Thursday, July 2, 2015


There is a new U.S. statesman visible in Washington, DC,
and it isn’t Secretary of State John Kerry (who wanders from
blunder to blunder), nor is it Hillary Clinton, his predecessor
(who, like Kerry, traveled a lot but accomplished little), nor is
it President Obama (whose foreign policy is a shambles).
To be fair, so far it is also not any of the Republican
presidential candidates who are visiting Europe and the
Middle East trying to establish their foreign policy credentials.
None of them so far has been impressive in foreign policy.
The surprise new statesman is someone with very little foreign
policy background, and whose record to date is on domestic
policy. Speaker of the House John Boehner is currently
touring Europe, visiting many of our long-time time allies
and friends. The U.S. media is mostly ignoring this visit,
especially because they can’t find any missteps by the
Speaker, but he is making a very positive impression
wherever he goes, particularly reassuring the smaller and
more vulnerable nations of Eastern Europe of U.S. resolve
and friendship. In Finland, Lithuania, Poland and elsewhere,
Mr. Boehner is showing the sure-footedness, tact and dignity
we have not seen from a U.S. leader for some time. The most
powerful Republican elected U.S. official, third in line for the
presidency, and someone whose leadership has helped his
party and conservatism to a remarkable comeback since 2010,
Mr. Boehner is the surprise of this diplomatic season. He has
no ambitions for higher office, but some of his fellow
Republicans who do might want to observe how to be a
statesman from his example.

As if there are not enough presidential candidates for 2016,
especially in the Republican nomination contest, two more
have officially announced. One is a Republican. He is currently
the governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie is one of the most
obviously talented politicians in the nation, and once the
presidential debates begin, could rank in the top tier of the
GOP field. He has had some political setbacks in the past year,
and his poll numbers have sunk as a result, but this man should
not be underestimated. The other new entry is a Democrat, the
former senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Like Bernie Sanders,
Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chaffee (all of whom have already
announced their candidacy), Webb is given little chance to defeat
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. On the other hand,
Senator Sanders' surprisingly high poll numbers recently indicate,
as I have been pointing out for many months, that there remains
a vacuum in the Democratic contest, and needs only one major
new entry into the race to make it competitive.

That “major” new entry could be Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden’s recent tragic loss of his son has given new gravity to his
public image. If President Obama had a private preference for
his successor, it very likely would be Mr. Biden, his mentor in
the U.S. senate and the man he chose as his running mate. Mr.
Biden’s resume easily matches Mrs. Clinton’s, and a “Draft
Biden” movement has been gathering steam, but it is unclear
what the vice president’s intentions for 2016 are.

The recent sad tragedy in Charleston has unfortunately loosed
new waves of political correctness, particularly in and about
the South. While it is perhaps appropriate in some cases to
remove the Confederate flag from flying over state capitols,
the attempt to erase the flag and other memorabilia from
the marketplace, and to denigrate a figure such as Robert E.
Lee, is clearly going much too far. An attempt to rename
Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis (named after Southern
statesman John Calhoun) because he was a slaveholder is an
example of how ludicrous the phenomenon has become.
Calhoun, like Stephen Douglas (the man Lincoln defeated
for the presidency in 1860), had much to do with the early  
history of Minnesota, and was an honored figure in pre-Civil
War American politics (he was a congressman, senator, vice
president of the U.S. for two terms, as well as secretary of
war and secretary or state). By today’s standards, of course,
defending slavery is a terrible wrong, but if Mr. Calhoun is
to be banished from the American history book, so would
so many of the founding fathers of the nation, including
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
Thomas Paine, John Hancock and yes, even Benjamin Franklin,
The caving in by so many American retail businesses as they
fall over themselves to remove legitimate memorabilia from
their shelves is an embarrassment. We rightly condemn the
prejudices and wrongs of the past, but a tyranny of “political
correctness” as a form of petty retribution is a dishonor to
common sense.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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