Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
It’s been a rough last few months, and I’m not just referring to the alarming presidential contest between the two most egomaniacal, morally-compromised and disliked candidates in electoral history.
Perhaps it’s divine intervention that I’ve been intermittently away from my column to care for, mourn and deal with the affairs of my Mom, who passed away before I attended the Republican National Convention as a Colorado delegate.
A staunch critic of GOP elites, I ran to be a delegate (at my Mom’s urging) because I wanted to help select a presidential nominee who’d unite the “Party of Lincoln” around its bedrock principle – the democratic self-government of a free people.
My pre-convention column argued for allowing delegates to vote their conscience – for Donald Trump or whomever – yielding the strongest nominee to oppose Clinton whose Espionage Act violations and cover-up make her the most brazenly dishonest presidential candidate since Nixon. Her election would advance the banana-republic notion that the powerful are above the law.
The column elicited severe rebukes, the most scolding from Trump supporters. While Clinton backers played the “liar” card, Trumpsters told me to Think Again, grow up and get over my “high falutin ideals.” I was called airhead, globalist and RINO, and my columns were bashed for being “so formulaic they’re almost unreadable.”
In Cleveland, I was among the troublemakers who protested the RNC’s Mao-like suppression of dissent regarding the party rules, which had produced the weakest presidential nominee in modern GOP history. I left dispirited, feeling like a Republican in name only. Now with Election Day nearing, my swing state’s mail-in ballot awaits my vote for president, the most gut wrenching of my life.
As expected, the election has been an ugly slugfest punctuated by predictable surprises – leaks about Trump’s taxes and the 11-year-old video of his grotesque predatory boasting, and WikiLeaks disclosures revealing Clinton Inc. corruption. The biggest shocker is that each party nominated the one candidate the other could beat.
Meanwhile, a real electoral bombshell hit: Obamacare premiums are skyrocketing nationwide as consumers, providers and more insurers desert the law that’s hurting those who can least afford it. It’s a debacle foreseen by critics, though not their media “fact-checkers.”
In steamrolling his signature policy reform, President Obama relied on “the stupidity of the American voter,” as Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber notoriously boasted, getting away with false claims including: premiums would decline; illegal immigrants wouldn’t get subsidies; not one dime will be added to the deficit; and “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
In an illuminating New York Times interview, White House aid Ben Rhodes (whose brother is President of CBS News) boasted similarly, describing the manipulative tactics used to sell Obama/Clinton foreign policies, including the unpopular Iran nuclear deal, which guarantees the mullahs will eventually get their nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Describing the White House spin machine, Rhodes bragged, “We created an echo chamber” of “prominent Washington reporters and columnists” to “carry our message effectively…saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” Hence, “warmonger” was the smear assigned to Iran deal critics.
Here’s the undemocratic playbook used to short-circuit the honest debate on which national consensus depends: make false claims, spin the media, co-opt the bureaucracy to evade laws/break rules, stonewall investigations, smear adversaries, and label self-inflicted controversies “phony scandals” until the truth becomes any story that sticks.
Consequently, no one’s ever held accountable for the resulting wreckage: unaffordable health insurance, dying vets, terrorist attacks, sanctuary city tragedies, IRS harassment, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards. Not surprisingly, only 19 percent of Americans say they trust the government most of the time, down from 73 percent in 1958, according to Pew Research Center.
That’s because Washington is so politicized, even institutions charged with equal enforcement of laws have been sullied. Dueling media accounts of the FBI probes into Clinton’s national security-imperiling violations and the Clinton Foundation’s pay-for-play practices reflect the smoldering rift between disgruntled FBI agents and their higher-ups at the Bureau and Justice Department.
Filmmaker Michael Moore described Trump as a Molotov cocktail thrown at the self-dealing ruling-class system. Clinton, who preaches redistribution of wealth while living like a monarch off her public office, personifies the politically corrupt status quo. Worse then her sense of entitlement and lying is her quarter-century of behaving as if laws are for the little people, not the echo chamber’s aristocracy.
Unfortunately, inside the echo chamber the aristocrats can’t hear the Molotov cocktail-hurling legions outside. Though I shudder at the thought of President Trump, and worry about his authoritarian inclinations, I’m rooting for the little people to burn down the chamber.
Think Again – At the risk of sounding formulaic, might the introduction of an aggressive pathogen like Trump provoke a healthy antibody reaction, helping restore the checks and balances necessary for the democratic self-government of a free people?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Ancient Talmudic wisdom teaches that whoever destroys a soul, destroys an entire world. So it’s understandable that in unveiling heightened gun control measures last week before an audience of shooting victims’ relatives, President Obama shed tears.
Inspired by the San Bernardino massacre to take unilateral action he admits “will save few lives” (nor would they have prevented any recent mass shooting), the president urged Americans to Think Again about “common-sense” gun reforms.
Obama’s executive actions bypass bipartisan congressional majorities, and 58 percent of voters who say “the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on,” according to last week’s Rasmussen poll.
“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence,” Obama frequently laments, a claim judged false by Politifact and the Washington Post who called his language “slippery.”
In fact, the US ranks 11th in per capita fatalities from mass public shootings – behind European countries with stricter gun control laws such as France, Switzerland, Norway and Belgium – according to a Crime Prevention Research Center analysis of the period 2009 through 2015. Meanwhile, total U.S. homicides are at historic lows.
Turns out, Obama is a better salesman for guns than gun control, the New York Times noted. During Obama’s tenure, gun ownership has nearly doubled, with women and concealed-carry owners representing the fastest-growing segments. Even as the stock market suffered its worst yearly start ever, shares of firearm manufacturers soared.
At his CNN town hall meeting, Obama faced gun rights defenders, including rape victim Kimberly Corban. “I have been unspeakably victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again,” Corban explained in asking Obama to understand that restrictions make it harder for her to possess a gun, “making my kids and I less safe.”
While Obama was repeating his “if you like your guns you can keep them” mantra, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump drew deafening applause in Vermont after saying, “You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait!”
Even in Bernie Sanders country, people wonder why after a shooting spree lawmakers reflexively seek to limit the gun rights of law-abiding citizens, making them vulnerable to criminals who account for the vast majority of gun violence.
America’s killing fields aren’t in suburbia; they’re urban centers blighted by societal decay, gang warfare and beleaguered law enforcement. The perpetrators aren’t mentally ill loners; they’re mostly criminals killing criminals.
If addressing gun violence is such an urgent priority, why have weapons convictions declined six percent since last year and 35 percent since peaking in 2006? Why is Obama releasing dangerous gun felons and hardcore Guantanamo Bay jihadists? Why insist on resettling Syrian refugees whom the FBI says it can’t vet and Islamic radicals intend to infiltrate?
Why does Obama sanction “sanctuary city” policies that ignore immigration laws by releasing criminal illegal immigrants into unsuspecting populaces? Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two souls lost per month.
Obama’s gun fiats came amid an ominous 2016 debut: escalating Middle Eastern conflict; a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan; mass sexual assaults by Arab refugees in Germany; a hydrogen bomb test in North Korea; sanctions-violating ballistic missile facilities in Iran; captured footage exposing ISIS’s “jihadi university”; and an ISIS-inspired terrorist ambushing a Philadelphia policeman with a stolen gun.
Seemingly indifferent to these life-imperiling events, Obama intends to override the will of the people – as with his 2014 executive order to grant amnesty to 5 million illegals, and the Iran deal, granting them $150 billion to fund terrorism and build ballistic missiles – setting dangerous precedents for our constitutional system.
Testifying before Congress about accumulating separation of powers violations – over-reaches for which the Supreme Court unanimously rebuked the White House 12 times – constitutional law professor and Obama-voter Jonathan Turley said Obama is “becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” Turley insists the President “can’t say the solution to gridlock is you simply have to resolve it on my terms.”
By forcing his agenda on Americans, Obama is building a Trump Tower of insecurity and distrust, an edifice Trump unapologetically promises to destroy to “make America great again.” He’s tapping into Americans’ “dissatisfaction with government,” which tops Gallup’s latest list of voter concerns, with gun control barely rating.
That such an unlikely and flawed candidate is contending for the presidency speaks to America’s state of disunion. It’s tear inducing considering Obama ascended to the White House with this plea for national unity:
“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America…There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United State of America.”
Think Again – Since elections are designed to punish failures and reward success, may 2016 reveal a statesman capable of delivering the legitimate government Americans deserve.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the entire government working for you,” Will Rogers quipped, capturing his era’s zeitgeist, and explaining the popularity of our moment’s outsider presidential candidates.
It’s good to be a non-politician when 75 percent of Americans say government corruption is widespread, up from 66 percent in 2009, and half say government is an immediate threat to lives and freedoms, according to Gallup.
It’s bad to be the debate-shy “candidate of destiny,” Hillary Clinton, when the first three words voters associate with her are “liar,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy,” according to a Quinnipiac poll.
Even early GOP front-runner and heroic “outsider” Scott Walker succumbed to skepticism, exiting the race after getting trumped by voters who won’t Think Again about his policy reversals.
With median incomes down 6.5 percent since 2007, U.S. debt surging to perilous heights, and the world melting down, voters resist limiting their choice to donor favorites – Clinton 2.0 or Bush 3.0.
If there’s a “Rosetta Stone” deciphering Americans’ malaise, it’s the unprecedented and often extra-constitutional way lawmakers make consequential decisions, in defiance of public opinion.
Fans of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders and conservative Ted Cruz meet at the intersection of their contempt for a government that gives sweetheart deals to well-connected cronies.
The newly-elected may arrive in Washington convinced it’s a cesspool, but after harnessing governmental power and dispensing billions, they discover it’s an inviting Jacuzzi, where big government and big special interests collude to enrich the few, trumping the interests of the many.
Consider Obamacare, which passed on a party-line vote using political payoffs and parliamentary trickeries never before deployed for such far-reaching legislation. As consumers suffer choice and affordability frustrations, the health industry’s largest stakeholders – drug, hospital and insurance companies – profit, at taxpayers’ expense.
Now it’s the high-stakes Iran nuclear deal – perhaps history’s most consequential – that’s advancing without congressional review, never mind Senate ratification, trumping Americans who overwhelmingly agree with George Washington, “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”
Our government’s Iran deal Kabuki Theater, featuring protagonists from both parties, renders obsolete Will Rogers’ famous jest: “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.”
The Iranian theocracy’s aim – “Death to America” and the destruction of Western civilization – is, after all, the ultimate trumping of the American people. Hence, our long-standing bi-partisan policy to deny the world’s most dangerous regime the planet’s most lethal weapons.
The Iran deal’s break with consensus prompted me to join a Colorado delegation to meet with our senator Michael Bennet on September 9th. Despite “deep concerns about what the shape of Iran’s nuclear program could look like,” Bennet had broken with a bipartisan majority of 58 senators who opposed the pact and the secret side deals involving Iranian self-inspection.
Our goal was to confirm that Bennet wouldn’t filibuster the Iran deal, voting instead with at least 60 senators to allow the agreement’s merits to be considered by the people’s representatives, an expectation Bennet set by co-sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which passed 98-1 in May.
Disappointingly, Bennet didn’t show. But his cowering staffers assured us he wouldn’t filibuster, just as the anti-Iran deal rally at the Capitol with headliner Trump was starting. The next day Bennet proved his partisan chops by voting to filibuster, trumping the will of the American people.
President John F. Kennedy said, “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” Eager to restore our sovereignty, Americans are searching for an independent leader, one they believe will “make America great again.”
In his New York Magazine commentary, Frank Rich argues Trump is saving our democracy by “exposing, however crudely and at times inadvertently, the posturings of both the Republicans and the Democrats and the foolishness and obsolescence of much of the political culture they share.”
Perhaps so, but the truth is, when politicians are elevated before winning in the free marketplace of ideas, they stop answering questions and being held accountable, and then everybody gets trumped.
Americans want candidates who are serious, knowledgeable and responsive, which explains why Sanders’s crowds trump Clinton’s, and why idea-filled debate performances by Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio turbocharged their campaigns. It’s why Democrats are starving for their own debates.
For the American people to trump Washington’s agenda, we mustn’t allow cults of personality to cocoon candidates, or divide ourselves into “virtuous” and “dishonorable” camps. Most importantly, we must demand accountability.
Think Again – As Will Rogers eventually conceded: “This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation."
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Last week during the most-watched primary debate in history, a U.S. senator fired a cogently argued objection at his party’s leader, drawing a contemptuous and insulting personal attack.
No, it wasn’t Sen. Rand Paul who chastised Donald Trump for being “on every side of every issue,” criticism for which Trump poked Paul for “having a bad night.”
It was Sen. Chuck Schumer who, after taking a month to Think Again about the Iranian nuclear agreement, announced his carefully considered rationale for opposing President Obama’s controversial foreign policy objective – an accord that reverses America’s long-standing policy to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and the proliferation it would spawn.
Schumer judged the deal not on “whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it.” He concluded we’d be worse off and less able to thwart the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism after giving Iran’s “brutal, theocratic” regime $50-150 billion in unfrozen assets to “pursue nefarious goals,” and allowing them to become a nuclear-threshold state.
Schumer’s conclusion reflects the opinion of experts who’ve appeared before Congress, including Amb. Robert Joseph, chief U.S. negotiator of the 2003 Libya deal that dismantled the country’s nuclear program.
Calling the Iran deal a “bad agreement” with “fatal flaws,” Joseph testified “the threat to the U.S. homeland and to our NATO allies of an Iran armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles will increase, not decrease, under the anticipated agreement.”
Schumer cited the ayatollahs’ long track record of deceit and deception, and their "tight and undiminished grip on Iran," in deciding it’s “better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”
Unwilling to tolerate principled opposition, deal supporters launched a vicious smear campaign, branding Schumer “Warmonger Chuck,” even though Americans by a two-to-one margin oppose the Iran deal and believe it will make the world less safe, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
About the presumptive next Senate Minority Leader, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Democrats should “consider the voting record of those who want to lead the caucus,” proving Voltaire’s observation: “it’s dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.”
Schumer’s lambasting followed Obama’s speech at American University, the stage from which President Kennedy made his case for the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. “Let us not be blind to our differences,” Kennedy encouraged, “but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.” The Senate voted 80-19 to ratify the treaty.
Standing in Kennedy’s place, Obama dismissed critics who are concerned the Iran accord doesn’t reflect pre-negotiation promises, saying it’s not a “tough call” to support the deal. After insisting the only alternative is “another war in the Middle East,” Obama denounced opponents’ “knee-jerk partisanship,” “stridency” and “lobbyists” demanding war.
“It's those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They're making common cause with the Republican Caucus,” Obama charged, as if America’s duly-elected representatives are the moral equivalents of unelected theocrats who stone women, hang gays, and shoot peaceful protestors.
Supreme Leader Ali Khameni has already violated the deal, most significantly by having his top aid declare, “entry into our military sites is absolutely forbidden.” Yet Obama maintained the deal “permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” one of many evidence-free assertions that underscore Kennedy’s key insight: "no treaty ... can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion."
Equally practiced in the art of evidence-free political rhetoric, Trump is a word salad-spewing colossus atop an untidy Republican presidential field. The ultimate anti-politician to disaffected voters enraged by ruling elites and political correctness, Trump wins plaudits for disparaging “stupid people” and those who “don’t treat me nice” – not for persuasive abilities.
All style and no substance, even on issues that make supporters swoon – illegal immigration, trade deals, Planned Parenthood – Trump is imprecise, incoherent, and inconsistent, though it matters not to his champions. Asked about Iran in last week’s debate, Trump mustered “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite.”
Our democratic system relies on leaders who say what they mean and then get elected to go do what they said. More than celebrity, Trump’s surge derives from a smoldering frustration with politicians who don’t respect their contract with the people.
On the high-stakes Iran deal, Obama is poised to override the will of the people, and an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in Congress, unless Americans insist otherwise. Kennedy was right, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
Think Again – May the right answer on the Iran deal emerge from an open, informed and respectful debate in Congress next month.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
At a recent 11,000-strong Netroots Nation conference, irate activists booed off the stage presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for proclaiming “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
That O’Malley was jeered for his echo of “all men are created equal” – the self-evident truth that fueled America’s civil rights movement – reflects a disturbing phenomenon, one social critic Aldous Huxley called the propagandist’s purpose: “to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
By emphasizing differences and distorting reality, propagandists incite mistrust and hostility, compelling followers to line up dutifully behind partisan agendas, never to Think Again.
Yet as Adolf Hitler understood – and history proves – blind partisanship is dangerous. “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think,” observed modern history’s greatest propagandist and destroyer of humanity.
A 2013 experiment conducted by pollster Mark Mellman for the Bipartisan Policy Center confirmed Hitler’s insight, revealing how partisanship often overrides informed policy preferences, blinding people to the consequences of their choices.
Two groups of respondents were asked to select between Republican and Democrat education plans, with the labels on each plan reversed in each group. Rather than choose a plan based on policy preferences, Republicans and Democrats in each group overwhelmingly opted for their party’s plan.
“The evidence suggests that parties have considerable latitude to alter their positions without losing voters,” Melman concluded, “driving voters further apart on the issues if they choose.”
Consider how the Obama Administration is severing the long-standing bipartisan consensus to use all elements of American foreign policy -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- to prevent Iran’s theocratic regime, and the world’s most lethal terrorist state, from acquiring nuclear weapons.
On the most consequential life and death issue facing Americans, administration officials have reversed their pledges to prevent an Iranian bomb while ridiculing those who won’t renege, branding them the equivalent of warmongers.
Meanwhile, the Iran deal would convey a jackpot of sanctions-relief, conventional arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles, enabling the world’s worst warmongers – the tyrannical ayatollahs whose declared goal is to establish a global caliphate and “raise the banner of Islam over the White House.”
Unfortunately, by prematurely sidelining diplomatic and economic leverage, the deal leaves America with few peaceful ways to counter Iran, or secure our hostages’ release.
Normally, far-reaching international agreements – particularly nuclear-related treaties – require a two-thirds Senate majority to assure domestic support. Fearful of constitutionally mandated scrutiny, the administration framed the deal as an executive agreement requiring no congressional approval. To reassert its treaty authority, Congress agreed that disapproval requires an unprecedented two-thirds majority in both houses.
Most worrisome, the administration has circumvented voters, the Constitution and American sovereignty by obtaining UN approval of the Iran accord – including secret side deals – before Congress’s review. Should Congress reject the deal, administration officials argue America would be violating international law.
Whose lives will matter most: Those of pressured lawmakers, or Americans whose lives, and way of life, are imperiled by the agreement?
The same question can be asked of policymakers who put the lives of criminal aliens ahead of law-abiding innocents by allowing immigration laws to go unenforced.
This month, an illegal immigrant with seven convictions, five deportations and multiple returns to San Francisco’s “sanctuary city,” shot and killed 32-year old Kate Steinle while she was strolling with her Dad.
Like San Francisco, more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions routinely ignore immigration laws, as tens of thousands of criminal aliens have been released into unsuspecting populaces. Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two preventable tragedies per month. Yet propagandists obscuring these facts call opponents of sanctuary policies racist.
Similarly, it’s a “war on women” to be critical of Planned Parenthood, even after secretly recorded videos exposed the human cost – and price – of saleable baby parts, harvested from late-term abortions at their clinics.
In two videos that went viral, Planned Parenthood officials explain why their “less crunchy” techniques make them “very good at getting heart, lung, liver.” They crush above and below to “get it all intact.” A third video shows doctors discussing how to maximize fetal tissue revenue.
It’s hard to reconcile a belief that “all lives matter” with the routine and lawful crushing of emerging human life. Yet a mother’s life and right to control her body also matter. Acknowledging these conflicting truisms is a mark of a healthy society, one capable of breaking through the propaganda to consider the question: at what point does the mother’s right to control her life stop trumping a baby’s right to life?
George Orwell said, “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it,” which is why O’Malley was booed for saying “all lives matter.” Reversing society’s drift requires citizens willing to risk vilification to search for the truth, people who’ll resist reality-distorting partisans.
Think Again – by reversing Hitler’s insight, imagine the good fortune for society when the people do think.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
As capitulations to Iran’s theocracy dragged on, numbing Americans to the civilization-imperiling consequences of the planet’s most lethal terrorist state possessing nuclear weapons capability, a political sideshow emerged.
Two blunt iconoclasts, billionaire Donald Trump and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, are encouraging Americans to Think Again about policies that undercut our interests, drawing surprisingly large crowds, breathless media attention, and lofty poll numbers.
Causing the collective eyes of the political class to roll, Trump and Sanders resonate with a pablum-fed electorate starving for authentic debate, policies aligned with citizens’ concerns, and leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say.
Witness the deceptions being used to normalize the mortal threat posed by Tuesday’s nuclear deal with Iran’s genocidal Ayatollahs. They’ve sponsored a slow-motion jihad against America ever since revolutionaries seized our embassy and hostages in 1979, asserting their constitution’s commitment to “universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
Do politicians mean what they’ve consistently said about dismantling the nuclear program of the “Death to America”-dedicated Iranian theocracy? Will they claim the accord prevents an Iranian bomb when it merely delays it? Are they intentionally confusing us about what “verifiable” means, insisting the accord’s Iranian-approved “access where necessary, when necessary” meets the original “go anywhere-anytime” inspection standard?
It’s déjà vu considering Britain’s Neville Chamberlain hailed the Munich Agreement with Hitler for delivering “peace with honor,” and President Clinton called the North Korea nuclear deal – which relied on verification – “the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
Will lawmakers reject the concession-laden deal criticized by five former Obama Administration national security advisors for falling “short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good agreement’?” Their assessment supports Henry Kissinger and George Shultz’s conclusion: “Negotiations …to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability.”
Regarding bi-partisan dissension, Yale University foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Meade commented, “This is not what diplomatic success usually looks like. In fact, it’s hard to think of another moment in American diplomatic history in which so many warning lights from so many places have flashed so brightly.”
That’s because the agreement grants the Supreme Leader’s core demands: preserving Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure, allowing near-zero breakout time to a bomb if it cheats, a decade if it doesn’t; gradual sanctions relief unlocking an estimated $150 billion; limiting intrusive inspections; and jettisoning the conventional weapons embargo and international legal regime branding Iran a rogue state – without requiring Iran to renounce terrorism or release American prisoners.
Are lawmakers listening to voters of whom 76 percent rated terrorism their top priority in a January Pew poll while 52 percent now believe America is a more dangerous place than it was before 9/11, according to Rasmussen’s July survey?
Senators were right to vote 99-0 in 2010 for painstakingly conceived coercive sanctions – relaxed when Iran negotiations began – to force the self-described deceivers to dismantle their nuclear program, as six UN resolutions ordered. Are Senators now willing to bet American lives on rebooting sanctions if Iran continues its murderous ways?
Declaring an Iranian bomb “would be a game-changer,” presidential candidate Barack Obama re-iterated pledges to prevent it. “The deal we’ll accept is – they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.” He also promised to “take no options off the table… including all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to … ensure the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort."
The truth is, every president since Carter has failed to deploy these powers to oppose Iranian hostility, allowing committed revolutionaries and skilled diplomats to out-flank and out-negotiate the mightiest nation on earth.
Iran doesn’t control all terrorists, but it’s the head of an Islamic supremacist snake seeking to subjugate humanity and destroy freedom. Responsible for killing and maiming thousands of Americans, and posing threats we’ve neither anticipated nor mitigated, their unanswered aggression has stimulated more aggression.
We’ve failed to retaliate after successive attacks; conflated our “national interest” with democracy promotion, “nation-building” and détente with avowed enemies; and enunciated “redlines” we haven’t backed up. With U.S. credibility diluted, we’re harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend and weaker guardians of American security.
The Iranian nuclear deal reflects our self-crippling foreign policy. But as Winston Churchill noted, “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Having led efforts to extinguish Nazi, Imperial Japan and Soviet threats, America can do the same against aggressors with far less economic and military strength.
Think Again – The Berlin Wall turned to rubble twenty-nine months after President Reagan told Soviet leader Gorbachev, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity …tear down this wall!” Why can't the same be said of Iran’s nuclear installations? Then they can rejoin the civilized world.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Amid unending political horserace punditry – who’s up, who’s down in the wake of Supreme Court rulings, Congress’ Trade Promotion votes, Iranian nuclear negotiations, and the racist Charleston massacre – let’s Think Again about the most important concern: are the American people winning or losing?
Are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the national promise Americans celebrate on July 4th – secure in this year of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary? That watershed moment in the annals of human liberty curbed a tyrannical monarch, like the American founding it helped inspire.
Initially an agrarian backwater in a socially stratified world, America unleashed boundless creativity and industriousness by asserting human equality, becoming history’s greatest economic wonder. While Great Britain’s well-being (real GDP per capita) increased 14-fold between 1800 and 2007, America’s grew 32-fold.
Today, as Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington aristocracies prosper, Americans are suffering crisis levels of job insecurity, economic stagnation and poverty. Will immigrants who’ve left societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end discover that social mobility isn’t much better here?
With the Congressional Budget Office projecting Greek-proportions of U.S. debt within 25 years, and a nuclearized Iranian terrorist state looming, are we bequeathing our children lower living standards and a weaker and vulnerable America?
The author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, captured the dilemma: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history. Whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
Echoing Jefferson in his recent Time commentary, former presidential candidate and Colorado senator Gary Hart lamented the erosion of America’s founding purpose – the democratic self-governance of a free people.
“Our European ancestors came to these shores to escape social and political systems that were corrosive and corrupt. Two and a quarter centuries later, we are returning to those European practices,” Hart argued, concluding, “We are in danger of becoming a different kind of nation, one our founders would not recognize and would deplore.”
Considering the unaccountability of Washington’s increasingly powerful and unelected ruling elite – from nine Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments to the colossal administrative state – is government’s power still citizen-driven?
Are Americans as free to control how we live, what we believe, and where we dedicate our labor and its fruits, or must we slavishly defer to elites wielding uninhibited power?
Given calls to abolish the tax-exempt status of religious institutions whose definition of marriage now diverges from the Supreme Court’s, will individual dissidents be similarly hounded, jeopardizing their careers and reputations?
If a female photographer can discriminate, choosing not to photo-shoot a bachelor party featuring a female stripper, can a Christian photographer decline to shoot a same-sex wedding?
Saved twice by the Supreme Court’s judicial rewriting, will Obamacare deliver the affordable, patient-centered health care its supporters promised, or will skyrocketing costs and narrowing provider networks impede access, disproportionally hurting sick Americans?
Though an Obamacare and same-sex marriage supporter, Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley argued “there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political, social and religious divisions.”
Moreover, in ignoring its constitutional duty to implement laws – writing them instead – the Court circumvents the political process our constitution’s separation of powers was designed to facilitate, undermining the people’s consent upon which government legitimacy depends.
Unlike the blindfolded Lady Justice on whose objectivity and impartiality our free society relies, the Court jeopardizes its integrity and imperils civil society when it operates more like a political institution than a legal one, concerned less with the rule of law and constitutional adherence than winning agendas.
Thankfully, in South Carolina – the state that moved first to secede from the Union in 1860 because it denied “all men are created equal” – we’re witnessing the ordered liberty our founding ethic was expected to foster.
They’re showing the world how to “combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions,” as Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of the murdered reverend Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. put it. In Charleston’s diverse melting pot, prejudices are dissolving through exposure to disparate voices and moral suasion, as freedom of expression is respected.
Inspired by the magnanimity of grieving Emanuel AME Church families, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed “a moment of unity in our state, without ill will.” Declaring no winner or loser in respecting those who wish to display the confederate battle flag on private property, Haley announced, “it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”
The people of South Carolina are winning as they prove a righteous and thoughtful citizenry dedicated to society’s safety and happiness, can indeed self-govern.
Think Again – as Americans look beyond fireworks this July 4th, may we see more than political horseraces, perceiving our nation’s enduring notion that free and virtuous citizens – not ruling elites – are our fate’s best masters.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
It’s not a Mad Max world into which students are graduating, but it’s a Mad, Mad one, fraught with genocidal fanaticism, proliferating scandals, and morally deficient leadership.
As terrorists claimed swaths of Iraq and Syria for the Islamic State, and “death to America”-seeking Iran crept closer to nuclear weapons capability, recent headlines featured indictments of international soccer officials at FIFA and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Distrust of civil institutions pervades society.
Meanwhile, the conflicts of interest surrounding Hillary Clinton prompted CNN’s John King to note “you can’t go 20 minutes...without some story…. that gives you a little bit of the creeps.” Will Americans ignore behavior in a presidential candidate that they’d normally deem reprehensible?
The question before graduates is whether they’ll “party on” – accepting a world of imperiled liberties and moral retreat – or whether they’ll Think Again and try to improve it.
Can a generation more informed about Bruce Jenner’s transformation than the Constitution adhere to a founding principle of our democracy, that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom,” as Benjamin Franklin insisted?
Will iPhone-era Americans raised in the freest, richest and most decent society the world has ever known demand the civic trust, honesty, and accountability on which America’s extraordinariness has depended?
Unfortunately, for over half a century, many institutions charged with cultivating civic virtue – family, faith and education – have failed to transmit the moral values vital to healthy societies. Skyrocketing numbers of single households, a struggling middle class and a crisis in higher education have combined to deprive us of citizens with the requisite moral character for self-government.
Author J.D. Salinger captured education’s problem in his 1961 book “Franny and Zooey:” His heroine grumbles, “You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever even hear the word ‘wisdom’ mentioned!”
Professor Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago had a more scholarly take in his 1987 bestseller, “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Student.”
Bemoaning the demotion of the humanities’ “great books” and academia’s “openness” trend, Bloom argued that because education was no longer a quest for wisdom and “truth,” it was eroding the intellectual foundations of liberty and morality. After all, 18-22 years olds don’t just self-actualize morally.
“Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason,” Bloom contended, lamenting, “It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power” to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, and justice from injustice.
Safe from reflective thought, potential insult or conflicting ideas, and without the ennobling insights and discipline gleaned from studying Aristotle, Shakespeare or Twain, is it surprising that our “best and brightest” converted housing finance into a high-stakes casino, rendered our foreign policy incoherent, and encumbered generations of American taxpayers with more debt than the world has ever known?
Campus horribles reached a zenith with the lauding of Columbia University undergraduate Emma Sulkowicz – aka “Mattress Girl” – who accused a friend of brutally raping her. Though the University and district attorney cleared him, Sulkowicz continued to tote a mattress -- the scene of the alleged crime -- on her back, garnering media plaudits, an invitation from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to the State of the Union address, and a celebratory shout-out at commencement.
To Sulkowicz’s champions, it doesn’t matter that the truth interfered with their popular narrative about "campus rape culture," or that their irresponsible statements increase the scrutiny given to rape victims and irreparably damage the reputations of the truly innocent. Those things are a trifle compared to their political agenda.
As if addressing Sulkowicz, actor Matthew McConaughey told University of Houston graduates “Life’s not fair. It never was, isn’t now and won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitled trap of feeling like you’re a victim. You’re not.” McConaughey echoed Franklin’s maxim: “The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
Last year, Admiral William McRaven, who commanded the Osama bin Laden operation, mined his Navy SEAL training to offer University of Texas graduates tips on how to change “ourselves and the world around us.”
In his widely admired address, he counseled, “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone…You will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up,” then subsequent generations will live in a better world.
In truth, our Mad, Mad world isn’t a safe place and our era’s existential and moral challenges aren’t unprecedented. If graduates haven’t yet grappled with mind-bending questions – what’s a good person, how to make ethical judgments, what are civic duties – they will. As they struggle, may humanity’s wisdom guide them.
Think Again – “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance,” Franklin said. To recall why, consider Adolf Hitler’s observation: “lucky for governments that people don’t think.”
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Fleeing East Africa for Italy in a rickety rescue boat, 15 Christian asylum seekers were thrown to their deaths last week by fellow refugees because they weren’t praying to Allah.
We’re shocked by reports of innocents murdered for their beliefs, and orange-jump-suited victims marching to their deaths because, as Americans, we’re safe from such persecution.
Our freedoms evolved in part from an infamous, hysteria-induced episode in 17-century Puritan Massachusetts where anyone suspected of witchcraft was persecuted. The Salem witch trials became a cautionary tale about the dangers of false accusations and contempt for due process, and an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.
While heads don’t literally roll in America, the reputations of those refusing to Think Again often do, the result of character assassinations that corrode our civil society.
Witness the defamatory antics of Sen. Harry Reid while Senate majority leader. Like McCarthy, Reid regularly hurled false accusations at adversaries, including his 2012 election-year claim that Mitt Romney “hasn’t paid taxes for ten years.” Asked recently if he regretted his charge, the man entrusted with leading the world’s greatest deliberative body crowed, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
Accused of having “no sense of decency,” McCarthy’s recklessness was eventually halted and the Senate later censured him. However, Reid was not censured. Neither was Sen. Edward Kennedy, who notoriously smothered in its crib the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of eminent jurist Robert Bork – called highly qualified by Sen. Joe Biden before he joined Kennedy in reputationally beheading the judge.
Explaining later why Bork needed to be cast as the devil, anti-Bork activist Ann Lewis acknowledged that an open debate “would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” Hence, Kennedy’s outrageous claim that in Bork’s America, “women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote, “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.” Toxic political discourse is now standard, as dissenters are isolated, scorned and even silenced. To paraphrase George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” these days it’s hard to tell man from pig.
For example, those who believed Police Officer Darren Wilson didn’t kill Ferguson teenager Michael Brown while Brown had his hands up -- a myth discredited by the Justice Department – were labeled racists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears less esteemed by the Obama administration than Iran’s “Death to America”-spewing Ayatollah -- and is persona non grata at the White House for doubting the emerging Iranian nuclear deal.
To oppose the coerced participation of service providers in same-sex weddings is deemed anti-gay, the label attached to former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who lost his job last year for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Righteously indignant at the purging of dissidents, gay-marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan said, "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."
With dissident scientists in their crosshairs, environmental bullies Rep. Raul Grijalva and Sen. Edward Markey are also threating free speech -- and academic freedom and scientific inquiry. Their witch-hunt has already bagged Professor Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado.
Despite supporting policies to combat climate change, Pielke’s offense was finding no increase in extreme weather due to global warming, a conclusion endorsed by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt,” he said after deciding to abandon climate research.
As a columnist, I’m a target for vilification that attempts to escort contrarians from polite society. I’ve been branded a bigot for applying Abraham Lincoln’s “absence of malice” vision to our culture’s civil wars; an extremist and warmonger for asking, “Why coexist with a mortal Iranian threat?” and an elitist leech for decrying our economy’s uneven playing field, warped by cronyism. For breaking with “settled science” orthodoxy, pitchforked prosecutors urged my editors to censor me.
Though I crave more reasoned debate that illuminates, even unifies, I recognize that my detractors’ right to unconstructive criticism is the flip side of my right to free expression. Individual liberty is the reason my persecuted grandparents came to America in a wave of huddled masses, not unlike those crossing dangerous seas today.
Though jeopardized, the open, diverse and vibrant society we’ve become is the source of America’s creativity, prosperity, generosity… and decency. We’re still the greatest continuing experiment in human history, founded on the unique idea that people from different places with differing backgrounds and values could forge a civilized and free nation. It’s an idea that all Americans have a responsibility to sustain.
Think Again - to preserve our decency and vitality, people don’t need to change their minds, just open them.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Last week, as radical Islamists slaughtered 148 Christian students at a Kenyan university, America’s faithful celebrated Easter and Passover in tranquility, demonstrating why religious liberty is not the eccentric uncle in the human-rights family -- it’s the matriarch.
Yet with demonic evil spanning the globe, and religion a life and death matter, punishment for defending one’s faith is now acceptable in America. Our “live-and-let-live” ethic is increasingly imperiled. Witness the firestorm after Indiana became the 20th state to enact its version of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In our morally upside-down world, we accommodate the nuclear ambitions of Iran’s “Death to America”-shouting ayatollahs, but not our citizens eager to preserve our bedrock values. They’re told to Think Again about their inherent right to religious liberty, the principle that created America.
Founded by righteous people fleeing religious persecution, and inspired by patriots proclaiming, “Give me liberty or give me death,” America became an unrivaled beacon of hope, tolerance, and prosperity. This was “not a result of accident,” Abraham Lincoln reasoned, but the product of our founders’ “wise and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures.”
Embedded in the Declaration of Independence, one of history’s most consequential documents, is “the principle of liberty to all,” which Lincoln believed “clears the path for all – gives hope to all – and, by consequence, enterprise and industry to all.”
So indispensable is religious liberty and the virtuous citizenry it encourages, America’s founders implanted it in our spiritual DNA and the Constitution’s First Amendment, making it government’s duty to protect. Where governments have crushed religious liberty, as in Nazi Germany, it’s those practicing the “Golden Rule” who’ve refused to follow tyrannical mobs.
Lincoln believed our liberty-preserving system would inspire future generations to counter the “tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants,” a confidence increasingly imperiled by a new credo -- “give me your religious liberty or lose your livelihood.”
Consider the boycott threats based on alleged anti-gay bigotry raining on Indiana after it adopted the kind of religious freedom law that protects long-standing traditions of all faiths, from Native Americans to Zoroastrians.
Like the Ted Kennedy-sponsored federal law -- passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Clinton -- and the 1998 Obama-backed Illinois law, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act bars the government from substantially burdening someone’s religious beliefs without a compelling state interest, and only in the least-intrusive manner.
Anyone claiming a religious-right violation can seek redress in court, though in the few cases involving marriage rituals, religious liberty defenses haven’t prevailed. A New Mexico photographer, a Washington-state florist, and a Colorado baker, all Christians with gay clientele – but resisting government-coerced participation in same-sex weddings – have lost in court.
Nevertheless, outraged Indiana-boycotters included Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act predates the federal law and is stronger than Indiana’s. Will Malloy advocate boycotting his own state? Decrying discrimination, Apple CEO Tim Cook jumped on the boycott bandwagon, but will he stop operating in countries – such as Iran -- that brutalize women and hang gays?
Last week, a small-town-Indiana pizzeria was hounded into closure after its Christian owners – who’d served all-comers -- told a reporter they wouldn’t cater a hypothetical same-sex wedding.
Would tolerance-enforcers harass a lesbian photographer for declining the business of the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, a Jewish baker for refusing to make a “Happy Birthday, Hitler” cake, or a Muslim printer who wouldn’t create an anti-Muhammad poster? Must a Catholic OB-GYN perform abortions? Each of these conscientious objectors has moral justification, but no religious doctrine sanctions a refusal to serve African-Americans, which is bigotry.
In truth, the list of unconscionable hypotheticals is endless, but actual disputes are rare. That’s a tribute to America’s unusually tolerant society where prejudices dissolve through exposure to moral suasion, and where everyone’s dignity and beliefs – even the objectionable -- can be respected.
To preserve harmony and avert unnecessary civil wars, can’t we agree that good-faith people shouldn’t be coerced into performing services they deem morally objectionable?
One hundred fifty years ago -- mere weeks before the Confederacy’s April 9 surrender and Lincoln’s April 14 assassination -- a solemn president delivered his Second Inaugural Address to a crowd anxious for an account of the war. Instead, they heard Lincoln’s most profound reflections, only 701 words, on the war’s meaning: the preservation of the divinely inspired liberties on which America was founded.
Speaking humbly to an audience that included slavery supporters, Lincoln counseled “malice toward none, with charity for all” in pursuit of a “just and a lasting peace,” prompting former-slave and abolitionist-orator Frederick Douglass to brand the speech “a sacred effort.”
Think Again – to preserve America as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, shouldn’t we strive to emulate Lincoln’s unifying absence of malice, and show respect for those with sincere religious conviction?