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It’s been a busy day for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on separating church and state is long and, in many cases, self-contradictory and even incoherent. But despite all that fog, there are a few solid ideas that emerge.

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding reception, claiming that to do so violated his constitutional right to religious liberty. Masterpiece v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The actual decision is probably a year away, but it will be interesting to hear what Gorsuch has to say.

As some ancient sage said, predictions are always dangerous, especially when they involve the future. But here goes. My prediction is that the case will go against the baker.

Were I to walk into a kosher deli and order a cheeseburger, the deli owner would almost certainly not serve me because they serve only food that complies with their religious rules.

But there’s a world of difference between not serving someone because the dish they’re asking for is against your religious principles (and therefore not even on the menu), and not serving someone a dish that is on the menu because that person’s existence or nature is against your religious principles. To call that an exercise of your own “religious liberty” is Orwellian. If that’s religious liberty, then it’s a very short step for a restaurant run by neo-Nazi skinheads (assuming one existed, and, if it did, it could stay in business for more than a week) could refuse to serve anyone who doesn’t meet their definition of Aryan.

Today as well, in the Trinity Lutheran case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that taxpayer-funded grants for playgrounds available to nonprofits under a state program could not be denied to a school run by a church. Though the commentariat sees this as shattering the separation between church and state, I don’t. In 1971, the Court decided Lemon v. Kurtzman, which set forth a 3-point test for such statutes: there must a secular purpose behind the statute; the statute’s primary effect must be one that neither promotes nor inhibits religion; and the statute must not foster “excessive government entanglement with religion.” Trinity Lutheran involved public funds used to re-pave playgrounds with rubberized material that’s easier on the knees than asphalt or cement. Before someone sounds alarm bells about Trinity Lutheran, they should first explain why it does not fit fairly within the Lemon v Kurtzman criteria.

 

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Constantinople falls to Ottoman Ruler Mehmet II, 1453

Constantinople falls to Ottoman Ruler Mehmet II, 1453

For hundreds of years alum was mined in Smyrna, in Asia Minor, which back then went by the name of Anatolia. Anatolia was the breadbasket of Constantinople, the Queen of Cities, and was under the control of the Byzantine Emperors for nearly a millennium.

Alum was an essential commodity for the makers of fabrics and tapestries in Flanders and other cloth-making centers in northwest Europe. They used it to set the colors and make sure they did not run or fade too quickly. (The saying “These colors don’t run” might have been coined back then.)

In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Then in 1455 the Ottomans occupied Smyrna and took control of its alum mines. Needless to say, this put quite a strain on the tapestry industries, cloth makers and dyers of Western Europe, who now had to pay through the nose to obtain this irreplaceable substance.

We in the contemporary United States get rather frosted when we consider that we have to buy petroleum from some countries who absolutely hate us, and who undoubtedly use some of that money to finance overseas terrorism in the West. We may question whether we’re financing a war against ourselves.

Western Europe had a similar problem. Having to pay the Ottomans for alum was particularly galling because there was a continuing low-intensity war between Christendom in the West and the Ottoman Empire in the East. The Ottomans continually probed into the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Think of Malta around 1565 or the gates of Vienna in the 1680’s. (Vienna had (and may still have) a residential district called the Turkenschanze, or Turkish Redoubt, which was where part of the old city’s walls faced the Turkish armies. It was Sigmund Freud’s neighborhood, until he left.) So, after the fall of Constantinople, Western Europe was in effect financing the war against itself.

Then, in the 1480s alum deposits were discovered in one of the Papal States in Italy. The Pope moved quickly to establish a monopoly on the alum trade. A papal bull (which doesn’t mean what you think it means) was issued prohibiting the purchase or importation of any Turkish alum under pain of excommunication and eternal damnation. In fact, the written text of the indulgences that were being sold to finance the Vatican’s wars (mostly against other Italian city-states like Florence) and its construction of St. Peter’s was revised to carve out the purchase of Turkish alum and make it a mortal sin that could not be absolved by any indulgence. These were the same indulgences which, a few decades later, really upset an Augustinian friar named Martin Luther.

Try to imagine what it must have been like for some cardinal or canon lawyer laboring in the bowels of the Vatican to come up with the theological underpinning for making the purchase of Turkish alum (but not the Pope’s alum) an unforgivable mortal sin.

Nowadays, there are threats to slap 35% or 50% tariffs on some goods manufactured overseas. Could we try a threat of eternal damnation for buying a Ford Escort assembled in Ciudad Juarez? The more things change….

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trump

The factors that went into the Hillary loss/Trump win will keep historians and political scientists busy writing books for a decade, if not more. Some will adopt a monocausal theory and blame the emails, or the combination of Comey and the emails. Others will view it as a more a generalized phenomenon of how dysfunctional our politics have become. My own view, as I said in my last post, is that his success owes to the lingering effects of the 2007-09 Great Recession, which for anyone not living in the Wall Street-Washington corridor or the West Coast, is really the 2007-2016 Continuing Great Recession. And while the Iraq War began a long time ago, even its erstwhile supporters (other than Dick Cheney) view it as perhaps the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States. The “elites” of both left and right have shown conclusively that they’re about as competent as Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano up a flight of stairs.

DNC Leadership deciding the best way to get Hillary up all those steps.

DNC Leadership deciding the best way to get Hillary up all those steps.

Trump’s problem will begin not with his opposition from the left, but rather with his supporters on the far right. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the left at least has some idea of what to expect from a Trump Administration. The right, on the other hand, is in for some major disappointments. Though I don’t like to predict the future, I will make three predictions right now. First, there will never be a wall with Mexico. Second, there will never be a ban on entry of Muslims into the United States because they happen to be Muslim. Third, there will never be a deportation force running from house to house rounding up some 11 million undocumented (or illegal, if you prefer) immigrants. (And, by the way, Trump will not be locking up Hillary.)

The net effect of these and other unfulfilled promises will be to disappoint the neo-Nazi, KKK and alt-right types who supported Trump. Steve Bannon, an alt-right mouthpiece, will likewise lose a lot of support among his ilk. Economist Paul Krugman said that, during this election cycle, the problem with the left and the media was that they took Trump literally, but not seriously. A large majority of white voters, the “lost white voters,” many of whom are not racists, took him seriously but not literally. But to complete Krugman’s logic is to understand where Trump’s difficulties will begin: namely, with the people of the alt-right/white supremacist persuasion who took him both literally and seriously. That group comprises the racist element of the Republican right. When they learn, as they soon will, that there will be no wall, no deportation force, no ban on Muslims, etc., they will turn on him in a New York second. Everything costs something, and soon Trump will learn the high cost of the rhetoric that got him into the Oval Office.

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2016-election

Well, there it is. The candidate that no one would give credence to has won the Oval Office, and in about two months he’ll take the helm on the bridge on the S.S. United States. There are lots of things that can be said about the view off the bow, but we’ll limit this post to the view from the stern. There will be no reaching for apocalyptic metaphors from Bronze Age Biblical passages.

The roots of Trump’s victory date back to the major events of the 2007-09 Great Recession. The people have rejected, decisively, the power of the Wall Street-Washington Axis. Until last night, the United States was not a democracy; it was a corporatist state, one in which the unproductive financial capitalists of Wall Street ventriloquized Washington, D.C. and ran the country by themselves, for themselves.

Just look at the wake our ship of state has made. The U.S. Gov’t. made sure that all the AIG executives got their bonuses, even though it was they who almost drove the global economy into a bottomless abyss. The megabanks all got bailed out on the taxpayers’ dime, even though they had to be bailed out because they’d spent years packaging and selling trillions of dollars of collateralized debt obligations that they themselves didn’t understand, and knew were worthless. Meanwhile, those same taxpayers who bailed out Wall Street lost their jobs, then lost their homes, and, of course, lost their health care coverage.

For decades, the Wall Street-Washington Axis preached the gospel of Rugged Individualism and The Free Market, which was all a lie. Goldman Sachs perfectly exemplifies why: when the market turned on Goldman Sachs during the Great Recession, Lloyd Blankfein, its CEO, called his good old buddy, old chum, old fellow alumni Hank Paulson, who just happened to be U.S. Treasury Secretary. And, presto change-o, Goldman Sachs became a bank holding company with access to the Federal Reserve cash window before the weekend was over.

See? It pays to have friends in high places.

The Americans who voted yesterday don’t have friends in high places, and they’re sick and tired of seeing the country run for the exclusive benefit of those who do. Washington in 2007-09 refused to countenance an economic reckoning for Wall Street because that would have affected their compatriots (and the campaign donor class) in the banks. But in economics, one link forges the next, and the reckoning that should have happened in the markets was translated to the political sphere. Think Tea Party. Think Occupy Wall Street.

And not one banker ever went to prison. In fact, the best thing that happened to Wall Street during the Great Recession, the guy who did the world’s biggest favor for the banksters, was Bernie Madoff. Bernie may be the Platonic Form of Ponzi Schemer, but he had no connection whatsoever to the Wall Street madness that brought on the Great Recession. Still, he became the face of it.

Places like Westchester County, NY, and Fairfax County, VA, came out of the crisis more prosperous than they’d ever been. But it you were not within that Charmed Circle because you lived, say, in a place the Wall Street-Washington Axis labeled “Flyover Country,” you were financially doomed. The elites were not affected by the downturn. Out of sight, out of mind.

The Wall Street-Washington Axis sold themselves on the basis of merit, they convinced the country that they knew best. “If you let us bail out the banksters, we’ll be back to the boom times in no time!” But that didn’t happen. They were wrong. Take Alan Greenspan, once viewed as the Grand Poohbah of All Economics, given to cryptic utterances that verged on the unintelligible. Turns out that he was just an old Ayn Rand fanatic, a rooster claiming credit for the dawn.

These examples could be multiplied. The mistake of Establishment politicians was to think that people would just forget about all that. The political legitimacy of the Wall Street-Washington Axis is based on alleged merit. When that merit is shown to be a complete falsehood, their political legitimacy dissolves.

More than anything else, the Great Recession and how it was handled threw a decisive advantage into the scale on the populist side. Whatever faults Trump may have, he was sharp enough to see this when everyone in the Wall Street-Washington Axis did not. Sanders saw it too, which accounted for his relatively successful campaign, which also surprised the media.

I don’t attribute Hill’s loss to the private email server business, which most people didn’t understand, much less follow. Nor to Benghazi, a word that practically became a Republican mantra. Nor is it the trust/distrust factor.

No, the real issue is that, no matter how hard she tried, Hillary could never portray herself as an “agent of change,” to use an overused term. Forget exit polls, forget college-educated or not. All that’s just trivia and beside the point. She represented continuity with the unacceptable status quo, continuity with a way of governing that the American people want smashed into atom-sized pieces and rebuilt from the ground up.

Ergo Trump.

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trump

New Donald Trump LE Six-Shooter boasts a groundbreaking windage adjustment technology.

In further support of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency, and in particular his positions on the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association has commissioned a new Limited Edition Trump Six-Shooter. In addition to regular iron sights, the accuracy of the handgun is enhanced by long orange fibers attached to the barrel that, when unfurled, indicate both wind speed and direction, as pictured above. The fibers can be combed over and tucked behind the ejection rod on the cylinder when not in use.

Though revolutionary in concept, the design follows in the traditional footsteps of the finest Colts and Remingtons that removed so many Bad Hombres from the Old West. But by far the most unique feature of the new LE Trump Six-Shooter is that, no matter where you point it, you wind up shooting yourself in the foot. It’s expected to be available on November 9.

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"Morning Joe" Scarborough

“Morning Joe” Scarborough

As far as TV talking heads go, Joe Scarborough is not the best, but he’s far from the worst. Still, every once in a while Joe makes a comment, apparently off-the-cuff, that makes no sense at all, as he did during his discussion of the Devolution of the GOP in his August 29, 2016 broadcast.

Scarborough’s jumping off point was a comparison between the demeanor of Bush the Elder (a/k/a, Bush 41, a/k/a George H.W.) and that of the GOP’s current presidential nominee, Prima Donald Trump.

Scarborough discussed his visit to the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, which retains its beauty as a quaint New England coastal town, so long as you can forget who the current Maine governor is. Of Bush 41 Scarborough said:

They make others around them feel special despite the fact that they have lived the most remarkable of lives, serving in Congress, running the Republican National Committee, heading up the CIA, being the U.N. Ambassador as well as the U.S. Ambassador to China, serving as Ronald Reagan’s vice president and then leading America as the 41st president of the United States.

But good luck getting George or Barbara Bush talking about themselves. They just don’t do it and they never will. First of all, their parents didn’t allow it. And besides, that kind of thing wasn’t done in the world from which they came. It is just one small way that the ethos of Walker’s Point is so radically different from the mindset that infects Donald Trump’s garish corner office high above 5th Avenue in Trump Towers.

As [Jon] Meacham and I walked down the driveway after saying goodbye to the Bushes, Jon lamented the fact that the same Republican Party that nominated a man like Bush, who rarely spoke about himself, would a quarter century later select a reality TV showman who obsessively talked about little else. Meacham paraphrased Henry Adams in saying that the historical devolvement from Bush to Trump proves that Darwin’s theory of evolution was less compelling when applied to American politics.

Bush the Elder has a lot to be proud of. He served his country both in uniform and in government. He was a fighter pilot in WWII and was shot down in combat with Japanese forces. (As Trump might say,  he only likes fighter pilots who weren’t shot down, he’s gotta tellya.). I don’t take any of that away from Bush 41.

But Scarborough’s notion that not talking about yourself, or not tooting your own horn to say it more directly, is a virtue in and of itself that we all should strive for is absolute nonsense.

Of course Bush 41 never talked about himself. He never had to. He is a walking, breathing pillar of the Republican Establishment, and when the word “establishment” is used in connection with anyone in Clan Bush it is always spelled with a capital “E.”

Bush 41’s father was Prescott S. Bush, a former U.S. Senator for Connecticut, who was a Skull & Bones guy at Yale undergrad (as were Bush 41 and Bush 43), the secret frat where the scions of the Elite of the most elite Elites quaff alcoholic beverages prior to attaining a legal, if not responsible, drinking age and perform pranks that would look very different in 2016 than when they were supposedly performed (e.g., in 1918, when Prescott Bush allegedly led a nocturnal mission to exhume Geronimo’s skull).

(Oh, those kids!)

H.W.’s Wikipedia entry states that he started his business career as a sales clerk with Dresser Industries. Sounds like a humble beginning. But the entry goes on to state that Dresser was a subsidiary of Brown Brothers Harriman, where his father, Prescott Bush, had served as a director for 22 years.

So, Joe Scarborough, please think about that for a minute. I’ll bet H.W. didn’t need to talk much about himself when he got that sales clerk job at Dresser. Suppose, Joe, that you were the supervisor of this new young sales clerk from the Northeast who likes to go by his dual middle initials “H.W.” What are the odds that you’d treat him a bit differently than some other poor schmoe sales clerk? Would you give H.W. a bad performance review, even if he deserved it?

Not if you wanted to keep your job.

Mind, I’m not saying H.W. didn’t do a terrific job as sales clerk. But when your pop sits on the Board of Directors of your employer’s corporate parent,  the reality of who’s the boss and who’s the new hire undergoes a fundamental alteration.

Prescott Bush, Bush 41 and Bush 43 all lived in a rarefied world of great oil wealth and Republican Establishment connections. Bush 43 is a case history all by himself, so I’ll leave that alone, but it’s obvious that, political campaigns aside, not one of them ever had to sell his abilities or his name to anyone to land a job.

I agree that Prima Donald Trump never stops running his mouth, and that’s bad for him and for anyone who’s forced to listen. But for ordinary mortals who have to hustle their butts to make a living, you’d better toot your own horn if you want to eat and keep a roof over your head.

bush-sheldon-p

Samuel Prescott Bush (1863-1948), grandfather of Bush 41

So Joe, before you go off on another tilt about praising modesty and silence as saintly virtues, maybe you should look into Samuel Prescott Bush’s life. He’s the guy who started the Bush family bankroll rolling. I’ll bet old Samuel P. Bush had substantial “book smarts” (he had an engineering degree from Stevens Institute) as well as “street smarts,” some business acumen (given where he started and where he wound up), plus a bit of luck.

I’m sure old Sam P. Bush had to brag a little bit about himself to get hired for his first job, and maybe for a few others.

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Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio)

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio)

 

August 15, 2016
To:   The Board of the Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the Turnaround Management Association
Re: John Boehner and the TMA Chicago-Midwest Chapter’s (the “Chapter”) 2016 Executive Speakers Forum

Dear Chapter Board Members:

This year’s choice of former Speaker of the House John Boehner as the special guest and principal speaker for the Chapter’s 2016 Executive Speakers Forum compels me to write to you for two reasons: first, to tell you that I will not be attending (granted, a matter of no importance), and second, and more importantly, to let you know the reasons that inform my decision.

At the outset, I am sure you’ll agree that our constitutional form of government, with its various checks and balances, rests on the core idea that our elected representatives, regardless of diametrically opposed political philosophies and positions, will ultimately reach some resolution of their differences in a compromise that will advance the best interests of our nation.

That, at least, is the hope. The last few years reveal Mr. Boehner as one of the chief engineers of the destruction of that hope, and he, along with others whose records are beyond the scope of this letter, ranks among those most responsible for bringing our national politics to its present lamentable state.

To the extent that during his speakership Mr. Boehner exercised any leadership, he led a blatantly political decennial congressional redistricting that followed the Republican recapture of Congress in the 2010 election. This redistricting was done in conjunction with Republican Party leaders at the state level in order to safeguard and perpetuate Republican seats in Congress. In 2012 the result was Republican over-representation in Congress due to that party’s control of redistricting in 26 states. Through the efforts of Mr. Boehner and others in his party using the “REDMAP” program, the House became decidedly unrepresentative. Exhibit A in proof of the effects of Mr. Boehner’s efforts is the fate of those elected officials who were once known as moderate Republicans. Through their REDMAP redistricting campaign, John Boehner, Karl Rove and their partisan colleagues hunted Republican moderates to extinction. REDMAP apartheid, once imposed on a congressional district, eliminates any Democratic constituency large enough to persuade a Republican congressman to moderate his or her political positions in order to retain his or her seat.

Mr. Boehner’s redistricting activities were integral parts of Karl Rove’s grand strategy to deny voting rights to persons more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. This strategy was expressly intended to, and did, and continues to primarily disadvantage African-Americans, Hispanics, recent immigrants, students and the elderly in their rights to vote. Only recently have these manifestly partisan statutes begun to fall under federal court rulings. He furthered redistricting both nationally and in Ohio in order to make districts increasingly Republican and increasingly safe for his party. This Republican ethnic cleansing encouraged Republican congressmen to turn ever more rightward to avoid being “primaried” by a candidate from the even more extreme right (see, e.g., Eric Cantor, R., formerly Va. 7th Cong. Dist.).

But the crowning irony for Mr. Boehner is that he was hoist with his own petard. Following his redistricting efforts, the far-right Freedom Caucus challenged his position as Speaker and brought him down last year. These extreme-right Republicans owed nothing to Mr. Boehner, and they made quite sure he knew it. This, incidentally, is why Mr. Boehner now has his evenings free to address gatherings such as the Chapter’s 2016 Executive Speakers Forum.

We are today confronted with the aftermath of Mr. Boehner’s efforts. For example, in February 2016 President Obama requested an emergency appropriation of funds to deal with the Zika virus threat. The Congress engineered by Mr. Boehner and his colleagues can adopt any number of quixotic bills to repeal Obamacare, but it proved incapable of passing an emergency appropriation bill to fight Zika before it left for its July 4 recess. Zika subsequently broke out in Florida. Our country now confronts an epidemic of a disease that causes tragic birth defects. Although this occurred after his resignation as Speaker, it is a direct consequence of Mr. Boehner’s efforts to undermine the principles of our democracy. He must shoulder his ample share of responsibility.

Likewise, in early 2013, after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy tore through New York and New Jersey, taking more than 230 human lives and causing an estimated $75 billion dollars in damage, the U.S. Senate approved a $60.4 billion aid package. But the Boehner-designed House of Representatives refused to take up a bill for emergency aid for these states. Politicians from New York and New Jersey unleashed a wave of sanguinary fury. Staunchly conservative Republican Peter King of New York said:

These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,. They’re in New York all the time filling their pockets with money from New Yorkers. I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.

Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a recent contender for his party’s Presidential nomination, loosed his own Jovian, if not elephantine, thunder:

There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims [of Superstorm Sandy]: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner….

Last night, the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state.

Mr. Boehner’s record of shame does not end there. On January 6, 2011, his first day as Speaker, Mr. Boehner was interviewed by NBC’s Brian Williams regarding a bill co-sponsored by twelve of Mr. Boehner’s House Republicans challenging President Barack Obama’s status as a United States citizen. This is how Mr. Boehner exercised leadership:

Williams: I’m curious as to how much responsibility you feel, specifically because of something that happened this morning. During the reading of the Constitution by Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, was reading a portion of the document, interrupted by someone who heckled from within the chamber. It was to express doubt over the President’s American citizenship – provided you believe that the President is an American citizen. You’ve got twelve members co-sponsoring legislation that does about the same thing. It expresses doubt [about Obama’s citizenship]. Would you be willing to say: “this is a distraction. I’ve looked at it to my satisfaction. Let’s move on”?

Boehner: The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.

Williams: Would you be willing to say that message to the twelve members in your caucus who seem to either believe otherwise, or are willing to express doubt and have co-sponsored legislation?

Boehner: Brian, when you come to, to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We’re nothing more than a slice of America. People come regardless of party labels. They come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. It’s the melting pot of America. It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.

(Emphasis added.) In other words, as far as Mr. Boehner was concerned, the President’s status as a citizen of the United States was not a matter of objectively determinable fact, but was rather a matter of subjective opinion akin to a preference for vanilla over chocolate ice cream.

Mr. Boehner’s non-leadership with regard to the President’s faith and citizenship was on display again a few weeks later. During the February 13, 2011 edition of Meet the Press, host David Gregory afforded Mr. Boehner a second chance to act like a leader regarding Republican claims that Obama not only was not a U.S. citizen, but also was a secret Muslim. Gregory ran a clip of a Fox News focus group in which Iowa Republican caucus-goers said Obama was a Muslim and that his policies as President were guided by his Muslim faith:

Gregory: As the Speaker, as a leader, do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

Boehner: David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That’s good enough for me. The president says he’s a Christian. I accept him at his word.

Gregory: But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you are not standing up to obvious facts and saying these are facts, and if you don’t believe that it’s nonsense?

Boehner: I just outlined the facts as I understand them. I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I’ll take him at his word.

Gregory: But that kind of ignorance over whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?

Boehner: Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can’t — it’s not my job to tell them.

(Emphasis added.) Like other Republican so-called leaders, Mr. Boehner abdicated his responsibility to condemn the spreading of lies and falsehoods about the faith and citizenship of the President of the United States.

I submit to the Chapter’s Board that this is not leadership. It’s cowardice.

An understanding of Mr. Boehner’s character gains greatly from the juxtaposition of (i) his colloquies with Williams and Gregory in early 2011, to (ii) the enthusiasm and alacrity with which he came to the defense of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) in December 2014.

As you may recall, towards the end of 2014 it came to light that in 2002 Rep. Scalise had given the keynote address to a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). EURO is a white supremacist/neo-Nazi hate group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. When this scandal broke, Mr. Boehner wasted no time releasing a statement supporting Mr. Scalise, terming his address to EURO an “error in judgment,” and retaining him as Republican Majority Whip. Of Scalise Mr. Boehner said “I know what’s in his heart.”

Mr. Boehner thus put the finishing strokes on his own tableau vivant of a Republican white-supremacist dog-whistling to his party’s base. With regard to our country’s first African-American President, Mr. Boehner vehemently denied any responsibility to disabuse members of his own political caucus, much less the nation at large, of self-evident falsehoods about Barack Obama’s faith and citizenship. But when a colleague was caught trying to garner votes and political support at a neo-Nazi/ Ku Klux Klan convention, Mr. Boehner stood proudly before the cameras of the national broadcast networks and told the American people what they should think because he knew what was in Mr. Scalise’s heart.

Stated somewhat differently, Mr. Boehner always has his [white] man’s back.

Mr. Boehner’s record would be egregious enough if it ended there. But there’s also the matter of his intervention in the case of U.S. v. Windsor to support the Defense of Marriage Act. Then there’s the December 15, 2010 full page ad signed by Mr. Boehner and 21 other members of Congress in support of the Family Research Council, an organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its dissemination of false and demonizing propaganda about gays and lesbians (e.g., the FRC’s assertion that all gay men are pedophiles). Let’s not forget Mr. Boehner’s personal distribution of cash (yes, real greenbacks) from lobbyists to Congress members on the very floor of the United States House of Representatives, an act so heinous and depraved that even Mr. Boehner himself later came to regret it. For good measure, we should toss in the former Speaker’s failure to support and deliver on legislation securing equal pay for women. In short, Mr. Boehner embodies almost every aspect of the rot afflicting our nation’s politics. His record is an egregious one. He can’t simply walk away from it. This Chapter should not ignore it.

Should Mr. Boehner ultimately address this years 2016 TMA Forum, I’m confident that our Chapter’s members will give him a respectful hearing consistent with the high standards of decorum characteristic of all this Chapter’s events. But by affording an appearance of concord and dignity at this year’s event, this Chapter will benefit a politician who, while in office, bent every sinew of his will denying that same concord and dignity to women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. In its choice of Mr. Boehner as speaker, this Chapter risks being seen as condoning his record and indelibly imbruing its own character with the racist and sexist stain of Mr. Boehner.

Finally, allow me to say that I very much appreciate the work done by this Board in making this TMA Chapter both a worthwhile and enjoyable enterprise. I know that you contribute your time as volunteers, and all of you are to be commended for the hard work you perform on the Chapter’s behalf. Section ES1.4 of the TMA’s Code of Ethics calls on TMA members to uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors. That obligation cannot be reconciled with Mr. Boehner’s record, and so I trust the Board will reconsider, and rescind, its invitation to him.
Sincerely,

/s/ Paul G. Neilan

cc: The Sparkspread Blog

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