Catharsis

When the news broke that we killed Osama bin Laden, I knew that bottle of Jameson wouldn’t last through the night. Mainly because we killed him. Bin Laden didn’t die of kidney disease. He wasn’t captured and tried. He didn’t even meet his demise in a drone attack. He saw the Navy SEAL who gave him a double-tap to the head.

That’s why I want to see the death photos.

I don’t doubt that he’s actually dead. A U.S. president would be committing political suicide to lie about such a thing.

And I don’t care about pissing off overly-sensitive Islamofascists. They’re already pissed, and frankly, they should see the photos too. If for anything to show them the consequences of attacking the United States — eventually, you will meet your fate.

I want to see the photos because it would make me feel good. Unlike the president, I want to “spike the football.” Bin Laden’s half blown-off face should be on posters and T-shirts.

Some say that’s not how Americans act. That we are set apart from the rest of the world in how we react. Tell that to the thousands who gathered outside the White House, at Ground Zero and on college campuses to celebrate Sunday night.

Those who compare our demonstrations to those of Palestinians after Sept. 11, 2001 are dead wrong. Celebrating the deaths of thousands of innocents is nothing like celebrating the termination of the face of evil that perpetrated such an attack.

Perhaps the president doesn’t get it. After nearly 10 years, he got to see the photos — shoot, he watched the raid in the Situation Room in real time.

The rest of us didn’t get such catharsis.

There is joy to be had that Osama is no longer drawing breath. But it would be even better if we could see the bastard’s dead face, and allow that image to replace those seared in our memories from Sept. 11.

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My real mom

There is so much that can be said about my grandma, but I’d like to focus on just one aspect of what made Grace Chambers such a remarkable woman.

Last spring, after grandpa died, grandma and I were having breakfast and I mentioned something about my “real” mom. Grandma stopped me and said in her stern way, “she wasn’t your ‘real’ mom — all she did was give birth to you.”

She was right.

For much of my life growing up, it was just my dad and me. As I told you all in May, we lived with my grandparents for a while, and I was blessed to have that chance to get to be that close to them. Even before that, they were a huge part of my life.

I was born in Alamogordo during May. On that day, there was a freak snowstorm in Santa Fe and grandma and grandpa couldn’t get out of town. I can only imagine what it was like in their house. Last year, grandpa told me “it was hell” — because grandma was beside herself and angry that they had to wait a couple of days to head south.

Grandma took it on herself to fill the role of my “real” mom. She made sure I made it to the dentist and doctor, ate my fruits and veggies and had plenty of clothes to wear. In kindergarten, she secured a transfer so I could attend what she considered to be the best elementary school in town.

When dad and I moved to Albuquerque, grandma would show up every few weeks or so to fill our freezer with container after container of her spaghetti sauce and her split pea soup. While my dad grew tired of the soup, I still love it. Though I’ve stopped ordering it at restaurants because I’ve yet to find a batch as good as grandma’s.

Uncle Mike and Aunt Dianne definitely helped fill that role for me too. But grandma was my rock.

After we moved to California, grandma was still determined to make sure I had stability and a strong foundation. That didn’t always go over well with the step mom, but I don’t think grandma cared about that. In fact, I know she didn’t care — grandma was always the one in charge.

They visited often in the beginning, and I still spent my summers in Santa Fe — my grandparents carting me around town to swimming lessons, vacation Bible school, camp, museums, you name it.

As traveling became more difficult for them and life became more busy for me, I didn’t see them as often — but we spent a lot of time on the phone. Each call would include questions like, “Do you need anything? How about socks or underwear? Have you been taking your vitamins?”

At 32-years-old, I was still being mothered. But her persistence paid off. There are no fillings in my mouth because she pounded the importance of dental hygiene into my head.

She loved to take us grandkids shopping. If we were traveling and there was an outlet mall or Herberger’s within 50 miles, we had to go there. Though I suspect we were just an excuse for her to hit up the department stores.

But don’t get me wrong, she let me know when she didn’t like something I was doing or planning to do. I can hear her tone now, as I’m sure all of us in the family can: “Now, Tom.”

But she wouldn’t dwell on those things. She didn’t spend a lot of time rubbing our noses in it — I said a lot of time. There definitely were moments when she would let you know you had screwed up. But once her point was made, she moved on.

Our routine phone calls didn’t stop. During the last few years, grandma seemed determined to get me to move back to Santa Fe. I began receiving a weekly envelope, stuffed with the Sunday help-wanted ads and jobs sections of the New Mexico papers. I still have a voicemail I couldn’t delete from a few weeks ago about a job opportunity in Santa Fe.

It seemed that 22 years after we left New Mexico, she just wanted me to come back. Knowing that the job market for my chosen field had dried up, she still wanted to protect me and help me start over. Till the end, she was my real mom.

So much so, that in the family the words “your grandma” and “your mom” are synonymous. When talking to me, my dad and uncle still refer to each other as “your brother.” Though it can be confusing at times, we don’t bother correcting ourselves.

Both of my grandparents were my biggest fans. It’s hard not to talk about grandma and grandpa without making the story about yourself — because they both were so focused on our well-being, our happiness and our goals.

And it wasn’t just me. They were all of our biggest fans. Half my conversations — once we dispensed with the weather, politics and whether I needed any undies — were about what Shelley and Kevin were up too.

And though it is heart wrenching, it is fitting that they left us together. Their example of love for each other can’t be beat. Grandpa used to joke that grandma said she’d “never do it again,” referring to their marriage. And it’s true — they are the epitome of a perfect love. Inseparable and in love for 55 years.

Their house has always felt like home to me more than any place else, but after the last few days I realize it wasn’t the house — it seems hallow without them. They were what made it home.

As a family we’ve been comforting ourselves with the typical phrases: They’re together now, grandma can breath without an oxygen tank, grandpa’s hands are working perfectly, they’re in a better place.

But the clichés only go so far. They don’t mitigate the fact that there’s a huge void left in our lives. Our foundation hasn’t just been shaken — it seems to have vanished.

For me, I can only hope to live a life that meets my grandparents’ expectations and to follow their example. Only in that will the foundation remain.

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Eulogy

Most anyone who gets to know me for more than a couple of days hears about my grandpa. The conversation usually starts when they ask me why it is that I am the way I am.

As with all of us, there are many reasons, but my explanation always starts with one of my fondest memories: Grandpa would pick me up in the middle of the day when I was released from kindergarten and take me home for lunch. We’d sit down to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and talk — usually about Ronald Reagan.

That political discussion we started 27 years ago never ended.

I feel that I was the luckiest — or most blessed — of us grandkids because during those formative years I was able to spend so much time with him. The impact he had on my life was profound. When I was a child, my grandpa was my best friend.

Even after we no longer lived under the same roof, I was at my grandparents’ much of time — during the summers, Christmas and Easter breaks and many times in between. In addition to making me a Republican, during that time grandpa taught me many things.

Grandpa had an amazing interest in the world. He religiously watched the local news, cable news, “Nightline” — all of it. His mornings started with bitter coffee and no less than two newspapers, a habit I picked up. It was a priority for him to be informed. His curiosity became mine.

When I went into journalism, it was always comforting to know that there was at least one person out there doing his best to keep the news business solvent.

In those early years, he and grandma spent a lot of time driving me around town — to swimming lessons, tennis lessons, vacation Bible school, museums, Pastor Ben’s house to play with Bart, historical sites, movie sets. During the many vacations we took together to visit family, stops were added along the way, sometimes taking us far beyond the quickest route. We went to the Grand Canyon, the Denver Mint, Mt. Rushmore — even the birthplace of Herbert Hoover.

But he wanted me to be well-rounded.

That’s probably why, when I was young, he taught me how to tie a perfect Windsor knot, mow a lawn and make friends at a hotel bar. He even once tried to teach me how to hit a baseball, but grandma put an end to that experiment when a stray pitch hit me in the head.

Those things will always be with me. Whenever I get into a political debate or write an editorial, my grandpa is there. Whenever I put on a tie, eat a grilled cheese sandwich or travel to a place I’ve never been, he will be there with me.

The biggest thing I hope to have learned from my grandpa is to be a man of love. As a family we’ve talked about how much he enjoyed to so-called “little things” in life — a cold beer with mixed nuts, a baseball game, a crackling fire, mountain views, ’57 Chevies and looking to see if there’s “water in that river.” It didn’t matter which river it was, just that there was water in it. If you said something that was a lyric of song he knew, he would start singing it. Not always on key, but he would sing it.

Those “little things” gave him so much pleasure because he truly loved life, and that was contagious. He was the embodiment of joy. The only times I saw him get angry were when the St. Louis Cardinals lost a playoff game or the Iowa Hawkeyes missed a touchdown. I think the only people he hated were the ones who put on a Kansas City Royals uniform.

Family was so important to grandpa. He loved and felt an eternal connection to his parents and sisters. He would often recite a prayer at dinner he learned from his grandparents in their native Swedish tongue, and ask us to “pass the smör.”

And I know from the stories I’ve been told and from experience that there wasn’t anything Grandpa wouldn’t do to support each of us.

He loved and accepted the people he met. From his wonderful life-long friends to any of our friends. He didn’t get caught up in the silly dramas that encompass so many people’s lives — he simply enjoyed being around people, which made people enjoy being around him. One of my friends who met him briefly 8 years ago still asks about grandpa whenever we talk.

He loved this church. Grandpa’s faith was of the sort that Jesus said we should all approach God: As a child. He was curious, and excited to be here. Hearing his favorite hymns put a smile on his face all day.
When we would come together, much of our conversation that afternoon would be about Ben’s sermon. Though I think he enjoyed the time after the service, in the Common Room with all of you just as much — if not more.

But for all that grandpa taught me, through the tremendous example he set for us and his love for life and family, he wasn’t acting alone. More than anything, he loved you grandma. You two truly were one entity.

He was always in love with you. Just last Christmas, while we were looking at old slides, whenever a picture of grandma popped up, grandpa jumped in his seat and said, “Yowza!”

Everything he did for us he did with you. We have such a wonderful family, and that’s a testament not only to grandpa, but to the life you shared together. I can only hope to someday find love like that.

And I can only hope to live up the example of love that grandpa set for me.

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The real health care agenda

The White House made some headlines yesterday when it responded to a headline on the Drudge Report that linked to a 2003 video of Barack Obama singing the praises of single-payer (read: socialized) health care.

The White House’s three-minute response to the 50-second clip claims that “the people who always try to scare people” are at it again.

Uh huh. And up is actually down, grass is purple, the stimulus package is working wonderfully and your doctor wants to take your tonsils and sell them for profit.

If only that one clip that Drudge linked to was the only example out there. But it’s not.

Let’s just take a look at a few of the administration officials and members of Congress (some very recently) explaining that the “public option” is another brick on the path toward single-payer, socialized medicine.

Barney Frank, July 27, 2009:

Rahm Emanuel, June 17, 2009: ‘The objective is what’s important, it’s not the means.’

Russ Feingold, May 5, 2009:

Jan Schakowsky, April 18, 2009:

Kathleen Sebelius, 2007:

And we can’t leave out the video that Drudge had the gall to link to of Obama:

And this is just a case of “the people who always try to scare people whenever you try to bring them health-insurance reform” rearing their ugly heads again.

Right.

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Stimulus: Like Special Olympics

obama-bowlingRemember back in January and February how imperitive it was for Congress to pass the $787 billion economic stimulus package? President Obama constantly repeated his refrain that the U.S. had to move “swiftly and boldly” to get the economy back on track. He told us it would quickly create millions of jobs.

Now the White House is walking all of that back, claiming the “stimulus” was never actually intended to “stimulate” anything.

You can’t blame the president, really. The numbers show that, clearly, the stimulus hasn’t provided any kind of measurable boost to the economy thus far. The U.S. is still hemorrhaging jobs — the very thing the stimulus was supposed to provide, to the tune of 3 million or so, according to the presidet at the time.

The walk-back began last weekend, during the president’s weekly address. He said:

Now, I realize that when we passed this Recovery Act, there were those who felt that doing nothing was somehow an answer.  Today, some of those same critics are already judging the effort a failure although they have yet to offer a plausible alternative.  Others believed that the recovery plan should have been even larger, and are already calling for a second recovery plan.

But, as I made clear at the time it was passed, the Recovery Act was not designed to work in four months – it was designed to work over two years.  We also knew that it would take some time for the money to get out the door, because we are committed to spending it in a way that is effective and transparent.  Crucially, this is a plan that will also accelerate greatly throughout the summer and the fall.  We must let it work the way it’s supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity.

It’s a lie to say that he “made clear at the time it was passed” that it would not work in four months. In fact, he repeatedly said it would create jobs “immediately,” as this ad from congressional Republicans illustrates:

Then, in off-camera interviews on Thursday (off-camera so they couldn’t be used in ads like the one above, maybe?), administration officials attempted to say the stimulus was only meant to soften the economic fall. As the president’s chief spinner, Robert Gibbs, said:

This legislation was designed to cushion the downturn. That’s why we have always talked about this as one function of economic recovery.

Please. When the president was pitching the bill, he said:

That is why I have moved quickly to work with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will immediately jumpstart job creation and long-term growth.

What’s more, the White House continued to refer to it as a “stimulus” up until Thursday’s off-camera interviews.

Is it any wonder that Larry Summers uses Google trends to judge how well the stimulus is working?

The fact is, congressional Republicans were right. The stimulus bill had very little to do with stimulating the economy, and more to do with funding pet projects, expanding the size of government and rewarding Democratic contributors.

The question for everyone now is: Should we continue to believe the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress as they proceed to “reform” health care? The Congressional Budget Office — which typically underestimates the cost of new government programs — says the health care bill will end up increasing costs, not lowering them, as Obama says his “reform” will do.

Should we believe the administration when it says cap-and-trade will create jobs and “stimulate” the economy?

The answer is “no.”

The vice president famously said the adminsitration misread the economy. Not only did they misread the economy, they prescribed a solution that did nothing but help create the largest U.S. deficit in history.

We shouldn’t have any confidence in their health care promises. President Obama and his administration have shown they don’t know what they’re talking about or what they’re doing.

After the health care plan doesn’t work, will the president tell us it was never meant to “reform” health care?

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Say goodbye to your health care

If you believe the dribble from President Obama and the Democrats in Congress that everyone who’s happy with their current health insurance will be able to keep it under their “reforms,” then I’ve got 3 million jobs created under the stimulus for you and your friends to take.

The “keep your happy insurance” mantra was a complete lie to begin with, but with the proposal released today by Sens. Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy (well, his staff) we can see just how foolish and math-deficient the goons pushing the government plan really are.

The new Dodd-Kennedy plan comes in with an initial cost estimate that’s about $400 billion below the Congressional Budget Office’s $1 trillion price tag during the next decade from the initial proposal. While that estimate is definitely going to get bigger, it’s not the important part of the new plan.

Here’s the fun part:

Committee staffers reworked the bill — and added a new provision requiring most employers to contribute to the cost of health insurance — to arrive at the lower estimate. Under the new proposal, any business with more than 25 workers would be required to offer coverage or pay a $750 penalty per employee.

Gee. This sounds strikingly familiar.

Back in 2007, California’s esteemed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a similar plan. He would have required all employers in the state to provide health insurance for their employees or pay a 4 percent fine to the state to cover them instead.

After Schwarzenegger (really, we want to follow his lead?) proposed his plan, the publisher of the paper at which I was working remarked in a meeting that it was good news — he would have been more than willing to pay a mere 4 percent to the state than pay to provide insurance for all of us working in his newsroom.

The new, Obama-Dodd-Kennedy plan would have the same effect. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2003 American businesses spent between 6 percent and 9 percent of their payroll on health insurance. Going with the lower number, everyone working at any given company would need to make less than $13,000 a year for the $750 penalty to cost our bosses more than providing private insurance.

I remember back when I settled on making $13,000 a year. I think I had just turned 18 and demanded that I could take my summers off.

Median household income in the U.S. in 2007 was just over $50,000 a year. If that’s a two-income household, then employers are paying $1,500 to insure each of the two employees — about double the new fee for government to provide insurance. And again, that’s using the smaller estimate of how much employers spend to provide health insurance.

If you run a business, this will be an easy decision. Pay $1,500 per person in your employ and deal with the hassles of finding them an H.M.O., or pay half that amount to the federal government to do the job for you?

This is where Dodd’s and Kennedy’s numbers really go off the rails. They claim their plan will cost $611 billion during the next 10 years to provide coverage for a mere 39 percent of Americans who don’t have health insurance. Once companies begin dumping their employees into the federal system, just wait for the costs to balloon. There will be a lot more than 39 percent of the currently uninsured waiting in line at the government’s new medical clinics.

President Obama’s other health care lie is that all he wants to do is inject some more competition into the market — give those evil insurance companies a run for their money. “They need to be more competitive,” he says.

This plan is anything but about competition. If Obama thinks this is going to save health care in this country, spur the economy — as he said today — and make the market more competitive, then maybe he really did campaign in 57 states.

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Reality setting in?

President Obama is hinting that, perhaps, he is beginning to understand the realities of the U.S. relationship with Iran.

I say hinting and perhaps because one never knows. It took him about 11 days to condemn the Iranian regime’s crackdown on peaceful protests — so I’m loathe to get too optimistic.

But there are signs that Obama might be waking up from his “Sesame Street” dreams of everyone talking out their problems on “Oprah.”

First, according to this story, the president dismissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demand that Obama apologize for U.S. “meddling” in the disputed election. This is a clear reversal, since Obama was oh so happy to apologize for the United States on practically every occasion before this one.

Mr. Obama said he doesn’t take seriously Mr. Ahmadinejad’s request for an apology for the U.S. meddling in the June 12 election. He also said Mr. Ahmadinejad should instead “think carefully” about his obligations to those beaten, shot and killed in the post-election marches.

“The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. We see it and we condemn it,” Mr. Obama said an East Room news conference after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Then there’s this story, where the president said the open “dialogue” he had been seeking with Iran is going to suffer as a result of the crackdown.

Continuing this week’s harsh rhetoric, Mr. Obama, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said “direct dialogue” with Iran will suffer as a result of the beatings and killings of protesters, though he didn’t spell out exact consequences. He said he remains vigilant to see how events play out.

Mrs. Merkel went much further, demanding a recount of the votes and saying the international community must identify the victims and make Iran account for their treatment.

“Despite the government’s efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we con-demn it,” said Mr. Obama, though he continued to say Iran itself must decide the election results. “If the Iranian government desires the respect of the international community, then it must respect the rights – and heed the will – of its people.”

It’s about time the president began pointing out the consequences for Iran.

One has to wonder whether Obama is coming to these conclusions himself, or is it after meeting with other world leaders (German Chancellor Merkel) that he then sees the need to change his tune? Clearly they were out in front of the president — condemning the Iranian violence outright.

Now he’s playing catch-up. At least, it appears, that now he’s playing for the right team.

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First Gitmo terrorist on U.S. soil

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that the Obama administration has brought the first of what will be many terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to U.S. soil to stand trial in a civilian court.

For all the blustering since Obama announced his plans to close Gitmo in January about the dangers of forcing these monsters to serve time on U.S. soil, that’s not the real problem. If the 245 Gitmo detainees retained their status as enemy combatants on U.S. soil, that’s fine. But this is a policy shift in more than where the terrorists live out their miserable lives.

The fact that the administration is looking to put them on trial in civilian courts proves the United States has shifted back to a pre-Sept. 11 mindset — back when we considered terrorism a crime and not an act of war.

From the Associated Press:

An official says the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be brought to the United States has arrived in New York.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Ahmed Ghailani arrived in the early morning hours Tuesday.

He will be held in U.S. law enforcement custody until his trial in New York City.

Ghailani’s trial will be an important test case for the Obama administration’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo and bring some of the suspects to trial.

Ghailani was indicted in 1998 for the al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks which killed more than 224 people.

So blowing up two U.S. embassies and killing 224 people is now, again, a crime.

We can’t ignore the myriad of legal questions that still remain when it comes to exactly what to do with the Gitmo detainees and how to classify their status. But we also can’t ignore the fact that the strategy of treating terrorism as a mere crime failed miserably in the past.

Remember the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole, etc. Our lackluster responses to those attacks did nothing to thwart al-Qaida or its surrogates from continuing their war against the United States.

Civilian trials will expose the CIA’s methods, not just in interrogations, but in intelligence gathering. Giving a defense attorney the ability to try, in open court, the CIA, the U.S. military and other special forces will only expose the methods our country uses to fight terrorism. What’s more, it makes a public spectacle out of them.

If our national mindset goes back to Sept. 10, 2001 and we return to that mindset and strategy, we’re only inviting more attacks. Osama bin Laden himself said that our initial response to the embassy bombings and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole proved to him that the U.S. was weak and open for attack.

The only stance the U.S. should have when it comes to terrorism is one on a war footing. The terrorists don’t mince words or actions — they know they are at war with us. To deny that fact is to admit defeat and invite more disasters — it signals our return to sleep.

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If Reagan had spoken in Cairo

c47404-35aAlmost immediately after President Obama finished his address at the University of Cairo yesterday, talking heads began comparing our current president to our 40th — Ronald Reagan. You’d have to be drunk, high, comatose or all three to think Reagan would have delivered the same sort of lecture Obama gave.

Obama’s speech, titled with the broad platitude of “A New Beginning,” lacked the positive outlook, the strength, the focus and the soaring oratory to even compare to the Gipper. “Tear down this wall” it most certainly was not.

But let’s not ditter and even attempt to compare Obama’s speech to Reagan’s greatest hits (it’s doubtful Reagan would have given the same “Tear down this wall” speech had he been standing on the other side of the Berlin Wall).

On May 31, 1988, Reagan addressed students at Moscow State University, and he came with goals similar to those of Obama yesterday: To reach out to the people living in the Soviet Union as a friend, to denounce communism, to mitigate tensions and cultural misunderstandings and to reassert pressure for change.

Even ignoring the obvious policy differences the two presidents would have, Reagan’s speech, given the title “Moscow’s Spring,” is remarkably different from Obama’s in tone. Mainly because Reagan’s was positive throughout and, even more so, inspirational.

Where Obama continued to air regrets that the United States has committed mistakes in the past and not lived up to its true calling, Reagan included not one mention of America offending the Soviets.

Where Obama attempted to explain the differences on each side of every issue or complaint the Muslim world might have with the West, Reagan portrayed a consistently positive image of the United States and of freedom.

Where Obama depicted the American world view as morally equivalent with that of the Muslim world, Reagan gave his audience the reasons to reject communism and encouraged them to challenge their government to change.

Here’s Obama giving the Muslim world it’s excuses for hostility toward the United States (there are more examples at each interval of the speech):

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars.  More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.  Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. …

… just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles.  Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country.  The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. …

… In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.  Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.  This history is well known.

Reagan gives the Soviets no such opportunity for excuses. Standing below a large bust of Lenin, he makes a strong case for democracy, freedom and the American way of life.

I’ve been told that there’s a popular song in your country — perhaps you know it — whose evocative refrain asks the question, “Do the Russians want a war?” In answer it says, “Go ask that silence lingering in the air, above the birch and poplar there; beneath those trees the soldiers lie. Go ask my mother, ask my wife; then you will have to ask no more, ‘Do the Russians want a war?'”

But what of your one-time allies? What of those who embraced you on the Elbe? What if we were to ask the watery graves of the Pacific, or the European battlefields where America’s fallen were buried far from home? What if we were to ask their mothers, sisters, and sons, do Americans want war? Ask us, too, and you’ll find the same answer, the same longing in every heart. People do not make wars, governments do — and no mother would ever willingly sacrifice her sons for territorial gain, for economic advantage, for ideology. A people free to choose will always choose peace.

Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists. After a colonial revolution with Britain we have cemented for all ages the ties of kinship between our nations. After a terrible civil war between North and South, we healed our wounds and found true unity as a nation. We fought two world wars in my lifetime against Germany and one with Japan, but now the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan are two of our closest allies and friends.

In the Democracy section of his speech, Obama said:

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.  Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.

Reagan makes no such assertion that America does not presume to know what is best for everyone. In fact, the goal of spreading democracy is based on the fact that we do:

But freedom is more even than this: Freedom is the right to question, and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to stick – to dream – to follow your dream, or stick to your conscience, even if you’re the only one in a sea of doubters.

Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority of government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer. …

Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive: A system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith. …

Your generation is living in one of the most exciting, hopeful times in Soviet history. It is a time when the first breath of freedom stirs the air and the heart beats to the accelerated rhythm of hope, when the accumulated spiritual energies of a long silence yearn to break free.

We do not know what the conclusion of this journey will be, but we’re hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled.

Obama seems to have arrived in Cairo with a speech aimed at completing a shopping list — it was a lecture filled with caveats, instructions and talking points aimed at applying a salve to old wounds — which dragged the speech down.

Reagan arrived in Moscow in 1988 with a speech aimed at inspiring Russians to yearn for freedom.

If you take Reagan’s 1988 speech at Moscow State University and replace “Soviet” for “Muslim World” and “Russian” for “Arab,” you would be awfully close to the speech that Obama should have given yesterday at Cairo University.

Read through the transcripts of both (Reagan here, Obama here), and tell me you don’t think Reagan should have been the one to espouse freedom and democracy to the Muslim world.

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20 years later, where were you?

tiananmen2It’s hard to believe the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred 20 years ago. To be sure, 1989 was a landmark year — the Berlin Wall would fall six months later.

The New York Times’ Lens Blog has a great post with photojournalists recalling the protest. Check it out here.

Do you remember where you were?

I was in Houston for my great-grandmother’s birthday party. Mixed in with the celebration were moments of pause to watch the TV.

Nothing like some great hands at hearts sprinkled with world politics.

I was all of 11-years-old, but I remember thinking that China was about to change. That it wouldn’t end with Tiananmen.

Now it seems the only thing that has changed is China’s market share of the world economy. It’s still communist, even though it’s largest comrades have fallen.

The country owns more U.S. debt than any other, and it’s growth in exports is astounding.

Where were you?

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