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State, national columnists

Put prisoner swap deal in perspective

By From page A9 | June 15, 2014

People are arguing about what the U.S. got out of the deal that swapped five top-level terrorist leaders for one American soldier who was, at best, absent from his post in a war zone. Soldiers who served in the same unit with him call him a deserter.

The key to this deal, however, is less likely to be what the U.S. got out of the deal than it is about what Barack Obama got out of the deal. If nothing else, it instantly got the veterans’ hospitals scandals off the front pages of newspapers and pushed these scandals aside on television news programs.

It was a clear winner for Barack Obama. That may be all that matters to Barack Obama.

People who are questioning the president’s competence seem not to want to believe that any president of the United States would knowingly damage this country’s interests.

One of the problems of many fundamentally decent people is that they find it hard to understand people who are not fundamentally decent, or whose moral compass points in a different direction from theirs.

Many people who are painfully disappointed with President Obama have no real reason to be. The man’s whole previous history, from childhood on, was shaped by a whole series of people, beginning with his mother, whose vision of America was very much like that of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose church Barack Obama belonged to for 20 long years.

Obama is not a stupid man. There is no way that he could have sat in that church all that time without knowing how Jeremiah Wright hated America, and how his vision of the world was one in which “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.”

Even if the Reverend Wright had been the only such person in Barack Obama’s life – and he was not – it should have been enough to keep him out of the White House.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a good rule in a court of law, which has the power to deprive a defendant of liberty or life. But it is mindless and dangerous nonsense to apply that standard outside that context – especially when choosing a president of the United States, who holds in his hands the liberty and lives of millions of Americans.

People who are disappointed with Barack Obama have no right to be. It is they whom others have a right to be disappointed with. Instead of taking their role as citizens seriously, they chose to vote on the basis of racial symbolism, glib rhetoric and wishful thinking.

Moreover, many are already talking about choosing the next president of the United States on the basis of demographic symbolism – to have “the first woman president.” If she is elected on that basis, will any criticism of what she does in the White House be denounced as based on anti-woman bias, as criticisms of President Obama have been repeatedly denounced as racism?

What if we have the first Hispanic president or the first Jewish president? Will any criticism of their actions in the White House be silenced by accusations of prejudice?

We may yet become the first nation to die from a terminal case of frivolity. Other great nations in history have been threatened by barbarians at the gates. We may be the first to be threatened by self-indulgent silliness inside the gates.

As for Barack Obama, you cannot judge any president’s competence by the results of his policies, without first knowing what he was trying to achieve.

Many wise and decent people assume automatically that President Obama was trying to serve the interests of America. From that standpoint, he has failed abysmally, both at home and abroad. That should legitimately call his competence into question.

But what if his vision of the world is one in which the wealth and power of those at the top, whether at home or internationally, are deeply resented, and have been throughout his life, under the tutelage of a whole series of resenters? What if his goal is to redress that imbalance?

Who can say that he has failed, when the fundamental institutions of this country have been successfully and perhaps irretrievably undermined, and when the positions of America and its allies on the world stage have been similarly, and even more dangerously, undermined around the world?

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 40 comments

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 3:50 am

    It must be hard to be you, Thomas.

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  • Teach5thJune 15, 2014 - 9:13 am

    RLW - it must be hard to read the truth about Obama and not be able to accept it. What's probably even harder is that you can't dismiss and shut Sowell up by calling him a racist.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:40 am

    T5: I fail to see the racism in that remark. None was intended. But, for the record, just about everyone raised in the U.S. is racist to some degree. It's the degree that matters.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:47 am

    T5: I have no trouble accepting all the truth about Obama. As for Sowell, my remark was about his continued frustration that people haven't accepted his "truth" after all these years of trying. It must feel like a wasted life.

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  • CD BrooksJune 15, 2014 - 1:06 pm

    Teach5th, wow you concocted "r*cism" from rlw's remark? You sink to a new low every time you crawl in here. I'll ask you as I did the absent Mr. Madronich. Do you have evidence to substantiate your claim to the "truth about Obama?" Please cite the facts in your own words in context. Thank you.

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  • Teach5thJune 15, 2014 - 3:44 pm

    Geez -CD - follow any of the news stories about him! If it's not Bengazi ( what difference does it make especially since no one seems to know where he was as it was occurring. And, in the White House asleep doesn't absolve him or his Sec. Of State from responsibility); the IRS scandal (what scandal? Any proof seems to be lost - hmmm); the incessant VA scandal --- is that still going on? let me check the newspapers, says O, and see what's going on. Until then . . . I will say I'm really upset by what's happening . . . Then there's the recent 5-4-1 exchange. What I said about signing statements before I was president has no bearing on what I do AFTER I become king ---uh, er-president..... This community organizer is in so far over his head he doesn't know what's going on. (Quick -let me check the newspapers and see what's going on in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, can you just leave me alone? I'm ready to tee off.....

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 4:13 pm

    T5: You and your ilk think your lists are persuasive. They're not. Spare us the volume and focus on one thing at a time. We've discussed each of these "scandals" ad nauseum, and we're not about to go over each one again. The only one that is a serious problem is the VA. And nobody except people like you is politicizing it. Congress is practically unanimous in its efforts to correct the problem, and Republicans have been resisting the cheap shots at Obama. I assume that's because Republican administrations didn't catch the problems either. It took "the most transparent administration in history" to turn over the rocks and see the creepy-crawlies hidden underneath. The VA revelation and our response is a victory for America. Let's leave it at that.

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  • CD BrooksJune 15, 2014 - 5:33 pm

    Teach5th, nice non-answer. As usual. You're like all the other GOP apologists here bring nonsense and never back it up. Just like what we've become used to. Thank you for once again making me look a lot smarter than I really am! :) FORE!

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  • 2realJune 15, 2014 - 9:16 am

    Obama sucks. O.ne B.ig A.ss M.istake A.merica!

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:42 am

    A sentiment found in ALL your comment. It must be hard to be you, too.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 15, 2014 - 9:47 am

    One of Sowell's best columns. He is a brave man. I hope he has a good tax attorney to help fight off the IRS thugs that will no doubt come a'callin. Sowell has captured the essence of what Rush Limbaugh meant six years ago when he said he hoped Obama fails. It also goes a long way toward explaining the behavior of the "party of no."

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:50 am

    Good Lord man, it must be hard to be YOU to. At least Rush gets paid a lot.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:52 am


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  • Mr. SmithJune 15, 2014 - 12:41 pm

    Yes, rlw: You are finally starting to get it. The last six years have been very hard on me and millions of people like me. But don't take that as a plea for sympathy. Just stating a fact.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 2:32 pm

    How exactly have you suffered?

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  • 2realJune 15, 2014 - 10:12 am

    Rlw895, open your eyes to the truth. Your right, it is hard to be me, a proud born american with a muslim atheist in office.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 2:35 pm

    Mr.S: Is 2r one of your "millions?"

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  • CD BrooksJune 15, 2014 - 2:43 pm

    Rlw895, 2real is the quintessential god-lover, r*cist and gay h*m*phobe that loves to spread his hypocritical gibberish here.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 4:18 pm

    CD: You think I don't know. He's like a caricature or an archetype. I just want to know if when Mr.S counts his "millions" like him, he includes 2real.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 15, 2014 - 4:55 pm

    Rlw: Judging from the comments I have seen, I would say that 2R is one of the millions who, like me, have had a hard time accepting this administration's policies/decisions/behaviors/agenda, etc. That much should be obvious. So what are you implying here? That, too, is obvious. But go ahead and explain it. You're the one who wouldn't let it go:>)

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:12 pm

    Only (1) be careful; you're known by the company you keep, and (2) if those are your millions, I'm not impressed.

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  • JagJune 15, 2014 - 10:22 am

    I think he worst president of my time Jimmy carter record is about to be beat, In time B.O will take that honor.

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    Let's hope no one is worse than Bush/Cheney, ever again. Obama will always benefit by the contrast.

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  • JagJune 15, 2014 - 3:30 pm

    RW I am not sire if you are old enough, Do you remember odd even days? and 13% home mortgage loans?

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 4:24 pm

    Jag: Oh sure. That's when OPEC formed. The price of gas went all the way up to $0.55.

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  • JagJune 15, 2014 - 5:00 pm

    wow you almost made that sound like good times,, but I remember waiting in line at a gas station for an hour to get gas as a kid and not getting gas unless on certain days, I also remember my parents home loan was 13%, I am not a Bush fan either but times were certainly better then Carter. Even with that said B.O is about to take the honor..

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  • MarkJune 15, 2014 - 3:14 pm

    Jag, I hope next time you vote for a president who makes education a priority.

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  • JagJune 15, 2014 - 3:44 pm

    Mark, I would never vote for a president based on education because I think education is not the government responsibility, it should be the responsibility of the parents who have kids to go out find and pay the best they can for their children, at the same time we should not have local school taxes a districts if we chose not to use the basic government schools, I should be able to spend my money on whatever school I choose for my children,

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  • Mr. SmithJune 15, 2014 - 5:11 pm

    Jag: I agree that BO should take that honor. Unfortunately, he probably will get a more favorable treatment than he deserves from the journalists and historians. (( Now sit back and watch rlw jump all over that one:>) ))

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  • SaJune 15, 2014 - 5:57 pm

    If Obama sucks, how bad were Bush and Cheney?

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  • JagJune 15, 2014 - 6:45 pm

    sorry SA I have to disagree with the first word of your question, (IF) how about we start out with (sense) but sense you ask about Bush he sucks (your word) just a little bit less then B.O

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  • rlw895June 15, 2014 - 9:40 pm

    Yes, Mr.S, I'll jump all over that one. Is there is NO evidence or analysis by anyone now or in the future that you would find persuasive to change you opinion about Obama? It's sounding like irrational opposition to me. In the closing moments of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin asked each member to "doubt a little of his infallibility" and sign the document. You should do the same and give Obama a chance. It's better late than never.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 15, 2014 - 9:51 pm

    Rlw: I like your second sentence so much that I will turn it back to you. Irrational opposition vs irrational support, perhaps? My mind is pretty much made up on this one, however. Unfortunately for "my side" We must be content to wait for this, too, to pass.

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  • rlw895June 16, 2014 - 12:22 am

    Mr.S: That's just nonsense. I can think of many things Obama might do that would lose my support. In fact there are things he does that I don't support. I don't couch irrational support any more than you do. But you're practically confessing to being an irrational opponent and justifying it the idea that there are irrational supporters. That's no justification at all. It's like saying all those black people support Obama no matter what, so us white people need to oppose him no matter what.

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  • Mr. SmithJune 16, 2014 - 7:22 am

    Again with the race card, rlw? Sheesh! Many posts ago I pointed out that Obama has irrational supporters from more than the Black demographic. You are walking, talking proof of that, my friend. And unless Kirchubel uses a fake photo in the DR, so is he. Lol!

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  • [email protected]June 16, 2014 - 10:39 am

    Mr.S: Call it what you want, but no one should be deterred from facing problem racism when it a occurs. When you visualize an "irrational supporter" of Obama, it's not my face that appears, it's a black one. Just like when you visualize a "welfare mom," it's not a white face you see.

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  • 2realJune 15, 2014 - 5:57 pm

    Its funny how you grown men cant stand up like a man and admit obama was a very poor choice. Man up the guy is the all time worst president.

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  • SaJune 15, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    I would choose Obama's left toe to run the country than Bush!

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  • Let's hear it for his toe.....June 15, 2014 - 7:14 pm

    I wish we did have Obama's left toe running the country; the rest of him destroying us bit by bit, faster and faster.

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  • SamJune 15, 2014 - 6:33 pm

    2real funny how you don't stand up like man and use your real name. Man up and recognize your poor choices believing a dead guy is helping you.

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