Thursday, July 04, 2013

What Is This July 4th Of Which You Speak?

What Is This July 4 Of Which You Speak?

Traditional country music entertainer Bobby Bare once sang "there ain't no ten (video, below)."  He was speaking of women- the same assessment could be made of men- but also is true of opinion pieces.

If it's not a "10," however, Alex Seitz-Wald's "Obama's War on July 4th: The Perfect Right-Wing Scandal" should be a 9.9 in the annals of Independence Day articles. He writes in Salon

It’s been almost ten years since Barack Obama first exploded onto the national stage in a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, but after three elections, two years in the Senate and five years in the White House, some people are still not convinced that the president of the United States is “pro-America” enough. At least that’s what the latest mini-controversy lighting up conservative blogs and Fox News suggests.

“Obama Spends $100M on African Trip But Cancels Marines’ July 4th Fireworks,” the headline on FoxNation read. “Shocking! While Obama Funds Syrian Rebels, Military Bases Must Cut Fireworks Celebrations,” another read. “Those funds would have covered every federal Fourth of July event nationwide with plenty left over for a president’s vacation [in Africa],” wrote Brent Bozell, whom allies call “a beloved and critically important player in American history.” Fox gave the controversy airtime twice this week, also contrasting it with the spending on the presidential trip to Africa.

The implication is clear: Obama doesn’t really love America, or else he wouldn’t be insulting our troops by depriving them of fireworks on the Fourth of July, of all days, and taking the money go to spend it in Africa or the Middle East. It hits all the right buttons for an Obamaphone-esque right-wing mini-scandal, and just in time for the holiday weekend.

What’s really going on here? Sequestration. Remember the package of budget cuts that the White House warned would lead to the sky falling while Republicans shrugged? The AP reportsthat because of cuts to the military’s budget in sequestration, a handful of military base commanders are deciding to forgo their annual Independence Day festivities, which can cost up to $100,000, in order to devote their diminished resources to other arguably more important things like keeping people employed. It’s unfortunate and unjust for American service members affected, but Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, the commander of the Marine’s Camp LeJune in North Carolina, told the AP that it was necessary to “ensure that we can mitigate the fiscal challenges we are currently facing.” And it was Obama who repeatedly pressed to undo the sequester.

And the notion that Obama, while on a trip to Africa, reached down into the budget of individual military bases to cut single line items is absurd. If he were to do that, you’d think he’d cut the fireworks budget across the board or in places controlled by his political enemies, not in his home state of Hawaii.

As for the $100 billion spent on Africa. First, the number is $60-$100 million, and even then unconfirmed. Second, anyone can play this game. Why do hedge fund managers and oil companies get tax breaks that let them deprive the government of money that could go to fireworks? Or why are taxpayers footing the bill for George W. Bush’s presidential library instead of giving our troops a good fireworks show? Or spending $5 million a year on abstinence-only sex education, which we know does not work, instead of on fireworks?

Seitz-Wald, who recommends donating to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Walter Reed Military Medical Center to celebrate the holiday, gives Bozell a pass on one thing.    Bozell, who implies President Obama has somehow engineered the elimination of some fireworks events to dramatize his opposition to the sequester, refers by name to today's holiday on 15 occasions, 11 of them in recounting news events, in which it is difficult to determine if he is summarizing or repeating verbatim (thirteen) news accounts.

Of these references, eleven, there are seven (7) references to "July 4" and only four (4) to "Independence Day."  When Bozell clearly himself writes of the holiday, he mentions "July 4" four (4) times and "Independence Day" not at all.

Lest you think this is a liberal, or mid-year, version of Bill O'Reilly's "War on Christmas," consider that "Christmas" is called just that- Christmas.   One is never asked "Are you seeing your family for December 25?"   Similarly, rarely is heard "Are you taking your girlfriend (or boyfriend, wife, husband, or "sweetheart") to dinner for February 14?   Similarly, one is encouraged to hang the American flag not for December 7 but for Pearl Harbor Day and is more likely to be asked if he/she is excused from work for Lincoln's Birthday than for February 12.

July 4 is a splendid opportunity for a cookout, excursion to the beach (ocean, sea, lake, pond, or elsewhere), a movie, or even (rumor has it) to drink, though for some individuals any of the other 364 days will do.  (And always drink in moderation, as the beer companies insincerely lecture you.)  

So enjoy your July 4th, however you wish.   The holiday, however, is Independence Day.  And that is 'not for nothing,' as they say.  It is a reminder that many countries lack independence and even in some of them (such as in the Middle East, with a notable exception for all nations beginning with an "Is"), scoundrels may be arrested or punished. Here, thankfully, we let them write, and their employers publish, silly and demeaning articles about their political opponents.

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