History Lesson No. 3 for Mr. Turner

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Before we continue with our history lesson, I would ask Mr. Turner to clear up a question for all of us. Recently, in the mail, I received a flier about the three Republicans who are vying for the right to run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Turner is one of them.

Mr. Turner was quoted as saying this, replying to a question about teaching Intelligent Design: “God makes the rules and we have to abide by them. That is in the Constitution. The founding fathers were all Christians and this is a Christian nation.”

It is true that those who were involved with the Constitution professed to be Christians, of varying denominations and degrees of commitment. I don’t remember any memorable outward signs of any of them going around with their religion on their sleeves, as so many politicians do these days. Maybe, with the possible exception of Jefferson and Franklin, they were content to recite the Lord’s Prayer the way Jesus wanted his followers to do in the privacy of their rooms. Tom and Ben might not have gone that far. We’ll let that go, however.

As a student of history, Mr. Turner downright astounds me when he says, “That is in the Constituti­on.” Where? Can he cite chapter and verse?

My reading of the Constitution doesn’t turn up one reference to God. And, of course, the First Amendment makes very clear, it would seem to most readers, that government should stay out of religion and vice versa. Which is why religious organizations, in order to guard their tax privileges, should stay out of politics. If Mr. Turner or one of his agents bothers to read this, perhaps he can reply to this total misreading of a magnificent document in our democracy.

As for Intelligent Design, Mr. Turner might want to read the comments of the director of the Vatican Observatory. It may make a difference in Mr. Turner’s view since, as I understand it, he professes to be a Roman Catholic. Of course, today, in almost all religions, it seems we have adherents using a cafeteria-style approach to what they believe or don’t follow. Not all, it would seem. Mr. Turner’s very ultra religious friends in Brooklyn, who voted for him, appear to follow, shall I dare to say like sheep, what their religious leaders tell them to do at the polling place.

Mr. Turner and many others might want to follow the words of St. Augustine on civil discourse: “ Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there is no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”

Early in June, Pax Christi, a national Roman Catholic organization dedicated to peace and nonviolence, gave its National Peacemaker Award to Rabbi Michael Weisser of the Free Synagogue of Flushing, who is working to organize an interfaith council in Queens, similar to those in other parts of the city. In an interview with the TimesLedger Newspapers, Rabbi Weiser said, “All religions, in my view, are aspects of one religion. I think it’s just common sense. None of us have all the answers.” I think St. Augustine would agree. I hope Mr. Turner might as well after he checks the Constitution and the position of the Vatican.

Continuing our history lesson, we come now to three men whose acquaintance I think I could do without.

Al Gore, former Senator, vice president for the eight years of the Clinton presidency, was eager to become president. He made several mistakes during his campaign. He decided not to use the political talents of the popular president nor to emphasize the good state of the nation at the time of the election. He ran a rigid campaign and never really came across to many as the person they wanted in the White House. When the battle of the ballot in Florida ensued, he lost out to a much more savvy Republican legal team.

Despite that he won the popular vote, but not the electoral vote. The election was decided by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court, against a recount in the Florida race. Gore accepted this verdict with some grace.

Ralph Nader, of course, was the reason Al Gore lost. This egotistical savior of the world racked up more than 97,000 votes in Florida, where the final count showed Gore losing by some 500 votes. Later, Nader acknowledged that while perhaps 25 percent of his supporters in Florida might have voted Republican, the rest would have gone to Gore or stayed home. In plain language, that means that Gore would have gotten the Florida electoral votes and become president. As far as I know, Nader has never admitted that he did the wrong thing. His type never make mistakes.

So we come to George W. Bush, whom I will refer to as Shrub. He had a few distinctions when he ran for president: He was the son of a president. Despite being a C student, as he himself admitted, he was a graduate of Yale and the Harvard Business School and the only president to have an MBA. As someone who doesn’t want to be ranked among the “elite,” he doesn’t say much about that. He was governor of a state which had and has the greatest number of executions of criminals. He is an effective cutter of the underbrush on his ranch in Texas.

During his two terms he had Republican control of the House of Representatives for six years and control of the Senate for all or part of that time. Thus any good things and any bad ones must be properly laid to the GOP. Remember that, all you who suffer from Permanent Political Amnesia.

The Shrub left a mess, in many ways. I don’t know if he ever read “David Copperfield,” so he might not know Mr. Micawber’s recipe for happiness: “Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditures 19 and six, result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditures 20 pounds ought and 6, result misery.”

He sent troops into Afghanistan ill-prepared to do the job of routing the forces of terror. Our secretary of defense, forgetting the Powell Doctrine which worked, told us “You go with what you’ve got.” Mr. Turner knows from history that Afghanistan is a terrible place. It took Alexander the Great six months to conquer Persia (Iran) and three years to conquer Afghanistan and when Alexander died, the place fell apart once more.

We have a history of centuries of powers trying to rule the unruly, all with dire results. Why not just draw a cordon sanitaire around the place and let the tribes kill each other off and try to raise something besides opium?

Then Shrub lied about the motives of Iraq, ruled by a vile dictator, like so many other places in the world. We were going to get rid of him and set out to make democracies of all the Middle East. The only one there is Israel and has been for decades. Another fiasco and another source of tens or thousands of American men and women dead and wounded. And all based on bald-faced lies.

And we didn’t have to pay a cent for any of this, right? Why, Shrub even got hefty tax cuts for his very rich friends and the gap between the economic classes has grown larger and larger. So, the man who came in with a budget surplus and a thriving economy left us — thanks also to the Republican-led Congress — with a huge deficit and wars seemingly without end. But, after all, the sons and daughters who were killed and wounded volunteered, right? No one needed to be drafted. We could send these kids back into action time and time again.

And what of democracy? That noble idea started in Greece and it took millenia before it came to mean something in the modern world. There is nothing like it in the places where we sent our children to die and be maimed in body and mind. Don’t bet the family jewels on the outcome of the so-called Arab Spring. Shariah Law, to the exclusion of all others, anyone? Why not call it what it appears to be, Islamic Spring.

Look around you and see the devastation this Texas child of privilege inflicted on the American public. If your PPA is running full blast, let me tell you again that his name is George W. Bush. A friend has suggested that Dante would have a good time figuring out where people like him and Richard Bruce Cheney belong in the after world. I can’t imagine they will be anywhere except in one of the circles of the Inferno.

And lest we continue to forget, gasoline prices increased 275 percent with Shrub. In August 2008, the price of gasoline reached $4.40. That’s $4.40 a gallon, folks. But then came change! At least the rhetoric of change.

Mario Cuomo once said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Barack Hussein Obama can do the poetry. The prose frequently escapes him. Many people, Republicans and independents, voted for him because they wanted change. He was sober, he was cool, he was smart and he talked the talk. I learned not long ago that a good friend of mine in Queens, a moderate Republican (there are some left, it seems), voted for Obama in 2008, but is greatly disappoined in him and probably will not vote for him again. We haven’t discussed the alternative.

Barack thought the poetry could win friends and influence people. Maybe he really believed it, even after the GOP made plain it would do everything it could do to hinder him. Then he hindered himself. The economy was in a state of collapse, thanks to eight years of the Shrub and his cronies. So Barack decided to go for health reform and leave the economy for later on. He spent all his political capital on this and then some. He didn’t know how to fight back against the lies of the opponents of parts of the health care package. He found out too late that something called the Tea Party was really going to savage him.

Yes, he got rid of Osama bin Laden. He has pulled troops out of Iraq. The exit from Afghanistan is in the works. Economic stimulus packages, while not sufficient, have helped. The economy is improving. But, the Shrub and his friends dug such a deep hole for us that we are still not seeing the light at the top of the hole. And when confronted by the pre-Obama presidency, so many people are affronted that you should bring up such a crude matter. After all, Barack has been around almost four years. Yes, but it took eight for the Shrub and company to get us in the hole and in his four years at least Barack has turned us in the right direction.

By the way, while I may admire Barack in many ways, he’s a bit too “cool” for me. Shake his hand, of course. Pursue as a friend? I think not. I appreciate the fact that his seeming lack of passion is very much due to who he is and the world we live in. He has to keep his cool. I do not envy him.

We have lived beyond our means as a nation, because we undertook programs and conflicts without the slightest hint that they must be paid for. It was the Jazz Age for Voodoo Economics and the music has not been sweet.

So, Mr. Turner; you, dear readers and I come to the end of this history lesson. The opinions, of course, are very much mine. The facts are in the public domain. Maybe someone will find a vaccine for Permanent Political Amnesia.

Don’t hold your breath.

Posted 11:48 am, June 15, 2012
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