Jewels in the American Crown: Obama, Hightower and Maddow

by James M. Wall                                 wall-e3

Elections do have consequences. Imagine any other current American politician handling questions from the international press corp and town hall meetings the way Barack Obama has been doing  on his European trip. 

We have much for which to be thankful this spring, starting with the fact that our democracy awoke from its stupor in time to invite Barack (and never forget, Michelle) into our White House for four and hopefully, eight years.

Obama has elevated our national sense of purpose. He has inspired us to look on the brighter side of life.  Sometimes we even feel like Wall-E poking through mountains of trash and coming up with a jewel. 

Rachel Maddow is another cause for thanksgiving. She invited Colin Powell to a one on one interview and politely but firmly asked him about his possible involvement in approving torture. Here are Rachel and Powell in this clip from The Rachel Maddow show. Watch it and concentrate on Rachel. She is still the brightest media jewel around, intelligent, fearless and unrelenting in her questions to the former Secretary of State about his part in the Bush-Cheney dark age era.

Rachel asks Powell about high level meetings he attended where torture was pondered and approved. Sadly, Powell indicts himself, deflecting Rachel’s questions with his “wait until we read the entire transcript” routine. Oh, Colin, we had expected so much more from you. From the look of disappointment on Rachel’s face, so had she.

When Rachel turned her attention to North Carolina’s Republican Senator Richard Burr, she did not look disappointed.  She looked downright gleeful in her sarcasm as she nailed the hapless Burr for “delaying” the nomination of Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth to a top position in U.S. Veterans’ Affairs Department. Duckworth is an Iraqi war veteran who lost both legs and the use of one arm in a helicopter crash in Iraq. 

Duckworth came home to Illinois, narrowly lost a race for Congress, and has since served as director of Veterans’ Affairs in Illinois. She is a well qualified choice for the job in Washington. But here comes Burr with that archaic Senate rule that allows a senator to “delay” an appointment without reason.  

Makes you wonder: Are the Republicans in the Senate so pathetic in their minority status that they think they have to act like street thugs, throwing rocks at the Obama bus, hoping to make it crash?  Do they hand out those rocks in their caucus meetings? North Carolina voters get ready; Burr is up for reelection n 2010. 

The contrast between the current Republican party and Obama is glaring. Look at the way our new president conducted himself in Europe. The man is smart, he is authentic, and, regardless of the audience, he consistently mixes intelligence with charm. After eight long, dreary years, we have a leader who makes us proud to be Americans. Now we understand what Michelle really meant. 

This four minute clip from CNN shows Obama as a world leader who, while he clearly loves his country, also demonstrates tremendous respect for other nations. Note that he speaks in response to a reporter’s question. His answer is unscripted. 

Jim Hightower, the provocative Texan politician-commentator, is another jewel in the crown of our democracy. Open Left has a clip of Hightower in a “debate” with John McCain on the war in Afghanistan. This is a very creative exposure of the hollow arguments McCain tries to make. 

The Open Left posting that gives us “Hightower v. McCain”, also reports the news that the far right in American politics, the crowd that believes military might is God’s gift to humankind, has formed yet another think tank to spread their dangerous toxins. Here is the heart of that report:

The same neocons who orchestrated the war in Iraq and undermined US efforts in Afghanistan the first time around are at it again, determined to sink us deeper into the costly Afghan quagmire.  They have resurfaced in the form of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a Washington think tank headed by Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, and Dan Senor.

Kagan, Kristol and Senor are the “thinkers” of the FPI, which gathered together like witches over a boiling stew to hold a summit meeting they called: “Afghanistan: Planning for Success”.

Sam Stein earlier provided a heads up of the FPI meeting last week on The Huffington Post, which, in addition to the Kagan-Kristol-Senor team, also included politicians, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. John M. McHugh (R-NY), and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA).

The FPI is composed or conservatives who want to do nothing less than turn Afghanistan into  “a massive, limitless war of Iraq proportions,” Stein writes.

Watch the MSM, and especially Fox News, for sightings of members of the Foreign Policy Initiative, which has emerged as only the most recent right-wing ideologs who continue to bark in the night like so many junk yard guard dogs.  This crowd is noisy inside the junk yard, and extremely dangerous when they leave the yard and actually influence government policy.

Case in point: The neo cons who dominated the Bush foreign policy for eight years have shifted their fire to Afghanistan.  Sam Stein again: “Kagan and Kristol were both directors at the Project for the New American Century, one of the key organizational catalysts persuading George W. Bush to launch preemptive military action in Iraq.”

In his Open Left posting on McCain and the FPI, ZP Zeller has this to say about McCain:

We already know where McCain stands on Afghanistan.  He and fellow warmonger Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) celebrated the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war by urging the Obama administration to support an all-out military commitment in Afghanistan, regardless of cost.  McCain clearly shares the FPI’s warped notion of “success” in Afghanistan, which he has discussed everywhere from the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post to his recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute.  

He envisions a Utopian outcome to this war, one in which our military engages in a broad-based, long-term counterinsurgency to create “a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary.”  Compounding that highly improbable scenario is the fact that McCain and the FPI are getting away with defining “success” in Afghanistan because not enough mainstream journalists or members of Congress are contesting their views.

Heller is right, not nearly enough MSM journalists are contesting the McCain FPI crusade to give us Iraq Redux. Except, that is, folks like Rachel Maddow and Jim Hightower, two progressive jewels constantly looking for ways to remind us that “truth, justice and the American way”, is more than just a Superman slogan.

Hightower and Maddow are two media jewels working to unsettle the conventional wisdom promoted by the MSM. We might think of them as canaries in the coal mines of American society, warning us against the indifference that can lead to increased extremism.  

Avaraham Burg, in his book, The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from the Ashes, reminds us of how the German Weimar Republic opened itself to extremism. 

Hitler came from the fringes of right-wing circles. Even though he was considered a lunatic, he went on to become the epicenter of the world’s nightmares. In etremist circles, people dip into pools of hatred, and pass this onto their companions. Inflammatory language arouses passions but creates false warmth. They allow themselves to speak words that should not be spoken in respectable places.

Extremism moves from the fringes of xenophobic nationalism to the more moderate right and from there on to the cultural and political mainstream. The circles of influence almost always parallel those of indifference.

. . . The people at the center are too indifferent and self-indulgent to pay too much attention, and they become accustomed to the sights and sounds of extremism. Once the noises from the right are part of the public agenda, then it becomes impossible to uproot them. (page 63).

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Politics and Elections, The Human Condition. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jewels in the American Crown: Obama, Hightower and Maddow

  1. Harris Fawell says:

    Fine writing. Thank you for your perspectives. Harris

  2. Pauline Coffman says:

    Good to see a reference to Burg’s book, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes. Let’s get on with building a future for Israel/Palestine that is based on human rights.

    Thanks for pulling these separate narratives into a coherent whole, Jim.

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