Friday, September 5, 2014

ISIS Coalition

President Barack Obama is carefully putting together a coalition of partners to join the U.S. in degrading and ultimately destroying the radical terrorist group ISIS.  His approach has come under attack from critics who want America to immediately strike ISIS in Syria, which is exactly what ISIS wants the U.S. to do. 

In a major development, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has approved his country's cooperation with the U.S. as part of the fight against ISIS, according to the BBC.  Iran's population is largely Shia Muslim, which the Sunni ISIS group views as heretics.

Up until now the Iranian leader has opposed allowing his military to cooperate with the U.S., which has been leading the effort to force Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions.  But last month American air strikes helped Iranian-backed Shia militia, as well as Kurdish forces, defeat ISIS fighters at Amerli, in northern Iraq.  Now Khamenei has authorized a top Iranian military commander in region to coordinate with forces fighting ISIS, including the U.S.

The Obama White House has been working to build a broad coalition for weeks to deal with ISIS.  Pressure has intensified on the president as Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for U.S. air attacks on ISIS in Syria, where much of the organization is based.  The president has been reluctant to attack ISIS in Syria because it would end up helping Syria's ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assad, who ISIS is also seeking to topple. This is just another example how complicated the situation in the region is.

President Obama has come under harsh criticism for not having a strategy to deal with ISIS in Syria.  Many of these critics supported President George W. Bush's global strategy, the Bush Doctrine, which led to the misguided war in Iraq a decade ago, following al Qaeda's attack on the United States, that then unleashed a chain reaction of events that has now led to today's crisis in the region.

Under the Bush Doctrine the U.S. would topple dictators, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and replace them with a democratically elected government.  Instead, nearly 5,000 American soldiers and several hundred thousand civilians have died in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Meanwhile, a deeply divided Iraq has been unable to form a successful democratic government.  Iraq fell into chaos as the heavily Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to be inclusive, and wanted U.S. combat troops out of the country.  Of course, now Iraq wants the Americans back to help fight ISIS.

On Friday the U.S. announced it had formed a coalition of countries to take on ISIS.  The announcement was made at the NATO meeting in Wales, and the strategy could serve as a template for dealing with terrorist organizations in the future.  So far, the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey were among the NATO countries that joined to coalition.

Officials made it clear that ground forces in Syria would come from the moderate Assad opposition, and in Iraq the Kurds and the regular army would fight, with the assistance of U.S. airstrikes.   “Obviously I think that’s a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.  Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among the Arab countries that have indicated they will participate.  The plan, which is still being worked on, will take some time to play out.

Meanwhile, U.S. airstrikes have been effective in slowing the ISIS, but the groups' brutal tactics continue.  ISIS has beheaded two American journalists and threatens more beheadings unless the U.S. stops its bombings.  Some experts believe that ISIS wants nothing more than to draw the U.S. into a full-scale war.  ISIS could then claim equal footing with the world's only super power, and could use such a war to increase recruits and funding from anti-American groups. 

But, unlike the neocons that ran Bush's failed foreign policy, President Obama is not going to be rushed into another ground war.  He believes he needs a strong coalition, including Arab countries, and a more inclusive Iraqi government, to ensure a broader and more enduring solution.  For sure, sending in U.S. ground troops would lead to a quick short-term victory, but ISIS would return the minute U.S. troops withdrew from the region. 

President Obama's actions reflect the sentiment in a war-weary America that does not favor committing more U.S. troops.  Still, because of all the criticism aimed at the president, his approval ratings on foreign policy are low.  Maybe he should have armed moderate Syrians a year ago.  Maybe he shouldn't have said he doesn't have a strategy for defeating ISIS in Syrian when he was working on one.  

But it is better to be thoughtful and measured rather than impulsive and emotional.  There are no easy solutions to this crisis, but all stakeholders must work together if there is to be a lasting peace.  And the president is building that coalition.
 
Another way of saying, "don't do stupid stuff" is, "be smart." 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The 2014 Midterm Elections

With less than 10 weeks to go before the midterm Congressional elections Americans in general are frustrated with Washington.  National polls show that about three quarters of all Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.  By comparison, about half of those Americans polled disapprove of President Barack Obama's handling of his job. 

Sunday's New York Post reported that 163 laws have been passed and signed by the president since this two-year term of Congress began in January 2013.  That is far lower than the 284 laws that were passed by the 2011-2013 session, which is an all time record for fewest bills passed.  Congress passed 386 laws during the 2009-2011 session.   Former Representative Lee Hamilton (R-IN) told the Post, "I've never seen it any worse in terms of public esteem for the Congress.  I can't find anybody who says a good word about it."

Despite Congress's lack of productivity, and as outrageous as it may seem, it appears that most incumbents will be reelected in November.   Conventional wisdom is that while most Americans want to get rid of Congress, they nonetheless support their own representative.  This is especially true during midterm elections because voter turnout is often very low, which gives incumbents an advantage.  But both parties are leaving nothing to chance, as a record amount of campaign dollars will be poured into this election, surpassing the $3.6 billion spent in 2010.   

Republicans currently hold a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, 233-199; there are three vacant seats.  The GOP expects to expand its majority in the House.  Meanwhile, Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate.  But of the 36 Senate seats in play, 21 of them held by Democrats, while 15 are held by Republicans.  If the GOP picks up six Senate seats this midterm they will be in the majority in both houses of Congress.  Most experts, including Nate Silver, of the election site FiveThirtyEight, give Republicans a slight edge to take those seats and become the majority party in the Senate.  

The Republicans are targeting the seven Democratic seats that are up in states where Mitt Romney beat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.  They are also going after four additional Democratic seats in states where the president remains unpopular.  Republicans will do all they can to make this election about President Obama's unpopularity. 

Domestically the president has been attacked for executive actions he has taken to bypass the blockade that Congress has become.  For example, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who himself has presidential aspirations, has regularly attacked the president, telling Fox News "He believes somehow that he's become a monarch or an emperor that can basically ignore the law and do whatever he wants."  On the other hand, Republicans have attacked President Obama for being disengaged and "leading from behind" on foreign policy.  The president's recent comment the he does not have a strategy on dealing with ISIS in Syria was seized upon by Republicans.  Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), said on CBS Sunday,  "What I want to hear from the president is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS."

Congressional and Senate Democratic candidates have tried to localize their elections, but Republicans are focusing on President Obama in an effort to energize their base.  So Democrats are trying to mobilize minority voters,  especially African-Americans, who generally don't vote in midterms.  Party activists are using the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and conservative calls to impeach the president, to mobilize Blacks.  An increase in the number of Southern Blacks helped Democrats during the 1998 midterm election, when President Bill Clinton was under heavy fire from the right.

Ironically, the one Republican Senator who is in the toughest fight to be reelected is the man who has the most to gain if Republicans win majority control.  Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), the Senate minority leader, has done all he can to obstruct and block the agenda of President Obama since the day he was sworn in to office in 2009.  McConnell is facing a vigorous challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.  McConnell is not popular in Kentucky, but a recent state poll shows he has the edge.  Lundergan Grimes is making McConnell's failings in Congress the issue.  But McConnell is tying his opponent to President Obama.  

Should Republicans take control of both houses the legislative process will grind to a halt.  Anything the Republicans pass, like efforts to defund Obamacare, will be vetoed by the president.  Meanwhile, congressional investigations into the so-called scandals surrounding the IRS and Benghazi will intensify.  The partisan divide will widen as Republicans try to score points before the 2016 Presidential Elections.   

Because so much is at stake, this coming election day is not a time for eligible voters to stay home.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Immigration Crisis

President Barack Obama should take executive action on immigration in an effort to ease the current humanitarian crisis along the border, even though some House Republicans have threatened to attempt to impeach him for exceeding his authority.   With the midterm elections just three months away, a Republican impeachment effort would energize Democrats to increase their turnout in key races throughout the country.

There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.  But over that past two years there has been an explosion of undocumented children caught crossing the border without parents or guardians.  The bulk of the children come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where crime, gangs and violence are rampant.  U.S. authorities have struggled with how to handle the surge.  Those coming from Mexico are immediately returned.  Those coming from Central America must be referred to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement by law and placed in temporary shelters to await their deportation proceedings.  But the surge has overwhelmed the system.  According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 57,525 unaccompanied alien children were apprehended along the Southwest Border region in fiscal 2014. 

The president recently asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis.  Instead the House approved two bills that would provide the administration with $694 million but end a program that protects some young immigrants from deportation for two years.  The president said Republican lawmakers are "not even trying to solve the problem."  Meanwhile, the Senate did not act, and Congress adjourned for its five week summer break.  

At a news conference Wednesday, the president was asked about Republican accusations that he is an "imperial president."  Obama responded, saying, "I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done. Even as we take these executive actions, I’m going to continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans."  As to immigration, the president said, "So if I’m going to, for example, send more immigration judges down to the border to process some of these unaccompanied children that have arrived at the border, then that’s coming from someplace else, and we’re going to have to prioritize. That’s well within our authorities and prosecutorial discretion."

Under prosecutorial discretion the government could prioritize what cases it wants to pursue.  For instance, the president could authorize prosecutors to focus only on individuals with ties to organized crime or who are convicted of serious criminal offenses.  The president could also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for children who were brought into the country illegally.  Under the program, individuals apply for a renewable, two-year work permit and temporary reprieve from deportation proceedings.  This would be controversial and give Republicans a chance to charge that illegals are taking jobs away from citizens, even though that would not be true.

In June 2013, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill by a bipartisan vote of 68 to 32.  But the House has refused to take the measure up because of Republican opposition in its chamber.  Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said last month that the bill would not have stopped the surge of illegal children.  “What I think would have prevented that from happening is sufficient border security on the ground that would have discouraged people from making that journey in the first place,” he told the Washington Times.
Nonetheless, the president is urging passage of the Senate bill.  "My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law. And we already have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these problems," he said at his news conference.  "Until that happens, I’m going to have to make a choice. That’s what I was elected to do."

Now, while the do-nothing Congress is on its long summer break, the humanitarian crisis along the border worsens.   For sure, some Republicans will go back to their districts and rail at the president for inaction on immigration.  At the same time, House Speaker, and hypocrite, John Boehner is suing the president for exceeding his authority by delaying the employer mandate in the healthcare law that Boehner so vehemently opposes.  Should the president take executive action on immigration, Boehner may decide to raise the ante.

In the near future, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will present the president with options for changing deportation policies.  The president should move quickly on their recommendations and do what he was elected to do.    

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Country Divided

A recent CNN/ORC national poll indicates that if the 2012 presidential election were held today Governor Mitt Romney would beat President Barack Obama by a margin of 53% to 44%.  But a slew of recent national polls show that three-quarters of all Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  

Together these polls reflect enormous dissatisfaction with Washington.  Nonetheless, Republicans, even those in Congress, have been unrelenting in their attacks on President Obama.  Since Obama's first day in office in January 2009 Congressional Republicans have done all they can to block President Obama.  Worse, they have consistently done all they can to delegitimize the Obama presidency at all costs.  They have put party politics ahead of the well being of the American people.

Politics in America has always been a rough and tumble profession.  But, with the emergence of powerful conservative media outlets, the country has become more divided.  Calls for presidential impeachment have cast a shadow over most modern day presidents.  However, the chorus of impeachers seems louder in the past year.  A recent poll by CNN/ORC found that 57% of Republicans support impeaching Obama, while just 35% of independents and 13% of Democrats support such an action. 

The United States Constitution states, "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."  Some Republicans point to Benghazi and the failure to secure America's southern border as reasons to impeach Obama.  Others cite Obama's use of executive orders as an abuse of power.  But President George W. Bush issued an executive order every 10 days, President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order every 7 days, and President Jimmy Carter issued one every 5 days.  In fact, Obama's rate of executive orders is the lowest since President Grover Cleveland.  

In the near future, President Obama will likely take action to change immigration laws, a hot button issue for Republicans who have blocked all efforts for meaningful reform.  White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week, said, “It would be foolish to discount the possibility that Republicans would think about going down that path."  But many Republicans think it would be foolish to pursue impeachment.  They remember that right after the House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998, for perjury and obstruction of justice, his approval rating surged 10 points to 73% in a Gallup Poll. 

In mid July Republican House Judiciary Committee chairman Robert Goodlatte of Virginia said on ABC's This Week, “We are not working on or drawing up articles of impeachment.” He added, “The Constitution is very clear as to what constitutes grounds for impeachment of the president of the United States. He (Obama) has not committed the kind of criminal acts that call for that.” Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, who has said he disagrees with impeachment, has moved ahead with plans to sue the president over his use of executive powers.  Specifically, Boehner is suing the president for failing to execute the health care law by delaying the law's employer mandates.  This is the same healthcare law House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal.  

The Boehner lawsuit and talk of impeachment have given Democrats an opportunity to increase fundraising efforts.  Last week House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi emailed supporters, "Yesterday, for the first time in history, Congress voted to sue a sitting president. Today, the White House alerted us that they believe 'Speaker Boehner … has opened the door to impeachment.'"  Democrats face many difficult midterm elections this November, and may lose control of the Senate.  

Ten years ago then Senator Barack Obama made a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that would win him broad acclaim.  "Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes." Obama said.  "Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."

Sadly for America, those who embrace the politics of anything goes are winning. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

30th Wedding Anniversary

Thirty years ago today Susan Zirinsky and I were married at San Francisco's City Hall.  We eloped on a Friday, the day after the Democratic National Convention ended.  Susan and I had been living together in Washington DC for nearly five years, so the fact we got married was no surprise.  The surprise was where we married.  Nonetheless, a round of calls to Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, our mothers and fathers were met with joy and great happiness.  

For the next decade we each continued in our roles at CBS News.  I left CBS News in 1995 to take a position as President Fox News.  I had been hired by Rupert Murdoch to begin a "proper news."  But one year later Murdoch decided to bring in Roger Ailes as Chairman of Cable and News.  Since my contract had been breached, I decided to resign rather than be part of an "alternative" news organization.  I informed Ailes of my decision in his office, and then immediately headed to the Spence Chapin adoption agency.  Susan and I decided to use the time I would be sitting out my expiring contract to adopt a Chinese girl.  China's one child policy saddened us. 

Several months later we were informed our adoption had been approved.  We were shown a picture, the size of a passport photo, and given little information.  By January of 1997 we were off to China to pick up our adoptive child.  We decided to name her "Zoe" because that means life in Greek.  We also combined "Z" from Zirinsky, and "oe" from Joe.  Zoe's middle name would be the name she was given by her Tong Ling orphanage, Tong Cao.  We were told that translates to "spring grass," which is where Zoe was found. 

We loved Zoe from the first second we set eyes on her.  Susan and I both had demanding schedules, I commuted to Miami for seven years, but weekends and nights were devoted to Zoe.  It is hard to understand how an adoptive child will adjust in life, or how a Chinese girl will adapt to a world filled with blue-eyed, blond hair girls.  The social pressures are enormous on most children in this age of social media.  Adolescence can be a difficult time emotionally for any child as the are still developing and maturing.  Of course, academics and college tests and acceptances are overly competitive.  Then, for girls, there are boys.  Having been a boy, I know they are predators.  What stress on even the most stable kids.

Throughout Zoe's sophomore and junior year all of the stress factors began to take their toll.  Zoe had to leave school weeks before the end of her junior year in order to receive proper treatment.  For the past year she as been under the care of the wonderful doctors at McLean Hospital, just outside Boston.  She has shown enormous progress, and she graduated from high school from an affiliated school. 

So it is with this brief explanation that I share with you our most wonderful 30th anniversary gift, via Facebook, the words of our only child, the love of our life, Zoe Tong Cao Peyronnin (aka Luna Feline Capello).


"alright here we go. happy thirty years you guys, as much as you piss me the fuck off, and as much as I feel like I hate you sometimes... well that's life, and you wouldn't do half the shit you do to me if you didn't love me. I know sometimes you blame yourselves for where I am now, but when it comes down to it, you've saved my life, in more ways than one and I think you guys need to realize that. I wouldn't be who I am or where I am if you hadn't adopted me and well, even though life can be a nasty son of a bitch, I'm thankful you've supported me through it all. so thank you both, you shit heads, for loving me regardless of who I am and my mistakes, I really wouldn't be alive without you and that's a fact, so give yourselves credit for once because I love you. thank you."
 
 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cheney Doesn't Shoot Straight

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is trying hard to salvage his legacy, so he is resorting to spin, distortion and lies. By why is the media paying attention to him? Not even Cheney himself could erase from history the devastating record he has amassed, especially working with President George W. Bush. 

A 2012 New York Times report revealed all of the warnings the Bush/Cheney administration received in the spring and summer of 2001 of a terrorist threat against the United States from within. On May 1, 2001, the CIA warned Bush a "group presently in the United States" was planning an attack. In July, the CIA warned that the attacks could be "imminent." On August 6, Bush received a classified document entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." None of the dots were connected by the White House, which dismissed criticism by saying they were not told when or where the attacks would occur. The attacks occurred on September 11, with devastating consequences. 

In response, The Bush/Cheney White House targeted Iraq and its ruthless leader, Saddam Hussein. They built their case around alleged links between al Qaeda and Hussein, as well as allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD's). While Hussein was a brutal dictator, his government held together Iraq's various religious factions and served as a balance against a restive Iran. 

Cheney was among those from the administration who were speaking out publicly about WMD's in Iraq. In August 2002, Cheney told a VFW convention, "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." Of course, there were no WMD's in Iraq. The administration had misled the American people. 

Just before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Cheney was asked on NBC's Meet the Press how long a U.S. invasion would take. He responded, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators...I think it will go relatively quickly...weeks rather than months." The U.S. was not greeted as liberators, and the invasion proved to be poorly planned by the Pentagon and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. 

In September 2003, six months after the invasion, Cheney said, "If we're successful in Iraq..we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." But no link between Hussein and the terrorists was ever found, and Osama bin Laden was based in Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney administration failed to focus on the war in Afghanistan.

Following the invasion, the administration implemented a policy of de-ba'athification, which rid the Iraqi government of Hussein's Ba'ath party supporters. As a result, an estimated 50,000 civil government employees were removed from their positions and the military's officer ranks were depleted. The Bush/Cheney operatives had failed to fully understand the possible implications of their policy, so the result in Iraq was chaos. Meanwhile, the Bush/Cheney White House backed a government supported by hard line Shiite religious organizations, which included now Prime Minister Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Sunnis, who are about 20% of the population, were squeezed out, as were the Kurds. 

Today's civil war involving ISIS is largely a result of Bush/Cheney policies. The Iraq War has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $2 trillion dollars and 4,000 American lives. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. And to what end?

In 2005, The Washington Post editorial page dubbed Cheney "The Vice President for Torture." Cheney initiated and defended the use of torture on terrorism suspects, a violation of human rights and the Geneva Convention. In 2011 he defended the policy in an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute. "The notion that somehow the United States was wildly torturing anybody is not true," he said. "One of the most controversial techniques is waterboarding ... Three people were waterboarded. Not dozens, not hundreds. Three. And the one who was subjected the most often to that was Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, and it produced phenomenal results for us." Of course, he lied about the "phenomenal results" too.

Cheney was also behind an NSA operation to monitor the phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without warrant, which would later become known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. After two years of going along with "the vice president's special program" the Justice Department decided that parts of it were illegal.

The Bush/Cheney team allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Georgia and take control of two of its regions. And the Bush/Cheney team is responsible for not reining in Iran early on. Ari Shavit, an Israeli author and columnist, wrote, "The Bush administration didn't initiate a political-economic siege on Iran when it was weak, and Mr. Bush weakened America by exhausting its economic power and military might in a futile war."

On domestic policy, the Bush/Cheney team led this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression, yet Cheney refuses to take any responsibility for the policies that nearly destroyed the world's economy. They added billions to the U.S. deficit, but Cheney once said, "deficits don't matter." 

Now Dick Cheney is defending his legacy and bitterly attacking President Barack Obama. For instance, Cheney took to CNN Wednesday to say that Obama is "the worst president of my lifetime." But President George W. Bush left office in January 2009 as one of the most unpopular presidents in history. According to a CBS News/New York Times poll at the time, 73 percent of Americans surveyed said they disapproved of the way Bush handled his presidency. 

Ever since Dick Cheney shot his friend in a 2006 duck hunting accident Americans have known that Cheney just doesn't shoot straight.

Friday, July 11, 2014

LeBron Goes Home

LeBron James is going home. What an amazing story. His return is the most important thing to happen to Cleveland in 50 years. 

He made his announcement in a moving letter published Friday on Sports Illustrated's website. "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio," he wrote. "It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart... My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."

How can anyone argue with these sentiments?

At 29 years old, LeBron James is the biggest superstar in the world. Yet this kid from Northeast Ohio, who had a difficult childhood, is a doting father, a loving husband and a wonderful son. His Akron roots run deep. Located 40 miles south of Cleveland, Akron was once known as the "Rubber City," but it has bounced back from a major loss of manufacturing jobs. Like many other cities, it has struggled with crime and illegal drugs, either one of which has ruined the lives of many young men. LeBron emerged from a tough childhood because of his exceptional basketball skills. In short, he is the American dream come true, a man of great character and generosity. 

LeBron explained his decision, "I always believed that I'd return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn't know when. After the season, free agency wasn't even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown... The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy."

His departure four years ago from the Cleveland Cavaliers led to great acrimony and anger, especially from team owner Dan Gilbert. "The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed," LeBron wrote. "But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?" In the end, LeBron said, "Who am I to hold a grudge?"

I met LeBron Raymone James in a Ralph Lauren's men's department in Manhattan almost a decade ago. He had just completed his rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I walked over to him; he was seated with his back to me. I introduced myself and said, "I am from Chicago, I have met Michael Jordan and watched him play." As he turned to look at me, I continued, "From what I have seen, you could one day be better than Michael Jordan." LeBron stood up, as if I had mentioned God almighty, and was visibly moved by my prediction. He leaned over and said, "Thank you sir, that means a lot to me." We chatted briefly as he shook my hand.

A while later, while I was at the store's checkout counter, he walked all the way across the store, considerably out of his way, and approached me. He reached out his hand and said, "Thank you again sir for those kind words." He was already making millions as a Cleveland Cavalier and drawing accolades, but he was humble through and through.

I had no doubt over these past couple weeks that the young man I had met years ago would decide to return to his home, only now as a giant of a man. The trappings of stardom, the nightlife scene (pay attention, Johnny Manziel) or what most other people think are not a priority for LeBron. He is his own man. He is thoughtful, strategic, focused on his goals and objectives, and he is highly motivated to achieve them. He has already accumulated two championships, with the Miami Heat, two NBA Finals MVP awards and numerous other great honors.

Nonetheless, there is something even bigger in LeBron's life. In his words, "I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously... Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get...In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home."

LeBron will now carry the Cleveland Cavaliers and this community on his shoulders. While he warned that winning an NBA championship would take time, today the people of Northeast Ohio feel like they won a championship. They have their native son back home.