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With Weiner’s Fall, Clarence Thomas Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief


New America Media, News Report, Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Democrats, from the White House down, screamed for New York Representative Anthony Weiner to resign, and he finally did. But it’s not a Democrat who’s breathing the biggest sigh of relief at Weiner’s downfall. It’s Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

There was much talk a year ago that Weiner would be the point man on the House Judiciary Committee if it decided to go after Thomas for his long trail of financial manipulations, abuse, and duplicity. Weiner gave signs that he’d be the go-to guy against Thomas. He had been publicly hammering Thomas’ dealings and demanding that he recuse himself from any High Court deliberations on the constitutionality of the health care reform law that conservatives loathe.

Weiner certainly had a lot of ammunition to make Thomas’ misdeeds a prima facie legal and political embarrassment for the GOP. Thomas’ wife Ginni had earned money from assorted right-wing foundations and think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, the Coors family and Richard Mellon Scaife, all of whom had a major interest in a number of Supreme Court rulings. While Thomas disclosed her earnings, he did not disclose the speaking fees and perks he got from the same conservative groups that his wife worked for. He refused to acknowledge her involvement with Liberty Central, for example.

Then there was the strong hint that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991, which he compounded by lying under oath to Congress during the hearings. A public official—whether the president, presidential appointees, or judges—can be punished for giving false information of any nature to Congress.

Utah Sen. Orin Hatch, during the confirmation hearings, asked Thomas directly about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he had used sexually suggestive language.

Thomas answered, “I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.”

Thomas was emphatic. He stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it.” Even then witnesses, who were not called to testify, were contradicting Thomas’ sworn testimony in public statements.

Two decades later, Thomas’ testimony to Congress was back on the legal table when another intimate of his confirmed that Thomas had engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it.

Close scrutiny by House Democrats of Thomas’ possible wrongdoing was taken off the table when the Republicans took back control of the House last November. Thomas’ financial misdeeds and dubious confirmation hearing testimony quickly disappeared from the news. But with the 2012 elections nearing and the possibility that the Democrats could either win back control of the House or substantially boost their numbers there, Thomas’ financial double-dealing and shadowy political ties could easily have been back on the political table.

Weiner showed intense interest in Thomas’ activities, publicly hectoring Thomas during the health care debate about his financial dealings. It was a signal that Thomas at some point could be fair game for an investigation. That would have done much to further expose financial, legal and moral high jinks by conservatives that the GOP routinely sweeps under the rug.

Thomas and the GOP don’t have to worry about that now. Thomas’ potential tormentor is out of the House, and Democrats seem content to put the matter behind them. Thomas can now safely breathe a big sigh of relief.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

 

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Why the GOP Has Declared Open Season on Michelle


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Op-Ed

Former Arkansas Governor and almost certain 2012 presidential contender Mike Huckabee recently told reporters that attacks on Michelle Obama by Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and others in the GOP were silly, foolish and counter-productive.

Huckabee’s push back at the Michelle-bashers was as noble as it was futile. The GOP has declared open season on the first lady for the simple reason that she’s not just any first lady, and this year is not just any political year–it’s the dress rehearsal year for the 2012 contest for the White House.

Frequent comparison is made between the GOP’s ruthless and relentless bashing of Hillary Clinton and the intensifying attacks on Michelle. But there’s a difference between the two figures. That Hillary was a major Democratic force inside the White House was confirmed when she became a U.S. Senator towards the end of her husband’s second term. She also, for a time, became the front-running Democratic presidential candidate. In short, Hillary Clinton was clearly a political threat to the GOP. Michelle Obama seemingly is not.

Yet, the attacks on Michelle are planned, well timed and calculated to sow even more doubt about President Obama and his policies. Slamming Michelle is a key part of the dirty pool equation. The safe and sensible things Michelle talks about on child nutrition, obesity, aid to military families and, of course, breastfeeding might get brief mention in the soft features section of a newspaper if it came from any other first lady and at any other time. She’d be cheered as a first lady who’s a staunch advocate for the welfare of military families and who uses her position to encourage Americans to be healthier. But those safe and sensible goals have been twisted and reviled and made the butt of cheap quips and racist cartoons from the professional Obama loathers. Curiously, with the exception of Huckabee’s criticism of Michelle’s detractors, the GOP mainstream has been noticeably silent about the attacks.

GOP has always viewed Michelle as an especially inviting surrogate for hammering Obama from the earliest days of the 2008 presidential campaign. They twisted the context of a remark she made to make it appear that she didn’t have faith in America. The Obama campaign sensed the danger and tactfully made sure that Michelle would play a traditional low-key role in her husband’s campaign, as other presidential candidate’s wives had. But the snide criticisms never really went away, especially once the Obamas were in the White House. Michelle got pilloried for her push for the failed Chicago Olympic bid, and later for uttering a few words on health care reform. Her shopping excursions, vacation in Spain and workout routine all became fodder for political sniping, gossip and ridicule.

A viral email buzzed around the Internet for a time accusing her of “unprecedented hiring” of a large staff. Even Michelle’s undergraduate thesis written in 1985 with the hardly incendiary title of “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” was blasted as an open call for black militancy. These smears fizzled, but the jibes, taunts, and racist cartoons on the Internet never stopped. The aim is to firmly etch Michelle in the public’s mind as a power behind the White House throne and identify her with Obama’s “bad policies.”

GOP strategists frankly said as much when they slammed Michelle for sending out an email to friends and supporters touting the selection of Charlotte, NC for the 2012 Democratic Convention. Her carefully chosen words praising the city as “vibrant, diverse and full of opportunity” were about as Chamber of Commerce-tame as could be. But that was more than enough for the GOP to spring on the attack. After all, said one GOP pundit, conventions are politically partisan and because the first lady uttered a word about the Democratic convention site she was fair game.

When Michelle was asked what role she saw for herself as first lady she firmly declared she had no plans to be an overt political wife ala Hillary Clinton or Eleanor Roosevelt. She saw her role as supportive of efforts to improve the health and welfare of children and families. This is no different from the role played by Laura Bush and most other first ladies, none of whom drew a peep of criticism, let alone vilification, for their mild advocacy of pet issues. Michelle is, of course, not them. She’s the wife of the president most politically reviled by conservatives in modern times. For conservatives, the open season on her makes as much political sense as the open season on him. That’s the GOP game plan and it’s not likely to change.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on ktym.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

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The State of the Union Speech Is Over—Now the Real Fight Begins


News Analysis, Earl Ofari Hutchinson

President Obama’s State of the Union address was measured, moderate, and in the wake of the Tucson massacre, the paragon of civility. The speech was less of a presidential annual report card on the shape of the nation and his administration, than a treatise on what the Obama administration will do to create the one thing that the administration has been roundly raked over the coals for: not saying and doing enough to create jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

Presidents know that they can talk eloquently about foreign policy, defense, wars, the environment, deficits, education, immigration, trade, clean energy, tax code reform and, in recent years, the war on terrorism, in their State of the Union addresses. Obama lightly hit on all these points in his. But the success of their administration, their re-election, and their legacy rests on jobs and the economy. The line “It’s the economy stupid” has time and again proven to be anything but a stale cliché.

The perception that Obama slipped badly in that area was a colossal factor in the “shellacking” that he and the Democrats took in the mid-term elections. The message still hung heavily in the air on the eve of Obama’s second official SOTU address when polls showed that while he has gotten a solid bump up in his approval ratings, a majority of Americans still give him a D mark on the handling of the economy.

He even used the time-tested reference to Sputnik. That was the nation’s overdrive rush to beat the Soviets into space, to prod business and political leaders, and the nation to launch a massive program to improve technology, transportation, research and education. This is all aimed at one thing, and that’s to create jobs, and more jobs.

But to do that, it takes money, lots of it. That money can only come from one place: the federal government. Left unsaid in the President’s reference to the Sputnik space and weapons race was that the country spent billions to reassert its superiority over the Soviets in bombs and missiles, and to put a man on the moon. It did not shirk on the spending. The political will and unity and funds to do it were there then. Not this time. The GOP’s priority is jobs but not at the expense of more federal spending. And with a $1.4 trillion dollar deficit, and a sizeable number of Americans in jitters about the debt, spending the requisite billions is not in the official cards. The official attack-point for the GOP has been to paint the Obama administration as reckless, out of control in its spending, and then heap more blame on Obama for allegedly single-handedly creating the deficit nightmare.

GOP Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, in “rebutting” Obama’s address, vowed that the GOP would trim $100 billion from the federal budget. Obama tried to walk the fine political tightrope between the public’s thirst for an improved economy with more jobs and the GOP’s bellicose call for slash-and-burn spending cuts by calling for a five-year spending freeze. The freeze would halt all non-security discretionary spending. This came on top of his earlier call for a pay freeze for all federal employees.

Budget analysts and political experts have already branded the multi-billions that the GOP says can and should be hacked from federal spending as pie-in-the-sky political rhetoric. This is the same GOP that has virtually institutionalized earmarks, pork barrel spending, and given the company store away in tax breaks and in spending to the defense industry. The GOP draconian budget reduction plan would wreak havoc on vital arts, education, health care, transportation, small business lending and support programs.

That’s just the dollars and cents of the talk of massive spending cuts. The real battleground is the political war that the GOP intends to wage against the Obama administration to hack away at federal programs. Obama acknowledged that despite the congressional calm and civility during his State of the Union address, the fight over spending and jobs versus cutting the debt will be fierce. And the fight won’t be long in coming. Obama will unveil his budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year on February 13. The GOP almost certainly will scream, nit-pick, and slam the spending proposal as too big and burdensome, and will step up the attack on Obama as a tax-and-spend Democrat who will continue to bloat the deficit.

President Obama in his address repeatedly struck the theme that bi-partisan unity is needed to solve the nation’s problems, first and foremost meaning creating jobs and growing the economy. However, with the GOP gearing up for a full court press to take back the White House in 2012, and the GOP banking on using spending and the federal deficit as its political trump cards against Obama, GOP and Democratic congresspersons sitting together is one thing; working together, as Obama noted, is a far different thing.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts the national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on ktym.com and wfax.com and an internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com. 
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson



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