Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Give 'em Hell, Barry!

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us, watching to see what we do with this moment, waiting for us to lead.
Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege, one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans, for in our hands lies the ability to shape our world, for good or for ill.
I know that it's easy to lose sight of this truth, to become cynical and doubtful, consumed with the petty and the trivial.
But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places, that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans who are anything but ordinary.
President Barack Obama
February 24, 2009
Someone please hand me a chisel.

President Barack Obama found his voice last night. For the first time since Jack Kennedy nearly half a century ago, an American president looked the American people straight in the eye and called for shared sacrifice. For the first time since Franklin Delano Roosevelt three quarters of a century ago, the chief executive demanded that the sons and daughters of privilege pay their fair share of the nation's tax burden. For the first time in who-knows-how-long, the President of the United States of America gets it:

This time the CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes disappear on a fancy jet. Those days are over."

Someone pinch me.

It was such amazing thing to witness: the first African American president addressing the American people from the podium of the House of Representatives. Behind him sat the first woman Speaker of the House and the first Catholic vice-president. Is this a great country, or what?

But the highlight of the evening (for me anyway) was the Republican response from Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Someone has likened it to Air Supply following the Rolling Stones on the bill. The speech was so jaw-droppingly pathetic, so politically tone deaf, it left MSNBC's Rachel Maddow literally speechless. The choice of Jindal to respond to the president's oration was as interesting as it was obvious. They could not choose a sitting member of the House and Senate to go on the attack so they chose someone as far removed from Washington politics as is possible to be. The fact that he, like Barack Obama, is not white was also the reason for the choice. If you didn't have a chance to watch it, please, check it out on You Tube. It bordered on the comical. One could not help wondering whether the governor even read Obama's speech before responding:

"Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people....A few weeks ago, the president warned that our country is facing a crisis that he said we may not be able to reverse. Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her."

It was your typical right wing smoke, mirrors and bullshit. First of all, Barack never said - never even implied - that our best days are behind us. As has been the case for as long as memory serves, they cannot deal with the facts directly, the only strategy available to them is to lie and distort. That's their only hope these days. As ex-Republican congressman Joe Scarborough related this morning on MSNBC, he received an e-mail from one of his former colleagues in the House which said, quite truthfully: "MAY DAY! MAY DAY! WE'RE GOING DOWN!" Indeed.
It's amusing to watch these Republicans lashing out at the president's rescue plan. When George W. Bush was spending this country into utter ruin, they were right behind him. Think about where we'd be today if We The People had been wise enough to elect Al Gore nine years ago. Gore would not have squandered the surplus that existed then on a tax cut for a class of people who already had more money than they knew what to do with. Nor, you can be sure, would he have pissed away America's treasure on a useless, illegal war. He would have (as he was promising to do) invested in us. Gore understood something that the loony right wing has never been able to get: History has shown too many times to even catalogue that only when our social and economic infrastructure was being invested in did we thrive. Had America not made the grievous mistake of sending an arrogant half-wit like George W. Bush to the White House on Election Day 2000, we would be living in a different world today.

The desperation of the Republicans at this stage is a truly funny thing to behold. Jindal is being discussed as a possible nominee to run against Obama in 2012. The reason for that is obvious as well. There is no way in hell they'll be able to run a white guy in four years. It will either be Bobby Jindal - or a white woman. Take that to the bank. Better yet, stuff it under your mattress.

Keep your eyes on these jackasses in the next few weeks. They're going to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the president's stimulus package is a complete and utter failure. Count on them to make statements in the press so reckless that the market responds in a negative way. As has been stated on this site before, they know their history. After FDR was inaugurated in 1933, they would not control the executive branch of our government for a full twenty years. Their very survival depends on the destruction of this country's infrastructure. To hell with the American people.

Last night President Barack Obama, in words that will be echoed down the decades, elevated America's political oratory to a precipice higher than it has soared in generations. Calling out to the best in each of us, he pleaded the cause of government activism in a way that hasn't been articulated in many years. The tired old Reaganesque idea that "government isn't the answer, it's the problem" has been rendered deader than the Gipper himself. There will be times (and this is certainly one of them) where government will be the only answer. Wake up and smell the gnarled carcase of that dead elephant. We're entering a new age. Get used to the idea.

If there is one thing that a quarter of a billion people need, it is governance. The very idea of eliminating the government or (as was once fantasized by GOP strategist Gary Norquist) "shrinking it to the point where it can be drowned in the bath tub" is - to be polite - nuts. They have been chanting that tired old mantra for over thirty years: that government is bad and needs to be euthanized. It's really getting kind of old, don'cha think?
Here's something we need to understand, when government is at its most functional, rich people pay more in taxes. The Republican party is controlled and owned by those people. It is in their financial interest that the only function of our elected representatives is that they fund the military industrial complex and make really stupid laws. It's as simple as that. For the last three decades, America's tax burden has been shouldered by the poor and middle classes. That's about to end, boys and girls.

Am I waging class warfare? You'd better believe it, Buster.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


W: A Film by Oliver Stone

I finally saw it a few days ago. It's a lot better than I expected.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

They Hate the American People

It is something that can no longer be denied: America's politicians who carry the banner of the Republican party must really hate the American people with a passion. That is the only conclusion one can draw given their behavior in recent weeks. Does that sound like an extreme statement? Just consider these nasty facts:
While your average Right Wing extremist may not be the brightest bulb on the porch, they do have some knowledge of history. As was stated on this site a number of weeks ago, they know that the stimulus Franklin Delano Roosevelt put into motion three quarters of a century ago saved the American economy from certain destruction. Roosevelt did such a good job as president, the GOP would not control the executive branch for a full twenty years after 1933. By the time 1953 rolled around, it wasn't the domestic performance of the Democratic president (Harry Truman) that people were sick and tired of, it was American involvement in the Korean War. Truman offered no easy end to the stalemate and Dwight D. Eisenhower was promising to end it (as he did indeed) within the first six months of his administration. But for that conflict Herbert Hoover today might be remembered as the last Republican president in American history. I know that sounds far fetched but I can dream, can't I?
With only two exceptions (Susan Collins and Olympia Snow - both of Maine) the current crop of Republican politicians on Capitol Hill have only one mission on their agenda - the complete and utter failure of the Obama Administration. The rescue of the people from this financial catastrophe that they are now suffering under means not a thing to these assholes. They want to make damn good and sure that President Obama fails. That is the only way they will be able to regain control of the Senate and the House in 2010 - the American people be damned. While it cannot be argued that that the Democrats are far from perfect (Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Please) The Republicans (in their present incarnation anyway) are beyond redemption.

During the past week of the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial, it has been next-to-impossible not to imagine what the great emancipator (along with Theodore Roosevelt) might have felt about the corrupt and sorry state of their once-great party. Would they even recognize it? It started out one-hundred and fifty-three years ago with such great promise - and such noble intent: the freeing of human beings from bondage. Let's get real here, folks. The Democrats, for all their great and rich history, never had an issue half that good to rally around. What the hell happened to the Republican party?

And while we're on the subject, would someone please explain to me why they keep referring to it as the "party of Lincoln"? That's as crazy as calling the Democrats the "party of Strom Thurmond". Old Strom's influence on the Dems ended in 1948 when he bolted their national convention and ran as a Dixiecrat. Father Abraham's influence on the party of which he was one of the founding fathers ended at 7:22 on the morning of April 15, 1865 when he breathed his final breath. I am not presumptuous enough to state as a fact that if Mr. Lincoln were around today he would be a registered Democrat, but I can say the following with absolute certainty: He sure as hell wouldn't be running around calling himself a Republican; that's for damned sure! The man's standards were just too high for that sort of thing.

Were Abraham Lincoln to rise from the dead tonight, he would be mortified to even have his name associated with the train wreck that they still insist on calling the Grand Old Party.

They have already taken a first step in seeing to it that President Obama's stimulus plan fails. They have been able to water it down to such a degree that it is (in my humble opinion anyway) almost guaranteed to fail. Their solution to the problem? The same solution they've had for any and every problem for the last three decades: eliminate the capitol gains tax for rich people. Been there. Done that. Didn't work then. Won't work now. Next case....

The only thing that matters to these despicable bastards is their worship on the alter of the corporate dollar. You and I just don't matter to them. We never have. We never will. As the late Frank Zappa once eloquently intoned:

They're just lookin' out for number one
And number one ain't you
You ain't even number two....

We ain't even number five-hundred - wake up and smell the rotten eggs, boys and girls! That party has betrayed the American people. The sooner we understand it, the better off we'll all be. They say that the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one. The "party of George W. Bush" (that's more like it) has metastasized into a disease - a cancer - on our social and economic infrastructure, not to mention the soul of our very Constitution. Like any cancer, it needs to be removed. I'm not implying that we should become a one-party system - that would be disastrous. And let's face some serious facts here; the Democrats are in serious need of a complete overhaul.
What I'm saying is that the Republican party needs to be reformed from the bottom up. The time has come for all good Republicans (they do exist) to come to the aid of their party. My advice to them? Go back and search your party's founding principles. Take a good look at what you stood for once upon a time. How did you people stray from the grand mansion of 1856 to the one-room kitchenette of 2009? Have you looked in the mirror lately? Trust me; it's not a pretty picture.

We The People need to start to see through the smoke and mirrors. They were able to sucker a HUGE number of ignorant citizens into believing that they were the party of "moral values". That is the reason so many people consistently vote against their own economic interests. These knuckleheads are under the impression that the Republicans are the "Pro Life Party". Forget the hypocrisy of being the party in favor of the death penalty. Here's something you must consider: The votes on the court to overturn Roe vs. Wade have been there for for over two years. Why hasn't it been overturned? Because the RNC knows damned well that the overwhelming majority of the American people are (like it or not) pro choice. If the Supreme Court overturned that decision tomorrow, the Republican party would disappear overnight. You don't believe me? What have the Whigs been up to lately? I rest my case. Be careful what you wish for.

My hope is that the GOP's self-inflicted wound will ultimately prove to be mortal and that another, more centrist party will evolve from the carnage. Their ideals have been forever rendered worthless and self-defeating. The question that remains is whether or not the millions of good Americans who are registered Republicans will finally wake up and understand what their party has done to their country. Again, you can't blame me for dreaming.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
What's The Matter With Kansas?
by Thomas Franks

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

On this, the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth, it is best I think to let Abraham Lincoln speak for himself.


Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves and, under a just God, can not long retain it
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.
Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party - and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of Negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth `
Abraham Lincoln
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953)


How can one possibly add to that? I won't even attempt it.

Tom Degan

Goshen, NY


"With Malice Toward None" by Stephen B. Oates

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


And now a few words about the state of Kentucky....

I love Kentucky. I love Kentuckians. Perhaps I am a tad biased on this topic. You see, my ancestry is steeped in the history of that state. Many generations of my forebears called Kentucky home. My maternal grandfather was born in 1894 on a tobacco farm in the small town of Hodgenville. He and my grandmother Loretta Doran (this is the forty-fifth anniversary of her death ) today lie side by side in the small rural Catholic cemetery there.

That is the same town where the man whose bicentennial we'll be observing tomorrow was born in 1809. Right down the road from my family's ancestral home (which we still own by the way) is the Lincoln Marriage Cabin where Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks
. If you ever get the chance to visit the place, check out the bronze plaque out in front. The words, to the best of my recollection (I haven't visited there since 1989) are these:

"Donated to the state of Kentucky by Walter L. Clements"

That was my grandfather. He and his father, Walter A. Clements, also donated the Lincoln Boyhood Cabin to the state of Kentucky. The land that the Lincoln family settled on was owned by my ancestors. Like my granddad (or "Paw Paw" as we called him) the Lincolns eventually moved to Indiana.

I don't think I can state it more clearly than I already have - l am just crazy about Kentucky and the nice people who reside there - Honest to goodness, I am! That being said, however, the question is just screaming to be asked:

Why do such good and decent people keep sending a flaming asshole like Mitch McConnell to Washington?

According to the nice people at Wikipedia, (we'll just have to take their word for it) on his office's official website it is stated that he was "Born on February 20, 1942, and raised in South Louisville". Not that it matters a dime but it neglects to mention the fact that he was born in Alabama. A politician who is not even honest about the circumstances of his own birth can't be expected to be honest about much else. Take Joe Biden for instance. Good ol' Joe has never felt the need to hide the fact that he was born and raised in Scranton, PA and only moved to Delaware as a teenager. Why the hell does Mitch McConnell feel compelled to be deceptive about even this meager item of his biography? What is the matter with him? Is the man a pathological liar? Inquiring minds want to know.

Interestingly, in 1944 at the age of two, our darling little Mitch was diagnosed with polio. In his own words:

"When I was two years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu, But after the fever had passed, my left leg had gone lame. For two years my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia."

Wow! Mitch sure as hell must have been grateful to Franklin D. Roosevelt for helping to develop the method which would enable him on the road to recovery! And how do you think Mitch McConnell expressed that gratitude? He has spent a lifetime trying to destroy FDR's legacy. Talk about an ingrate!

Call it a hunch, but I get this funny feeling that Mitch has studied more than just President Roosevelt's groundbreaking work on the subject of infantile paralysis. Me thinks that he has also studied the effect the New Deal had on America and the political dividends that were paid out as a result of its effectiveness for generations - dividends that went primarily to the Democrats. In case you haven't noticed, Mitch is starting to rewrite history. He even did it the day before yesterday on the floor of the U.S Senate:

"And we know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work. In 1940 unemployment was still at fifteen percent. And it's widely agreed among economists [although he is unable to mention one of these phantom "economists" by name] that what got us out of the doldrums that we were in during the Depression was the beginning of World War Two."

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, in 1933 unemployment was at twenty-five percent. Getting it down to fifteen percent is "technically a big improvement". Rachel also pointed out a fact that has previously been discussed on this site: Between 1933 and 1941, America's Gross Domestic Product rose substantially every year but one - 1937. That was the year Roosevelt got spooked by the Right Wing (within congress and without) and decided to put the old kibosh on stimulus spending. The result was a severe recession. FDR learned his lesson.

Mitch McConnell and those of his sleazy ilk despise the American people to such an astounding degree, they would see our economy implode for no other reason than cheap political expediency. They know that Roosevelt was so successful at saving American capitalism from its own excesses three-quarters-of-a-century ago, their party would not control the executive branch for a full twenty years after 1933. What these hideous bastards and bitches are attempting to do is to water down the stimulus package to such a degree that it is certainly doomed to fail. They will then be able to look the American people in the eye and say - with a straight face - "We told you so".

To my cousins in Kentucky: Is Mitch McConnell the best you folks can do? You're the state that produced Abraham Lincoln, Rosemary Clooney and (forgive me if I boast) the freakin' Clements family, for the love of Mike! You came so close to defeating him last time 'round! Now you're stuck with him for another six years - or unless he gets busted between now and then. That is not at all outside of the realm of possibilities; he is, after all, one of the most corrupt politicians living this side of a federal prison wall. Hopefully things might change between now and 2015. All I can say to you is this: Show me someone who thinks that sending this fool to the senate was a good idea and I'll show you someone who's been smoking blue grass.

Don't take your eyes off this guy. He's despicable.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


In memory of a great American
Ed Morley
August 10, 1960-February 7, 2009


I don't need to tell you how much I loved and admired Ed. He was an absolute flower among the weeds. All of us will be keeping you and your three remarkable children in our thoughts and prayers. Having all of you in my life has been like winning the lottery. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at my good fortune. Whatever you need, don't hesitate to ask.

"At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet, silver song of a lark".

Love and Peace,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (?)

The following is an open letter to the new president of the United States:

Dear President Obama,

First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read "The Rant". It is a humbling thing indeed to know that the most powerful persons in the nation are reading my opinions and being influenced daily by what I have to say on the subject of politics and affairs of state. [Hey, I can dream, can't I? So sue me!]

To quote one of your dead-as-a-door-nail predecessors, "Let me make one thing perfectly clear", I'm really happy that you won the election three months ago today. Really, really happy. Gosh! I don't know what the heck I would have done had John McCain and Gidget von Braun seized the realms of power on January 20. To be totally honest with you, I probably would have packed my bags and moved to England or Ireland or France - anywhere but the United States of America. Had our beloved nation stupidly chose to go down that road again, it would have been the final nail in the coffin of our economic suicide. Quite frankly, I don't think I would have wanted to be around to witness that happening. Contrary to the opinion of some less enlightened people, I love my country. I really do! I am convinced that your election was the best thing for America, and I'm happy that for the next eight years (I'm predicting two terms) you and your lovely family will be calling the White House "home".

Alright, having gotten the schmoozing portion of my message out of the way, let me get down to the business at hand:


Mr. President, you have the "good fortune" (if that's the correct phrase) to be following into office the most mind-numbingly corrupt and incompetent president in American history. It is my belief that, had we been able raise the Nixon Gang from the dead and install them in the Oval Office two weeks ago, they would have been so much better than the Bush Mob, most of the country would still have breathed a prolonged sigh of relief. Here's the problem: When your term of office is over eight years from now, you don't want historians saying that yours was not half as bad as the previous administration; you want them to say that it was a night and day improvement!

The minute it was revealed that two of your designated appointees (Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer) had tax issues, that should have been the end of it. Although they are both decent and capable people, the fact that they accepted their nominations knowing that these problems were boiling under the surface shows a recklessness that is troubling. While it is true that compared to the corruption of Bush and company, their transgressions are of relatively little import (anyone can make a mistake when filing their income tax returns) after the trauma of the last eight years, you need to set the highest moral and ethical standards possible. You promised us "change", President Obama; that doesn't mean a mere repeat of the Clinton years. Do you remember what his first months in office were like? You can do better - a lot better.

Forgive me for throwing this back in your face, Mr. President, but I need change I can believe in.

"Did I screw up in the situation? Absolutely; and I'm willing to take my lumps....I'm frustrated with myself, with our team....I'm here on television saying I screwed up."

Barack Obama, 3 February 2009, NBC Nightly News

All due respect, Mr. President, in April of 1961 when Jack Kennedy faced the press for the first time after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he told them, "Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan." Can you even imagine the uproar that would have occurred had he said, "I screwed up"? It is a sad commentary on the dumbing down of America's political dialogue in the ensuing forty-eight years that your comments to Brian Wilson last night have gone relatively unnoticed. Do yourself a favor; the next time you are forced to make a similar admission, say that you "erred" or that you made an "error of judgment" - even "I made a mistake" would be acceptable - But don't say that you "screwed up", alright? Just a suggestion.

Regarding the so-called Economic Stimulus Package: There is too much package and not enough stimulus. Here's the chance for you to stand up and show a profile in courage. There's enough pork in there to give the entire country a massive coronary. Demand that it be removed immediately.
This country has bridges and schools and levees and highways that are in dire need of rebuilding. Recently I read of a school somewhere in the south that has not been improved since it was built in 1893. You don't have the power of the line item veto, but no one can argue your power of persuasion. Have your team rewrite that package and publicly shame the House and Senate into passing it. Don't forget that yours is, as Theodore Roosevelt once called it, "the bully pulpit".

After nearly three decades of Right Wing insanity, our country is broken and disparately needs to be repaired. Throughout history, the economy has always done well only when investment was being made in America's infrastructure. Otherwise the stimulus package is doomed to fail and we'll all be a thousand miles further down the proverbial creek.

Some commentators are calling this (with straight faces, no less) the worst start to any administration in history. That is so far from the truth it's hardly worth commenting on. The previous president (remember him?) committed one blunder after another from the moment he entered the White House and never stopped committing them for eight long years! And let's not forget Bill Clinton. Six months went by before he started to get somewhat of a hold on things. "Don't ask, don't tell". Remember that?

Or how about our ninth president, William Henry Harrison? Talk about a disastrous start! On the day he was inaugurated, March 4, 1841, Washington was enveloped in a freezing rain. The nitwit wanted to prove to everyone what a macho, rugged kind of guy he was and declined to wear his coat while riding in an open coach during the parade from the Capital to the White House. This was after delivering the longest inaugural address in American history - before or since! Exactly one month later, on April 4, he was dead, a victim of pneumonia. Silly bastard.

And while we're on the subject of disastrous presidential beginnings, when Lincoln entered the White House in 1861, the country was at war with itself! Sorry but it just doesn't get any weirder than that.

So, no, President Obama, in terms of bad starts, your administration doesn't even register. And it's still not too late to get things under control. This is not a time for caution and timidity; this is a time for decisive, courageous action. In the weeks leading up to that historic moment when you recited the oath of office, you were telling everyone who would listen how inspired you were by Doris Kearns Goodwin's monumental biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Hey, don't get me wrong, it was a great read! But the book of hers that you should have been reading was No Ordinary Time, her biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

When Roosevelt came to power in 1933, he understood precisely the depth and gravity of the economic catastrophe his country was in the midst of. President Obama, do you have any idea why FDR is today remembered as one of the greatest chiefs-executive in American history? Because he knew that the only thing he had to fear was - fear itself (Oh, and fire - the poor old bugger was terrified of fire). The moment he walked into the Oval Office (Or rather, "The moment he was wheeled into the Oval Office...." Sorry 'bout that), he threw all political caution and expediency to the wind and took bold, courageous action that we as Americans still benefit from seven-and-a-half decades later.

Republicans politicians want you to fail, Mr. President. They know American history almost as much as you and I do. They know that FDR was so successful at cleaning up the mess made by the GOP in the twelve years leading up to 1932, they would not control the executive branch of our government for a full twenty years. Other than a brief, two year interlude, they would not control both houses of congress for sixty-two years. Don't give them the satisfaction of your failure.

And finally, Mr. President, regarding your choice of Republican Judd Gregg as your commerce secretary. Do you really think it's a particularly nifty idea to put someone in charge of a department he once voted to obliterate? You have enough token Republicans in your new administration; no more, okay? No more. You've made your point.

Hope all's well on your end, President Obama. Give Michelle and the girls a big hug for me. Oh, and that reminds me! One more thing (and this is really important): Have you found a damned dog for those two kids yet?


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
The Defining Moment: FDR's First Hundred Days
and The Triumph of Hope
by Jonathon Alter