Oswald from one jail to another though a crowd of newsmen and others (how much sense did that make?).

Over the weekend I saw a clip from an interview with the cop that was escorting Oswald. He said that just before they started on the walk he remarked to Oswald: “If anyone shoots, I hope they’re accurate,” meaning he hoped they hit Oswald, not him (and how weird is that? that he would think to say such a thing). Shooting point blank, Jack Ruby couldn’t hardly miss. And he had no trouble getting into position, both because of the mob scene and the fact he was a well-known fixture around the police headquarters, being kind of a groupie. The hand gun Ruby used had been purchased for him by a policeman friend, although reportedly not for killing Oswald but for Ruby’s protection as a nightclub owner who carried large amounts of cash to the bank.

(And come to think of it, I think the live-on-TV shooting of assassination suspect Oswald by Ruby was the first time I ever remember of a news clip being played constantly over and over again for a day or more. In fact, I understand the now archaic technology used to replay that video (or film?) led to the modern instant replay used so much in sports. The next news clip that got possibly even more play was the space ship Challenger blowup on Jan. 28, 1986. Nowadays all kinds of clips are on YouTube and elsewhere for constant replay.)

I think a lot of people wondered if we really had gotten out of control as a nation when after just enduring the assassination of our president we witnessed live on TV the murder of the suspected assassin.

And while the evidence is clear that Oswald shot from the upper story window of the Texas School Book Depository, just who were those mysterious characters on the grassy knoll? I am sure I recall hearing something about them in the original news reports. I have a book written by a woman who claims to have been Castro’s girlfriend at one time and also a CIA agent. She claims she went on a mission to Dallas just before the assassination (of which she apparently did not know what the real reason was for), but went back home to the east coast after she got sick. But she claims or implies that her CIA cohorts were in on the Kennedy assassination. Now obviously I think it is just as likely she has a good imagination and had a need for a story to put into book form to hopefully make some money.

But the point of this is that the whole episode was bizarre – oh and my memory still seems to be hazy about Kennedy’s mea culpa on the Bay of Pigs. I’ll have to do more research. Can anyone offer suggestions on that?

P.s. If Kennedy had supported the Bay of Pigs invaders we might have been able to wipe out Castro. I’m not sure why that would have been a good thing, though. I think Kennedy was afraid the Soviets might use our action as a pretext to cause troubles elsewhere. But my observation is that every time we stood up to the Soviets they backed down (is my memory faulty again?).

P.s.  P.s. Kennedy came into office and was almost immediately faced with the Bay of Pigs. George W. Bush was faced with 9/11. I have a feeling Barack Obama’s first big crisis, besides the already-known one, the economy, will come early and will be something off everyone’s radar screen.

Electorate saves us from the ignorant…

November 7, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

The good news is that we elected the good student, Barack Obama.

I’ll let poor John McCain alone, for although he was near the bottom all those years ago at West Point, he has more than made up for it. You did your best sir (except the VP pick), who could ask for more?

The bad news is that we came as close as we did to electing such an ignorant person as vice president. Reports are that Sarah Palin did not even know that Africa was a continent until campaign aides informed her. She apparently thought it was a nation. Now I might classify this as gossip from the infighting and blame gaming that is going on within the lost campaign, but in a televised interview she did not directly dispute the report on her ignorance of geography and the nations of the world, she just said that she would want to know who said that and that they were small minded and bitter for saying what they said. She also reportedly did not know the three nations in the North American Free Trade Agreement, kind of strange, especially since her side supported NAFTA. Let’s see, what would be three major nations in North America who might have a trade agreement – could they be Canada, the United States, and Mexico? She could have faked that one.

I should get over this. Obama won. But is galls me that people so ignorant, say George W. Bush, get anywhere near high office. I don’t really care that the folks in Alaska want Palin as governor – heck they still seem to want that corrupt senator they have. But I want someone who is not only as up on current events and worldly things as I am, I want someone who is way beyond me to lead the free world.

And then there was Bill O’Rielly ( a buffoon whose buffonism is only surpassed by Rush Limberger) in a discussion on the subject of Palin’s said ignorance making excuses for her – “she could have been tutored”. Why do we have to tutor people. Isn’t it up to them to get an education and pay attention in class, and then run for office? Why do those who did pay attention in class have to be subservient to those who did not?

And one more thing, why is it that the intellectual conservatives voted for Obama?

Perhaps there is a class of folks in this nation who abhor intellectuals. Maybe they think we should do like China did during Mao’s cultural revolution and send them all to the mines to work. That set them back a few decades – fortunately for them, Mao died and they finally realized the error of their ways.

There may be something to that observation that intellectuals may be smart, but sometimes lack common sense. But there is a difference between common sense and common ignorance.

Part of the problem here, I think, is that we have just gone through an era in which knowledge has been debased, where we have rewarded good looks, athletic ability, acting (we even elected a president because of his acting and looks, Ronald Reagan). In business, knowledge of how to produce quality products and provide good customer service and the need for research and development were put on a lower scale than how to make the quick buck. Making tons of money quickly became so important that instead of making things or providing services we put the emphasis on investing in investing and bankrupted ourselves in the process.

And now, hopefully, we are turning to thinking people to pull us out of this crisis we are facing. (And thinking and good looks are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and as I pondered once before, what was so dashing about W.?)

Looking for Republican renaissance in defeat…

November 3, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I’m assuming today that John McCain is going to lose. And it looks as if the Democratic Party will not only win the White House but solid control of the House and Senate.

I do not think that this will mean the death of the Republican Party.

Quite the contrary: I think a McCain loss will mean the renaissance of a proud political party, the party of Abraham Lincoln.

I don’t think the Republican Party will turn liberal. I do think it will move more toward the center.

The center is a good place to be, because as far as I can see it, that is where the electorate has always been, except that it has a funny way of moving ever so slightly to the right or left depending upon the Zeitgeist.

Bill Clinton won his first term because of two things: the spoiling effect of the third party candidacy of Ross Perot and as his campaign manager advised him at the time, “it’s the economy stupid”.

If Obama wins (and do I really have to qualify that with an if?), it will be because of one overriding issue – the economy. Really, I think Mickey Mouse could almost win (and I’m not poking fun at Obama’s big ears) after the collapse of our banking system and the threat of another Great Depression that we are witnessing at the moment. At least the economy is a major part of it all.

Also, I think that McCain sowed the seeds of his anticipated defeat by his careless and cynical selection of Sarah Palin for vice president (and at the very first it seemed so clever). While less than spectacular vice presidential picks don’t always mean a loss – remember Dan Quayle – this time I think that the presidential candidate went too far.

I think McCain picked up a tiger by the tail and it got away from him and came back to bite him in the posterior.

I remember that day he introduced Sara Palin. He hovered over her as if he was ready to control everything she would do or say. That didn’t last long. Oh, sure, she gave a dynamite acceptance speech at the convention, but it was not long before she struck out on her own (well to some extent anyway) and even seemed to be challenging her boss (althought part of that was no doubt the campaign’s strategic attack dog, or should I say pit bull with lipstick, tactic for the VP pick to save the top guy from spoiling his image). And could the McCain campaign have conceived of how dismal she would be in answering questions without a script? Apparently not. And yes, sometimes questions can be unfair — have you ever had what I call a hostile job interview?

As much as I have watched her and read about her, I really don’t know who Sarah Palin is or quite what she is all about (I have a good idea, though). But it seems apparent that at the very least she is not someone you would want to be president of the United States, and that is really the only official duty the VP has, that of being ready to assume that duty at a moment’s notice, well, along with breaking a tie vote in the Senate. Palin has made it painfully plain that she has no grasp of issues and after all these months does not even know what the duties of the vice president are (and how hard is that?They’re the two things I just mentioned). She stated in a recent interview that the VP controls the Senate. Actually, if you’re going by example of the past eight years and Dick Cheney, the VP may indeed control the whole enchilada in a secret and dark way behind the scenes, but we don’t want more of that.

I just read on another blog that there are signs that even white bigots are voting for the black guy this time around (bigotry does not prevent one from voting his or her own self interest – and it is a secret ballot).  And remember all the uproar when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball? Today, redneck sports fans unabashedly cheer on leagues of black players in all sports and go on spouting off their bigotry in their own personal lives as if they saw no irony in that, well heck, they wouldn’t even know what irony means, except that they prefer wives who are irony, as in go iron my shirt.

And even the conservatives are becoming more open-minded. I forget where our VP Cheney officially comes down on gay rights and gay marriage, but I know he and his sometimes critical of the gay lifestyle wife had to hold back a little being as their own daughter is openly gay (I usually avoid using the term “gay” and use “homosexual”, but sometimes that seems pejorative).

Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders recently found himself having to do an about face after having come out against gay marriage (there is a ballot measure on the subject in California).

Just as his city council was set to pass a resolution against gay marriage, he announced that he had changed his mind. He said that some friends and members of this family, including his own daughter, were gay.

“… In the end, I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship – their very lives – were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife …”

In my own case, rather than worry about the break in tradition that gay marriage is, I look at it this way: since marriage is a contract sanctioned by government action, it would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s present interpretation of equal rights to deny marriage to a certain class of people. Brown vs. the Board of Education struck down the previously held position of separate, but equal (such as gays being allowed only civil unions, not marriage would be). Most available evidence, especially the empirical evidence that most of us have within our own families, suggests that gays or homosexuals are a distinct class of people – they were born homosexual.

So, at any rate, conservatives and the Republican Party are adapting, if but ever so slowly.

I think the election of Obama will hasten that transition toward more open-mindedness.

I have never registered Republican, but I feel that we need the Republican Party. We need a loyal opposition to balance out our government and save ourselves from the extremes.

In my off-the-cuff interpretation, the Republicans stand for self-initiative, less government control, and no sudden changes (even if that is not the way things have worked out).

Even though I think that the traditional left and right designations are blurring with time and generational changes, I still think there is a natural tendency for politics to waver between the extremes of ultra liberal, which at its worst can result in socialist totalitarian government (Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong), and the extreme right, which at its worst can result in fascist or Nazi totalitarianism (Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini), and of course many readers younger than I have no idea who I am talking about because it is not taught in schools.

And isn’t it strange that while liberals and conservatives are arch enemies, when taken to the extreme both ideologies seek to destroy the rights of the individual and replace those rights with the requirement of blind obedience to something called the state.

On television yesterday I saw a report that said that people around the world are rooting for a new beginning for America that will once more make us the hope of freedom-loving folks all over the globe. No more Nazi-like blitzkriegs into other nations under false-pretext, no more police-state tactics, no more incarcerations without charges or trials, no more attempts to make the nation a theocracy, and hopefully no more proclamations of war with no end in order to stifle democratic (with a small d) dissent, and here’s one – how about an administration that does not send its citizen-soldiers (National Guard and Reserve) to war and then have the uncaring audacity to charge them for their medical bills when they are wounded? George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative”. If I had of been him and I found out that either through policy or bureaucratic bungling my solders were being charged for their own treatment, I would have issued an executive order on the spot rectifying such a situation and followed up with the necessary policy changes through legislation or whatever it would take. If he had any shame or decency he would have done so. How can we hear those reports and with good conscience go about our everyday lives?

I think the crowds in Berlin turning out for Obama meant something (although a right-wing friend of mine claimed they were waiting for a rock concert). I think the U.S. as a nation has felt unappreciated and has gone around with a chip on its shoulder too long.


I’m Tony Walther and I approve of this message.

P.s. barring unexpected circumstances, I probably won’t blog again until after I get the word on who won the presidency, assuming I get that word sometime at least by late Tuesday (don’t think I could hold off blogging longer than that).

Surely they’re not standing in line for McCain…

November 2, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I find it hard to believe that all those young people, all those new never voted before voters, and all those people starting to wait in line at 3 a.m. at one place for early voting are all excited to get out the vote for John McCain. That seems unlikely.

I’m not sure how much good McCain’s appearance on Saturday Night Live did him two days before election Tuesday. With an assist from wife Cindy along with Tina Fey doing her Sarah Palin routine, complete with a “going rogue” aside about her running in 2012, McCain did a pretty good skit. But really, is that the image he wants just before election day running for the most powerful office in the world? Well, who knows? maybe he could do like that other Republican oldster war hero and presidential campaign loser Bob Dole and wind up taking a job doing Viagra commercials.

No, I’m envisioning an Obama landslide, not just a win, but a Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater (the latter of course being an Arizonan like McCain) kind of an affair. Of course I was sure Mitt Romney was going to be the Republican candidate too (even though I don’t care for him).

With so many top Republicans repudiating McCain and with so many more conceding either tacitly or directly he won’t win, it seems those who actually decide, the voters, are not likely to pull this one out of the hat for him, even if McCain acts as if he is the happy underdog confident that he will come back from behind one last time. Heck a large percentage of the voters have already cast their ballots and more of them are registered Democratic than not, I believe.

If this were still an extremely tight race, I might be concerned about voting irregularities and dirty tricks with the ballots, but with the overwhelming outpouring I am witnessing on television of voters across the nation I find it hard to believe that the election can or will be stolen, even though there is sure to be some mischief (from either side).

—  So I can’t sleep and in the middle of the night I get up and watch C-Span and I see convicted bribe taker Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens debating his Democratic opponent and declaring that they (the Senate) won’t kick him out. They wouldn’t dare, he proclaims indignantly. He has a lot of friends, he boasts (hmm I wouldn’t count on it Ted). He is well respected, he says. Okay already, keep believing it. Call me sappy, but I almost don’t want to see the old coot go to jail, I just want him out of government.

But even more startling: Stevens in answer to a question by the moderator as to whether he thinks Iraq had any hand in 9/11 (here we go again) confidently said yes it did and he knows things others don’t. I know, and so did Bush. But they are keeping it secret from the rest of the American people.

Why is this?

Apparently there is some super secret information that explains why our nation has done what it has done in Iraq and if we only knew what it was we would not complain, but we cannot be told, because, well, I don’t know why. But at any rate, only Republicans can be privy to this super secret information. Maybe it should not even be shared with other Republicans. Maybe George W. and Dick Cheney should be able to continue in office.

And let me state here and now: I do not know for sure whether there was ever any connection between Saddam Hussein and his Iraq and 9/11 but I have never come across it and I read the news regularly. Of course I know old Saddam was not sorry for it – well at least not until he got blamed for it and later got hanged. I also know that no matter how much is written there will always be people, and quite a few of them at that, who did not get the message that Iraq apparently had no direct connection with 9/11. Who knows? Maybe some day we will find evidence that there was some direct or indirect connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the 9/11 terrorists (I doubt it) and we might even stumble upon a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction or a bakery where yellow cake was being made, now covered under a sand dune. (I was kidding; I know it’s a different kind of yellow cake.)

We went into Afghanistan with an army to basically find one man, Osama bin Laden, and still have not located him (psst, he’s in Pakistan, but keep that under your hat – oh I forgot, McCain told us he knows where Osama is and he knows how to get him, and Nixon had a secret plan to get us out of the Vietnam War, it was called drag out the war and try to sue for peace in the background and then quit the presidency and let the other guy take the blame for quitting the war.

We went into Iraq because George W. for various reasons, including a reported attempt by Saddam Hussein to assassinate his father and to make up for what he considered the weakness of his father for not going all the way to Baghdad at the conclusion of the otherwise successful Gulf War. “Regime change” was called for by the fashionably dressed Condoleezza Rice and others, and Bush had been convinced by those who put together a think tank paper called “Project for a New Century” that we needed to control the Middle East for strategic interests. To put it bluntly, we needed to have control over an area that produces most of the world’s easily refinable crude oil.

—  What is up with this thing when the talking heads discuss whether some politician should have had a better speech written for him or her? Why, I ask, can’t they say their own words? Even taking into consideration that some folks have an ability to speak more eloquently than others, say Obama over McCain, why would we want to elect someone who can’t even come up with his or her own words?

Don’t know if it is true, but weren’t we taught that Abe Lincoln wrote his own speeches. Supposedly he scrawled out the Gettysburg Address on the train en-route to his speaking engagement and stuck the draft in his stove pipe hat (and wouldn’t you have thought he would have had an advance man to get the address for him – I digress). I thought of this inability in drafting one’s own words when I watched a clip of former speech writer and economic guru Ben Stein telling Larry King that Sarah Palin benefitted from a good speech writer when she was introduced at the convention, but suffered from not having the same support later. He also claimed that she is incredibly able, in many ways more so than Barack Obama (huh?), but lamentably she just doesn’t appear to have, his words: “presidential timbre”. I would just add that she is “clueless”. That having been said, that would not preclude her from running for president as the Republican candidate in the future.

—  And here’s something that I have been hearing a lot lately, so much so, I wonder if it will not become accepted as correct. It’s about elementary grammar. I confess, I didn’t know what to call it, but I consulted a grammar text and it called what I am encountering a “double comparison”. Anyway, it’s when you hear someone say something like “more better”, when better alone would suffice and be correct English. I keep hearing these double comparisons on the radio and television from those who should know better, so much so, that it does not appear to be just careless speech.

I think Dave Letterman usually uses correct speech, even though he is a jokester. But I just watched a clip from his show where he asked guest Alec Baldwin if had ever seen a “more hotter political figure” than Sarah Palin. And I know that when people talk fast that sometimes their grammar slips, but I hear this all the time (and I know technically one is not supposed to begin a sentence with and, as I just did and often do – it’s a holdover from my journalism experience where many rules are broken. We who call ourselves writers feel that it is okay to break the rules if we know that we are breaking them, and sometimes I do, know that I am breaking the rules, that is).

—  And I just saw and heard Sarah Palin, whiny voice and all, stating to the crowd “doggone it, government is the problem not the solution.” So I must ask: then why do you want so much to be part of it Mrs. Palin?



Correction: I incorrectly stated in a recent blog that the Catholic-run hospital in my city was a for-profit business. It is a non-profit run by Catholic Healthcare West.

The great Republican culture war rages…

October 27, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

There is a culture war going on inside the Republican Party between those who are not only educated, but took their education seriously, and those who are not educated or who did not take their education seriously.

A growing list of educated Republicans have abandoned John McCain, primarily over his choice of Sarah Palin for vice president. Palin, although educated, likes to play the part of a simple down-home rustic and she does it quite well – a little too well.

Palin gives off the impression that if you talk in complete sentences and actually say something that makes sense about issues, especially foreign policy, besides “support the troops”, you are just being an elitist and don’t understand Main Street America values.

I think Sarah’s famous doppelganger Tina Fey put it best when she said: “I think she is at least as smart as I am, but that is not going to cut it…”

Palin does read a script with polish, though, and when everything is written out for her she shows great poise in front of the camera (so did Ronald Reagan). But she is not particularly good at quick thinking and the ad lib and spews out sentences that wander all over the place, seemingly missing a subject or predicate, when caught off guard – you know, with one of those silly “gotcha” questions, such as: What are the duties of the vice president?  How does the fact that one can see Russia from some part of Alaska somehow give you insight into foreign policy?

At any rate, this culture war I think may be one of the major reasons John McCain seems headed for defeat (if he wins, certainly it will be one of the biggest upsets in history – a real Truman proudly holding up the erroneous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment).

While I have had about as much of Sarah Palin as I can take and while I don’t agree with her politics, I do have some possibly misplaced sympathy for her now that she is accused by the McCain campaign of going off the reservation and making statements on her own. I say “good for Sarah”, it’s about time! And that’s even if I still don’t agree with her.

On one televised occasion she – gasp – actually talked to reporters and wouldn’t stop even though one of her handlers kept trying to end the impromptu interview. And over the weekend she fought back over the flap about her expensive wardrobe, $150,000 paid by the Republican National Committee ( not to mention the thousands of dollars of makeup). She said that her expensive Nieman Markus or whatever duds were mere props or equipment such as the lighting, which she would give back to the party after the campaign is over. I imagine if that is true it is more likely the result of the bad publicity for the self-proclaimed small-town “hockey mom” than an original plan.

On the other hand, do we ask how much Barack Obama’s suits cost or how much Michelle Obama’s wardrobe costs? Of course those two, even though championing the middle class, of which by net worth ( in the millions thanks to good jobs and more importantly book sales) they are not part, they do not go around playing the part of Joe the Plumber themselves. In fact, Obama takes the tack that he has done quite well, thank you, and that like Bill Clinton, and even Billionaire Warren Buffet, he could afford to pay higher taxes and should. Republicans seldom if ever say such things.

Really, the only reason Sarah’s clothes are an issue is the fact that so many people are having to cut back and are losing their jobs and that the whole economy is falling apart and that she portrays herself as just a simple down-home girl who would be more comfortable shopping at Walmart than Saks Fifth Avenue. But again, even a Palin basher such as I cannot see much there except a laugh or two. I get more worked up watching the snippy Cindy McCain in her ultra expensive wardrobe so transparently looking down at all of us who are not fortunate enough to have a daddy who made it big in the beer distributing business. Four years of John McCain in the White House, well, who knows? It could be alright, or not. Four years of super snotty Cindy McCain, unbearable. I’d almost rather listen to George W – almost.

And just one more thing. Why do candidates have to have handlers? If the handlers have all the answers, why don’t we elect them? Why do we have to watch puppets on a string perform before us?

P.s.  John McCain as far as I can see is neither an elitist nor an anti-elitist. I know he was near the bottom in his West Point class, but he does not wear ignorance as a badge of honor (and I know he is not ignorant), and he does not play the part of a rube ought on the stump. Because he is a more or less middle-of-the-road Republican he gets hit from both sides and his biggest enemies may not be among the Democrats but in his own Republican fold. I don’t think a McCain victory is going to happen, but I wonder what a free McCain, not having to appease the ignorant and intolerant, would be like. We probably won’t find out.

P.s. P.s. Just thought of this: remember what happened in the Great Cultural Revolution in China when formal education was attacked and elitists were persecuted? It took decades for that nation to recover.