The Election Chronicles Volume 9: We Should All Be Alarmed by Dr. Ben Carson's Words

Last weekend presidential candidate Ben Carson appeared on the NBC program Meet the Press. This show has been a staple of Sunday morning news since 1947 and deserves all the respect it receives.

In 1975 President Ford appeared as the first current President to appear but long before that we’ve recognized the importance of the show in our choice of the next President.

This past weekend Ben Carson made news when he told Chuck Todd that No Muslim should be President. He explained that a Muslim can’t be trusted as his (or her) primary loyalty would be to his (or her) faith over his (or her) patriotism.

This alarms me as a Catholic. It’s hard to believe but there was a time when a majority of Americans felt the same way about Catholics.

Al Smith ran for President in 1928 and lost, in part because he was Catholic. In 1960 John F. Kennedy ran for President even though 25% of Americans believed they couldn’t vote for a Catholic because they felt that his first loyalty was in Rome and the Pope would tell him how to lead.

We Catholics knew how silly this was. We knew the Pope had no desire to rule the United States and we liked the idea that “one of us” could lead our country. We were right.

And as for Muslims? C’mon! Islam calls its followers to 5 pillars: to believe, to pray, to donate, to fast, and to travel to Mecca. It explicitly forbids violence against anyone.

In the nine Presidential elections I’ve voted every time. I’ve voted my values each time. If a Muslim runs in my lifetime who professes a concern for the poor, a belief that our best days are ahead of us, and we can create a nation where our children are better off than we are, I’ll vote for him (or her).

I call everyone who reads this to do the same.

The Election 2016 Chronciles Volume 8: Rick Perry Drops Out

Yesterday we learned that Rick Perry has “suspended” his campaign for president. This allows him to continue to raise money even though nobody really believes he’ll be president: any money he collects is donated by wealthy people who feel badly for him and don’t want him to be responsible for debts collected during his delusional belief that anyone would vote to make him president.

He’s the first of the GOP crowd to drop out and it doesn’t really surprise anyone. Rick did poorly four years ago in the last presidential race and many residents of Texas expressed embarrassment. When he declared his candidacy for 2016 most people hoped they could ignore him.

Enough did. His poll numbers never really made him a serious candidate and his decision to wear eyeglasses didn’t make him look smarter.

On August 10th his campaign admitted that they could no longer pay his campaign staffers. Some stayed, some left, but nobody could claim his campaign was viable.

The Election 2016 Chronicles, Volume 7: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Constitution, Part 2

In my last post I spoke of citizenship issues from a historical perspective. We really can’t have a full discussion about citizenship without speaking about the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

This amendment was passed on July 28, 1868 and it granted automatic citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Clearly this amendment was intended to grant citizenship to all the newly freed African slaves but its reach has proven much greater.

For the rest of the 19th Century and much of the 20th Century our nation found itself to be a land that others dreamed of. Immigrants from virtually every other nation on earth found their way here in the hopes that through hard work and dedication they could provide a better life for their children, grandchildren, etc. The 14th Amendment guaranteed that no matter how they got here, anyone born here could stay and enjoy the full privileges of citizenship. My father was one of those people (my grandparents came from Canada around 1915).

There have been challenges to this. Wong King Ark was born in San Francisco in 1873 to parents who lived here (but were not citizens). In 1894 he traveled to China for a visit but on his return to the US in 1895 was told he was not a citizen because of the Chinese Exclusion Act that I spoke about in the previous post.

The case of The United States vs. Wong Kim Ark went to the Supreme Court and on March 28, 1898 they decided on a 6-2 vote that Mr. Ark was indeed a U.S. citizen. The majority argued that someone born on U.S. soil could be denied citizenship for only 3 reasons:

  • If the person was born of parents who were rulers or diplomats of a foreign country
  • If the person was born on foreign public ships (I’m guessing they are talking about a child born on a ship in a U.S. port)
  • If a person born to enemy forces who are here to to defeat the United States in war

And while Mr. Ark’s parents were here legally, that fact did not enter into the decision.

That’s right: nowhere does it base Mr. Ark’s citizenship on whether or not his parents were documented or undocumented.

But that appears to be the crux of Mr. Trump’s argument. You can read an article about an exchange between Mr. Trump and Bill O’Reilly.

With absolutely no analysis Mr. Trump insists that children born here of undocumented residents are not citizens. To be fair, he is a real estate developer with no legal training at all. He speaks of lawyers who insist that claims of these children “will not hold up in court.”

I disagree. If you were born here, you’re as much a US citizen as I am and I welcome you. I encourage you to stay in school, find your passion, and contribute as much to this blessed country as my father has.

Oh, and for my mother? Well, her father was born here in 1902 to Irish immigrants. Her mother was born in Massachusetts to a father who was born in Canada and a mother who (as far as we can tell) was born in Michigan. Her parents were born in Canada. In other words if you go back to 1850 nobody in my family was born in the US.

As for me, I love being an American and want that feeling to be passed on to anyone who is as fortunate as I was to be born here.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 6: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Constitution, Part 1

As I write this we are 14 months away from the 2016 presidential election and at this point immigration appears the be the primary issue. I hope the national discussion moves on, but for now this is what we have.

I’ve always been fascinated by this because as Americans we recognize that we are a “nation of immigrants” (apologies to our Native Americans) but at the same time we’ve shown a shocking lack of tolerance for our latest immigrants.

In the 1800s (when our nation was about 100 years old) there was a push to limit immigration. In the 1850s we saw the birth of the Know Nothing Party. They got their name because they were instructed to say “I know nothing” whenever anyone asked them to explain their position. It didn’t work: nearly everyone knew that they believed that immigrants (particularly Catholic ones) were going to destroy the United States.

The “No Nothing Party” didn’t last long but the fear of immigrants did. Large cities on the East Coast were replete with anti-immigrant feelings. Nearly everyone who sought a job saw signs on factory windows that said: “NINA.” It was code for “No Irish Need Apply” or “No Italians Need Apply.”

This ran against the reality that these immigrants made us who we are today. Speaking of the Irish, many of us look fondly on President John F. Kennedy. His great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy (1823-1858) immigrated to Boston in 1849. Interestingly enough he came from Ireland to Boston 39 years before my great grandfather made the same trip.

Not impressed with John Kennedy? Fair enough. How about President Ronald Reagan? His grandfather, John Michael Reagan (1854-1889) left England and came to New York in 1871.

Still not impressed? Fair enough. The grandfather of Donald Trump, Frederick Christ Trump (1869-1918) came to the United States in 1885.

Now Donald and all his “Know Nothing” followers will claim that they all came here legally and that makes a difference.

Fair enough, as far as it goes. But here’s the problem: Until 1921 nearly anyone who came here could stay. In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886) signed the Chinese Exclusion Act which made it difficult, even impossible at times, for Chinese immigrants to stay and become citizens. But that applied only to the Chinese.

If you came from nearly anywhere else it was different. My father’s parents were both born in Canada. They loved the land where they were born but knew it was too hard to make a living and they made their way to Massachusetts. And they did it much the same way John Kennedy’s great grandfather, Ronald Reagan’s grandfather, and Donald Trump’s grandfather did the same thing.

They all had the good fortune to arrive before 1921. In that year Congress passed the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 which limited immigration from all countries. It’s been amended countless times since then but the reality remains: no matter where you were born, no matter what you face in your country, no matter what you can offer in terms of your skills, no matter what you dream about for your children, it’s much harder to come here legally.

If you were born in Mexico, have a high school education, and don’t have a relative to sponsor you, it’s a hard climb. Thousands of undocumented workers currently in the United States came here under the radar and mow your lawn, wash the dishes when you eat at a restaurant, and clean your house.

Donald and his ilk claim that they have no problem with them, they just want them to “wait their turn” and get here legally. Fair enough. So here’s my question: how long do you think it will take for someone with a high school education and no family here to get a green card? Do you think it’s a year? Maybe 5 years? Maybe a little more?

Guess again. I’ve done some research and it appears that it will take you about 25 years to come here legally. So if you first applied in 1990, your phone should ring soon. If you apply today, be by your phone in 2040. Of course if you were 20 years old at the time (and could work hard in difficult situations) you’re now 45. Mexico got your best years.

My grandfather came here in 1915 when he was 23. By 1940 (25 years later) he was married with 7 children. Those years were much better spent here than they would have been in Canada.

Enough for now. My next blog post will discuss how Trump’s position requires amending the Constitution.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 5: Should We Be Worried About Donald Trump's Numbers?

When Donald Trump announced he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2016 most Americans ignored him. He’s done this before. In 1999 he declared himself a candidate for the Reform Party, though he dropped out after a few months. After a few flirtations for the 2012 election he ended his candidacy.

But two months ago he announced his candidacy and it’s different now. It appears he’s serious and thinks he can win. The polls seem to back him up: as of right now he garners the support of 24% of Republican voters (Jeb Bush is in 2nd place with 13% of the vote) and in a head to head competition with Hillary Clinton he’s only 6 points behind.

We are a year away from the nominating conventions and fifteen months away from the election but already there is copious amounts of chatter that the Donald may be our next president. I have to confess a certain amount of amusement over this. Fringe candidates like Donald Trump and Rand Paul feed into the general discontent many voters feel. Fifteen months out it’s easy to express anger and frustration without having to worry about actually voting for these tangential candidates.

But the 24 hour news cycle is benefiting from this energy and projecting that our next president may be one of these. It won’t. The long journey to the White House demands a candidate who reflects the values, hopes, and dreams of the majority of Americans. It’s no coincidence that Ross Perot in 1992 and John Anderson in 1980 garnered more interest than votes.

These candidates and many others believe that a momentary spike in the polls will translate into a belief in their leadership. We American voters respond to pollsters in different ways: fifteen months out we express our fears and frustrations, and in the voting booth we vote for our dreams.

Many voters worry about the direction of our country and most of them are expressing their fears. But at the end of the conversation they’re not willing to entrust our future to someone who expresses only anger and no leadership. In November of 2016 we will all vote for the candidate who best expresses where we want to be in the future.

I believe most of us want a future where all of us have what we need, where we welcome those who want to join us in building a more perfect union. Where anyone who wants to advance has the opportunity to do so. Where all of us recognize that our ancestors came to this land with a determination to work and a hope to provide for us, their descendants. When we vote in November, 2016 we need to remember them.

I believe that all of us who will vote for our next president will recognize the candidates who share our values and support our descendants as much as our ancestors.

And more to the point I hope all of us will look at Donald Trump and the rest of his supporters and recognize that our nation will do well by choosing someone who will lead us from fear and toward inclusion. Donald won’t do that.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 4: Donald Trump Explores New Horizons in Offensive Speech

In a previous post I spoke about Donald Trump and the offensive remarks he made about immigrants. I hoped that either he would grow up or drop out of the race.

Oh well. On Saturday, July 18th he was being interviewed by Frank Luntz at the Family Leadership Summit. In the course of the interview Mr. Luntz referred to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as a “war hero.” It’s kind of a throwaway line as I think most of us view Senator McCain as a hero. He was a Navy pilot who was shot down in 1967 over North Vietnam. From then until 1973, when he was released, he endured horrific injuries, botched surgeries, near starvation, and torture. In 1968 the North Vietnamese offered to send him home but he refused to go unless all those who had been POW’s longer than him were also released. The North Vietnamese refused and he was a prisoner for another five years.

By any definition he was a hero. He was someone whose actions encourage others to serve and live with greater courage and distinction. Simply put, his actions made all of us better people.

Enter Donald Trump. For a full transcript of Mr. Trump’s remarks you can look here.

There’s enough offense here to go around but I want to focus on one line:

.. He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you that. He’s a war hero because he was captured, okay?

If Mr. Trump likes people who weren’t captured he’s telling us one of two things:

  1. He’s not a hero because heroes are those people who are smart enough or skilled enough to not get shot down. This is hard to stomach because it’s only the bravest enough among us to go that far into harm’s way. Senator McCain wasn’t shot down over friendly territory or even neutral territory. Hanoi was the capital of North Vietnam and there wasn’t a more dangerous place in the war. He stood tall in Hell.
  2. He’s not a hero because he surrendered. American POW’s were treated harshly in World War II because the Japanese believed that honorable soldiers would kill themselves before allowing themselves to be captured. Japanese captors believed that American POW’s were the “lowest of the low” because they were too cowardly to take the honorable route and commit suicide.

So this is an open question to Mr. Trump: If you believe Senator McCain isn’t a hero, is it because of reason #1 or reason #2?

By the way there’s an excellent article in today’s Washington Post. It gives a timeline of both Mr. Trump and Senator McCain from 1968 to 1973.

In fairness to Mr. Trump, while Senator McCain was being tortured by the North Vietnamese, Mr. Trump spent countless hours collecting rent from tenants in his apartments.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 3: The List of Candidates Keeps Growing (and I'm Trying to Keep Up)

Every four years I give myself a self inflicted wound. I try to keep track of candidates for the next Presidential race. If that weren’t enough, once the delegate race begins I try to keep track of how many delegates are committed to each candidate.

This is more complicated that you might think. As I write this the “conventional wisdom” claims there are 15 running for the Republican nomination and 4 for the Democratic nomination.

That’s at least who I have listed on the left column of this blog. But if you go to the Republican web page there is a straw poll that includes Mark Everson (who has declared but is not taken seriously by most Republicans), Jim Gilmore (who hasn’t declared and doesn’t have a web page, only a facebook page), John Kasich (who also hasn’t declared and has only a facebook page and a twitter feed), and Peter King who hasn’t declared but does have a web page.

On top of that you can look at web pages that list Republican, Democrat candidates as well as candidates for other parties. These pages list dozens of other declared and potential candidates.

Both major parties will have to walk through the weeds and determine who are viable when they choose not only funding but also places at debates.

God it’s great fun to live in a democracy.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 2: An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald:

I’m writing to share some good news with you: Today, July 9, 2015 my nephew and godson Nathan Rycroft earned a Ph.D from Boston University.

I’m writing to tell you about this event not because of Dr. Rycroft, but because of his great grandfather Calixte Allain.

You see, your words on immigration have prompted me to think about the role of immigration in my family. On June 16, 2015 you said this:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending me. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Nathan’s great grandfather left his home in Canada and came to Gardner, Massachusetts somewhere around 1915. He married in 1918, had children born in 1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928, and 1931. Of his seven children, he had five boys. Of those boys, four of them served in uniform during World War II or Korea, or both. He worked hard all his life and he did it with essentially a 3rd grade education.

His youngest son (Donald), Nathan’s grandfather, was able to earn a high school diploma. He did it through a combination of Calixte’s and Emma’s dedication and Donald’s determination.

Donald married in 1958, moved to Woodbridge, Virginia and had children born in 1960 (me) and 1962 (my sister Lisa). Both of us earned Master’s degrees, me from Catholic University and Lisa from American University. We did it through a combination of Donald’s and Claire’s dedication and our determination.

Lisa married in 1984 and had children born in 1987 (Nathan) and 1991 (Christopher). Nathan graduated college in 2009 and Chris in 2015. Nathan went on to get his Ph.D today.

I’m writing to you to tell you that Nathan’s great grandfather didn’t come to this country with “problems.” He came here with a determination to make a better life for him, his future wife, and future children (and grandchildren and great grandchildren). He didn’t bring crime, drugs and he didn’t come to rape anyone. He brought a future of good people who are now working hard, paying taxes, and are the kind of Americans you want to attract.

I understand that you are attracting potential voters and funding with your invective against people who don’t look like you (or me) but I want you to know that your bigotry runs against our history as Americans. The Statue of Liberty welcomes the people you want to exclude.

Please stop your bigotry.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 1: Countdown to Election 2016

As many of you know, every four years I begin to track those who are running for President. And even though the election is over 17 months away, the campaign is beginning in full swing.

As I write this the race for the nomination for the Democrats is a small field. But the race for the Republican nomination is a much more open field. In the past I’ve gone to pains to include those who seek the nomination in other parties or those who run as independents.

Running against the current of common sense I’ve done it again. If you scroll down the left side of this page you’ll see those I’ve listed. I have a few criteria. I won’t list anyone who hasn’t declared. Several candidates in both parties are “exploring” whether or not to run; I’ll include them when they declare.

There are several smaller parties who run candidates and I begin with their web pages. Again you need to declare to be included.

By far the independents are the hardest group to track. I’ve developed this criteria for this list: you have to be eligible to be president (ie, 35 years old and a U.S. citizen by birth) and you have to have a web page. I know this probably discriminates against candidates who are not computer literate, but since I depend on computer searches, it’s the best I can do. If you write to me and tell me you’re running, I’ll include you.

Let the races begin.