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Boardman writes: "The country seems subsumed in a moral numbness where only the powerless majority of humane people shares the global horror at the path down which the powerful in our government and corporate society are taking us without our consent."

President Donald Trump celebrates after his speech at the presidential inauguration. (photo: Saul Loeb/AP)
President Donald Trump celebrates after his speech at the presidential inauguration. (photo: Saul Loeb/AP)

The World Stands Aghast at the Moral Vacuum of American Leadership

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

04 April 17


I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor…. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America, who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption… I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken….

– Rev. Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

ifty years later, with direct references to America’s genocidal war in Vietnam removed from the speech, Dr. King’s words have more relevance than they did then: the world is more aghast now than ever at the path the US has taken, but the US itself has less resilience, less coherence, less national vitality than ever. In the years leading up to 1967, even as the US escalated war in Vietnam, the country also passed culture-defining legislation supporting civil rights and voting rights and addressing poverty. Now the energy and vision the country needs for resistance remains diffuse, unfocused, ineffective, while ridiculed or ignored by those in power. The country seems subsumed in a moral numbness where only the powerless majority of humane people shares the global horror at the path down which the powerful in our government and corporate society are taking us without our consent.

The Supreme Court hijacking is but one vivid example among hundreds now, if not thousands. Republicans shredded the Constitution by refusing even to consider President Obama’s choice for the court. It did not matter to Republicans that Merrick Garland was a relatively tepid political choice, a compromise candidate by all appearances (Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch called Garland “a consensus candidate” in 2010). Republicans don’t work toward consensus, Republicans don’t compromise, Republicans shoot the wounded. Such Republican behavior is as thoroughly corrupt and reprehensible as it is now all too predictable. Given the unacceptability of Republican actions, what is one to make of Democrats responding to these political high crimes with little more than token whimpers? Why did President Obama leave Merrick Garland to twist slowly, slowly in the wind for almost a year (while he, himself, went golfing how many times)? Where was the public outrage of a Democratic president, of the Democratic Party, of that party’s presidential candidates, or even a single courageous senator or congressman willing to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire in preference to letting them burn the Constitution?

On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On January 20, 2017, that nomination lapsed with the swearing-in of the new president. In the interim, the White House and Democrats in general mostly maintained radio silence on the nomination. (Google searches for “Obama defends Garland” and “Democrats defend Garland” produce nothing more recent than May 2016 until after the election.) Nowhere in his presidency, despite some real and worthwhile achievements, did President Obama come close to rising to the moral profundity of Dr. King. Early on in the Garland farce, the president was remarkably callow:

The way I’ve thought about diversity is not to think about any single seat as ‘I’ve got to fill this slot with this demographic.’ … at no point did I say oh you know what — I need a black lesbian from Skokie in that slot. Can you find me one?... Yeah [Garland is] a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist. Sorry. I think that’s important.

Certainly it’s important to have an outstanding jurist on the Supreme Court, but it wasn’t important enough to the president to go to the mat for his nominee, it wasn’t enough for the president to defend presidential prerogative in appointing Supreme Court justices, it wasn’t important enough to put a centrist justice on the court for President Obama to make it a daily issue on which the Republicans had no principled defense. Neither the president nor his surrogates lobbied the Senate on a daily basis, as they could have. Nor did they maintain a daily media campaign, as they could have. Nor did they go to court to compel the Senate to perform its constitutional duty, as they could have. Collectively, they rolled over and died. Even the American Bar Association was more vocal later in support of Merrick Garland than Democrats. Even Neil Gorsuch has had nicer things to say about Merrick Garland than Bernie Sanders has.

Garland’s year of hanging quietly as an ignored piñata is mystifying when viewed through a lens of principle. It’s less mystifying as reflected in the distorting mirror of politics, especially the remarkably corrupt Democratic presidential politics of 2016. (A Google search of “Hillary defends Garland” finds her backing him in March and denigrating him in September.) A year ago, remember, pretty much everyone thought the Democrats were going to win the presidency and likely the Senate, too. On March 15, 2016, Clinton won every contested state (OH, NC, FL, IL, MO) and Trump did almost as well, losing only Ohio to Kasich. Here’s a whiff of the March magic thinking those primaries produced:

Crafty of O [Obama] to wait until the morning after Trump’s backbreaking wins last night to stick McConnell with this [Garland nomination]. Now Senate Republicans will face maximum pressure from both sides.
If they cave and decide to give Garland a hearing after all, Republican voters who are still cool to Trump might decide to vote for him in a burst of “burn it all down” rage. A betrayal here hands Trump the nomination — assuming there’s any doubt that he’s already on track to win it. If, on the other hand, McConnell stands firm, he’s blowing an opportunity to confirm a nominee who’s likely to be more “moderate” than what President Hillary will offer next year. The conventional wisdom on Trump right now is that he’s a dead duck in the general election barring some sort of national crisis. I don’t agree with it, but it’s not out of left field: His favorable rating, for instance, is toxic and it’s an open question whether he could organize a national campaign capable of matching Hillary’s. If McConnell agrees with that CW, that Hillary’s a prohibitive favorite to win and that the backlash to Trump will hand Democrats the Senate, then refusing to confirm Garland now clears the path for Democrats to nominate and confirm a young hyper-liberal justice next year. Garland is already in his 60s and is no far-lefty; if Hillary wins big, liberals will insist that she exploit her mandate by engineering a new Warren Court. (Garland, ironically, clerked for the most liberal member of the Warren Court but he hasn’t followed the same trajectory as a judge.) So what do you do if you’re Mitch the Knife? Accept a quarter-loaf here by confirming a guy whose centrist credentials will be used to show just how unreasonable and obstructionist the GOP is in blocking him? Or risk having no loaf at all when Democrats win this fall and ram through whoever they want?

This commentator (identified as ALLAHPUNDIT) goes on to consider the possibility of a Trump presidency with a Democratic Senate. And he predicts that Merrick Garland will be confirmed sooner or later. He does not even imagine what we have come to know as reality. In this new reality we have Neil Gorsuch nominated to the Supreme Court, where his stone-cold inhumanity will work to shape the quality of our lives for a generation. Sure, Senate Democrats, most of them, eventually, are putting up a last-minute fight, and maybe they can win it. But even the Republican trashing of the Constitution over Garland wasn’t enough to bother Democrats like Joe Manchin or Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Donnelly to reward that daylight robbery (to which none objected at the time), behavior for which The Washington Post, without apparent irony, dubs them “three moderate Democrats.”

As this is written late on April 3, the outcome is undecided. But whether the country gets Justice Gorsuch or some other Trump nominee, the credit goes to Democrats. They chose politics over principle for most of 2016 and this is what they achieved. And even now, having lost and lost and lost, the party shows little sign of being able to see itself clearly in a mirror, much less identifying all the ways it needs to change to become anything like a democratic party ever again.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+69 # kyzipster 2017-04-04 10:52
Yes, the Democrats are to blame for their role but the fault lies solely with them? Not how I see it, Republicans chose obstruction for 8 years over the greater good. The media didn't ignore it, it was written about and talked about countless times. Right-wing media had a much different spin on it and voters chose to reward this obstruction by giving all power to the GOP once again, the fault lies with the US populace.
+25 # WBoardman 2017-04-04 15:40
kyzipster is surely right about Republican bad faith,
dishonesty, obstructionism, scorched earth policies.

kyzipster pays no attention to Democratic limpness,
timidity, lack of principle, general lack of spine.

We'll never know whether Republicans would have
succeeded in the face of principled, determined
opposition, because there was none sustained
by Democrats.
+9 # lfeuille 2017-04-04 23:15
Maybe because they knew that the base was not all that crazy about Garland. I for one was pissed that Obama didn't try for a real progressive. It was a pretty good bet that the Republican's wouldn't have anyone since they announced their intention not to.
+2 # kyzipster 2017-04-05 09:44
"kyzipster pays no attention to Democratic limpness, timidity, lack of principle, general lack of spine."

You're like a broken record. I clearly said that Dems are to blame for their role. I think it's pointless and boring to constantly repeat what that role is, we all know their weaknesses.
+12 # economagic 2017-04-04 18:59
Sorry, the fault DOES lie squarely with the Democratic misleadership, for their smug refusal to quit being so LOYAL (to themselves, in their imaginations, and to what they foolishly still believed to be the status quo, especially regarding "taking turns"), and to begin acting in OPPOSITION to what any nincompoop could see as a coup 50 year in the making. Too bad almost the entire punditocracy missed it as well.
+1 # kyzipster 2017-04-05 10:24
IMO, it doesn't matter how the Democrats act, conservatives control the debate, they control the media, they define Democrats, liberalism, etc. Yes, I think the Democrats would do well to grow some backbone but I don't think it would have made any difference. They're damned if they do/if they don't and the GOP is always rewarded when nothing gets done.

The US electorate is at the top of my list when assigning blame. This wasn't a coup, our voting system may be corrupt to a degree but Republicans are better at politics.
+42 # CDMR 2017-04-04 11:29
Boardman is right. Even Chomasky has said recently that the whole world is laughing at the degneeration of American politics into childish temper tantrums. The stakes are really high. The political party which holds the white house gets to dole out trillions of dollars and a certain percentage of that is skimmed off for the friends of the president.

Most executive agencies spend most of their money on contractors and contractors are always friends of the ruling party. There are always kick-backs paid, only they are not called that. They are called "campaign contributions."

The two parties are equally corrupt. Their fighting over the spoils of power are destroying America. The people are powerless to throw these bums out. They would love to elect an outsider who was not party of the Demo-Repub in-fighting, but when they try they get a Trump or an Obama.

This is the way empires die. The central government in Washington is dying. The sickness is the great vacuum Boardman describes. I say, let it go. Once the Washington regime collapses, then people can rebuild with other structures and configurations of nations. The sooner Wasnington collapses, the better for the whole world.
+5 # lfeuille 2017-04-04 23:16
This is basically true, but I still think Garland is a poor example.
+43 # Blackjack 2017-04-04 14:02
I do not recall Obama "going to the mat" for any one or any cause while in office. He mostly just played it safe and finagled around the edges, hoping that would satisfy. Apparently, it did satisfy most Dems who almost completely lost their collective backbones decades ago. The "opposition party" really never opposed much of anything because there was too much personally at stake for them to take the risk, so the Repukes just kept on keeping on with little to deter them. Now we're all suffering the unspeakable cruelty of the Republicans and the unmitigated stupidity and cowardice of the Democrats. Is this country salvageable? It remains to be seen, but I'm not holding my breath. Neither party seems willing to step up to the plate, take a collective moral stand, and do what is necessary to right this ship of state, on the verge of capsizing.
+8 # RLF 2017-04-05 05:41
And in Obama's final act he continued the neocon(republic an light)nonsense with Perez.
+24 # Charles3000 2017-04-04 14:23
I read a comment recently from a symposium on these issues, a comment I have supported for a long while. The churches in our land have stopped commenting on moral issues and have, because of that, become powerless entities. There was a time, decades ago, when churches could, with united voices, block unethical and immoral acts by the government. They no longer have that voice.
+12 # kyzipster 2017-04-04 15:33
I recently read about an investment concern that caters to Christian conservatives. They avoid investments in companies that favor LGBTQ rights and the right to terminate a pregnancy. Apparently the oppression of the working poor at home and abroad, military excess, the environment, etc, does not fall under their radar.
+14 # Cassandra2012 2017-04-04 18:38
Quoting Charles3000:
I read a comment recently from a symposium on these issues, a comment I have supported for a long while. The churches in our land have stopped commenting on moral issues and have, because of that, become powerless entities. There was a time, decades ago, when churches could, with united voices, block unethical and immoral acts by the government. They no longer have that voice.

They choose to pontificate against women instead...
+17 # janla 2017-04-04 18:59
Quoting Charles3000:
I read a comment recently from a symposium on these issues, a comment I have supported for a long while. The churches in our land have stopped commenting on moral issues and have, because of that, become powerless entities. There was a time, decades ago, when churches could, with united voices, block unethical and immoral acts by the government. They no longer have that voice.

Now they are happy to block women's sexuality and reproductive choices and to feel righteous while doing it.
+13 # economagic 2017-04-04 19:13
Oh, plenty of the churches preach incessantly their version of "morality," namely, blind adherence to rules some of which made sense or at least had some clear societal function 2-4 millennia ago but have little if anything to do with society of the 21st century. The only "moral choice" they recognize is to obey the rules or not, there being no more than two sides to any question. Such thinking originated primarily with Aristotle more than 2 millennia ago, and many thoughtful people recognized its folly two centuries or more ago. The real moral lapse I see in the US in the 21st-century is that most of us have forgotten "There but for the grace of God go I." The truth of that insight is not lessened by my being an atheist.
+8 # randrjwr 2017-04-05 09:40
Quoting Charles3000:
I read a comment recently from a symposium on these issues, a comment I have supported for a long while. The churches in our land have stopped commenting on moral issues and have, because of that, become powerless entities. There was a time, decades ago, when churches could, with united voices, block unethical and immoral acts by the government. They no longer have that voice.

The Christian churches, with few exceptions, have no moral voice because they are sparingly moral themselves. How many of our Christian churches, especially the more conservative, fundamentalist ones, adhere to what I believe is the core belief of Christianity: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me."? That is my guiding principle, followed closely by "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
+34 # ywsf 2017-04-04 14:26
When the destruction is complete there will be n o rebuilding. The world will no longer trust us, and who can blame them. Like all SuperPowers, we blew it. China will probably take over as world leader then, and America can lick its wounds of stupidity and try to move on.
+46 # revhen 2017-04-04 14:40
Republican senators disobeyed the Constitution which they swore to uphold when they took office.
+16 # wrknight 2017-04-04 17:58
True, but unfortunately, American voters will let them get away with it.
+19 # Cassandra2012 2017-04-04 18:40
Quoting revhen:
Republican senators disobeyed the Constitution which they swore to uphold when they took office.

Yes they put loyalty to party before loyalty to the country and constitution. That is akin to treason and shows a complete lack of moral compass.
-1 # John S. Browne 2017-04-05 14:55

Oh, come on, so did the Democratic Party and most "democrats"!

+17 # Wise woman 2017-04-04 16:01
There's an old saying - with all this sh+t, there's got to be a pony in there somewhere. I suggest we keep on looking for the pony instead of focusing on the sh+t. That way we can keep abreast of what needs to be done to change what needs to be changed. The great collapse that we are now experiencing is fertile ground for new life.
+7 # Jadhu 2017-04-05 03:44
For all the lecturing we Americans engage in when it comes to morality and other airs of superiority, we have just proved that there is nothing exceptional about us. We HAD a great system. We are intent on messing it up.
+17 # RLF 2017-04-05 05:38
The only thing that has changed is that Trump isn't hiding the way the rich have always been towards the rest of us...they don't give a crap as long as they can fleece us to line their own nests.
+2 # Jadhu 2017-04-09 01:42
That trend started with Bush--blatant about things that had remained hidden in past years...
+12 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-04-05 06:31
Let's see if RSN will re-publish this latest by Matt Taibbi. Seems that Taibbi is coming around to seeing the lunacy of the democrats in their jihad against Russia. He writes:

"If the party's leaders really believe that Russian intervention is anywhere in the top 100 list of reasons why some 155 million eligible voters (out of 231 million) chose not to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton last year, they're farther along down the Purity of Essence nut-hole than Mark Warner."

Or this --

"Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia's apparent hack of DNC emails an "act of war." This coupling seemed at first like political end times:"

I agree with Taibbi. Pushing the "Russia did it narrative" is the wrong way for the democratic party. In the end, it will destroy the Demo party even more than it did to itself with the rigged DNC process last summer.
-2 # WBoardman 2017-04-05 11:50
Raskolnikov and Taibbi risk arguing a false choice.

The Russian thing (whatever it really is) doesn't have to be
the reason Clinton lost to be important in its own terms.

Any time you have Donna Brazile in bed with Dick Cheney,
both hyperventilatin g,
it's probably worth finding out why.

The amount of circumstantial evidence of Russian
involvement with Trump and co – worth some $50 million
to Trump on the Palm Beach house alone – should make
any sensate being sit up and ask whaaaa???

Framing it as Raskolnikov does is literally a call to cover-up.
+3 # John S. Browne 2017-04-05 06:49

Non-ironically speaking, how are you surprised at all, Boardman? The U.S. government on both sides of the aisle spends most of it's time on terrorism, on the U.S. government's expanding terrorism and empire building, and expanding the surveillance state and trashing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The "Congresscritte rs" and "non-senatorial -Senators" fall over themselves and eachother to not appear soft on terrorism, to believe all the lies about "domestic terrorism" that is mostly created by the deep state shadow government and the FBI, etc. [thus "justifying" essentially making the entire country already, and increasingly, under martial law, with the American populace having no privacy, being criminalized for defending and exercising their human and civil rights and duties to resist this "totaliterroriz ing" by the U.S. government, and "totalitarianiz ation" of the whole country by same, everyone in the U.S. being increasingly monitored for any signs of dissent---again , a duty of U.S. citizens to exercise against rising tyranny as we see becoming a colossal beast in the U.S. today, all dissenters being put on watch lists (and treated like "terrorists" if, and/or when, they fly---with many other citizens, ones who are not even dissenters, being subjected to same as well {are there any of the former who fall through the cracks, I think not})...

(Continued below)
-1 # John S. Browne 2017-04-05 10:00

(Continued from above)

...(A)nd the U.S. government and military terrorizing more and more of the world, and intentionally creating more enemies and blowback against us, making the U.S. less and less safe, and purposefully creating the pretext to turn the U.S. into even more of a totalitarian fascist militarized police and enslavement state (with the opposite of liberty{ies} and freedom{s})].

So, Boardman, how are you surprised that the thus cretins who make up most of the House and the Senate are not going about the business of "democracy", or truly keeping, or making, the U.S. a free country, rather than more and more turning it into an unrecognizable, monstrous shell of its former self, into a "dictatorship of many dictators", and martial law police state (unless you are living in a fantasy world, and/or are holding out false hope of turning this "now-opened-Pan dora's-Box" around)? They're so busy doing the latter, that they mostly don't have time to protect the human and civil rights, and freedom(s) and liberty(ies), of the U.S. population, their primary duty under the U.S. Constitution.

(Continued below)
-1 # John S. Browne 2017-04-05 14:57

(Continued from above)

The madness that is now the U.S., that is constantly getting worse and worse, and appears beyond the point of reversing its steady decline into totalitarianism if one is not living in "la-la-land" as you appear to be, Boardman, and most "Amerikans" are, is nothing but a prime, and typical, example of a "democracy" increasingly degenerating into a fascist police state. Face (the) facts. Only those who live in a fantasy world, as most "Amerikans" do, and don't face the truth of what is really going on, believe that the U.S. is still a "free country", and one where so-called "democracy" is still taking place; or the business of preserving, or creating, True Liberty and Freedom is transpiring [and is more like rapidly expiring on an express train to hell on earth---such is the "globalization" , aka "New World Order (NWO)" global enslavement, that the U.S. and the world are speedily descending into, by design of the globalists and the deep state shadow government, who now, if not long have, control(led) all three branches of the U.S. government].

(Continued below)
0 # John S. Browne 2017-04-05 15:32

(Continued from above)

"Democracy?" Tell me another "joke" that truly isn't at all funny, but that is, in reality and truth, one of the saddest of all demises [in the guise of creating the so-called "triumph" of the "United Nations", "Fourth Reich", modern-day "(Un)Holy" Roman Empire, globally; global enslavement on steroids, and which the U.S. government, along with the other Western, and/or other globalist, countries, is one of the prime movers in creating, and is a rapid march towards the ignominious fall of the entire world].

+1 # Krackonis 2017-04-05 14:28
You guys give too much control to those parties. Perhaps you guys should have rules that are separate from the parties and that if they do not follow those rules they are in violation and must step down or be impeached from office... Wouldn't that be wise?
+4 # newell 2017-04-05 16:05
"The World Stands Aghast at the Moral Vacuum of American Leadership".... ............... ......Don't count out Bernie Sanders. I'll put him up against any world leader. He is the most popular politician in the US.
0 # 2017-04-05 19:14
Trump is non compos mentis. No big surprise that the world laughs at us. I agree that we all need to take a deep breath and rejoin the world.
+3 # oakes721 2017-04-07 17:51
Today, the Presidential fly remains at half-mast as he repeated his defense of Fox News' top dirt bags for their lewd and lascivious behaviors, much like his own unaccountable indiscretions ~ best suited for lawsuits ~ against the tailor who made the King's new clothes.

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