Flamboyant piety has long been fashionable on the political right, where activists, commentators and elected officials never hesitate to hector us about their great moral and theological rectitude. Wielding the Scriptures like a weapon, these righteous right-wingers are always eager to condemn the alleged sins of others but reluctant to examine their own. They seem to spend far more time in posturing and preening than spiritual reflection. Rarely does anyone call them out on their failures to fulfill their proclaimed devotion, because, in this country, that is considered rude.
When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I remember what my late father taught me about love of country. Much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to call "jelly-bellied flag flappers," after a line in a favorite Rudyard Kipling story, he was deeply patriotic. It is a phrase that aptly describes the belligerent chicken hawk who never stops squawking -- someone like Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.
Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theater. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small eagle-shaped pin known as a "ruptured duck" -- a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
In the years since the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, his aide Sean Smith and CIA officers Tyrone Smith and Glen Doherty in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, President Barack Obama's congressional critics have complained long and loudly about his failure to immediately apprehend the perpetrators. Republican experts like Ted Cruz and Darrell Issa, along with the right-wing media machine, even insinuated that Obama might not really want to catch the Benghazi perps.
Divided between neoconservative ultra-hawks and libertarian isolationists, today's Republican Party is hardly a steady influence on American foreign policy. But there is one thing that can be reliably expected from every right-wing faction in Washington: Whenever disaster threatens, they eagerly cast blame on President Barack Obama -- and utter any falsehood that may be used to castigate him.
What the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl saga demonstrates beyond question -- to anyone who still nurtured any doubt -- is that the Republican right will junk just about any basic American value to satisfy its hatred of President Barack Obama. Fair play, due process, respect for families and the military: To most, if not all, so-called conservatives, none of these fundamentals matters nearly so much as the urge to undermine the nation's first black president. Which is another reason, among many, why they no longer deserve the honorific "conservative."
What America learned from Edward Snowden's interview with "NBC News" anchor Brian Williams on Wednesday evening was much less than what we still need to know. Snowden described himself as a highly trained espionage agent, rather than a low-level hacker; he insisted his actions were patriotic, not treacherous; and said he yearns to return to the United States. He claimed to have warned his superiors about the surveillance excesses committed by the National Security Agency, and he doesn't believe a fair trial would be possible for him under the Espionage Act if he did return.
While Congress eagerly prepares its latest political stunt -- a resolution to oust Gen. Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary -- individual members might consider their own responsibility for the scandalous inadequacy of veterans' health care. Unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki opposed the incompetent war plans of the George W. Bush administration that left so many American service men and women grievously wounded. And unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki has done much to reduce the backlog of veterans seeking care, despite the congressional failure to provide sufficient funding.
Anyone paying attention knows by now that those secret waiting lists at VA facilities -- which may have led to the premature deaths of scores of injured veterans -- are a direct consequence of policy decisions made in the White House years before President Barack Obama got there. The misguided invasion of Iraq -- carried out with insufficient numbers of troops shielded by insufficient armor -- led directly to thousands of new cases of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other physical and mental disabilities requiring speedy treatment.
To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
More than 50 years ago, CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow revealed to America the awful conditions suffered by migrant farm laborers in "Harvest of Shame," an angry documentary that would become a classic. While conditions have improved for some of the families whose work provides our cornucopia of affordable food, there remains a special group of workers that our political system refuses to protect: the children who pick tobacco.
On May 14, Human Rights Watch issued Tobacco's Hidden Children -- a stunning report on child labor in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Interviewing kids in the fields who ranged in age from 7 to 17, the organization's researchers compiled their dismal stories of backbreaking work, inadequate water and toilet facilities, and worst of all, the chronic illness brought on by poisoning from nicotine and pesticides.
Monica Lewinsky must be satisfied to learn that with a few stylish photographs and a few innocuous paragraphs, she can still discombobulate Maureen Dowd, Lynne Cheney and a swarm of demented figures in American politics and media. Few could resist the chance to reminisce about the tapes, the blue dress, the cigars, the salacious Starr Report and the drama of impeachment.
It has been a long, long time since Americans accepted the advice of a French intellectual about anything important, let alone the future of democracy and the economy. But the furor over Thomas Piketty's stunning best-seller, "Capital in the 21st Century" -- and especially the outraged reaction from the Republican right -- suggests that this fresh import from la belle France has struck an exposed nerve.