Sunday, June 08, 2014

Politics Down Under

The Republican Party in the South is, as everyone knows, more robust than it is in, say, New England. In true-blue Connecticut, the GOP barely makes a ripple.

While on vacation in Arizona, Mrs. Pesci's attention was drawn to some political ads, the most entertaining of which featured Joni Ernst, then in a primary battle for an open seat with a fellow Republican whose ads were more cookie cutterish. Let down by a president whose impenetrable “friends and enemies list” has confused the traditional friends and enemies of the United States, Andree was amused by some of the more aggressive GOP political ads we saw while in Arizona.

 A farmer and a military woman who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard, Ms. Ernst was commander of the largest battalion in Iowa, a newcomer to senatorial politics and, refreshingly, not a Harvard or Yale lawyer.

Well-grounded farmers, ever conscious of precious time and the demanding workaday lying ahead of them, very quickly get to the point.

In her first notable ad, Ms. Ernst introduced herself as an Iowa farmer who at an early age was used to castrating pigs. And with a winking smile, she said that when she is sent to Washington, she will know how to cut pork. The ad was not everyone’s cup of tea, but to judge from primary votes, it was entirely convincing; Ms. Ernst won the primary with more than sixty percent of the vote. Considered “controversial” by a media that daily engages in controversy, the ad may have caused her Democratic Party opponents to slip on a banana peel. An answering ad from Democrat Senate hopeful Bruce Braley following the Republican Primary compared Mrs. Ernst to “a baby chick.” Republicans returned fire; the thoughtless and unfeeling Braley ad, Republicans pointed out, flirted with sexism – watch who you’re calling “chick” buster! -- proving once for all that Democrats are fully capable of prosecuting a war on women.

Mrs. Pesci wondered why the Connecticut GOP seemed incapable of producing lively, humorous and attention getting ads.

Connecticut GOP congressmen, she knew, were not always such cautious stuffed shirts.

Connecticut’s 4th District sent Claire Booth Luce to Congress in 1942. Mrs. Luce, something of a Renaissance woman, was the wife of Time founder Henry Luce. When Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President, proto-socialist Henry Wallace, recommended that airlines everywhere in the world be given free access to U.S. airports, Mrs. Luce, in her maiden speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, labeled the proposal “globalony.” Stung by her not infrequent barbs, Mr. Roosevelt campaigned against her, calling Mrs. Luce "a sharp-tongued glamour girl of forty." Unwilling to take this gender slight lying down, Mrs. Luce characterized Mr. Roosevelt as “the only American president who ever lied us into a war because he did not have the political courage to lead us into it.” During her second term, the “glamour girl” was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission; she toured allied battlefronts in Europe twice, was present at the liberation of several Nazi concentration camps in 1945 and, then a lonely voice, began early to warn the world against the rise of international communism as a dark totalitarian force likely to lead to World War III.

A late convert to Catholicism, Mrs. Luce, asked who she would prefer as a confessor, replied, "Send me someone who has seen the fall of empires."

Mrs. Pesci was a bit distracted because our vacation coincided with - what to call it? -- the voluntary surrender of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to Islamic terrorists and an entertaining skit performed by Mr. Bergdahl’s  father and President Barack Obama in a White House briefing. Part of Mr. Bergdahl’s presentation included a supplication in Pashto to Allah -- “bism allah alrahman alraheem,” which means “in the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful.” These words open every chapter of the Qur’an except one (the chapter of the sword, the 9th).

Mrs. Pesci squirmed visibly when Mr. Obama said that prisoner exchanges were not uncommon at the conclusion of wars. It had been reported by several news outlets that Sergeant Bergdahl had been "captured" by the Haqqani Network of terrorists.

"So now," said Mrs. Pesci, "wars end when the president says they are at an end. Period. Someone should tell the Taliban."

Andree comes from a military family. Her brother served on the Enterprise, and her father served in four branches of the military. The Descheneaux clan does not react with forbearance to acts of desertion in time of war. Neither, by the way, did Presidents George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, both cited by President Barack Obama as justification for having released to a continuing war theatre five terrorists that the U.S. Congress repeatedly refused to pry loose from Guantánamo, the prison camp in Cuba that houses major terrorists CAPTURED on the battle field. None of the "detained prisoners," Mr. Obama’s locution, had voluntarily surrendered to U.S. forces, and much blood, sweat and tears had been expended in their captures. It is true that both Mr. Washington and Mr. Lincoln exchanged prisoners at the conclusion of wars they had won, an important detail apparently lost on Mr. Obama.

Depending upon where you fall on the political spectrum, the detained terrorists are either the cream of the terrorist crop – five potential Osama bin Ladins -- or “political detainees.”

Following Mr. Obama’s release of the terrorists, Slate magazine,  a reliable left of center new outlet, called upon Mr. Obama to release the remaining Guantánamo prisoners, lest they die of old age in Cuba, attended by physicians denied to American veterans of war. If over the objections of Congress the worst of the worst terrorists in Guantánamo have been released, the rational for maintaining the terrorist holding facility collapses.

On a five hour layover at the Las Vegas terminal in Nevada, Mrs. Pesci permitted herself to wonder what Connecticut’s two Democratic U.S. Senators – most especially Senator Dick Blumenthal, who has taken an interest in veteran’s affairs, thought of the whole business. Answer: not much. And she worried needlessly over Mrs. Ernst’s follow-up ad. How do you surpass perfection?

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