Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Susan Ralston and the Filipino American community

Rodel Rodis has what he calls "a second lok at Susan Ralston" in the Phillipine News. I think it slants on the forgiving side, as it discusses her effort to open the door to policy discussions on Filipino veterans' equity, an issue that has even made it into mainstream pop culture via apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas. (At the time, The Apl Song was the rare look at a social justice issue through the eyes of a prominent Asian American artist that made it to MTV and the video was very poignant.)

FYI, Filipino veterans' equity refers to gaining the same rights and benefits for the Filipinos who served during WWII while the Philippines were a U.S. colony - the benefits include the same quality of health care and recognition as U.S. soldiers. Historically, part of the agreement that the Philippines government had with the United States was that these soldiers could become U.S. citizens. Naturally, our government failed to keep its word, which is the same thing that happened to the Hmong soldiers after the secret war in Laos when the U.S. covertly asked the Hmong, an ethnic minority within Laos to fight against the Communist-affiliated Pathet Lao with the understanding that if the Hmong lost the US would pull them out and bring them to America. So the United States seems to have an unfortunate history of asking people from poorer countries to fight for us, making promises that are unkept along the way, which greatly dishonors the spirit of veterans. Then again, it is not wholly surprising given that our government doesn't give veterans who are U.S. citizens their due.

Now that you have the historical background, Ralston originally refused the requests of the Filipino community to help get the veterans equity, claiming that she doesn't do "policy."
The article also says that she later arranged for a meeting with the White House policy advisor, and other meetings on the issue, after criticism and pressure from the community.

According to Ganio, Ralston had arranged for meetings of ACFV officials with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, with the White House staff and a key National Security official to obtain Bush’s support for the Filipino Veterans Health Care bill, for Senator Daniel Inouye’s pension bill and for the U.S. grant-in-aid to the Philippine Veterans Medical Center.

I have my doubts on the efficacy of Ralston's meetings on an issue that wasn't going to net her big bucks, but what I think is most disturbing about the article is the forgiving tone:

The qualities that got Ralston her White House job were the very same reasons she stepped down. Aside from her professional competence, it was her loyalty and sense of gratitude -- two virtues held in high regard in the Filipino community -- that caused her to resign.

Ralston was grateful to Abramoff for recommending her to Karl Rove where she ended up as the right hand” of President Bush’s “right hand man”. The favors she did for Abramoff was her “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude).

She was loyal to Rove and to President Bush, refusing to say anything or do anything that may cause them any damage. She was willing to “fall on the sword” for them.

But let's not forget that she funneled her old boss and convicted former lobbyist and swindler Jack Abramoff's requests to top decisionmakers at the White House:
Doing so, Abramoff directed government appointments, influenced policy decisions and won White House endorsements for political candidates — all in the service of his clients.

The report found more than 400 lobbying contacts between Abramoff's team and the White House.
When will we hold our community members up to higher standards? Hold them accountable for their actions? We should not engage in some kind of whitewashing of what Ralston did, because it was despiccable. So what if she was loyal to some criminals and scumbags? What about loyalty to our country and having some kinds of morals? Wikipedia's entry on Ralston reminds us of what she did for Rove and Bush and Abramoff:

Email records from 2000 suggest that Susan Ralston helped Jack Abramoff pass checks from eLottery to Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) and also to Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), en route to Ralph Reed's company, Century Strategies:

"I have 3 checks from elot: (1) 2 checks for $80 K payable to ATR and (2) 1 check to TVC for $25 K," wrote Ralston in 2000, "Let me know exactly what to do next. Send to Grover? Send to Rev. Lou?"
On January 3, 2006, Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and related charges, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a corruption probe in Washington.

David Kuo, former Assistant to the President under W and Deputy Director for the office of Faith Based initiatives for the White House, recently came out with a book called Tempting Faith that shines a big bright light on how the WH operated, and the low regard that political masters like Rove had for their conservative Christian voting base. He wrote it because he saw the light, which is that the Bush gang didn't really hold anything dear except for power and money. Ralston will probably never do anythinig of the sort, insteading hugging Abramoff and Rove's skeletons all the way. But she should come clean, because the American people deserve to know about all the shady backroom dealings that went on, and exactly how high up the corruption went.

And I don't think that she deserves our respect for hiding dirty laundry. I can't see how community members would feel sad that she is gone. I say, good riddance, she gives us a bad name as a conspirator in executinig Abramoff's wishes and commands.


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