Monday, November 05, 2012

Second Term for Obama

Four years ago The Political Heretic enthusiastically cast his ballot for Barack Hussein Obama, a one-term senator from the state of ILlinois who first won the attention of the press while speaking at the Democratic National Convention for Senator John Kerry in 2004. His calm demeanor, souring rhetoric, and his deep critical thinking skills which he developed at Harvard impressed the Political Heretic immensely. Ultimately, it led him to believe that Obama had the potential to be a great president. That enthusiasm is gone. The Political Heretic believes Obama's days are largely behind him, and the chance that he can accomplish anything substantially important to this nation is diminishing day by day for reasons that are and are not of the pesident's own making. Since the Tea Party backed-Republicans regained control in the House of Representatives two years ago, the president has seen business that is routinely passed, alone specific policy proposals, voted down. The Tea Party backed Republicans stopped House Speaker John Boehner, himself a conservative Republican, and President Barack Obama from reaching a deal on the this nation's mounting debt. They blocked the president's proposed second round of stimulus to reboost the economy and they played chicken on of all things, the routine vote to increase the debt ceiling required for our government to function. Republicans are keen to remind us of the first two years when Obama's party "controlled" both parties in Congress, conviently forgetting that the rules in the Senate allow a minority of 40 to block any legislation they want, for whatever reason without having to state a reason, for blocking an up or down votee. A president that wants to get anything meaningful through has to negotiate with enough senators to forestall such a blockade. Legislation that could be more narrowly tailored for its stated purpose is filled with pork designed to win the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster. Obama's predecessors had to deal with this before and they have been able to reach those compromises, which is why the president has to share in some of the blame. The word on the street, from congressional aides on both sides of the political aisle and duly noted by the Washington Press corps from time to time, is that Obama doesn't like to negotiate with the congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill. He is policy wonk, who digs into the details of good policy proposals but not a schmoozer who can win him that senator or congressman's loyalty or support. The nitty-gritty of deal-making is beneath him. Hence, his propensity to let Congress work out the details, rather than guide him along the better path that he sees in front of him - whether it be on the stimulus, tax policy, deficit reduction or health care reform. Obama's Accomplishments Earn Him a Second Term He isn't a failure. President Obama has, in spite of this, accomplished some noteworthy achievements in spite of this opposition and in spite of his deep reluctance to negotiate with the legislative branch. Preserving these accomplishments lead the Political Heretic, to cast his vote President Obama's re-election. His stimulus bill that, no matter how mis-focused in its set of priorities, stopped the economic hemorrhaging. It provided the aid to states that allowed it to keep more policemen, firemen and teachers at their jobs at a time when this country was headed towards a second Depression. The distinction between non-government and government-workers raised by the Republicans at the time was a false one. Any job that helps a worker pay the mortgage or rent and provide food and clothing for themselves and/or their family (if they have one) is a job. Lay them off and more families would be under water and more houses would have foreclosure signs on them. Included within the stimulus was a payroll tax cut to the average worker bee and some investments on green energy production. President Obama also rescued the auto industry which was on the verge of collapse, providing them with the necessary funds they would need to sustain themselves as they restructured and renegotiated their pension plan deals with their workers. The Affordable Care Act which Republicans derisively refer to as "ObamaCare" will ban insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing coverage. It allows young adults who are too busy studying in college to get a good full-time job to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until they are 26 years old. It will create market insurance pools that will allow small business owners the chance to collectively purchase health insurance at a reasonable rate for their employees. And it closes the donut hole in prescription drug coverage. The Dodd-Frank bill will impose some much-needed restrictions on how Wall STreet conducts its business practices. The derivative market that no one but the money-makers on Wall Street knows about was overdue for some oversight. He furthered the cause for equal rights from day one. He got Congress to pass the Lillyledbetter Act, increasing the statute of limitations so that women can sue their employers for being denied equal pay. He also singed into law a hate crimes enhancement statute that covers gay people and eliminated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," thereby allowing able-bodied well-fit service personnel serve their country with the honor that is their due. Overseas, where the president isn't tied down by Congress (much to our Founding Father's dismay), the president has been far more effective. He quickly dispatched of the Somali pirates that took Americans hostage. He ordered the successful raid on al Qaeda's leading mass murderer, Osama bin Laden, overuling the advice of those within his inner circle who thought it would be too risky. He imposed economically-crippling sanctions on Iran with the aid and cooperation of our Western allies, Russia, China and the Arab states and he successfully navigated our way through the Arab Spring uprisings without losing American prestige in the processs, first by calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to go and then by participating in the successful uprising against Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. In the meantime, he withdrew our ground forces from the war in Iraq and slowly (perhaps too slowly), extricating ourselves from the war in Afghanistan. No good would can result from our stay in either country. The governments in both of those countries will either flourish or collapse on their own, sooner rather than later. A Good President When We Need A Great President Nevertheless, a president who was willing to negotiate with Congress and take his case to the public each and every time he met resistance from Congress might have forced them to do more. A president who went before Congress, and the American people, with a list of roads and bridges in need of repair, and the jobs that it might afford to those who were out of work, might have won himm more votes in Congress and a faster recovery. And a president who spoke about the costs associated with the out-of-control banks that nearly brought the rest of the global economy with it might have been given the opportunity to break of the banks. A president who spoke with Congressmen and women every day might have shortened the debate time. The president let the public option debate consume too much of his time. If he set his terms for negotiation early with the key senators time squandered on that might have been time devoted elsewhere. This ability to sell a vision of the country was missing during Obama's first term. Aside from a press conference here and a press conference there, the president has locked himself in the White House. He never travelled around the country. He never hit the campaign trail to fight for the stimulus plan. He never got the press to film the broken down bridges the stimulus should have been designed to fix. He never got the press to film those who were denied health insurance because they had pre-existing conditions because he never went out to meet with them. He never went to Wall Street to point or point to the disparity in treatment between failures at the top (who get golden parachutes) and failures at the bottom (he merely get 2 weeks notice, if that). Politics is about campaigning, and it is about negotiating. The oil spill in the gulf? Not once did the president use that as a teachable moment for why the government imposes such things as safety regulations. or why we don't want to see the oil dripping along our shores. Not once. Hence, the disappointment. A perfectly teachable moment squandered by a college professor. And it why the Political Heretic believes he will go down in history as a good but alas, not a great president. Good presidents set themselves out to achieve a limited set of plans with the limited set of hands they are given. They make for good business administrators or crises managers and that is what Barack Obama, like George H.W. Bush, has been - a good crises manager. But he hasn't told us where he wants to take the country and he hasn't up to now, given us any reason to believe he can lead us in that direction. Great presidents inspire. They set themselves out to do great things within the limited time they are given and they use all of the powers within their grasp to accomplish it. They don't just let the realities of the day govern them; they try to shape them, to stretch the boundaries, to move the country along with them towards that vision which they see beyond the horizon. Obama hasn't done that. One who would find the votes to rebuild this country's transportation infrastructure. One that would rebuild this nation'sinfrastructure because he would find the votes to invest in high-speed rail, and our crumbling roads and bridges because he wouldmake the case for it. One that would break up the banks so that we would never have to bail out a "too big to fail" bank" for irresponsible decisions of its corporate board's own making because he would have made the case for it. And it is why the Political Heretic has been so disappointed with the election campaign to date. Here we have a man who had the potential for being a great president, behaving as if he were merely a good president, at a moment in this country's history when the people needed a great president. Republicans Offer No Good Alternative Sadly, the REpublicans have not responded to that call. Their primary was filled with hate mongerers, nutjobs and ultimately, the cynical panderer who has done everything since he won his party's primary to suggest he believes in government for the plutocrats, by the plutocrats and of the plutocrats. Mitt Romney, a one-term governor of Massachusetts, has flip-flopped on every issue he has addressed. He was for the health insurance mandate before he was against it. He was for amnesty for illegal immigrants before he was against it. He was for abortion rights before he was against it. He was for gay rights (he even said he would outdo Senator Ted Kennedy) before he was against them. He was for the assault weapons ban before he was against it. He was for the a tax cut for the wealthy who now says the rich won't pay less even when he lowers the rates. The man who, behind closed door said 47% of the population is too lazy to work says he will create 12 million jobs, lower taxes for everbody, increase defense spending and still somehow do so without adding to the nation's debt. 1 + 1 + 1 = 0. That's Republican arithemetic for you. Kindof like Republican science. It doesn't add up. Oh and we shouldn't have left Iraq and Afghanistan so soon since they didn't add to the nation's debt either. so 1 + 1 + 1 cannot = 0 since 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 0. Until it does. Mitt Romney, after all, now agrees with the troop withdrawals. He won't say if he would gut charitable deductions or mortgate deductions to make his plan deficit neutral. He won't say what is on the chopping block to pay for the tax cuts that overwhelmingly help the rich. Mitt Romney says he will "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. He does not guarantee that his replacement will protect those with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage. He would convert Medicare, a program most senior citizens have come to rely upon for their retirement income (and one that younger people are now contributing toward) into a voucher program whereby the government will give out checks that may or may not be indexed to the cost of health care services. And he vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank, the one thing standing in the way of the banks that are funding his campaign and the corporate practices that led to the stock market collapse of 08. Mitt Romney's has cynicaly adopted the president's campaign for "change." If you look at what he is proposing however, the Republican challenger is calling for the change towards the very policies we were running away from four years ago. Four years ago this country repudiated the policies enacted by George W. Bush by electing Barack Obama to the White House. We saw how they have devasted our economy. How, if Wall Street was left unregulated, its mistakes can bring the entire economy to the ground, wiping out pensions, retirement plans, the housing market and ultimately, small businesses across America. We saw how trickle-down economics didn't work. The money didn't find itsway to the bottom. The wealthier got wealthier and the middle class got poorer. President Obama has been a disasspointment because he did not behave like the great president that we needed at the moment we were dealing with a crisis. Tragic it would be for this nation however, if we ousted him four years later for a candidate who vows to undo everything which the president had done and replace it with the system that led to this country's economic morass in the first place. I


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Romney's "Poor" Choice of Words

Former governor Mitt Romney said he "d't care about the poor" because there is a safety net, leading many conservatives befuddled and fuming and their liberal counterparts silently giggling. No doubt about it, the presidential wannabe stirred up a hornets' nest with those comments. Why?

Was it because he wasn't quick on his feet? Yes. Was it because liberals will use those comments in a commercial that undoubtedly will take his words out of context? No doubt about it. Democrats will run commercials showing him say he "doesn't care about the poor" without showing the parts that show him talking about the "safety net."

But this isn't what got him riled up. If there was anything which the Republican frontrunner showed any passion about, it was his unequivocal support for "free market capitalism" and his [professed] belief that the government should get out of the way because that free market will eventually correct itself. Obama's alleged support for the socially democratic system will prove, in Romney's eyes, to be the failure that it supposedly is proving to be in Europe.

And in fact, his [professed] belief in this largely free and unfettered market is believable. He was a businessman who made lots of money investing with other people's money, and reorganizing financially troubled businesses into profitable businesses.

This latest statement concerning the poor, however, exposes the ugly truth about that unfettered market's downside - that unfettered market capitalism has not, does not, and will not eliminate class distinctions between the rich, poor, and middle class. The rich will always be rich (unless of course someone was so stupid so as to bet their entire life savings and income on a single game of poker) and the poor will always be poor, even if they are working 40 + hour weeks (because they could never earn enough to pay for college) without some assistance from the government. If there was no minimum wage (let alone one indexed to cost-of-living adjustments), rent control, food stamps, subsidized housing, or child support there would be no way for the poor to raise themselves up by their bootstraps.

The only group who can bounce around are those who form our middle class - the "heart of America" according to Mitt Romney. They alone could lose their status in the middle class if jobs disappear or if government offers them less in subsidies (like cuts in education forcing municipalities to raise property taxes). They can also work their way up by taking night classes after work or by furthering their education by entering law school.

Mitt Romney knows that the poor need the safety net and he acknowledged, albeit without emotion, that it may need to be adjusted or modified in some way because it in fact isn't enough to help them get through life. The conservatives are mad because he basically conceded their argument to the president and the Democrats. No, Mitt Romney said. Unfettered capitalism does not help the poor. Score one for the president.

And he made himself look bad by suggesting that it is perfectly fine by him, provided of course, that there is "a safety net."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two thoughts About Gingrich's Marital Answer

1. His desire to shift the blame to the left wing media reminded me of [then] First Lady Hillary Clinton's attempts to shift the blame of her husband's marital infidelities and legal problems on a "vast right wing conspiracy." Sorry.

The story exists because Newt Gingrich made it exist. He decided to cheat on his wife and he decided to make his sexual indiscretions a matter of public concern the moment he decided to make the sexual indiscretions of other politicians a matter of public concern. A thrice married man who cheated on his first two wife or two should be the last one condemning another man for cheating on his wife. A politician who says there is no right to privacy (and Gingrich is one of those who espouses that viewpoint) shouldn't wave his finger and tell us to stay out of his "personal life." The hypocrisy is just stunning.

Mitt Romney on Taxes

Mitt Romney apparently wants to pick and choose what taxes he will release.

The money quote:

"Maybe. You know I don't know how many years I'll release. I'll take a look at what our documents are. I'll release multiple years. I don't know how many years and but I'll be happy to do that."

Yep. There might be some gaps between years. I would not be surprised if the tax returns he releases include nothing embarrassing. Those he'll keep to himself.

Gingrich's Vindictiveness Revealed in Debate

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's vindictiveness comes out with this answer on SOPA.

"You're asking a conservative about the economic interests of Hollywood," were the first words out of the speaker's mouth.

Leave aside for the moment, the merits (or lack thereof) of his later argument or any argument for this anti-piracy bill. The fact that he would consider the ideological standing of those who are raising the appeal as a reason to support (or oppose) legislation should frighten everybody and the pettiness is unbecoming. Presidents shouldn't admit to having enemies lists that determine how they will treat their fellow Americans.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Republican Nominee Preference: Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman

There is virtually no chance this political supporter would back the eventual Republican nominee over the current president, Barack Obama, next November. As much as the president has let this writer down with his failure to policy prescriptions from the Republican wall of obstinacy, his policy prescriptions are far more preferable than the ones which his Republican opponents are now proposing on the campaign trail.

President Obama bailed out the auto industry to keep American jobs here in the United States. His likely opponent, former Governor Mitt Romney, said we should let the auto industry go bankrupt. Obama signed legislation imposing at least some (albeit not enough) regulations on the derivative market on Wall Street while his Republican opponents call for more deregulation, the very problem that led to the stock market debacle in the first place. President Obama would have the millionaires pay more of their, ahem, hard-earned money and pay their fair share to balance the budget for the wars they don’t have to send their children to and pay for the schools they will get their employees from. His Republican opponents would rather cut education funding, and the entitlement programs to balance the budget.

The president signed a health care reform bill into law that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans while they go to college, and protects Americans with pre-existing conditions from going bankrupt paying exorbitant health care bills by denying health insurance companies a right to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The Republicans call for its repeal. The president had kept his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq, while his opponents, so quick to blame the president for the never-ending increase in our nation debt, say we should an spend $1.8 billion a week preserving the peace between three groups who have shown they won’t make the effort to forge one.

Obama’s failures stem from his inability and/or unwillingness to fight for what he believes. While his chief economic advisor pressed for a $1 trillion economic jobs program, the president settled for the smaller $700 billion plan he thought Congress would pass. He failed to go on the road to back the larger plan. When the Republicans threatened to let the middle class tax cuts expire if the Bush tax cuts weren’t passed in their entirety, the president blinked. He did present to the American people, the case for letting those who can afford to pay more, pay more so that vital government programs needed so that vital government programs and services wouldn’t be cut. The president again blinked when the Republicans said they wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling. And he refused to weigh in on a bipartisan debt commission’s proposals to reform the entitlement programs and close tax loop holes.

President Obama, nevertheless, has earned his a second term. He proved he was up to the task with the successful killings of Anwar al-Alwaki, the American who defected to al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, the spiritual founder of that same terrorist organization. The president deserves the credit for exacting justice for the lives lost on September 11, 2001.

The Political Heretic, nevertheless, feels obliged to weigh in on the Republican primary. Whether he likes any of the candidates or not, one of the Republicans will emerge as the president's opponent and challenge the president from the conservative side of the political spectrum. The state of the economy is fragile. Though there are signs that we may be in the state of a slow recovery, things can turn around quickly if the euro collapses and the president may very well pay the ultimate political price from the voters who are looking to blame him for their misfortune.

Those of us who back Mr. Obama, as well as those of us who are as of yet undecided can still offer a recommendation with the hope that the Republicans will pick someone who has the temperament, intellectual heft, and experience to confront the problems that may emerge in the years in which he (or she) is in the White House.

By process of elimination, the Political Heretic thinks Republicans should pull the lever for either Mitt Romney, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts or Jon Huntsman of Utah. Both have the prerequisite credentials one should expect from a president. They both have the executive experience that provides the on-the-job training which the president lacked. Romney and Huntsman had to negotiate with legislatures. They also bring their own unique assets to the White House - Mitt Romney as a successful businessman and Jon Huntsman as a former U.S. ambassador to China.

Choosing between these two has proven exceptionally difficult to the Political Heretic. Huntsman, who governed his fairly conservative state as a conservative with a conservative legislature, is now running as a sensible moderate who supports civil unions, a gradual exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan, and some much-needed banking reforms. He alone, calls for the breakup of the largest banks since “too big to fail” has proven too costly to the American dreams of many average working Americans.

His poll numbers are near the bottom of the pack, behind candidates who deserved far less consideration than he got and he did not make it onto Virginia’s ballot. The Political Heretic can hope that some Republicans will take their cue from conservative pundit David Frum and back the nicer guy with the more inclusive message as a protest vote but he is under no illusion that Huntsman has a shot at winning the Republican primary and he cannot ask party members who may skew toward the conservative side to vote for the candidate who is running as the party’s conservative liberal.

Romney, who governed his fairly liberal state as a right of center moderate with a liberal legislature, is now running as a conservative who strictly adheres to the party line on the economic, cultural and military issues. Romney worked with a liberal legislature in a fairly diverse state. Huntsman worked with a conservative legislature in a smaller, more homogenous state so it is exceptionally difficult to see which of these two, if either, is running on a message he believes in.

In 2004 the Political Heretic passed over the former one-term governor of Massachusetts for the war hero, Senator John McCain because the latter, more often than not, said what he believed while Romney did not. McCain eventually flip-flopped on immigration reform, but he flip-flopped far less so than Mitt Romney, who conveniently had a “come to Jesus” moment on every single hot-button issue one can think of within a year before he entered the race for the White House.

The former governor who once said he would be a stronger defender of gay rights than the late Senator Edward Kennedy changed his mind when he began his first run for the nomination. Today he says he, himself, would not discriminate against gay people without actually saying whether anyone should have the right to do so. And the man who once said he should let illegal immigrants stay in this country now says now admonishes Speaker Newt Gingrich and Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) for supporting amnesty programs that in effect would reward them for their bad behavior.

We saw why he flip-flopped on that issue in one of this year’s primary debates when the governor of Texas, falsely accused him of hiring illegal immigrants. Romney calmly noted that he didn’t know of the worker’s legal status and wasn’t privy to that information since he was actually employed by a contractor. However, since he didn’t need any controversy that could negatively impact his campaign for the White House, he cancelled the contract. Mitt Romney disassociated himself from the contractor because it was the politically convenient thing to do and not because it was the right thing to do.

His lies on the individual mandate are a little more nuanced. He supported them before he opposed them before he (somewhat?) supported them. As Massachusetts’ governor, Mitt Romney signed a health care plan that included an individual mandate into law. As a presidential candidate he first emphasized the (minute) differences between his plan and the one which the president signed into law and vowed to repeal “ObamaCare.” Now that he believes he will be the nominee, he says that the individual mandate is a conservative idea that encourages individual responsibility. “ObamaCare” must be repealed, he says, because it imposes a one-size-fits all mandate on every state, depriving states of the opportunity to experiment with their own systems.

In sum, Romney says whatever he things will get him elected. One cannot say for certain what he believes in, if anything.

Virtually every successful politician flip-flops on a given issue from time to time but Mitt Romney has turned it into his favorite American pastime. If politicians from time to time dance around the polls, Romney does the full monty.

The Republican frontrunner was, however, a successful one-term governor of a moderately-sized but diverse state with a Democratically-controlled legislature. He did enact a health care reform bill that is not unlike the one Obama signed into law on the federal level and he did, in fact, close some tax loop holes (though he wouldn’t care to admit it) to help balance the state’s budget. And to the extent that he lies, obfuscates, and otherwise asks us to forget his sensible, moderate past, he at least does so in a nuanced way and a person who understands nuance won’t have as much trouble understanding the complex problems which this country still faces.

A recent New York Times articles suggests, he had proven himself to be a practical man who expressed no interest in the cultural issues of the day. This will serve him well when the focus is on the economy. It will serve him poorly when he fails to react to seismic geopolitical changes that affect our allies and the world economy at large.

One can safely assume that he would have the confidence to propose his vision for America and, one in power, fight for them.

Aside for Huntsman, however, Romney’s opponents are supremely unqualified for higher office. Speaker Newt Gingrich is a smart man with an outsized ego who lacks the temperament to be our next president and his grandiose sense of entitlement and self will lead him to embarrass us on the world stage. Newt Gingrich referred to the Palestinians as an "invented people", a people who once thought about Arabs. That claim, while true, can be applied to any number of peoples. One can make the same claim about the United States, circa 1776. They were, after all, British colonialists who at that time were only beginning to see themselves as a special group of people. But whether he is right about the Palestinians or not, it is besides the point. If they were "invented" at an established time in the past, they now "exist" as a people. Efforts to dismiss their claims to self-determination at this point would prove to be counter-productive if we ever want to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Gingrich has on any numerous occasions made some grandiose statements that will expose us to ridicule. He compared himself to Winston Churchill. He let his campaign director compare his failure to submit the prerequisite votes for the Virginia ballot to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. His grandiose sense of self will get him in trouble with those he is expected to deal with, both hear and abroad. Gingrich, then serving as the Speaker of the House, once complained about his inability to negotiate with the president (at that time President William Jefferson Clinton) during an airplane flight and unwisely attributed a tougher continuing resolution designed to keep the government open to the snub.

Should he win the nomination the former Speaker will run a nasty and dishonest campaign that would make the typical opposition researcher squeamish. The Lincoln-Douglas style debates which the speaker insists upon having would degenerate into an hour of name-calling. Gingrich would raise the unsubstantiated "birther" claim with no remorse. He had, after all, referred to Obama's supposed "Kenyan socialist roots) just as he once compared the efforts by gays and atheists to claim their share of the American dream to fascism. Important debates about the role of government would be distorted. He told the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters to get a job without providing any solutions as to how they could get one in an environment of low job growth.

He is also the wrong candidate to speak about the housing bubble since he was taking money from Freddie Mac as, he preposterously claims, as a “historian” and not, as most people suspect, as a “consultant” or “lobbyist.”

Governor Perry, himself once touted as the conservative candidate who would best Romney in the primaries, has conducted himself poorly in the debates. One gets the impression that Perry, like his predecessor in the Texas statehouse, is a bumbling ignoramus if not an idiot. The three-term governor who shoots his vermin at the Niggerhead (anyone who associates with a place with this name automatically disqualifies him or herself from higher office) shooting range, missed all of his targets in the debates.. Romney got the better of their duel over who supported illegal immigration more. Perry falsely accused Romney of hiring an illegal immigrant, conducting himself as a magnet that only encouraged further immigration but was unprepared to respond to Romney’s countercharges concerning the in-state tuition rates Perry offered his state’s illegal immigrants.

In another debate, the governor from Texas forgot one of the three departments he would eliminate. One would expect a candidate who proposes to cut government spending by eliminating a department would come up with any one of fifteen cabinet-level departments if he couldn’t name an obscure governmental agency. We should, at the very least, expect a candidate who forgets something from time to time prove that he or she can think on his or her feet quickly whenever the situation would call for it. Decisions about when a special forces team or CIA operatives should take out a terrorist may require a snappy judgment from time to time. Perry should have offered any number of executive Departments Republicans might not like (Health and Human Services or Housing and Urban Development) if he couldn't remember that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy.

In one of his campaign trips to New Hampshire, Perry was caught slurring his speech and in general, acting like a frat boy. He proudly noted that debating was not his strong suit. A president who cannot debate will find the process of negotiating with members of Congress, let alone world leaders, especially challenging..

Even his better days, when he wasn’t making any gaffes (like forgetting how many Supreme Court justices there are or forgetting that Canada is not a U.S. state), the governor struggled to put nouns and verbs together into simple sentences.

Michele Bachmann, a conservative congresswoman from Minnesota who ironically sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has proven herself to be a firebrand who does not get her facts straight before she speaks. On some occasions she got American history wrong. (The "shots fired around the world" were shot in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire). On other occasions she got public policy facts wrong. HPV vaccines do not, as Bachmann suggests, cause mental retardation. She misstated the cost of a trip Obama was making to India in another case, based on the unconfirmed report of an Indian newspaper at the time. One would hope that she would base her facts on confirmed reports before committing American troops to a war but her failure to confirm what is true and what is false suggest that it isn't promising.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas),have the brains and knowledge that Perry lacks but they are, in their own ways, extremists who have no broader appeal beyond their niche. Congressman Paul campaigns for the return to the America of the 18th and 19th centuries that virtually no one would support if they thought about it - one in which the federal government’s prerogatives were limited and states made virtually all of the decisions. The Political Heretic likes a lot of things Paul’s heroic defense of our civil liberties, - his opposition to the misnamed PATRIOT Act, military tribunals, and rendition are shared by this political writer.

However, his America is an America that largely keeps to itself in a world where the trends point in the other direction, towards globalization. It is a vision in which the federal government would not be in the business of creating jobs, and investing in our nation’s roads and bridges, or, for in our nation’s public schools for that matter, so that we can once again compete with China, and Brazil. It is an America that does not provide senior citizens with social security checks or medicare payments that allow them to retire. And it is an America whereby states would determine which civil rights laws they will enact and which ones they will ignore.
One can agree with his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and still worry that his complete withdrawal from the world would prove disastrous. China is emerging as a world power house that is aggressively defending what it believes to be its turf in the South China Sea. North Korea's new leadership might decide to bolster his regime's viability by launching a second invasion of South Korea should American troops withdraw from South Korea and Japan.

The former two-term senator from Pennsylvania, for his part, represents a narrow constituency whose vision for America has more in common with the Islamic fundamentalists than they would care to admit to themselves, let alone us. It is a vision in which the woman’s role is confined to the bedroom and kitchen and the gay person has no life to speak of. It is a life in which the Christian’s religious beliefs are pushed on students of all faiths who go to public schools. It is not, however, the vision on which this country was built on, It is not a vision for one who values religious liberty or the right to privacy.

For these reasons, the Political Heretic strongly urges the Republicans to pull the lever (or caucus) with either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. Backing any of the candidates would be grossly irresponsible.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Troops in Middle East: One question

President Barack Obama may have said that we will withdraw our troops within the year but we will maintain our presence in the Middle East (like Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia). I have one and the media must press the administration on this question consistently.

If the Arab Spring revolutions which have toppled the dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia spreads to those countries where our forces are on the ground, what will our reaction be? Will American forces aid the protesters or stand by the sidelines when the repressive governments that we have sponsored tries to put them down? As long as we have troops on the ground we will not be able to avoid the fall out that would follow. We'll have to pick a side.

A Map of The War on Terror

The extent of our war against al Qaeda who are bent on destroying us.

Thomas Friedman
, in The New York Times this Sunday:

"This gets to the core of why all the anti-Wall Street groups around the globe are resonating. I was in Tahrir Square in Cairo for the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and one of the most striking things to me about that demonstration was how apolitical it was. When I talked to Egyptians, it was clear that what animated their protest, first and foremost, was not a quest for democracy — although that was surely a huge factor. It was a quest for “justice.” Many Egyptians were convinced that they lived in a deeply unjust society where the game had been rigged by the Mubarak family and its crony capitalists. Egypt shows what happens when a country adopts free-market capitalism without developing real rule of law and institutions.

But, then, what happened to us? Our financial industry has grown so large and rich it has corrupted our real institutions through political donations."

He says Congress is a forum for "legalized bribery".

I don't disagree with him. The system is rigged. Those at the very top always seem to land on their feet no matter what they have done to the company that they worked for (and the economy as a whole). If they are fired, CEO's at large firms are given a "golden parachute" so big they don't ever have to work again. The people at Zuccotti Park are protesting against a rigged system. They know something is wrong when the only ones who are being asked to do the sacrificing in this country are the very people who can afford it the least. Public employees are told they have to contribute more towards their health care and their pensions yet the very banks that are not have wiped them out during the free fall on Wall Street are not required to make restitution. Teachers and police officers are being laid off in states across the nation to balance town budgets. College tuition costs are rising. And yet the top 1% of this nation's earners are not asked to share the burdens.

Mr. Friedman offers several good proposals. Yes, Washington must break the bigger banks up. And derivatives should be traded on transparent markets.

I don't believe there will be any significant changes unless we take the money out of politics and that won't happen unless we change the composition of justices on the Supreme Court (who could then overturn Citizens United) or we amend the constitution to ban campaign donations.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Why Our Candidates Disappoint Us"

ThThe New York Times has a fairly interesting article on one reason we, more often than not, are disappointed with our leaders. The author looks at the partisan divide (between Republican and Democrat) along psychological grounds.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Religious Leader Backs Putin Over Democracy

“When else in Russian history has the highest power in the state been handed over so peacefully, so worthily, so honestly, and in such a friendly way?” - Russian Orthodox Church Archbishop Vsevolod Chaplin as quoted in The New York Times

The game of musical chairs in Russia continues. When Vladimir Putin was forced to step down as president (they can only serve two terms in a role), he backed Dimitri A. Medveded, his self-appointed prime minister, to replace him and Putin, for his part, took his place as prime minister. Now Medveded's term is up and they agreed (how much, if any, Medveded was pressured into this is unknown) they are going to switch roles again.

An all the Russian archbishop can say is that the change in power will take place peacefully? He offers no word on whether the people should have a say in this? or if the people should have a choice in offering a primary opponent in United Russia?

FreI guess he doesn't care about freedom that much does he?