Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scott McClellan – Hypocrite, Coward

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is the perfect picture of a hypocrite. Hired by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999, he helped Bush in Bush’s quest for the White House. Then, as President Bush’s Press Secretary, he was the biggest Bush cheerleader and defended many of the Bush administrations flops, such as the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina, and the failures in the war in Iraq. He also claims he was misled by Karl Rove and adviser Lewis "Scooter" Libby regarding the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Now, McClellan has done a complete 180 with his new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.” It is a scathing attack against the Bush administration, so much so that it even is drawing criticism from people who don’t care for the Bush administration. Needless to say, it also is drawing a firestorm of complaints from people who worked with McClellan, raising questions of McClellan’s credibility, accusing him of disloyalty and questioning his credibility.

The allegations levied by McClellan are that the Bush administration orchestrated a "political propaganda campaign" in favor of an "unnecessary" Iraq war. It also accuses the administration of failing to respond properly the response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. It also paints a picture of the president as one who is stubborn, close-minded, and isolated.

One can ask McClellan, what happened that prompted this complete turnaround? Would it not have been better for the country had McClellan spoken up while he was Press Secretary and voiced his opinions? If he felt this way about the administration that he so clearly supported and participated in propagandizing, why did he not resign when it was obvious to him that he did not agree with the way things were going? This only makes me more concerned that our public officials are not looking out for the best interests of the country, but for the best interests of themselves. I have always had serious questions about the Bush administration. While McClellan’s comments seem to validate those concerns, it is alarming that someone in such a high position in the administration was willing to let things slide while he was in the job, and now that he’s out, he’s willing to sell his soul to make a buck. But, it was probably the easy way out for McClellan to stand up for his beliefs now that he can make some money off the controversy.

Not only is McClellan a hypocrite, but also he took the coward’s way out. He was part of the White House inner circle, and while he was in it he let it protect him. Now he portrays that same inner circle as a bad thing. He defended the administration tirelessly, now he turns the tables on them. The bottom line is, when he stood up at the podium as White House Press Secretary, he way lying to the American people. Scott McClellan is just as bad as the people to whom he points his finger. I fully understand that probably every press secretary has always either hidden some truths or released only certain facts in order to make any president or administration look better. But if that person feels that what the administration is doing is wrong, then they should stand up for it at the time, not years later when they’re out of the job. He is just as guilty of manipulation as are the people he accuses.

My opinion is that all proceeds from McClellan’s book should be directed to the American people in some manner. He should not be allowed to profit from lying to the American people while he was holding a publicly paid position. While I’m glad that his version of the truth is coming out, I don’t agree with the way that he did it. I would have preferred that these issues come out while he was Press Secretary and he could have helped stopped the mistakes. Clearly McClellan was in over his head in that job.

“Profiles in Courage” this book isn’t. If anything, this is a profile of a hypocrite, a coward, and a liar. I am sure it will still be a best seller.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How I Spent My Summer "Staycation"

With fuel prices going through the roof, the media has coined a new word for vacation, calling it a “staycation.” Since people apparently can’t afford the price of gas for their cars, RVs, and boats, more people are choosing to stay home rather than travel. Along with gas prices, everything else seems to be going up in price, like food, hotels, airfare, car rentals – everything. By the way, I feel no pity for those people who bought massive bus-like motor homes and huge boats, and are now whining about the gas prices. I mean really, what did they expect when they bought a gas hog?

For me, staycations are not really new. I’ve always enjoyed having time at home just to do things around the house, or explore the area near where I live. Sure, I will still have to buy gas for the car to get to these places, but I won’t be spending as much on it. It’s not the price of gas that’s keeping me off the road this year, though. For our (almost) annual trip to Hilton Head, it would only cost us an extra $75 in gas expenses, something that is clearly not outrageously out of reach. For the last few years, though, we haven’t gone to Hilton Head because we’ve been saving to have a new roof for our home. (Three trips to Hilton Head, with condo rental and food equal one roof, in case you were wondering.)

While the media seems to portray staycations as something horrible, I think it's a good thing. Yes, it’s nice to get away, but it’s also nice to not spend a small fortune to get there. And who wants to travel by air any more? Not me. Airlines are trying to add to the price of your fare by new and creative ways, or cutting back on services to improve their bottom line. Going through the security screenings are a hassle. It used to be such an event to fly; now it’s almost worse than going to the dentist for a root canal. Who needs the stress? Not me.

The media can keep venting all they want about staycations, but I’m at peace with them. There’s nothing wrong with saving money and reducing the fuel I consume. And my house is enjoying it too, getting a new roof and getting all the interior rooms painted. And when my house is happy, I’m happy.

So I say "embrace the staycation." You may find you enjoy it.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The United Nations – Still Relevant?

When I was in the eighth grade in 1969, my class took a trip to New York City. The city was not in the best shape at the time, but we saw some memorable sights like the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, and the construction of the World Trade Center. But one place that had an amazingly peaceful atmosphere was the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The predominant color was a mild green, and the size of the cavernous room almost made for a cathedral-like environment. I was in awe. At the time, I thought that the UN was this place where worldly good was done, where officials protected and defended the people of the world who possibly could not protect themselves. As I grew older, I realized that I was just romanticizing what the UN stood for.

The United Nations was established in 1945, as a vehicle for world nations to avert war and to exchange dialog on their respective issues. Their focus is on peacekeeping and humanitarian issues. While the United Nations headquarters is in New York City, it’s considered international territory. There are other satellite locations in Geneva, Vienna, The Hague, and many others.

What I find disappointing is that it seems all the UN does now is talk, and this has been their method of operation for a long time. They talk and discuss and pontificate about world matters, and then do nothing. Genocide took place in Iraq, yet the UN refused to take significant action in the matter. Sadly, the US then went to war in Iraq, but not for the right reasons. The UN should have stepped in earlier, along with other countries, to stop the murders. And now, we see the same type situation – possibly worse – in areas of Africa such as Darfur. I don’t see the UN stepping in with any military initiatives to stop the senseless killing and starving of people in Africa. The UN also seemed slow to act in forcing any issue of aid to the people in Myanmar who were catastrophically affected by the recent typhoon.

If the UN can’t take any kind of aggressive action against what are clearly heinous crimes against humanity, then my opinion is that they are nothing but a group of ineffective, bloviating officials. If they were run like a business, they would have been out of business long ago for not living up to its mission and not taking care of its “customers” – people around the world.

It may be time for the UN to rethink its existence – or to find a way to reinvent itself so it can become what it aspires to be – peacekeepers and humanitarians.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Michelle Obama – Off Limits or Fair Game?

First of all, full disclosure here. I am supportive of Barack Obama for the presidency. I actually voted for Hilary Clinton in my state’s primary, and while I would support her should she become the democratic candidate, right now my vote goes to Obama.

But today in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Senator Barack Obama criticized the Tennessee Republican Party for an ad highlighting comments made by his wife, Michelle, that some say are unpatriotic. In this ad, produced by the Tennessee GOP, Michelle Obama is featured saying, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." (I recall when this statement she made surfaced months ago, and knew that it would probably end up resurfacing in some shape or form later in the campaign.)

On GMA, Senator Obama said, "The GOP, should I be the nominee, can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record…If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family…For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her I think is just low class and I think they — most of the American people would think that as well,” he said. “I would never think of going after somebody’s spouse in a campaign.”

The four-minute video (below) replays her comments many times, interspersed with comments by Tennesseans stating why they were proud of the U.S. (More commentary and information after this video, so keep reading.)

Michelle Obama has since clarified her original statement (video below) , saying she meant she was proud of how Americans were engaging in the political process, and that she had always been proud of her country. (More after video.)

OK, this situation is a little tough to call. Looking at the big picture here. Hillary Clinton has taken a lot of heat for what her husband, former President Bill Clinton has said on the campaign trail, and she’s made comments about it. It really hasn’t stopped the assault. One may argue that Bill is more actively campaigning, but where does one draw the line on how much campaigning can a spouse do before it’s fair game for attack ads? Historically, this election season is not the first time a spouse has been the target in a presidential election. Sometimes the spouse deserves the heat, sometimes they don’t. My initial impression is that Barack Obama’s statements on this issue with the attack ad on his wife has had the opposite effect – it made more people look at the ad and comment about it. And I think that since Michelle has been campaigning for her husband, her comments should be fair game. But, I say this with some conditions.

What we have to hope is that voters are willing to dig into the subject matter more deeply rather than dismiss her comments as unpatriotic. Her whole message where the statement was initially made should be put into context. Personally, I think when you have anyone working for you on the campaign trail – spouse, children, parents, anyone – who is speaking on your behalf, they should take the heat for whatever comments they make while campaigning. But, it is way out of line for the Tennessee GOP to take one line out of context and try to make it into something that it’s not. To me, it’s horribly unfair to take sound bytes and clips only, and not take in the whole context,

If anything, this ad has only made me more resolved to vote for a Democrat in the upcoming presidential election. Low blows like this ad do not project the image for a party that I want to have anything to do with.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Few Words About Mother’s Day

My husband and I were out driving this morning, and the radio station was playing a segment from a Bill Cosby comedy routine. I’m paraphrasing here, but he was talking about how his mother would always fawn over HIS children, saying how previous they are, when he recalls when HE was a child, that his mother seemed to spend all her time thinking of how she could smack him into next week.

That’s pretty much what I think of my mom.

My mother is a completely different person with her grandchildren than she was with my siblings and me. I was one of six children, and since even one child can send a parent over the edge, six probably sends a parent over the edge at light speed. But with my mom, I felt that we all had a bull’s-eye painted on us, and no matter what we did, it was always the wrong thing and we were never good enough. Well, the exception was my only brother, who got away with anything and everything because, well, he was the only boy.

On mother’s day, I find myself thinking of all the things that I think my mother did when I was a child that seemed like persecution. But, I have to admit as I’ve gotten older, what I used to think of as persecution really was her trying to keep me out of trouble and to avoid making mistakes that would have long-term effects. .I have a lot more appreciation and respect for my mom now that I’m 53 than I had for her when I was, for example, 12 years old. I also think that now that her children are grown (or in the case of three of my siblings, have already died), and some have children and grandchildren of their own, that my mother’s hard work to keep us under her thumb paid off. She should be allowed to enjoy the rewards of her efforts.

I would like to wish a happy mother’s day out there to all the moms out there. Also, happy non-mothers day to those out there – like me – who decided that having children was just not the right thing for them to do. People without children sometimes can still be a positive influence on children through their nieces and nephews, or working with children as teachers, health care, or social workers that dedicate their careers to children. Because children really do hold the future.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ohio’s AG Marc Dann Must Resign

Another embarrassment for Ohio politics. It seems only yesterday that the state was trying to recover from Republican Governor Bob Taft having to stand trial for four misdemeanor counts of violating state ethics laws. Taft failed to report golf outings and other gifts, and was found guilty and fined $4,000. That particular ethics probe was triggered by the discovery that an Ohio Republican fund-raiser had lost more than $10 million of the $50 million of state money that he had invested in things like coins.

Now, we have to be shamed by the juvenile, immature behavior of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann his staff and Dann that brought charges of sexual harassment, and questions about how the AG’s office is managed.

Several Dann staff members have been booted by being fired or by resigning, but Dann refuses to do so, writing off his mismanagement of the office to exercising poor judgment. (Read Dann’s statement here.)

This isn’t good enough.

If Dann’s judgment is so poor that he can’t manage his office staff, then he doesn’t belong in the position of state Attorney General. Being Ohio’s AG doesn’t mean one should be allowed to learn on the job for how to properly run an office. Yes, we all know that profanity, sexual innuendo, drinking, and all kinds of non-work bad behavior can occur in any work environment. But it appears that in Dann’s office, it was a way of life. And that is not consistent with what Ohio constituents should expect. As far as I am concerned, Marc Dann has completely lost any shred of credibility he may have had when he was elected.

The people of the State of Ohio deserve better. Marc Dann should either leave on his own accord, or Ohioans should take steps to have him impeached. Marc can then go back to living in a college dorm world on his own time and on his own nickel.

Here's the story from AP:

Ohio attorney general admits to affair with employee

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Just 16 months into his four-year-term, Ohio's attorney general admitted he was in over his head as he acknowledged an affair with a subordinate and his failure to stop problems that led to a sexual harassment investigation that brought down three of his aides.

Marc Dann apologized to his wife and supporters but insisted he would not step down. He took responsibility for the scandal, saying he was not prepared for the office or to run such a large agency.

"I did not create an atmosphere in my public and personal life that is consistent with the important mission of the Office of Attorney General," the Democrat said Friday after the three aides were fired or forced out in the harassment investigation. "I am heartbroken by my failure to recognize the problems being created and by my failure to stop them."

Dann had punted the probe to a well-respected lieutenant, state Sen. Ben Espy. The investigation uncovered a seedy underside to the office rife with booze, profanity, inappropriate sexual activity, misuse of state vehicles and on-the-job threats involving the Mafia.

Fired were Anthony Gutierrez, who led Dann's general services office, and his communications director, Leo Jennings. Edgar Simpson, Dann's policy chief, was forced to resign. But Espy conceded that he had no authority to take action against Dann, his boss and a constitutional officer elected by voters.

Ohio GOP chairman Bob Bennett called Dann "unfit for the job of attorney general since he took office," and Kevin DeWine, the parties deputy chairman, said Dann allowed immoral and unethical behavior to thrive in his office.

"He turned the attorney general's office into a raunchy frat pad," he said.

Even Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, on whose coattails Dann rode into office in 2006, expressed disappointment over the attorney general's behavior. He said the monthlong investigation into the harassment claims of two 26-year-old staffers showed a "double standard" with Dann staying while some employees were let go.

Dann, 46, said his affair was consensual and refused to disclose the name of the employee. He said the relationship came during a difficult time in his marriage, but that it "was wrong and I deeply regret it."

Voter Melissa Holden, 38, of Columbus, said Dann should consider resigning.

"When you put yourself in the public eye like that you have to set an example," she said.

The fallout of the probe is an especially painful blow to Dann because he has made his political name fighting corruption.

Espy's report said Dann showed poor judgment in allowing one of the women who alleged harassment by Gutierrez to have drinks and pizza at the condo near Columbus shared by Dann, Gutierrez and Jennings. Jennings is accused of attempting to get another staffer to lie about details of a social event where one instance of alleged harassment occurred "so that it didn't seem like there was anything extramarital going on."

Simpson knew about Gutierrez's history of policy violations and failed to address inappropriate behavior, investigators said.

Jennings denied wrongdoing. "I haven't done a thing except do my job. My conscience is absolutely clear," he said.

Gutierrez declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Sam Amendolara, who did not return messages seeking comment. No phone listing for Simpson could be found.

Dann's scheduler, Jessica Utovich, with whom he had a close relationship in which they often used profanity, nicknames and teasing when e-mailing each other, resigned voluntarily, said Tom Winters, first assistant attorney general. He did not give a reason, and Utovich did not return a message seeking comment.

When interviewed for the sexual harassment investigation conducted by assistant attorneys general, Dann said Utovich stayed overnight at the apartment for reasons he would not discuss. During her interview, Utovich would not say whether she ever stayed overnight at the apartment, where Dann stayed while working away from his home in northeast Ohio.

The 26-year-old women who accused Gutierrez of harassment — Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout — feel vindicated, said their attorney, Rex Elliott.

"There are questions that go all the way to the top of that office about how the leader of that office allowed this environment to persist," he said.

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