ED KOCH COMMENTARY Short Takes on Controversial Matters By EDWARD I. KOCH
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is absolutely right to call upon President Barack Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney to do more than sympathize with the families and friends of the 12 people who were shot and killed by a clearly crazed guy in Aurora, Colorado last week. More than fifty others were injured in the incident. Offering bromides of sympathy is not enough. The President and the leader of the opposition party have a duty to lead the country and take on the National Rifle Association that has frightened members of Congress to follow its dictates and not exercise the power of Congress to regulate the possession of guns without violating the Second Amendment.
National Rifle Association has pressured Congress into providing a loophole in the law that requires dealers to check any purchasers to see if they have a felony record or if they were ever institutionalized for mental problems using a list provided by the government. The Congress inserted a provision that such background checks are not required if the guns are purchased at gun shows, where I believe, 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S. are purchased. Closing this loophole would not have affected this recent event. Nevertheless, it has and will in the future, if not closed, affect other events. This current case was affected by Congress refusing to continue the ban on selling semi-automatic rifles that act like machine guns. Any member of Congress who refuses to pledge to support and vote for the closing of the loophole should be defeated.
As Mayor Bloomberg cogently stated, let the President and Mitt Romney tell us how they will deal with this issue and, in particular, these loopholes. This issue is as important as any issue facing our country. If they want our votes, tell us where they stand.
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INITIATING A U.S. MILITARY RESPONSE IN SYRIA
Great pressure is being applied to President Obama to initiate a U.S. military response to the brutal attacks by Syrian president Bashir Assad against his own people, using the Syrian Army to crush a revolt against his government. Had Assad simply sought to eliminate those Syrian forces seeking to remove him from office, there would be no great outcry against his right of self defense. But when he sends his army to kill innocent civilians using tanks, infantry and artillery along with murderous groups rivaling the Nazis in Poland and the Soviet Union who deliberately kill innocent men, women and children civilians caught in the crossfire, he is guilty of war crimes. As outrageous and intolerable as Assad’s actions have been, the United States should not be treated by the rest of the world as, using Bobby Kennedy’s phrase, the “policeman of the world.” We should not be using American soldiers to invade Syria, even to protect the innocent Syrian civilians, when the Muslim countries that are Syria’s neighbors can do the job. There are a million or more soldiers in the Turkish army, not to mention the Egyptian army. There are also armies in Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
We have made enormous sacrifices of blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let the Muslim countries accept their responsibility to save their co-religionists in Syria.
President Obama, millions of Americans want you to continue to resist the effort of some members of Congress like Senator John McCain, a very decent, patriotic American and genuine Vietnam War hero, to drag us into another war putting our young men and women into harm’s way. Let the Muslim world take on that obligation. McCain is simply wrong on this issue.
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UNFAIRLY BULLIED BY MITT ROMNEY
President Obama is being unfairly hectored by Mitt Romney and by much of the media for rejecting the idea that government is evil. The President defended the role of government, stating, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
While the thought isn’t as well articulated as it could have been, isn’t it true? Without the government building infrastructure – the roads, bridges and tunnels – without the government providing security – police and army – to keep us safe, without the government providing other basic services such as public education, hospitals, etc., could anything of consequence for a great society be accomplished? Aren’t we proud of the fact that each generation builds on the successes of the prior generation? The President was not diminishing the individual successes of citizens. He was pointing out what we all know to be true – that even the most successful and brilliant among us have had help along the way. The help of other individuals including teachers who taught and inspired them, friends who helped and comforted them, cops and firefighters who protected them. Government, if it does its job, provides that which an individual cannot provide alone in building our civilization and society.
Our election process is disintegrating with these petty attacks being engaged in by both Democrats and Republicans and they should stop. This election should be fought on the basis of what each candidate offers on the important issues confronting us, e.g., jobs, the solvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, improving education, providing medical care for all of our citizens, reducing the nation’s deficit, providing for an annual federal balanced budget, dealing with foreign affairs, preventing wars and acts of terrorism, and a host of other key issues. Both candidates have to address these issues and tell us how they would handle them if they were to win.
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Isn’t it outrageous that the adult leaders of Boy Scouts of America recently reaffirmed their policy of discriminating against children whose sexual orientation is homosexual, as well as employees, including Scoutmasters, whose sexual orientation is homosexual? Shouldn’t decisions on being able to serve in the Boy Scouts as a Scout, Scoutmaster or employee be made on the basis of the conduct of the individual? Girl Scouts, I believe, have no such ban. If a Boy Scout or Scoutmaster engages in inappropriate conduct in carrying out his duties to the organization, including sexual conduct, kick him out. Whether the sexual conduct is heterosexual or homosexual is immaterial.
We no longer have a drafted army where the young men of this country can learn to live cooperatively with one another and respect one another. The next best place to do that is in the volunteer Scout movement which attracts millions of young people. If the Boy Scouts officials say to their young charges, by excluding boys who are gay, they are to be avoided and condemned because of their sexual orientation, they are contributing to the problem of bullying against homosexual youths. If the Boy Scout leaders refuse to change their policy, every city and state where Boy Scouts are provided any special privileges by government should immediately end them.
How wonderful it would be if fair and likeminded people supporting the Scout movement created an alternative to the existing bigoted organization.
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served as a member of Congress from New York State from 1969 through 1977, and New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989.