Tag Archives: presidential election

Romney’s Man on Iran

In 2005, a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) participated in the school’s annual diplomatic simulation. The high-pressure scenario required the students to negotiate a resolution to a standoff with a nuclear-armed Republic of Pakistan. Mara Karlin, a student known for her hawkish politics on Israel and the Middle East, played President of the United States.

Though most of the participants were confident they could head off a military conflict with diplomatic measures, Karlin jumped the gun. According to a former SAIS student, not only did Karlin order a nuclear strike on Pakistan, she also took the opportunity to nuke Iran. Her classmates were shocked. It was the first time in 45 years that a simulation concluded with the deployment of a nuclear weapon.

That year, Karlin received a plum job in the Bush administration’s Department of Defense where, according to her bio she was “intimately involved in formulating U.S. policy on Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel-Palestinian affairs.” Lebanon was a special area of focus for Karlin. She claims to have helped structure the Lebanese Armed Forces and coordinated relations between the US and Lebanese militaries.

According to the former SAIS student, Karlin was a favorite of Eliot Cohen, an ultra-hawkish professor of strategic studies at SAIS, which is regarded in American foreign policy circles as a training ground for the neoconservative movement. Through Cohen’s connections among the neocons occupying key civilian posts in Bush’s Defense Department, the former student claims Cohen was able to arrange an attractive sinecure for Karlin. Besides Karlin, the ex-SAIS student told me Cohen has promoted the career ambitions of many former pupils, including Kelly Magsamen, who worked under Cohen in the Bush administration and now oversees the Iran portfolio in the Obama administration’s State Department.

Today, Cohen is among Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisers. He is the primary author of Romney’s foreign policy white paper, which attacks Obama for “currying favor with [America’s] enemies” and “ostentatiously shunning Jerusalem.”

The paper urges a policy of regime change in Iran including possible coordination with Israel on military strikes to prevent the Iranian regime from developing a nuclear weapon. It is an aggressive Republican election season document presenting a concoction of post-9/11 unilateralism and unvarnished neo-imperialism as the antidote to a sitting president Cohen accused of “unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere.” More importantly, it suggests that a Romney administration’s foreign policy might look remarkably similar to – and perhaps more extreme than – that of the Bush administration.

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Lifting the Hood Off Rick Perry: Was His Family In The Ku Klux Klan?

Members of Texas-based Klan chapters rally in 1992

Members of Texas-based Klan chapters rally in 1992

Texas Governor Rick Perry has opened a new issue to try to lift his floundering campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, insinuating that President Barack Obama just might not be an American citizen. Asked if Obama was born in the United States, Perry told Parade Magazine, in an interview published on October 23, “I have no reason to think otherwise.” But he then qualified his answer, stating, “Well, I don’t have a definitive answer.”

Perry’s comments on Obama’s background are puzzling, considering that the President has produced a long form birth certificate proving his U.S. citizenship. For those Republicans who have become known as “Birthers,” Obama’s documention is not enough. To them, he will always be under suspicion as an alien. Whether it is his brown skin, Arabic middle name, or African father that feeds the doubters, he remains the source of heavily publicized right-wing conspiracy theories, now given credence by Perry. According to an October 12 PPP poll, 39 percent of registered Republicans still do not believe Barack Obama was born in the United States.

But by channeling the paranoia, Perry may have opened himself up to unsettling questions about his own background and family history. In his stump speeches since announcing his candidacy, Perry almost invariably touts his humble roots, describing a hardscrabble but wholesome childhood in Haskell County, Texas, the origin of his small-town traditional values. Yet the New York Times has reported the pervasiveness of racist attitudes in Haskell County, where white residents referred to the segregated area on the other side of the tracks as “Niggertown.” The Times story followed the report in the Washington Post on the Perry family ranch in West Texas, where the governor  often entertained guests, called “Niggerhead.”

But both papers missed an additional important historical fact: Haskell County was home to an active, large and influential chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The genealogy of a prominent farmer and longtime resident of Haskell County, Oran Ewan Webb, refers to the Klan as a central facet of life in the county, noting:“There was a meeting of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at the O E Webb farm four miles east of Haskell on Monday night September 29, 1924. Public lectures were given by speakers of state reputation. Every officer of the Haskell County Klan was present. (Notice from Haskell newspaper).”

During the 1920′s, the Klan virtually controlled Texas state politics. According to the Texas State Historical Association:

“With a membership of perhaps as many as 100,000, the Klan used its united voting block to elect state legislators, sheriffs, judges, and other local and state officials. Its greatest success, however, was in securing the election of Earle Bradford Mayfield to the United States Senate in 1922. The following year the Klan established firm control of city governments in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Wichita Falls, and the order probably had a majority in the House of Representatives of the Thirty-eighth Texas Legislature, which met in January. By the end of 1922 the paid membership swelled to as many as 150,000, and Kluxers looked forward to even greater triumphs.”

Though Klan membership declined steadily after the Great Depression hit Texas, local chapters remained active throughout the civil rights era. The Times reported that when Perry entered Texas A&M in 1968, some students posed for yearbook photos in Klan robes, while others formed a dairy group called the “Kream and Kow Klub” — KKK. Today, an underground Klan chapter operates in West Texas, and in 2010 its members left fliers in a parking lot at Texas Tech University.

Perry may continue to believe, or pretend, that he does not  have a “definitive answer” to the question about Obama’s citizenship — even though the state of Hawaii does. But he must have a “definitive answer” to another question closer to home — whether members of his family belonged to the Klan, or attended Klan rallies. It is an indisputable fact that the Klan was a central component of the cultural and political heritage of Perry’s hometown. Were members of his family ever members of the Klan?  The national press has begun to put Haskell Country’s disturbing history of racism in the  spotlight. Given Perry’s gesture to the “Birthers,” it is now time to learn more about his background. What exactly were his family’s ties to the Klan, if any, and if so, why has he kept the information hidden from the public for his entire political career?

At The Party, And The Morning After

I’ve been experiencing some problems with my blog but I think my tech guru, Shama Davis, has worked them out. So now I can belatedly post some video I shot from Michigan Ave after the big Grant Park rally. This is the sight and sound of the Republican death shroud lifting:

An hour after the announcement of Obama’s victory, I received a flood of texts and phone calls from friends across the country — from DC to New York to Anchorage, Alaska — telling me people had filled the streets of their cities to celebrate. It was a dreamlike moment for me. After covering the campaign since early 2007, and the right since the middle of Bush’s first term, I could not have imagined witnessing such a cathartic national celebration of the death of Republicanism. 

The passage of Prop 8 dampened my sense of elation. It is clear that the Christian right is not going away any time soon, and that the movement has staked out the battle over gay rights as the final phase of the culture war. Considering that black Democrats were arguably the swing vote in Prop 8′s passage, Barack Obama must do more to cultivate his most loyal base of support against insidious Christian right ploys. 

Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff did not surprise me. For all his post-partisan posturing, Obama is at his core a political animal who knows he won’t survive his first two years without playing hardball. The congressional Republicans are more extreme than ever, and consequently more marginalized. By using social issues and tax policy to hammer Obama, and by ginning up pseudo-scandals as they did under Clinton, the congressional GOP hopes to peel off a dozen or more seats in 2010. As a veteran of Clinton’s battles with Gingrich, Rahm understands this is no time for bipartisanship. I have my issues with him on policy — his support for the Shuler anti-immigrant bill, ramming NAFTA through Congress, his extreme Likudnik tendencies (see these shocking comments by his father, a former Irgun member) — but his political instincts seem good. On the other hand, he could alienate everybody and foster a dysfunctional environment in the White House. Time will tell.

Obama’s likely Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is another issue. Read what I think about him below the fold.

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