Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nice guys, but . . .



They’re all nice guys, but for president we need someone who can be a hard-ass. He’s the commander in chief. He has to order men into battle to kill and be killed. He can be nice sometimes but not all the time, and our enemies must know he has fire in his belly.

They had to be nice or they never would have been elected as congressmen, senators and governors. They were the candidates for president I had a chance to question this election cycle. All have since dropped out: Sam Brownback, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Mitt Romney, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo. Of candidates still in the running, I’ve seen McCain and Huckabee speak in Washington and they seem like nice guys too. I didn’t go down there to see them, but they happened to be at the same conferences I went to, so I listened. I could have gone to hear Hillary speak nearby in Conway, NH but I didn’t feel like driving twenty miles. I don’t like Hillary and I don’t agree with her on anything. I wouldn’t have been able to question her so there was no point. Obama seems like a nice guy on television, but I don’t agree with him on anything either and I didn’t have an interview lined up, so twenty miles was too far a drive to see him too.

Nice guys can be congressmen, senators and governors because they don’t have to deal with foreign enemies who want to kill us. Nice is necessary for a president too, but not sufficient. President Carter seemed like a nice guy and became a terrible commander-in-chief. He groveled when Iranian mullahs kidnapped Americans and held them for a year and a half. As leader of the most powerful nation the world had ever seen, he was a wuss and our enemies knew it.

Bill Clinton wasn’t tough either. He was brazen, but that’s not the same thing. He feigned toughness, but Saddam Hussein knew he was bluffing and so did the rest of our enemies. I’ve known many like Clinton and you probably have too. They’re slick. They can talk a good game, but when push comes to shove they don’t have it. It’s something you just know. They’ve always been able to talk their way into something or out of something, but talk is the only weapon in their arsenal. They never consider fighting. They’re not willing to fight and they don’t know how.

Some guys don’t seem like leaders until it’s thrust upon them - like Harry Truman. Who would have predicted that he had the right stuff? He didn’t look the type but he had it - but then he’d been an artillery captain in World War I. Congressman Duncan Hunter had it but it wasn’t evident in any other candidate I interviewed. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, but we’ll never know.

Women can be courageous leaders too. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher certainly was and I sense that Reagan’s UN Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, could have been too. As fellow cabinet member Bill Bennett described her: “She had no patience with [Islamofascist] tyrannies, said they had to be confronted, you couldn't deal with tyrannies, that there were some people you could work with -- these people you couldn't.” By contrast, Clinton’s UN Ambassador, Bill Richardson, believes he can talk to anyone. His plan for dealing with the tyrannical mullahs running Iran? “I’d sit down and talk to them,” he said. “Heck, I talked with Saddam Hussein. I’ll talk to anyone.” Did Richardson have the stuff to go beyond talk? Maybe, but I didn’t sense it. Guess we’ll never know.

We have to use both gut and brain to size up candidates. It’s not for sure yet, but it looks like Americans will choose either McCain or Obama as commander-in-chief in November. What will the winner face in January? Tests like these:

Iran is building nuclear weapons, has the missiles to hit our ally Israel, and is virtually promising to do so. If we intervene, they promise to block the Strait of Hormuz. North Korea is trying to export nukes to Syria. China is spending billions beefing up its military and conducting war games around Taiwan - which we have pledged to protect and China wants to take back. Russia is beefing up its military, threatening to choke off natural gas to Europe, assassinating expatriate dissidents across that continent, and rattling sabers over Kosovo independence. Al Qaida and the Taliban are on the verge of controlling Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Venezuela threatens to choke off oil to the United States, supports communist guerillas in Colombia and Bolivia who smuggle cocaine into the United States, and conspires with Iran to bring us down. Europe, which we’ve spend trillions protecting, doesn’t want to help us in Afghanistan. No country but the United States is capable of dealing with even one of these scenarios.

Which commander-in-chief can handle these tests?

McCain? Nice guy, former fighter pilot, POW, five years of torture without breaking, decades of congressional experience in military affairs.

Obama? Nice guy, good talker . . .

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dangerous Weapon?


One of my coming-of-age milestones was carrying a pocket knife. Completing Cub Scout training at about ten, my mother allowed me to have one. For the last forty-seven years, the world judged me competent to carry it, but for about the last five it’s been getting me into trouble. It’s a little black one with a two-inch blade I got at WALMART for eight bucks. I can open the blade with one hand - which is handy since I often need it while holding onto something else with my other hand. It’s one of the six things I always have wherever I go, the others being my glasses, my watch, my planner/wallet, my pen, and my flash drive. All are essential: I can’t read without my glasses. I can’t be on time without my watch. I can’t remember much unless I write it down with my pen in my planner/wallet - without which I can’t buy anything either. I can’t transfer files between computers or back them up without my flash drive. Without my knife, I can’t peel the orange I eat every day, open envelopes, boxes, newspaper bundles, clean my fingernails, or countless other things I use it for.

All last week, however, I reached into my pocket and it wasn’t there. Finally, it was delivered back to me by Federal Express. I had to give up my little knife when I rushed through the Portland Jetport trying to catch an early flight and avoid a storm delay. I’d forgotten to put in into my luggage before checking it at the ticket counter and didn’t realize it was still in my pocket until I’d taken my shoes off and was about to go through the metal detector. The guard pointed to a little kiosk nearby where he said I could ship it to myself for five bucks if I stepped out of line. Though I had very little time before I had to board the plane, I did it. I addressed an envelope and paid the $5, then waited at the end of the line again. I still set off the alarm on the metal detector though, because I’d also forgotten to take out my pen or take off my watch. Again, I had to step aside and wait to be frisked before going to the boarding area. They let me keep my glasses and my watch.

I keep a Swiss Army knife with my traveling toiletries because it has scissors and a corkscrew. At the hotel I took it out and put it in my pocket. It’s bulky and I need two hands to open the blade, but it was better than nothing. It was okay for a few hours until I had to go through another security checkpoint to attend Vice President Cheney’s speech in the hotel’s ballroom. I had to turn on my laptop so the guards could ascertain that it really was a laptop and not a bomb, and I had to do the same thing with my digital camera. Because I was carrying that Swiss Army knife though, I had to step out of the line in which I had waited for half an hour. The guard wouldn’t keep it for me to pick up after the speech so I had to bring it up to my room, then go back down and wait in line again. Traveling between Israel and West Bank last year I could keep my pocket knife, but not while traveling between Portland and Washington DC. Israelis and Palestinians trusted me with it but my own countrymen are afraid I’m going to kill someone.

Sometimes I carry a handgun because I’m caretaker for properties with alarm systems and occasionally I have to answer one in the middle of the night. It would be foolish to do so unarmed. As a teacher, however, I work in a “gun-free zone” where there are penalties for carrying a weapon. We’ve seen how well they work lately at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. Although I consider gun-free zones a violation of my Second Amendment rights, I comply, but I refuse to give up my pocket knife. Five years ago, I got a visit from an administrator because a student had seen me peel my orange with my little black knife and she was scared. Imagine that. What are we doing to kids these days to make them scared of a two-inch pocket knife? “You’re not supposed to have those you know,” said the administrator.

I was flabbergasted. “When custodians give up utility knives and cooks give up kitchen knives, I’ll think about it,” I said. “The school is not dangerous because I have this in my pocket. If it bothers you, don’t call it a pocket knife. Call it an orange-peeler. Call it a letter opener. I’m not giving it up.”

Correction: Last week I wrote that Congressman Ron Paul withdrew from the race in his speech at CPAC. I wasn’t actually in the room for it, but watched a small portion on a monitor outside with others who reported that he was dropping out. I didn’t double-check and I should have. His campaign is anemic and hard to notice, but continuing - rather like when "Silent Cal" Coolidge died. One reporter asked: "How can you tell?"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Right Gathering


McCain at CPAC

Too bad I had to travel hundreds of miles to feel at home, but it was nice nonetheless. Very nice. Now it’s back to the reality that I live in a blue state where very few people see the world as I see it. It’s hard to get three conservatives together around here. At CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington DC, 6800 of us gathered to discuss what was important and what to do about it.

We didn’t agree on everything, but there was mutual respect between those with different opinions. Vice President Cheney spoke in the morning under heavy security on Thursday, the first day of the conference. Then, at lunchtime, I listened as Mitt Romney announced he was suspending his campaign. Most of us were shocked and I don’t think even Laura Ingraham, who introduced him, knew what was coming. That left only McCain, Huckabee, and Ron Paul, and it looked like McCain would win. With that, divisions within the attendees loomed larger. In the lobby outside the ballroom, NPR’s Mara Liasson put a microphone to my face and asked, “How do you feel about Romney dropping out?” Classic liberal question.

“You mean ‘What do I think?'” I asked.

“No. I mean how do you feel? Did you support Romney?”

I told her I did and that I was disappointed. Then she asked if I would work for McCain. I said I would vote for him but I was not inclined to work for him, except to point out in my writing why his Democrat opponent’s positions on issues are wrong. Then a New York Times reporter asked me the same question.

Many of us were struggling with the realization that our choice in November would most likely be between McCain and Obama or McCain and Clinton. Though McCain claimed to be a conservative and his support for our war with Islamofascists was strong, his positions on issues like illegal immigration, tax cuts, campaign finance, global warming, closing Guantanamo, and others were decidedly liberal. He’d even considered becoming John Kerry’s running mate in 2004. Prominent conservative leaders like Rush Limbaugh (not in attendance), Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter had been suggesting they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for McCain in November given his liberal positions. Could other strong conservatives bring themselves to put an X beside his name? That was the dilemma, and he was due to speak in a few hours.

Though I originally intended to go elsewhere in the big hotel for the next two sessions, I instead attended the ones scheduled in the big ballroom where McCain would be speaking to make sure I had a seat for his 3:00 PM appearance. During those sessions, his name came up several times as the speakers - two senators and two congressmen - began referring to him as “the presumptive nominee” and urged the audience to unite behind him. Most applauded when they heard this, but enough were booing that they could be heard everywhere in the large room. It was going to be interesting when McCain finally came to the podium.

The whole day’s program had been shuffled around to accommodate the vice president and the candidates. There was confusion when it got closer to McCain’s speech, but another factor was in play too. There were a lot of media in the room and not all of it friendly toward conservatives. Cameras were rolling. More than one speaker begged the crowd not to boo when McCain walked up but some still did whenever they heard his name. The Emcee gave a big introduction and many of us stood up and cheered loudly, but there were still plenty of audible boos. Then, instead of McCain, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma came out again to praise McCain up and down as if he were trying to tenderize the crowd. Finally, McCain came out and received the same combination of about 85% cheers and 15% boos.

It was a very important speech for McCain - almost an acceptance speech before a very sophisticated and very critical audience whose support was essential if he were to have any chance of winning the White House. He did as good a job as could be expected and moved significantly to the right on many issues including tax cuts, Supreme Court appointments and illegal immigration, pledging to build a border fence, and only after it was completed and functioning, to address the millions already here.

Later, Ron Paul announced his withdrawal, and the next morning, President Bush asked the audience to unite around the party’s nominee. Mike Huckabee came in Saturday morning saying he was still a candidate. McCain still has to beat him, win a majority of delegates, and unite the party. He’s not the nominee I would have chosen, but as for my choice in November? It’s a no-brainer: McCain. I hope my fellow conservatives come around to that before November.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sensitivity Credits


Former President Bill Clinton has been cashing in Sensitivity Credits (SCs) as he plays hatchet man for his wife’s campaign. He's criticising Barack Obama - a member of a protected minority within his own party and that's a no-no for Democrats. You can do it, but you have to have a lot of SCs in the bank to pay for it and he's already used up quite a few. Will he get away with it? Time will tell.

Sensitivity Credits are something like Carbon Credits (CCs) for liberals. You remember them: they give people like Al Gore the ability to cruise around the world in private, carbon-producing jets while preaching “The End Is Near!” in the form of the global warming he insists is caused by people doing exactly what he’s doing - cruising around the world in carbon-producing, private jets. He’s not a hypocrite as long has he has enough Carbon Credits to cash in.

Who invented CCs? I think it was Al Gore, a decade or two after he invented the Internet. Where do you get CCs? It’s rather mysterious actually. One way to accumulate them, apparently, is by preaching the Chicken Little litany of horrible things imminently threatening the earth’s survival because of global warming. When Gore attends a Chicken Little summit meeting like the recent one in Davos, Switzerland, he earns more CCs than he expends by traveling to and fro. There are plenty left over to offset his huge, private residences which use far more energy than the average American’s home. The same would be true for all the other attendees - the Hollywood types who comprise Gore’s amen corner. They too earn a surplus of CCs which more than offset their extravagant, carbon-producing lifestyles and enable them to escape the label of hypocrite in the eyes of the Mainstream Media (MSM) personalities who laud them and live similar lifestyles themselves. If writings like this give them qualms by questioning the convenience of this mutual admiration society, they can limit themselves to one sheet of toilet paper per sitting or buy a Toyota Prius to assuage their guilt.

For ordinary people who worry that the sky is falling because of Global Warming, they can earn CCs by starting a compost pile, riding a bicycle to work, or buying a solar-powered vibrator at Treehugger.com.

Who invented Sensitivity Credits (SCs)? I don’t know exactly. I came up with the term but they’ve existed for quite a while. If Carbon Credits (CCs) enable one to escape charges of environmental hypocrisy, then Sensitivity Credits enable users to engage in the kind of behavior that would otherwise be labeled racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, and so forth, if anyone without a cache of SCs were to engage in it.

How can one accumulate SCs? A president can earn more than the average citizen by vetoing bills that restrict abortion or signing those which would benefit women, minorities, or homosexuals. President Clinton amassed a huge pile of SCs this way and added to it every time he bit his lip on camera. Ordinary citizens can accumulate a few here and there by voting Democrat, contributing to the ACLU, wearing AIDS Awareness ribbons, celebrating Black History Month, becoming vegetarian, promoting animal rights, attending Gay Pride parades, and eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

There are some peculiar guidelines, however, about people who are eligible to possess Sensitivity Credits. There exists a kind of Affirmative Action program for minorities, especially blacks, in that they seem to be born with an account in place by virtue of color. They get passes for degrading women both in their lifestyles and in their “music.” They’re virtually exempt from charges of racism when they write derogatory lyrics about whites because those who control the SC Reserve make the rules, which say: only white people can be racist and blacks are inherently immune.

Curiously, there are some who can never possess Sensitivity Credits under any circumstances. Among these would be people who oppose abortion - even if they’re black. Clarence Thomas found this out the hard way when the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Mainstream Media ran him through the ringer during his confirmation hearings for the US Supreme Court because, unlike his black predecessor Thurgood Marshal, he believed abortion was killing babies and he would never support it on the bench the way Marshal did. So, he was “Borked.” As Thomas put it: “[This] is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.” Because he, too, opposes abortion, President Bush never got any SCs either, even after he spent $15 billion fighting AIDS in Africa. Supporting abortion is an ironclad prerequisite for possessing Sensitivity Credits.

When Bill Clinton was in office he would run his huge account of SCs dangerously low because he sexually harassed subordinate women almost continuously. To keep the National Association of Women (NOW) and NBC Nightly News quiet about allegations that he forcibly raped a woman named Juanita Broderick used up a small fortune in SCs. Then came his impeachment trial in the Senate for lying under oath during a sexual harassment investigation. Only an emergency injection of SCs through extensive mea culpas with “spiritual advisor” Jesse Jackson got him through that. His pardons of rich, white guys during his last days in office bankrupted him. His recent attacks on Barack Obama have run him far enough into the red that whispered suggestions in the MSM that he shut up have begun.

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