My Blade column this week uses the president's historic visit to Hiroshima as a jumping-off point for a consideration of his ground-breaking approach to foreign policy.
A powerful moment in Hiroshima as our president embraces one of the Hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic blast 71 years ago. My heart soars. I am so proud of this man, who with simple grace leaves the haters in the dust and honors the better angels of our nature. He enlarges himself and us.
The haters on the right are going ape. It is a reminder of the despicable alternative we are faced with this year. We can defeat the haters if we simply stop making excuses and vote. 71 years are long enough to cling to the bitterness of the past. If we do not heal, we make a hollow mockery of Yad Vashem's "Never Again, Never Forget."
President Obama proposed largest military aid deal ever provided by U.S.; Israel insists on more generous terms https://t.co/dRTJPpnx0K— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 29, 2016
Obama has offered Israel the most generous military aid package ever. But that is not good enough for the war criminal Netanyahu, whom you can only defend at this point if, like one friend, you are ideologically prevented from admitting that Israel could ever be wrong about anything, including the murderous naval shelling of Gazan boys playing soccer on a beach. Such a belligerent attitude undermines Israel's long-term future by denying reality, and damages your own soul.
In the meantime, this article talks about the importance of closing the aid deal in terms of cementing Obama's legacy of strong support for Israel and refuting unfair charges against him on that score. But he has nothing to prove. The evidence is clear. Bibi is the problem, having aggressively attempted to sabotage a multilateral nuclear agreement, vowed never to allow a two-state solution, and continued the slow annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory. Obama should make no further concessions.
My thoughts while comparing foreign policy remarks by an experienced stateswoman versus a bullshitting narcissist:
The most vital presidential traits are not about public ceremonies and photo ops. They are summoned during grim, tense hours in the Situation Room. In a moment of crisis, do you really want a posturing amateur? No. You want someone who's been there, someone with experience--including vivid memories of when things went terribly wrong.
In the dark, fraught hours, when you watch and wait from oceans away as our nation's finest warriors must summon all their training amid grave danger, there are no illusions about your job being some slow, grand march to glory. It is humbling and sobering to know how many lives are implicated in every decision. Will you be meeting their coffins in a hangar at Dover AFB, comforting their loved ones?
This is a sacred trust. You cannot be glib about this. The job calls for someone who has been there, who knows the stakes, who has the relationships with foreign leaders to make the difficult calls at midnight to keep a confrontation from boiling over, or to summon and facilitate a global response to a tragedy. You need someone with the seasoning of hard experience. You need a survivor. You need someone who's ready. Hillary for President.
Hillary Clinton showed her political skills and foreign policy chops in her AIPAC speech Monday. She mixed pandering to a key constituency (and let's be honest, there certainly was some old-fashioned pandering) with a reiteration of longstanding American policy. Her bellicose tone in delivering it, which brought those in attendance repeatedly to their feet, likely gave some the impression that she was distancing herself from Obama, whose personal relations with Netanyahu are famously chilly; but she defended and tied herself to the Iranian nuclear accord. She could hardly do otherwise, since her fingerprints are all over it.
It was noteworthy how quiet she got in talking about still believing in a two-state solution. Her invoking the memory of Golda Meir as a woman leader of Israel, and grinning as she asked what's taken America so long, was a nice touch. Her citing Jerusalem Pride was entirely fitting despite the cries of "Pinkwashing!" by radicals on the left whose moral scorn only seems turned to the Jewish state. Her slamming of the BDS movement and its targeting of academics is also sound; after all, we do not boycott China and Russia, and as I write this our president is in Cuba--all of which are led by notoriously oppressive regimes.
Chris Wallace is not going to be bullied by Raphael, who is sinking fast, and Wallace sticks it to Jeb, who promises to dispense with legal niceties in our warmaking. Rubio got applause just by promising not to walk offstage. Clever of SNL to hack into Fox, but which one was Darrell Hammond playing?
The president soared last night, a fact that was all the more clear as Republicans, trapped in their refusal to give him credit or respect for anything ever, sat on their hands. He outclassed his detractors by so far it was embarrassing, and showed he was the grownup in the room. Here are excerpts.
"Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?"
"Some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber."
"Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did."
"Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon."
My year-in-review column went online today at the Blade. My summary blurb is "Historic progress met the usual backlash." Here's an excerpt:
"Set the motherfucker on fire!" That recent call by a Donald Trump rally goer concerning a black protester, with another attendee yelling "Sieg heil," illustrates the viciousness fueling Trump's presidential campaign. If you take this lightly, Google "lynching." It is not just that what happened in Europe in the last century could happen here; what happened here could happen again. Trump's incitements, and those of his rivals, do not just pander to intolerance, they spray gasoline on the fire.
Hate-spewing demagogues were not the year's only newsmakers, but they produced its most dangerous legacy. The demons they unleashed cannot easily be tamed. But the haters cannot win the general election unless the rest of us allow it. Before we head back into battle, let us review some positive developments of 2015, though with cautionary notes.
The landmark victory for nationwide marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, which President Obama celebrated by lighting the White House north front in rainbow colors, inspired opponents to switch tactics by pushing "religious freedom" laws (better dubbed "religious supremacy") to continue their anti-gay attacks. The Equality Act represented a new approach to LGBT anti-discrimination legislation, but stood no chance in a Republican-controlled Congress. Openly gay Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and several colleagues launched the smart, well-designed Campaign Zero policy website.
Our friend Ernest Hopkins writes on Facebook about this Atlantic article by Peter Beinart:
Brilliant analysis. Relax U.S. citizenry the president is a really smart guy and also quite a student of history. He is paying way more attention than the press credits and is doing way more than we will ever know. I really believe that. Good read.
I thought my Blade column last week was harsh, but the situation has already gotten worse. Here's an example:
Here is the truth whether you like it or not:@realDonaldTrump is only candidate to have the bravery to put out that statement on Muslims— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) December 7, 2015
Really? How brave is it to appeal to people's worst instincts and betray U.S. values while making terrorism likelier? These reckless provocateurs--and I mean Trump and others like him or supporting him--are endangering lives and the civil order. It is good that the chorus of criticism is rising against him; but he has already tapped into the national Id to such a degree that it is not clear he can be stopped. It is necessary to try, for our country's and our diverse people's sake.
Solid presentation by the former Secretary of State on the need for America to choose resolve over fear.
My Blade column this week responds to the right wing's disgraceful exploitation of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Here's a portion:
As many Americans sang "La Marseillaise" and expressed solidarity with the French after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, Republicans rushed to seize political advantage.
Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee threatened savage bombing campaigns. Cruz, possibly inspired by Herod the Great, promised he would not worry about slaughtering innocents. These holy warriors will say anything to win cheers from the xenophobic, Christianist GOP base, ignoring the spectacular failure of reflexive, ill-targeted militarism in the past. Meanwhile, President Obama's Pentagon quietly took out ISIS leaders in Syria and Libya.
Instead of showing strength amid tragedy, conservatives turned cowardly and demanded that Syrian refugees be turned away lest a jihadist be lurking among them. Never mind the major role America played in creating chaos in Syria, where civilian deaths dwarf those in Paris. On the night of the attacks, ordinary Parisians took stranded strangers into their homes. They displayed more courage than is being asked of Americans. Despite more than half of America's governors absurdly announcing their own harsh immigration policies, refugees face extensive screening procedures.
Muslims across the world have denounced the attacks. Ignoring this hampers the relationships we need to defeat the extremists. Appropriately, many Western leaders have begun using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, "Daesh," which has a mocking connotation. Declaring yourself a caliphate does not make you one.
We must respond to the attacks intelligently and in cooperation with our allies. We cannot simply bomb our way to safety. We cannot wall ourselves off from a world in which we are deeply engaged commercially and culturally, and in which we extensively project ourselves militarily. We cannot prevail unilaterally or by holding ourselves above the rest of the world. We cannot paper over legitimate grievances resulting from our past actions.
Bravo, Mr. President. You are getting a storm of denunciations from right wing opportunists and fanatics, but you calmly tell it like it is and refuse to be intimidated by their frenzy. I am prouder of you than I can say. Thank you for your leadership and your ability to endure, and for upholding American values.
Margaret Meyer shared this on Saturday:
The Metropolitan Opera's tribute to the victims of yesterday's terrorist attack in Paris. A great moment. Conducted by Placido Domingo. #PrayforParis #MetOpera
Here are the remarks I delivered this morning at the dedication of Frank Kameny's headstone, which is near the grave of Leonard Matlovich in Congressional Cemetery, as part of an LGBT Veterans Day observance. It began at 11 am.
[Impromptu preface: Good morning. I prayed to the Goddess for sunshine. I think she smiled on my request because last night the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance signed on to the NARAL letter asking the Justice Department to investigate the clinic bombings as acts of domestic terrorism. So thanks for the sunshine.]
Frank Kameny considered nothing sacred. Challenging orthodoxy was his life's work. Yet we stand on what many consider sacred ground. There is no great conflict. Honoring the dead can simply involve recognizing that our every step touches the stuff of those who preceded us. Frank confronted the mystery of the universe with the tools and habits of a scientist, which stood him in good stead after intolerance cut short his career as an astronomer.
His biographer David Carter will shortly remind us of Frank’s exhortations to embrace and celebrate who we are and demand our full and equal rights as citizens.
We will touch with pride the headstone to which Frank was entitled as a veteran. He resented having to lie to fight for his country in World War II. But thanks to his long and pioneering service on the domestic front afterwards, no one has to tell that lie again. His historic role is suggested by the footstone bearing the affirmation for which he wanted to be remembered: "Gay Is Good."
The magnitude of Frank's contributions compelled some of us to help preserve his papers in our great national library whose collection was begun by the man who wrote the most liberating words in history, that all men are created equal. Our long struggle to make our country live up to that creed is ongoing. A new generation has taken up the standard that Leonard and Frank and countless others left behind.
My first visit here was in 1988 for Leonard’s burial, after my colleagues and I in the Gay Men’s Chorus sang for him and followed his caisson. We knew Leonard from his volunteer work for the chorus. Frank spoke here that day. Whether these warriors are honored in polished granite or a simple soldier’s headstone, their service will shine for all who pass here.
After Frank’s death, Charles Francis and I revived the Mattachine Society of Washington, which Frank had allowed to lapse. The new Mattachine’s mission is archive activism. It works to rescue the LGBT history that mainstream historians erased. The legacy of Frank and our other forebears will not be forgotten. We and generations unborn will make sure of it.
The legal dispute that made these past four years such a long goodbye has finally been resolved in time for Armistice Day. Now, Frank, the respect you earned is memorialized by the nation for whose values you fought. We commit you to the ages.
New details surface in 1992 murder of gay sailor https://t.co/jpyCnrQhZ5— Washington Blade (@WashBlade) November 10, 2015
Thanks to Michael Petrelis for his faithful work on this 23-year-old case in pursuit of justice. He just called me from San Francisco to thank GLAA for our moral and financial support of his early efforts back then. I remember he traveled to where the murder occurred in Japan. (Note: the second paragraph includes a link to the 900-page Naval investigative report.)
This year’s LGBT Veterans Day observance has extra meaning as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Frank Kameny and Leonard Matlovich starting the formal fight against the ban on gays in the military. A Veterans Administration memorial for Frank, a WWII combat veteran, will be dedicated.
Participants include Gordon O. Tanner, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Air Force; Joe Zuniga, who had been the Sixth Army Soldier of the Year before outing himself in 1993 to fight the ban; and Stonewall author David Carter who is writing a biography of Frank. Music will be provided by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. Paul Kuntzler, who was a member of the Mattachine Society of Washington with Frank in the 1960s before co-founding GLAA (then GAA) in 1971, will speak, as will I.
The event is free and open to the public. It is set for 11 am on Wednesday, November 11 at the Matlovich gravesite in Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E Street SE near the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. Please join us.
It will be a relief finally to have Frank's memorial in place after nearly four years of gratuitous legal wrangling. It is in what has become informally known as a gay neighborhood in the cemetery, not only adjacent to the Matlovich grave but near the graves of other gay veterans as well as those of the notoriously homophobic former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his longtime companion Clyde Tolson.
My Blade column this week (written before Tuesday's election) is now up. While it may be tempting, please do not take my humble musings as a cue to go crashing out of bedroom windows. I only recommend that for deranged candidates who are eager to defeat Satan.
The odds may be against you. Fear not.
How bracing it must have been for the assembled worthies at Log Cabin's "Spirit of Lincoln" dinner to hear a Bush administration alum slamming the most pro-gay president in history for his shortcomings on gay issues. I happen to know that the persecution of Anwar Ibrahim began long before the Obama administration. As for the evils of ISIS, does Mr. Wolfowitz take any share of responsibility for aiding its rise? But go ahead, sneering men of privilege, and look for liberal targets of your scorn while your own party does its best to smash the foundations of our republic.
As I said in 2007, Hillary Clinton is a formidable woman and is not to be underestimated. In the past few days she has reminded us of this.
.@JohnKerry, once denied communion over his support for abortion rights, gets a rare handshake from the pope as he enters House chamber— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) September 24, 2015
Blessed are the peacemakers.