EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.

ABOUT THAT SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENT …

People have been joking about it, as if it couldn’t happen. Appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court when he’s no longer president. What most of the people who say this don’t know is that it wouldn’t be the first time. Not only could it happen, it already has happened.

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court following his term as President. He is the only U.S. President to have served on the Supreme Court.  I have quite a fondness for Mr. Taft as he was a local kid, from … you guessed it … little Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

william howard Taft

It’s true. The Taft family is our primary claim to fame, if indeed Uxbridge has a claim to fame. But I digress.

There is no reason why a former president cannot be a judge, Supreme Court or otherwise. Or for that matter, anything else he might choose. Most presidents are well beyond retirement age at the conclusion of their terms in office. Many former presidents are happy to spend their remaining years writing their memoirs and donating time and energies to worthy causes. Those that are young and healthy enough to do more, often go into private corporate work to make some of the big bucks they don’t make as president.

POTUS earns $400,000 per year while in office. Compared to the CEO of any major company, this is chicken feed — even though it sounds like a lot of money to you and me. It represent slightly less than half his annual income. Obama, like most American presidents, has other sources of income, including investments and book royalties. He is not one of the wealthier presidents we’ve had through the years, but he’s doing okay — especially compared to the average working stiff.

That being said, there isn’t enough money in the treasury to make me want that job. There’s a reason why presidents go into office looking young and vibrant … and leave office looking old. Not older. Really old. You couldn’t pay me enough.

The First Lady gets a measly $10,000, which isn’t sufficient to cover a couple of nice gowns, much less shoes to match.

So if POTUS and FLOTUS were not rich when they took office, they may want to make up for lost income in subsequent working years.

William Howard Taft’s heart belonged to the law. He was an unhappy, unpopular president following the larger-than-life footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt. Getting appointed to the Supreme Court made up for much of what had gone wrong in his life. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921 to 1930.

Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

So … for all those who’ve thought the idea was humorous that Mr. Obama might yet play a major role in American history, it may be humorous. It would certainly for many people be ironic as well. It’s also a good idea. Assuming Barack Obama would accept the job.

Regardless, I doubt he’ll have a hard time finding work. He looks pretty employable to me.

BEHIND THE SCENES OF OBAMA’S HISTORIC 2008 CAMPAIGN

AN INTERVIEW WITH

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON

Author of “OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: The 2008 Race for the Whitehouse”

QUESTION – What do you think accounts for the degree of anger in the electorate? It seems to me and my husband (who was also a 40-year on the air professional reporter) that the “anger” is way out of proportion to anything going on in this country.

ANSWER –  A lot of it comes from the collective reside of the unwise wars in which we’ve become involved and the near-collapse of our economy in 2007-2008. That’s covered very well by the movie “The Big Short” (adapted from the book). If you haven’t seen it, absolutely do. Take notes.

Connie Corcoran Wilson
Connie Corcoran Wilson

We bailed out the big banks, but who on Wall Street paid for their near-lethal greed? No one. It’s intrinsically unfair — as Bernie Sanders keeps pointing out.

People are pretty P.O.-ed at Wall Street banks. Those voters should think carefully about the mess Obama inherited from his Republican predecessor; how he literally had to “save” our nation. Fortunately, he was a smart, highly educated guy who knew what needed to be done to rescue the economy from the brink. Find and kill Bin Laden. Pass the Affordable Care act. He’s been trying hard to get rid of Guantanamo, but has been stymied by the GOP. He also tried to get Republicans to meet in good faith with his nominee for the Supreme Court, but you know how well that’s going. It’s disgraceful to treat a sitting President with so little respect.

Wall Street’s greedy dishonesty plays to Bernie Sanders’ appeal to young voters, especially when he calls for free college and universal health care. My 28-year-0ld daughter has a far less bright future than I had on graduating college.

Bernie’s eventual fortunes, (should he become the Democratic nominee), are murky. Republicans have taken it easy on Bernie so far, preferring to focus on Hillary who they see as the logical nominee. If Bernie is nominated, he’ll be crucified. The opposition will have him branded a Commie in no time, even though it’s Donald Trump whose in-laws are actual card-carrying Communists.

I’m not sure Sanders has the international expertise Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses from years as Secretary of State. Nonetheless, I find it encouraging that young people are getting involved in the election and supporting a 74-year-old candidate with such enthusiasm.

Voters are sick of the stagnation in Washington. When a Republican like Mitch McConnell openly announces as his main goal to prevent President Obama from achieving any of his programs, designed to help Americans (that is, you and me), I think we could perceive it as racism, partisan politics (at the expense of the country), or just plain stubbornness. The Grand Old Party in days of yore believed in compromise. In getting things done. Sadly, there are no more Bob Doles or Tip O’Neill’s in Congress.

QUESTION – How much of the “anger” is really thinly disguised racism (in YOUR opinion … I’m not looking for evidence, just opinion)?

ANSWER – Your words, not mine, Marilyn; I cannot disagree with you. As Bernie Sanders said on Seth Meyer’s show on April 7, 2016: “The Republican obstructionism towards Obama over the past 7 and ½ years is unprecedented in American history.” Is there a way to explain this deplorable behavior beyond merely Obama’s policies?

You’ve suggested one. Because, as Bernie said, Obama tried to negotiate with the Republicans at first but their mindset was obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. I’m ashamed at how our President has been treated by Congress.

As of the last CNN Poll I read, Bernie would beat Trump by 20 points, [says Bernie], which ignores the fact that the Republicans will do everything in their power to deny Trump the Arrogant the nomination (successfully, I feel). “The truth is there is nothing radical about our agenda,” said Bernie on the April 8th Seth Meyers program.

Bernie also added graciously, “On Hillary Clinton’s worst day she’d be 100 times better than any of the Republicans.”

QUESTION – I still see a lot of that residual “not liking” of Hillary. I’ve met Hillary a couple of times (back in the 90s when Bill was Prez) and I liked her. She’s not warm or cuddly, but she’s smart, and professional. How much of the “not liking Hillary” is because she’s a tough woman and how much because she isn’t “one of the gang”? Again, I’m looking for what you think, not statistics or evidence.

ANSWER – In 2008, I reported what voters told me about their feelings and impressions of Hillary Clinton, especially in Iowa. Not necessarily my views. I was trying to be an impartial reporter — until McCain selected Sarah Palin. After which all bets were off.

Iowans didn’t like Hillary’s laugh, her screechy voice, or her vote for the Iraq war. Some felt she exuded a sense of entitlement. Others — especially Hispanic voters — thought she was great. It was interesting that those who should have been her biggest supporters (that is, mature white women) were her biggest detractors.

I think she is one of the most qualified candidates to come down the pike in years and it’s time we elected a woman as President. Despite one person’s claim (a Canadian) that I am, somehow, trying to “derail” Hillary’s campaign, nothing could be further from the truth.

I followed the presidential campaigns of ’04, ’08 and ’12, but there’s no way I could follow the campaigns of Trump and Cruz, let alone vote for either one. I think Kasich is the most reasonable of the GOP lot, but he vetoed funds for Planned Parenthood in Ohio– while campaigning. He may be reasonable onstage, but offstage Kasich mentions wanting to take Christianity to the Muslim world. Which smacks of the medieval Crusades — not something I can support.

It’s a sad commentary on politics in America today and the status of the G.O.P. in general ( not to mention a terrible example to set for the rest of the world) when Trump talks about using nuclear weapons in Europe. His hateful, bigoted remarks are being used as a recruitment video for ISIS. His rallies are egotistical, non-events for people who would vote for a Kardashian because they’ve seen them on television.

QUESTION – Give me four things you want people to know about Obama’s Odyssey?

ANSWER – That these books lay out the behind-the-scenes adventures, complete with entertaining, often funny stories.

Another thing. It’s very unusual for someone my age who’s just a “regular citizen” to be granted access to the future president of the US. To rub shoulders with the power brokers at the caucuses and conventions of 2008. I also covered 2004 and 2012, but not inside the Big Show of the conventions.

Everyone should recognize — acknowledge — the power of the word on the Internet, if that word is widely distributed. I’ve written about the campaign on my little WeeklyWilson.com blog. My “Associated Content” writing let me be inside in Denver, St. Paul, and elsewhere. Which was not on my “to do” list when I began.

I did my best to make my book lighthearted. If you can’t have fun while doing something, what’s the point? I wanted to get at the truth in 2008, have fun, and be part of what I consider one of the most historical election cycles of this century and my lifetime. If you’re looking for an expert? Look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for a person with Iowa roots who could follow the campaigns in Iowa? I’m your girl! I live across the I-74 bridge from Davenport, Iowa (the Quad Cities). My Sylvan Learning Center #3301 is in Bettendorf, Iowa. I grew up in Independence, Iowa. I graduated from the University of Iowa. Like most Americans, I’ve become skeptical about getting the truth when we watch Fox News or, for that matter, MSNBC. I wanted to find out for myself. I had no idea my articles on would become so popular and well-read. That I’d get so many hits and so many comments. That I’d be invited to Denver and St. Paul. It just happened. It wasn’t my goal or my assignment.

I’m tired of “the tail wagging the dog” with election results announced prematurely which then influence the outcome of the actual election. I still believe Al Gore won in Florida. I think The Donald has repeatedly referenced the dirty trick played on Ben Carson in Iowa by the Cruz campaign in which Cruz’ people announced Carson had suspended his Iowa race — just before voters went to the polls to caucus — and it was not true. You learn this stuff in far greater detail if you’re actually there.

Off I went, Nikon in hand, navigating the Iowa caucuses all over the state and writing about it for “Associated Content” blog. I interviewed real voters and tramped around in bitterly cold weather.

I learned how to get to 3 rallies in separate locations on the same night (Hillary, Edwards and Obama). I was on a first-name basis with the Bidens. They sent me e-mails telling me where to be and when. I include amusing articles such as “Alternative Titles for the Sarah Palin Documentary”and recount some of the better “jabs” on late-night television shows.

The books contain 88 new, never-published photos. The information in the books should be preserved for future historians. It’s the only way anyone will get a true taste of what 2008 was like.

I was there and I work hard to make sure that you, my readers, are part of it too.

OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: THE 2008 RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House – Connie Corcoran Wilson


It wasn’t what I expected and after I started reading it, I had to revise my approach to the book. I had been expecting the author’s journey, starting in Iowa and ending with the 2008 general election. Instead, it’s a compilation of blog posts written by the author over that same time span. It covers the same time period and material … but not as expected.

Obamas Odyssey book

Rather than a continuous, sequential narrative, the book comprises series of snapshots. Interviews and events with candidates, wannabes, politicians, volunteers, voters, support staff, and political operatives. Connie Corcoran Wilson’s posts are witty, amusing, perceptive, and enlightening, especially when she focuses on the realities of life as a working journalist covering a presidential campaign.

I could very easily relate the long hours, the short sleep, the rapid changes of venue. The mental agility required to keep up that grueling pace for all those months. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, being a working reporter is far from glamorous.

Ms. Wilson captures the character of the people with whom she interacts with charm, humor, and grace. But there is, nonetheless, a choppy quality that is the inevitable result of a compilation of posts rather than a story. There is also a bit more repetition of subjects that is, again, the inevitable result of compiling blog entries rather than writing the story as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Connie Wilson is a fine writer and she excels at her medium … blogging. I’m a blogger too. I “get” it. But blogging is not authoring. It’s the same church, but a different pew. Blog posts are free-standing, short subjects. You can collect them and put them in a binding to form a book-length volume of material, but it will still lack a continuous story. This lack becomes more increasingly problematic as the book progresses. The jumps between posts are sometimes a bit jarring.

The result? Despite excellent writing, the book doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like what it is: a huge collection of political blog posts. The posts are good, many excellent. A lot of perceptivity and sensitivity raises her writing well above the so-called news writing you find on the Internet … or for that matter, in much of what you’ll find in print or on television. I would have appreciated more “connective tissue” to give the book an easier-to-follow timeline and structure.

The good news? The insider views of the campaign are priceless. The people. The voters. The volunteers. The politicians and their operatives. The process itself with all its quirks. The information is timely and might help you put the current political frenzy in context.

The material and author’s insights make Obama’s Odyssey a worthwhile investment of time. It’s a good, albeit flawed, book that covers the extraordinary 2008 campaign with a rare intimacy.

ONE NATION PRESUMABLY INDIVISIBLE

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Whatever happened to that? If you want to get a good look at the way we are, check out just this single page on Pinterest. If this doesn’t give you the willies, nothing will.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. – Franklin D. Rooseveltradio address, Oct. 26, 1939, 32nd president of US

A liberal is a man who is willing to spend somebody else’s money.
Carter Glass

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce

I’m a social liberal. I believe it’s the obligation of government to take care of its citizens. It has a special moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves, the most vulnerable amongst us. If government doesn’t do that, what’s it good for, really? Believing that doesn’t mean no one but me has a good idea. I learn stuff by listening, not by proving I have a louder voice.

The trend in this country toward demonizing anyone whose opinion differs from ones own has been eating the heart out America for a long time. The growth of cable and the Internet has sped the process until it seems there are no limits to which people will go to make their point. Civility, good manners and common sense no longer apply. We rant, shout, call names, and insult each other and apparently, it’s considered okay. I don’t think so. I believe almost everyone wants the same things: a good country, a better world. A place for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren to live in safety with reasonable prosperity and peace. We aren’t going to get it by denigrating anyone with whom we don’t agree. We are all Americans and we are constitutionally entitled to disagree.

No one gains by raising the level of hostility. Our world is not improved by rage. We can argue without name calling and accusations. People with whom we do not agree do sometimes have ideas worth listening to. Instead of treating each other as enemies, why not show respect to everyone on principle? Because being nice, being polite, being civil doesn’t cost anything and improves the quality of life for everyone.

Argue if you choose. Use facts, not invective and insults. If we don’t work together, we will lose everything important. Empires fall. Once-great nations lose influence and become historical footnotes. Most of us have watched it happen, so don’t believe we are exempt.

It can happen to us. We are well on our way to losing our position as a leader among nations. We have already lost much of the respect we enjoyed. Who could argue we don’t deserve it? We’ve done it to ourselves and refuse to rethink the road we’re on.

Election Day 2012

On a personal note, I don’t always live up to my best self, especially if I’m angry. But I do sometimes succeed — and these days, more often than not. That makes the effort worthwhile. Doing nothing is always the easiest path. It’s not better, though.

We won’t solve problems by hating each other. Meanness is contagious. So is kindness. Give kindness a chance. I’ll continue to believe (almost) everyone means well and deserves respect. Even people I don’t like. I promise to do my best to respect you. Remind me if I forget.

 

Republicans and Democrats can be friends? OMG!!

When I read this comment, it was posted in regard to the YouTube video of President Barack Obama’s dedication speech at yesterday’s MLK Memorial. I was horrified :

“… the Republicans and Democrats hold hands behind your backs. It’s like pro wrestling, they act like they’re enemies in front of you but are good friends behind you. Why do you think they always agree on the key issues and have been seen many times spending time together, attending functions together, and even eating together. It is all a hoax to control the people. Research Obama’s evil policies he has instilled without the public knowledge. He will end life as you know, impeach this traitor!”

Is anyone really that naïve? It’s not his politics that appall me, though they are appalling. It’s his belief that people who disagree can’t be friends.

Of course they are friends. They work together, eat together and know each others’ wives and kids. They are human beings, not only politicians. Just as the district attorney, the defense attorneys and the judges are friends.

75-ElectionNK-2A

Does anyone really think otherwise? Why would they not be friends? They are not on opposing teams. Quite the opposite: everyone in Congress is on the same team. American. The good of the nation is what they are supposed to stand for, not their party and its politics. They represent us, but ultimately, they represent the country.

Does this person also think baseball or football players on opposing teams don’t socialize off the field? That our professional lives so dominate us we don’t also have personal lives?

To know there are so many people who hate so much they have lost touch with reality scares me more than anything else going on in this country.

Regardless, it’s a fine speech, no matter what your political persuasion may be. I have posted it so if you missed it, you can catch up.

We are all people first. We aren’t what we do or even what we believe. We aren’t Republicans, Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives. We are men and women, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Sisters and brothers. Friends. Above all else, human. There are — and ought to be — allegiances which supersede political labels. Too many people are too busy hating to remember tolerance, reconciliation and love.

Intolerance is the evil we must forever fight. It’s the cause of war, murder, genocide and cruelty. It has saturated all of history with blood. It’s the thing that is fundamentally wrong with the world.

Inauguration Day 2013

While I was deep into the A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time), the final volume of Robert Jordan, now Brandon Sanderson‘s epic story of good versus evil, Garry was watching the Inauguration. I had forgotten today was Inauguration day but he had not. My bad.

When you aren’t working or going to school, it’s easy to not know what day of the week it is, much less if it’s a holiday. I often don’t know what day of the week it is, though because I blog and pay bills, I’m pretty aware of the day of month.

Inauguration on Capitol Hill
Inauguration

As much as Garry dislikes political mud-slinging, he loves the ceremonies that mark America‘s traditions. For him, an inauguration is not the inauguration of a Democrat or a Republican … it’s the inauguration of an American President and he enjoys it, even if it isn’t a candidate for whom he voted. It’s American, not political.

He wrote something about it on Facebook and at least one person went into a political tirade about how he voted for Obama but wished he’d had another choice. Garry pointed out this wasn’t political. It was a celebration, the peaceful affirmation of our power that is far more American than apple pie.

Granted that other countries now have peaceful transfers of power, but only the U.S. from its birth made this a symbol of what we are as a nation … that no matter how hard-fought the campaign, when the votes are counted, the winner takes his place in the White House without violence or bloodshed. The ballot box is where we settle our differences, not the streets and not with weapons.

My take on this is simple: there are far too many people who have forgotten how to be Americans. They are so wedded to party politics, to a set of “positions,” that they are incapable, even for a single day, of just being Americans.

It seems that these folks are constantly gloating (“my guy is IN and your guy is OUT nyah nyah nyah!”) or whining (“We wuz cheated!”). Whether you fall on the side of the gloaters or whiners, if you want to make any claim to being an American or any kind of patriot, you need to be an American first and foremost, with your political affiliation secondary.

If you cannot do that, you really have no idea what this country is about.