Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Disloyal Opposition

I believe the inauguration of Barak Obama to his second term as President of the United States is a fitting end to a rather nasty episode in American history. Whether you approve of the president or not, his reelection represents, in one respect at least, a triumph for the American people over the worst type of political cynicism and opportunism. It marks the final defeat of a secret plan hatched at the start of his first term that was designed to insure that a second term never happened, no matter the cost to the nation.

Obama inauguration 2009

Inauguration Day, 2009

On the very day of Mr. Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, a group of influential political leaders gathered at a Washington restaurant to discuss how they should respond to the new president’s election. A detailed account of the proceedings at that dinner, and the plan that was devised to make this a failed presidency, is given by Robert Draper in his book, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the US House of Representatives.

A Master Plan of Obstruction

Here is how several news organizations reported what happened at that meeting:

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration. After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. The new president had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

PBS Frontline documentary, Inside Obama’s Presidency.

They plotted a campaign of obstruction against newly installed president Barack Obama. During a lengthy discussion, the senior GOP members worked out a plan to repeatedly block Obama over the coming four years to try to ensure he would not be re-elected.

The Guardian newspaper (Great Britain)

In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country.

Jamelle Bouie, staff writer at The American Prospect

conspirators

Conspirators

There were 15 attendees at the meeting, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and future VP candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan. Also attending were Senators Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint, John Ensign and Jon Kyl. Former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich led the discussion. At the end of the meal the attendees were described as being almost giddy with excitement about the plan they had hashed out. Gingrich told them, “You will remember this day. You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the highest ranking Republican in the Senate, was not at the meeting. But he soon demonstrated that he was fully on board with the strategy that had been agreed to. In an interview with National Journal magazine, published October 23, 2010, Senator McConnell quite forthrightly affirmed that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” He went on to repeat that statement on Fox News, saying, “That’s my single most important political goal, along with every active Republican in the country.”

The Plan In Action

From these reports, it is clear that the gridlock and obstructionism of the last four years were not an accident; they were the result of a carefully thought-out and relentlessly executed plan.

Think of the situation we faced on the day that now infamous meeting took place. It was President Obama’s very first day in office. The nation was fighting two extremely difficult wars abroad, and at home faced the crisis of an economy that was continuing to accelerate downward in what was already the worst recession since the Great Depression. Publicly, the leaders of the GOP proclaimed that their #1 priority was jobs, jobs, jobs for the American people. But in reality, their overriding goal was to deny the new president any victories that might enhance his prospects for reelection. Since a policy victory for the president must, by definition, be something the American people believed benefitted them, to deny the president that victory was to automatically deny the associated benefit to the nation. But that fact was not a consideration for the plotters.

To my mind, what those Republican leaders implemented was not the principled program of a loyal opposition, dedicated to doing its best for the nation even though not in power. It was instead the unprincipled plotting of a disloyal opposition, whose only thought was to secure partisan political advantage for themselves.

It Almost Succeeded

To me, the shameful thing is that they almost got away with it. The 2010 elections, in which Republicans were elected in droves and took back control of the House of Representatives, must have seemed a vindication of the plan. The electorate reacted exactly as the strategists had hoped, blaming the party in power for the apparent lack of progress, and rewarding the unseen plotters for their intransigence. But by 2012 the unseen hand of obstruction was no longer quite so unseen, and the carefully crafted plan to destroy any chance of the President being reelected fell apart.

Either Party Might Have Done It

The perpetrators of this outrage on the nation happened, this time, to be Republicans. I am confident that had the roles been reversed, and an out-of-power Democratic leadership group had seen the same opportunity, they would have been as quick to seize it as the Republicans were. It’s not about party affiliation. But it is very much about the personal ethics of the politicians involved. And neither party has a monopoly on ethical – or unethical – behavior.

Was This Just Politics?

But should we dismiss this episode as just politics as usual? I don’t think so. Americans don’t elect their presidents in the hope that they will fail so badly they cannot be reelected. They fully understand that the failure of a president necessarily involves failure for the nation. Had they been aware of, and had a real understanding of the plot hatched as the new president was being inaugurated, the majority of Americans would have been outraged. In a very real sense, the plan the plotters came up with that Inauguration Day in 2009 was fundamentally un-American. It was, in my view, disreputable and dishonest, and those involved in it should be ashamed of themselves.

Is It Over With?

I hope the plan is dead. I hope none of the men who were so giddy four years ago at the prospect of building a united front of obstruction to anything the president might propose or support (even, as it turned out, to policies they themselves had initiated) still think that is a viable path to power for their party. I hope this new presidential term will see a reawakening of a collaborative spirit and a genuinely loyal opposition. That’s what I hope.

That’s what I pray.

Ron Franklin

 

Photo credits:
Inauguration: Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia (Public Domain)
Conspirators: John Gannam (Public Domain)
Elephant and Donkey: DonkeyHotey via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

God Overrules the Doctors With Scissors

Scissors 01Maddalena Douse is literally a miracle baby. She was born at just 23 weeks, and is said to be the youngest premature baby ever to survive in Great Britain.

It’s not Maddalena’s birth that is the miracle, but that she survived the guidelines. Under current medical guidelines in England, a baby born so young is not entitled to active care. In other words, the doctors would ordinarily just leave her to die. However, the guidelines also provide that if a child weighs at least one pound, they are considered viable, and should receive care. When Maddalena was placed on the scales, she came in at just one pound, and her doctors decided to work hard to keep her alive. They fought for her life, and succeeded to the point that she could survive on a ventilator.

Now, here’s the miracle: after Maddalena was safely on the ventilator, her doctors noticed something strange. Lying on the scale on which Maddalena had been weighed was a pair of scissors, accidentally left there and overlooked during the weighing. When Maddalena was re-weighed, this time with no scissors to tip the scales, she came in at only 0.84 pounds, or about 13 ounces. If it had not been for those unnoticed scissors, she would not have received care, and would have died.

But she did receive care, and not only survived, but apparently is thriving. In December her mother, Kate, was able to report that “She now weighs 5½ lbs and is getting stronger by the day. She’s our little miracle and we’re so glad to have her home in time for Christmas.”

Were the scissors that saved Maddalena’s life just an accident of fate, a fortunate coincidence? After all, her twin sister did die. Was Maddalena just lucky? I believe the Bible gives a clear answer to that question.

Ephesians 1:11  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

It’s impossible to know why Maddalena lived while her twin sister died. But the one thing we can be sure of is that Maddalena survived according to “the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

The doctors and the British medical guidelines had one plan for Maddalena’s life. God had another.

My takeaway from this story is that every human life is precious enough to fight for. Rather than human caretakers deciding the fate of a helpless child, or anyone else, based on bureaucratic rules and regulations, we should do the absolute best we can to preserve that life, and leave the results in God’s hands.

Otherwise, let’s at least make sure there’s always a good supply of scissors on hand.

Ron Franklin

 

Photo credit: Nick Normann via Freeimages.com

Favorite Pics – Anacostia Mom and Daughter

One of the things I like is collecting photographs that have some element of historical or artistic interest for me personally. From time to time, I’ll post some of these photos here.

Mother and her daughter” by Gordon Parks, 1942

1942 Mother, daughter in Washington, DC housing project - Gordon Parks

This photo was taken in the Frederick Douglass Housing Project in the Anacostia section of Washington, DC. It has very special meaning for me because this is my bathroom! Not literally, of course, but the bathroom of the house I grew up in was exactly like this. Everything about it, from the tub to the washbasin to the medicine cabinet, is just as I remember it.

I was raised in a public housing project in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I remember being told as a child that those houses had been built in the 40’s. Apparently there was a standard design that was used for public housing in several sections of the country. So, I feel that I know the house this mom and her daughters lived in from top to bottom.

Our house (we called it a house and not an apartment) had two bedrooms, one larger and one smaller, with one bathroom plus a hall linen closet on the second floor. On the first floor was a living room, the kitchen, and another hall closet. There were front and back doors, and since our unit was on the upper level, there were steps leading down from the first floor hall to the front door. We shared a front porch with the neighbors who lived in the ground level unit under us. The back door opened onto a small landing at the top of the stairs. On the opposite side of the landing was the back door of the next upper level unit. The back stairs were shared between the units, and led to a ground level door that opened onto the back porch.

When I was very young, our house was heated by a coal stove in the living room, as I’m sure the house in the photo was as well. There was a two-sided coal bin on the back porch, the upper and lower units each having their assigned side of the bin. I can dimly remember helping to bring in little buckets of coal to feed the stove. Later in my childhood, the coal stove was replaced by an electric heater. I don’t remember the upstairs having its own heating unit, but I also don’t remember ever being especially cold in the house.

The back yard was postage stamp size, with two sets of clothes lines that were shared between the units. There was little natural vegetation, but I had fun planting dried pinto beans and popcorn, and was greatly gratified when bean plants and corn stalks actually grew. I also planted the cut-off tops of carrots, which resulted in tassels growing, but, alas, the carrot top would never grow a new body.

The photo below shows the same mom in the kitchen of her house. I have much less of a sense of recognition regarding this scene, probably because the main features visible in the view, the kitchen table and the curtains on the window, are not familiar to me. Also, it seems that the left-right orientation may be the opposite of what it was in my house. If that is the case, the cabinets at the extreme right of the photo are above the sink, and there is an open pantry area out of the view to the left.

Gordon Parks’ original caption says the young mother was watching her children through the window while preparing the evening meal.

1942 Anacostia Mother watching her kids while preparing dinner, Wash DC - Gordon Parks

I guess it’s obvious that these photos bring back a lot of memories for me. They are good memories. And I must admit that there is a place deep down in the recesses of my mind where the word “home” still means the little house in Chattanooga that was (and still is) so much like the one this mother and her daughters lived in.

You can see more of Gordon Parks’ photos of life in the Douglass Homes in my article:

Photos by Gordon Parks of Life In A Washington, DC Housing Project in WW2

Ron Franklin