For Republicans, there’s always been advantage in being labelled the party of the right. Right makes might! Or is it the other way around? They happily play it both ways. The label blinds them. It tempts them to feel they are always right.

When you know you’re right – that right is always on your side – then you need no other justification for playing freely with falsehoods in running for office. In the more than five and a half decades that I’ve labored in partisan politics, government, and the national affairs of education, I’ve met many a Republican who did not hesitate to say that in politics “the ends always justify the means.” As they saw it, the fact that they were always right meant there could be no wrong in doing whatever they needed to do to win. How effortlessly GOP becomes Grand Old Prevaricator!

Now that the Supreme Court has flattened the last barrier against money ruling American politics, falsehoods will play an ever larger role in election outcomes. The game has already proven many times over that the lie that’s repeated often enough can stand long enough to carry the voter’s favor into the voting booth. Only later do voters come to realize that they have been had.

Democracy’s intent to deliver effective representative government suffers badly in America today because voters feel they’ve been “had” too many times. The ablest people are less and less willing to stand for election because they can’t help but feel the system is broken, that good public policy can’t be made where special interests and their money can bury any options they oppose.

Prevarication takes many forms in politics. The demise of democracy is being written in and by dishonesty and deceit. Have we come to the day in which leaders find their principles formed by polls, or the fancies (or fantasies) of the ideologues outweigh honesty and principle? Evasion is a form  that can work both ways. Many a candidate has won high office by convincing voters that the opponent is hiding something.

Ironically evasion is working both for and against Mitt Romney. He claims the business success that made him very rich would play well in the White House in growing jobs and shrinking government. Yet the record of Bain Capital, his big success, was heavy in mergers that killed jobs. His PACs make him Wall Street’s pet, and profits have always blinded Wall Street to the horsepower of jobs in consumer economics, the lifeblood of capitalism.

Can Romney survive his evasion over public display of his tax returns? What is he hiding? How much wealth is he banking abroad? He is both famous and infamous for his flip-flops, easily the 21st-century champion of this political art form. It’s debatable whether flip-flops are prevarication. But they raise questions of integrity.

If Mitt should win, what can we expect on principle? Will we get the Mitt of his Yankee governorship, favoring health insurance for everyone, freedom of choice for women, and civil unions or marriage for gays? Or, will we get the Mitt who is a High Priest of Mormon faith, who will oppose full freedom for women and gays, and will bow to the big insurance companies on keeping American health care the costliest in the developed world for the sake of their lush profits?

Frank Mensel – July 2012


Spreading doubt and confusion has been a constant in Republican politics since time immemorial, and never more so than in 2012. Since the Republicans have always seen themselves as the superior breed of Americans, they’re never in doubt about how they will vote. Just pull the lever that is the elephant’s trunk. That’s the way of elephants, caught up in memory. It matters little who’s on the ballot. If the Party has put them there, that’s good enough for the faithful. It’s better than the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval.

They are then free to spread doubt and confusion about everyone else on the ballot. With enough money — and, thanks to the Supreme Court, the supply will always be ample for candidates of the right, or corporate faith — opponents can be given a whole new identity. Many a Democrat running for Congress this year finds himself or herself running less against an opponent than against a blitz of TV ads that portray him or her as “foreign” to the American mainstream. Ironically, most such ads are being paid for by interests foreign to the turf on which the race is run. Such ads are regularly laced with prevarication.

The towering example of this in the 2012 campaign is the ruthless and relentless Republican blitz portraying President Obama as less than American. Plainly, the blitz rides an under-tow of racism. It started by spreading suspicion about the validity of his Hawaiian birth certificate. Imbedded in the under-tow is the implication that “Islanders” are less than real Americans. Besides, how can anyone fathered by a Kenyan actually be American. And, if he graduated from Harvard Law at the top of his class, how could he possibly relate to everyday Americans.

When the history of the presidency has always been a white man in the White House — isn’t that why it’s white? — the GOP can’t resist portraying a black in the White House as unAmerican. Their game is as old as politics. It’s the warfare of nicks: nick the enemy enough and demise is inevitable. We’re getting it in 2012, the stream of nicks, the implications that play as little lies.

This is Governor Romney’s approach. He’s playing on implication when he says that, if elected, he will “never apologize for America” when speaking abroad. It keeps Jane and John Voter scratching their heads to recall those times when President Obama was apologizing for US when speaking abroad.  But,

—  Frank Mensel   July 2012

The Fallen COURT

Trickling Away

Which flaw of the Constitution could become the fatal flaw? That honor has been claimed ironically by the Supreme Court, unless Congress can overturn the 2010 United Citizens 5-4 ruling, whose instantaneous impact has tilted the political landscape heavily in favor of wealth. The Nation has called it “The 1 Percent Court” (July 16/23, 2012), averring that “the Court’s right-wing majority has . . .guaranteed that insurance companies and other corporations will continue to have more say in American politics than citizens.”

That impact is in no way lessened by the climactic 5-4 vote on which the Court ended its 2012 term by allowing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, to stand. If Chief Justice Roberts thinks this vote, juxtapositioned with Citizens United, will blur his image as an ideologue, he is mistaken. As long as the CU ruling stands, its shadow will forever darken the political landscape and the Bill of Rights. His leadership has reinforced it in two more rulings, one by striking down the century-old Montana law barring corporate contributions to candidates or parties, again a 5-4 vote, while separately  weakening political action in public-employee unions. Their members now must “opt in” on political initiatives, and not simply “opt out.”

The Nation points out, “No matter how the Court rules on healthcare, corporations now have even more power to shape responses to it. . . . The same goes for every other public policy debate.” Nation echoes Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call to repulse “a nation of the superrich, by the superrich, and for the superrich.”  The question of whether basic medical care is a right or a privilege is left to the next White House and the next Congress, when the One Percent and the corporate drones will again be flying under the radar.

The Founding Fathers surely meant the Court to give “We the People” a missle shield against the whims and misfires of the two lawmaking branches. The people’s ownership of their capital was a given, never a question. But with lawyers at work, there are no certainties.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court hae made fact of the fear the people have felt since President Reagan and his entourage of neocons tuned the national weal to “trickle down”:   Washington is now owned by the Special Interests, whose players are the drones of corporate power and the One Percent.

The separation between the people and their capital has grown further since the Bush-Cheney inauguration, which produced the most destructive presidency that history has seen, memorialized in two undeclared wars that have saddled the people with unconscionable and unmanageable debt that may become the debacle of democracy. Where does the world turn for hope when Europe faces the same fiscal problems?

The Supreme Court has fed the debacle by confusing corporations with people. Only very learned jurists could bury themselves so deep in the law that they are blind to the distinction between corporate interest and individual liberty. People come from the womb, individuals whose purpose if any will be found in living. Corporations come by state charter and, with the exception of non-profits, start and end with only one purpose:  making money. There’s the essential distinction:  a corporation is not an individual.  Individuals typically find various purposes in life, and the pursuit of money may or may not be one.

The Founding Fathers convened the second convention on the Constitution with a sole purpose in mind: to write a Bill of Rights for the benefit and protection of individuals. The Supreme Court has failed its highest duty: to keep the Bill of Rights owned strictly by and for “We the People,” free of subversion by power.

The failure goes beyond the Court itself. It is rooted in the profession and practice of law, which is entirely unregulated except by the profession itself, with rules of its own making, applied at the pleasure of the Bar Association of each State. The rule of law is less than advertised: it works as rule by the profession of the law, in which self interest to often outweighs the Constitution. To “establish Justice” is the promise of the Preamble. We’ve never come close!

It’s hardly a coincidence that the profession and the highest court are dishing up the same thing:  more “trickle down.” More and more of the One Percent are lawyers drawing seven-figure compensation. They are becoming legion in Washington, even as the capital region now leads the nation in affluence.   Surprised, anyone?

Corporation power, the Special Interests and their drones, and the law profession are now all of one piece. Every day that corporate money has the same claim on freedom of speech that a citizen has, the Bill of Rights means less and less.

The one right sure to endure is the Second Amendment. No other Special Interest is as closely knit and narrowly focused as the National Rifle Association. Who better exemplifies Citizens United than this gun-waving corporation, an unspoken but self-anointed proxy for “a well-regulated militia,” a stretch of imagination that neither the courts nor Congress are wont to challenge, no matter how much it mocks the words themselves. With lawyers delivering the words, better mind the way the wind is blowing.

You yearn for gun control? It’s spelled NRA. How long must we settle for tens of thousands of intended and unintended deaths by guns every year? Are they not on our minds when we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and military fanfare?

Frank Mensel — July 4, 2012