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 http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifquestion 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.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

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 Timeshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

M
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?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How "Predictable" Finding Media Bias on Climate Change Where None Exists

John J. Miller posted the following on The Corner, a conservative blog hosted by The National Review.

"Wait for it… Wait for it… Yes! Thank you New York Times:

The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?"


Did Miller read the whole story? If he did, Miller should have picked up on this excerpt from Justin Gillis' story:

"While the number of the most intense storhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifms has clearly been rising since the 1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that increase can be attributed to human activities."

OMG. The scientists have sharply different opinions and even more astonishing, The New York Times piece acknowledges there are some differing opinions. And then Gillis even quotes a respectable scientist (he is described as "a federal researcher at the government’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.") who doesn't think Irene and the increase in storms can be attributed to climate change:

Who would have thunk it?


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lamestream Media Bias

I couldn't believe I was hearing this on CNN the other day but nope. The transcripts don't lie:

BLITZER: All right, Joe Johns, thanks very much.

And Piers Morgan is joining us now from lovely San Diegohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif. Piers, thanks very much for coming in.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Well, my pleasure. Well, I'm here interviewing Jon Huntsman, the presidential candidate. So getting a bit of San Diego sun, and it's - it's (INAUDIBLE) out with Ms. O'Donnell, too, I hear.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about your interview. She walked off, as everyone on earth, I think, by now probably knows. She walked off at the - from your set.

She says - and she was on the "Today" show this morning - she says you're creepy. What do you say?


That's right. Pierce Morgan told Wolf Blitzer he was interviewing Jon Huntsman, one of the candidates vying to be the Republicans' standard-bearer in 2012. Huntsman is no flake. He was a former two-term governor (admittedly of a small, largely homogenous state, Utah) and until recently, the US ambassador to China. One naturally would assume that Wolf Blitzer would ask Pierce Morgan a couple of questions about the downgrade, the stock market fluctuations, a "grand bargain ont he defcit, the most recent flare up near the Gaza Strip, and the most recent developments in Libya.

To his discredit, Blitzer completely ignored what Pierce Morgan had to say about Huntsman and decided to devote his time to the antics of an unsuccessful senatorial candidate whose claim to fame lies in her her denial of "being a witch." Christine O'Donnell wrote (or some ghost writer) wrote a book about her unsuccessful campaign for the senate and then feigns surprise and walks of the interview when she is asked questions relating to topics she put forth in her book. Who cares? She didn't win. She has nothing to say that is consequential.

All this did was provide was a sales pitch for Pierce Morgan and a some free publicity for Christine O'Donnell's book. In the meantime Wolf Blitzer missed out on an opportunity to see where the conservatives were on that matter.



Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Disillusionment: Greenberg's Take

In earlier periods, confidence in the economy and rising personal incomes put limits on voter discontent. Today, a dispiriting economy combined with a well-developed critique of government leaves government not just distrusted but illegitimate.

GOVERNMENT operates by the wrong values and rules, for the wrong people and purposes, the Americans I’ve surveyed believe. Government rushes to help the irresponsible and does little for the responsible. Wall Street lobbyists govern, not Main Street voters. Vexingly, this promotes both national and middle-class decline yet cannot be moved by conventional democratic politics. Lost jobs, soaring spending and crippling debt make America ever weaker, unable to meet its basic obligations to educate and protect its citizens. Yet politicians take care of themselves and party interests, while government grows remote and unresponsive, leaving people feeling powerless. - Stanley B. Greenberg in The New York Times

In other words, most people like what the government can do to help them in theory. They just don't believe it will do so.

NY Times Reads for the Day

"Democratic lawmakers worry that the Tea Party freshmen have already “neutered” the president, as one told me. They fret that Obama is an inept negotiator. They worry that he should have been out in the country selling a concrete plan, rather than once more kowtowing to Republicans and, as with the stimulus plan, health care and Libya, leading from behind. ...

... Consider what the towel-snapping Tea Party crazies have already accomplished. They’ve changed the entire discussion. They’ve neutralized the White House. They’ve whipped their leadership into submission. They’ve taken taxes and revenues off the table. They’ve withered the stock and bond markets. They’ve made journalists speak to them as though they’re John Calhoun and Alexander Hamilton.

Obama and John Boehner have been completely outplayed by the “hobbits,” as The Wall Street Journal and John McCain called them.
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
What if this is all a cruel joke on us? What if the people who hate government are good at it and the people who love government are bad at it?"
- Maureen Dowd in The New York Times

Maureen Dowd's is a must-read.

"Where have all the adults in this party gone? Where is Dick Lugar, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Colin Powell, Hank Paulson and Big Business? Are you telling me that they are ready to fall in line behind Michele Bachmann, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin? Are these really the pacesetters of modern conservatism?" - Thomas Friedman in The New York Times

Those were the days.



Monday, June 13, 2011

The Sex Scandal That Isn't

Last week, U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner admitted that he had lied about the origin of an underwear bulge picture that was tweeted to a woman who lives in Chicago.

When the story first broke, he adamantly denied that he sent the e-mail and instead pointed the blame at an unknown hacker. The questioning persisted, particularly since the congressman did not ask the police to open an investigation into the incident.

The Congressman from New York's ninth district, which straddles some neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, did himself no favors when he told reporters he could not tell if the underwear photo in question was his or not. Though his supposed "failure" to know if that was a photograph of himself was believable, (many may wear that brand), it was an implicit admission that he had indeed taken a picture of himself on the phone). Within a week, Representative Weiner had to admit what was undeniable. He had tweeted some pictures of himself - some of which were sexually explicit - to some women across the nation. He also spoke to a seventeen-year old whom he had met at a public occasion though there is as of yet no evidence suggesting he had engaged in any inappropriate sexual conversations with her.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California), U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and U.S Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) have called on him to resign.

When the story first broke, Weiner adamantly resisted any such call for his resignation but he has since then, opened the door by suggesting it is still possible. In the mean time he asked for a leave of absence so that he can go to rehab.

The congressman engaged in wreckless behavior that should lead anyone who has voted for the man to question his judgment. No one, in their right mind, would submit a sexually explicit photo to a stranger who in turn could use that photo to blackmail him or her. Most Americans don't expect their local Congressman or woman to be perfect. Many no doubt, wouldn't be surprised if their representatives were cheating on their spouses. They do, however, expect them to be discreet. What they do behind closed doors is between them and their spouses. What they risk by engaging in risky behavior becomes ours if and when it exposes them to blackmail.

Should the Democrats in New York's ninth district opt to back the congressman in any re-election campaign, they would deserve to lose that seat to the Republicans but Weiner's own constituents will ultimately have to decide whether he deserves to be elected or not. To date, there is nothing that suggests that Congressman should give him anything else but an official reprimand or censure and those who are calling for the congressman's resignation are behaving hypocritically. The Republicans, who have tolerated sexual affairs committed by their own members, are in no position to call for the Congressman's resignation and Democrats should not be asking Weiner to step down for charges far less serious than those that faced his colleage, Charlies Rangel (D-New York).

Congressman Weiner has committed no crime. He did not, unlike former President William Jefferson Clinton, lie under oath about a sexual affair that transpired with a subordinate (in this case an intern) in the Oval Office. (On this matter, the Democrats who are now calling for Weiner's resignation vociferously defended Bill Clinton. He did not, unlike former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-New York) and Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), frequent a house of prostitution or find his name on a Washington, D.C whorehouse's rolodex. (The Republicans who have been calling on Weiner to resign have and had nothing to say when their senator admitted to wrong doing). He did not, unlike former U.S. Representative Mark Foley (R-Florida)send sexually suggestive e-mails to teenage congressional pages

He did not, unlike former Governor Jim McGreevey (D-New Jersey) offered a lover/or someone who claims sexual harassment (McGreevey said Golan Cipel was a lover while Cipel claims he was sexually harassed; if you believe the former's story, we have a case of nepotism; if the latter's story is believed we have a sexual harassment case) a state Homeland Security patronage job even though that person lacked the appropriate security clearances, let alone U.S. citizenship.

He did not, unlike former Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) solicit sex from an undercover officer in a public bathroom. He did not, unlike former U.S. Representative Gary Condit (D-California), lie to the police about his relationship to a missing woman and he did not, unlike Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) , buy his aide's silence by finding him a lobbying position after he found about about an affair the senator had with his wife, and make calls designed to help the former aide's new clients.

In all of the above-mentioned scandals, the politician's sexual activities had legal implications that rendered them unfit for the office they held.The sexual practices Some got away with it. Clinton was not forced to resign and Senator David Vitter was re-elected. The others were forced to resign. Lying under oath during a criminal or civil proceeding is a crime. Soliciting for sex in public is a crime. Sexual harassment is a crime. it were the crimes that were associated with the sex, and not the sex, that ultimately warranted their removal from office.

To date, Congressman Weiner stands accused of no crime. No one who has received his sexually explicit pictures have filed charges. No one is playing the victim card. He did not impede a police investigation in the disappearance of a missing girl. He did not lie under oath. He did not offer any of the women an internship or a job or a lobbying position to buy their silence and he did not use campaign funds to keep his affair a secret. There is no story of public consequence.

Not all sex scandals are equal and the media need not cover for any politician's non-criminal sex scandal. Politicians who defend conservative "family values" expose themselves to scorn, ridicule and hypocrisy charges when they are caught in sex scandals. Though he committed no crime, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) had to resign since his affair was exposed while he was presiding over the impeachment procedure to remove Bill Clinton from office. The former president himself, exposed himself to the hypocrisy charge by signing into law the misnamed "Defense of Marriage Act" during the time he was having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Representative Vito Fossella (R-NY), a conservative on the cultural issues, was forced to resign in disgrace after the media found out about his mistress and love child. The equally conservative former Representative Chris Lee (R-NY) was forced to resign after he posted a shirtless picture of himself on Craigslist even though he was already married. And former Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) another defender of "family values," was forced to resign after his affair with an Argentinian lover came out.

Weiner did not, however, expose himself to the hypocrisy charge. He has not voted against gay rights or privacy rights nor has he condemned those whose views are not in line with the conservative "family values" agenda.

The House Ethics Committee will now, as they should, conduct an investigation to see if the congressman did anything that violated the Houses' ethics rules but unless they come up with any new evidence, the congressman from New York should be allowed to finish his his term and let the people have their say when they go into the voting booths in 2012.

The NH Republican Presidential Primary Debate

After Wwtching tonight's Republican primary presidential debate I was ready to hear another story on the U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner's (D-New York) sex scandal. CNN debate moderator John King rarely asked the prerequisite follow-up questions when Republicans proposed their tax cuts. He didn't ask the Republicans how they would balance the budget while cutting taxes. He didn't ask the Republicans how they would prevent Wall Street from engaging in risky business practices (like bundling) without federal regulations. When one of the Republicans said the president and Congress "overreached" in passing the Dodd-Frank Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, King never asked the Republican why it was an overreach? He did not specifically ask the candidate where, in his view, it went too far or what he would replace it with. He never asked the Republicans what regulations they would cut? Would they repeal the minimum wage law? Would they repeal laws that protected workers from age and disability discrimination? Would they occupational safety laws? Would they repeal laws that regulated when an employee was entitled to a work break? I couldn't believe we have reached the point when asking such questions like the efficacy of having a Food and Drug Administration would be included in the debate but since the Republicans are talking about such repeals King should have pressed them further.

When another Republican candidate blamed the loss in manufacturing jobs in part, on the president's health care plan, King failed to note how we were losing manufacturing jobs long before this president (and for that matter, his predecessor) took office. He did not ask the Republicans how any company that chooses to make things here could compete when those based overseas (say in China or Vietnam) can pay their workers $1.00 an hour and stiff them of health care.

The Republicans, for the most part, were allowed to make their campaign pitches while dodging the questions and their attacks on the Obama administration and government regulation went unchallenged.

Comical moments:

1. when U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann announced she is running for president at a presidential debate. Anyone who doesn't understand why shouldn't be reading this or for that matter, any blog.

2. when former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) said natural disaster relief should be handed by the states AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Think about it. In the not-so-distant future your local tornado or hurricane recovery efforts might be sponsored by Citigroup or BP.

3. when Herman Cain and former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) said they wouldn't appoint anti-American militants to their cabinet. Phew. I was getting worried that a future president might pick knowingly pick anti-American militant to serve in his or her cabinet.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Mission Accomplished: Osama bin Laden Dead

Hats off to the special forces who killed Osama bin Laden and the president for giving them the order. The mass murderer is dead. The president succeeded at doing what his predecessor failed to do. He had the chance to have the bastard killed and he took it. Now can we pull out of Afghanistan? We can't win the war so why not take this opportunity and let the mass murderer's execution serve as our means to withdraw with our honor left in tact and our soldiers' heads held up high.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Speech: In Conclusion

President Barack Obama made a resounding case for an active government in his speech at George Washington University today and he forcefully responded to the Republicans' attempt to privatize our entitlement programs by replacing social security and medicare with private vouchers. He rigorously defended the role which government plays in providing unemployment insurance to those who unexpectedly lose their jobs, college loans to middle class families who want to ship their children off to college, the paved roads which we drive to work on, and the social security and medicare entitlement programs that allow us to retire without losing our access to affordable health care. In this respect, the president offered a vision for our country that is far more preferable to the one offered by his Republican counterparts in the House of Representatives.

To pay for this vision, a vision once shared by Republicans (like President Dwight D. Eisenhower) and Democrats alike, Obama proposed to shift the tax burden back onto this nation's "millionaires and billionaires." I don't know if we can limit any tax increase to America's "millionaires and billionaires" in order to pay down our debt but no plan that does not include such tax increases can be treated seriously if we want to preserve those governmental programs that provide middle and working class Americans an opportunity to "live the American dream."

The president's failure to hold the line in December, however, raises some questions about his commitment to pay the debt off with a tax cut. The president could have let the Bush tax cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans, expire last December.

At that time, Obama said that he did not want to burden the middle class taxpayers with the increase they would have felt in the midst of a slow economic recovery had those tax cuts expired. The Republicans, he said would not offer a clean bill that preserved the tax cuts for those earning $250,000 a year or less while letting the tax cuts expire for those who earned more. A measure to let the tax cuts expire on millionaires and billionaires was defeated as well. There is no reason, however, to believe that the Republicans' negotiating tactics will change within the near future and there is no reason to believe that the economic recovery will be strong enough to withstand the increase in middle class tax cuts within the next two years. President Barack Obama, once again, will have to decide whether he will let the tax cuts for all Americans expire or whether he will let the filthy rich keep the tax cut that would allow them to purchase a sixth home.

The president did not specifically offer any cuts in Medicare. He presumably would find some savings from a shift from a fee-for-service payment plan to a fee-for-results payment plan, with a stronger emphasis on preventive medicine. He would also find some savings by opening the market for more generic drugs and using Medicare's purchasing power to drive down costs. It is a credible plan, but one that would require the hard-balling negotiating skills that the president isn't known for. Doctors, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies presumably would see their profit margins cut drastically by this approach so one can expect their lobbyists to fight against this plan vigorously. I believe we may need to means-test medicare as well. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. CEO's should have to pay their own way.

The president should have used his time to offer his plan for saving social security from insolvency as well. Yes, it isn't in trouble now and so yes, reforming it can wait a year or two, but at some point this will need to be addressed and his failure to offer up a plan exposes him to some opportunistic yet warranted criticism from the Republicans who will inevitably claim that he is pushing this problem down the road. The president could have proposed to either lift the cap on the payroll tax and/or offered to increase the retirement age. He did not.

Obama and Defense Cuts

"So just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. And we can do that while still keeping ourselves safe.

Over the last two years, Secretary Bob Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again.

We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but we're going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.

I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it's complete."
President Barack Obama on Defense Spending

Well, all very well and good if the president could get the Department to back deeper cuts and if he could follow his own advice and reconsider our "role in a changing world." To date, the president's commitment to fundamentally "review" our missions and capabilities does not seem promising. We are still fighting two wars in the Middle and Near East (with no end in sight) and he committed us to a third (Libya).

Obama and That Vision Thing

"Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That's who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs.

That's not right, and that's not going to happen as long as I'm president.

(APPLAUSE)

This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan's own budget director said there's nothing serious or courageous about this plan.

OBAMA: There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know.

"The America I know is generous and compassionate. It's a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other, for the country we want and the future that we share.

We're a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the G.I. Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare.

We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

That's who we are. This is the America that I know.

We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country."
President Barack Obama, in that same speech

I'm sensing a comeback. After all this time. What the president said this afternoon could have been said by any number of Republican predecessors: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and yes, even Richard Nixon

Obama on the Republican Plan

"These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kind of cuts that the fiscal commission proposed.

These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America that I believe in and I think you believe in.

I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them; if there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them. ...

... It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you're a 65-year-old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today.

It says, instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy the insurance that's available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck; you're on your own.

Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it. ...

... It's a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. ...

... And, worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.

Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That's who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs.

That's not right, and that's not going to happen as long as I'm president."
President Barack Obama, speaking today about the Republican plan to save $4 trillion in ten years... President Barack Obama, responding to the Republicans' plan to cut the deficit

Well, he kind of already did (with respect to the tax cuts), albeit for the indefinite (as opposed to the permanent) future.

But otherwise, dead-on

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Medicare Plan Expected

Purchase medicare from whom? the Insurance companies that try to deny us coverage when it gets too expensive for them? Fabulous.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Walker Con't

Governor Scott Walker's maneuver was particularly illuminating. This political fight was not about Wisconsin's budgetary woes whatsoever. It was about the Republicans' desire to bust the unions, for if it was, as they claim, about the budget, they would have no reason to ban the union workers' right to negotiate without passing the budget.

I wonder if the Reagan Democrats have any regrets pulling the lever for Walker. Perhaps they will wake up and vote accordingly next time.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Scott Walker Standoff

I have to say this -

Governor Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) really overreached. Most Americans who work in the private sector believe that their counterparts in the public sector should contribute more to their pensions and many believe that the civil service system needs to be drastically reformed. No one should be rewarded with a job for life. and in the private sector no one (save for the bankers on Wall Street) are awarded with a job for life. If a business isn't making ends meet, workers are laid off and the employer has to decide who will be kept and who will laid off. In the public sector, the people with the most seniority get to stay. In the private sector the employer could base that decision on his employees' job performance.

I think Wisconsin's voters would have backed the governor in any confrontation on merit pay, tenure, or the seniority system because most Americans understand that there is no incentive to work hard when an employee is awarded a job for life. And they definitely would have backed the governor's demand that public workers contribute more towards their health plans. Union spokesmen didn't concede on health care contributions out of the goodness of their hearts. They knew the governor had a winner there.

Governor Walker; however, did not force the public employees into that debate on seniority or tenure. He decided to use this crisis to crush the public unions movement by stripping away their bargaining rights. And then he undermined whatever claim that Wisconsin's budget woes forced him to do that by exempting two unions that endorsed him from the ban on collective bargaining.

He may win this fight. Sooner or later the Democrats who have fled to Illinois will have to return and vote on a proposal. Voters in Wisconsin, however, may be wondering if the governor is pragmatic enough to suitably govern their state.

George Will: Obama no Kenyan

"To the notion that Obama has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama's natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America's academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?" - George W. Will, in his latest column which can be found in The Washington Post tomorrow and online.

I don't know if these outrageous claims leveled against President Barack Obama (that he was taught in a Madrassa, that he's an anti-colonial Kenyan, that he's a radical Muslim) will hurt the Republican brand or not, but I know that it should if this nonsense is not stopped immediately.

Kudos go to George W. Will.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Best Way to Cut the Deficit: Let All Bush Tax Cuts Expire

"It's an odd turn of events, but for all that this budget, and the various Republican proposals, attempt to actually do for the deficit, the biggest single thing we could do would be to do, well, nothing: Let the Bush tax cuts expire and let the health-reform law and the associated Medicare cuts and excise tax get implemented as planned. Doing by not doing: That's the zen of deficit reduction. Somehow, I doubt Washington will find it very calming." Ezra Klein at The Washington Post

Methinks Obama should read Ezra Klein more.

Oh, and cut defense spending and deal with entitlement reform. Social security would be the easiest to tackle - lift the caps on the pay roll tax and raise the retirement age by 1 or 2 years. I don't think anyone wants to touch that one since the first to propose a reform will be accused of rationing another person's health care. Do the the younger people get priority? Older people? Will the money be distributed on an outcomes-based expectation?

The Republican version - handing out vouchers to pay for health care, sounds suspiciously like having you purchase your own insurance from an insurance company that will gladly accept your paychecks but deny your claim when it suits them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reason in New Jersey

It's not an either/or for many residents. Some people actually do believe everyone has to sacrifice. Democrats. Let go. Union workers have to pay more. Republicans. Let go. Taxes must be raised on the wealthy.

Everyone has to pitch in to balance the budget.

Perhaps our president will take a page from New Jersey's voters. Vital services must be preserved and to pay for it, public workers and wealthy taxpayers must contribute more.

Mubarak Ousted

President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year autocratic rule has come to its end eighteen days after Egyptian citizens, watching what happened in Tunisia, took the streets, demanding his resignation and the corruption that has plagued their country.

Mubarak's newly-appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, issued the one-sentence statement purportedly issued by the president, ceding his authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. President Barack Obama, as well as Egyptian military offers and the protesters on the street, were expecting Mubarak to offer his resignation last night but the embattled autocratic president merely offered to cede more powers to his vice president and refused to step aside.

The embattled autocrat in all likelihood was ousted by the military after its high ranking officials saw he wasn't going to resign on his own. The president himself, did not issue the statement. It was issued from Suleiman after he fled to Sharm el-Sheik and after the protests, originally centered on Tahrir Square, spread to the state-run news agency, the parliamentary building, and the president's own palace. Soldiers guarding the president's palace turned their turrets from the protesters to the side, in an apparent expression of solidarity.

We can expect the Republicans, who have for the most part remained quiet, to break with the president. The debate over who lost Egypt will begin. Two potential Republican nominees, three-term former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas)and former Senator Rick Santorum, have already expressed their support for Hosni Mubarak and have rebuked the president because he did not, in their view, did not back our beleaguered ally.

In his interview with FOX News, Huckabee relayed the concerns of some international officials after speaking to the Israeli Prime Minister, Israeli cabinet ministers, and 20 European Parliament members (none mentioned specifically by name). They, he claims, were surprised because the president, in their opinion, abandoned President Mubarak too quickly, sending the message that he would abandon the remaining American allies when it becomes politically inexpedient.

The U.S.-backed monarchs in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Israelis, have the most to fear from the Egyptian revolution. The protests that have received the most coverage have occurred in Egypt but the media's attention may occur to the protests taking place in Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen now that the Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. Yemen's autocratic president promised he would not run again. Jordan's king, in an attempt to step ahead of the protesters in his country, sacked his cabinet and prime minister. The Saudi king, for his part, denounced the protests shortly after they began.

Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu's concerns are understandable if only because he never trusted the president to back him at the negotiating table with the Palestinians. The president had publicly pressed the prime minister to maintain the freeze on settlement expansion in the West Bank and restart the negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. This effort ultimately failed and the likelihood that they will begin anew is all but dead now that the Israelis have potentially lost one of its more faithful and trustworthy allies in Mubarak.

Mubarak no doubt was a reliable American ally. He faithfully detained and tortured Islamic terrorists when we wanted him to and he upheld the peace treaty with Israel that was signed by his predecessor. This peace treaty, however, was made by the heads of state and was not made by a government that was responsive to the Egyptian people as a whole. The Israelis have very reason to fear that a democratically-elected Egyptian administration would favor Israel's negotiating tactics less while expressing its solidarity with the Palestinian people. While the anti-Israeli Muslim Brotherhood would gain a stronger voice within a new Egyptian administration, the Egyptians would not compromise its alliance with the Americans and the billions of dollar in aid it receives, by reneging on the peace treaty it signed with the Israelis.

Our influence in shaping the political response in Egypt, in any event, was severely limited. The writing on the wall as soon as we saw the armed forces' reaction to the the thousands of Egyptian protesters gather at Tahrir Square. We saw troops letting the protesters stand on their tanks. We saw troops setting up barricades and ultimately protect the anti-Mubarak protesters after the Egyptian president's supporters turned violent. We did not see the Egyptian military personnel fire upon the protesters and we did not see them, in any way, enforce the curfew Mubarak imposed 18 days ago.

President Obama had no choice but to distance himself, however, gradually and carefully, from our long-term ally, lest the protesters and eventual winners turn their wrath against the United States and back a militantly anti-American regime in the upcoming elections. By distancing himself from the autocrat, President Obama provided the secular, and pro-American middle, an opportunity to gain the street credit it ultimately will need in those upcoming elections.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) critiqued the president at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He couldn't understand why the president wouldn't back the pro-American Mubarak regime against the Tahrir protesters after "backing" the anti-American theocratic regime in Iran against the green revolutionaries clamoring for a presidential election recount.

The former senator grossly distorted and over-simplified the president's response to both revolts. In both cases, the president reacted conservatively by backing the reforms (in Egypt) or a recount (in Iran) without calling for a change in government, and Santorum's accusations notwithstanding, the president said nothing until there were the uprisings in both cases. Obama was content to work with Mubarak for as long as he had him. He did not undermine our national interests by calling for his ouster and then only indirectly and behind the scenes, until he had to. And however much he may have preferred Iranian "moderate" Mir-Hossein Mousavi over Ahmadinejad, the president demonstrated his willingness to negotiate with the regime then in power.

The president has acted like the prudent, hard-headed realist we should expect from him. He must, in his official capacity as our head of state and head of government, negotiate with the administrations that other countries have; not the ones that we merely want.

Prudence dictated Obama's conservative approach in Iran for three reasons. First, the president in Iran is for the most part a figurehead. True power is held by the conservative clerics and the Supreme Leader, so a recount in a close election wouldn't have made a real difference in promoting the widespread change in Iran we'd hope for. Our enthusiasm was tempered when a former moderate who won the Iranian presidency was thwarted by the conservative clerics who truly ran Iran.

Just as important to the administration was the feared anti-American backlash that would follow if we intervened more forcefully. Our president did not want to undermine the revolutionaries' national patriotism by providing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerics that backed him with any new talking points that would undermine the protesters' commitment to Iran's future (as opposed to America's future).

Third and lastly, Obama figured he would need to negotiate with the government the Iranians had and any attempt to reach an accommodation on nuclear inspections would be shattered if the president appeared to back an insurrection or coup d'etat, whether it was implemented by the people or not. In Iran, unlike in Egypt, the Iran's government had the full backing of the Iranian military and its elite and dogmatically-inspired Republican Guard so our president expected the Ahmadinejad and the puppeteers that backed him to survive.

Backing the Iranian revolutionaries would not have worked without a stronger intervention from our end. The Chinese and Russian governments would not have signed onto any meaningful sanctions so the only way we could back the green revolutionaries would have involved the very sort of costly military intervention that would have undermined their campaign to begin with.

The developing situation in Egypt required a different response from the Obama administration. As I have noted above, the president could not, under any circumstances, back Egypt's autocratic ruler even if we wanted him to. The writing was on the wall. Mubarak was out, and the only question was whether he would step down in a matter of days or a matter of weeks. The Egyptians would never forgive an American administration that urged the protesters to "go home" or an American administration that reiterated its support for an administration that no longer captured the imagination of the Egyptian people.

And in Egypt, unlike in Iran, the change that was called for was not merely a change in a ceremonial figurehead; it was the change in the regime in its entirety. The protesters were not clamoring for a change in the president who served with an ayatollah's blessing. They were clamoring for the free and fair elections of a president whose power to change events on the ground are meaningful.

Obama, to his credit, realized this and gently urged the president to step aside. He publicly backed the Egyptians' right to protest and urged the Egyptian military to refrain from any violent resolution to the standoff while privately calling on Mubarak to resign. The president, also to his credit, did not try to humiliate the president or the Egyptian military, by publicly calling for his resignation. This had to look like the genuinely Egyptian revolution that it was.

The president now must call for an orderly transition that should be led by the Egyptian military. Specifically the president must call for the lifting of martial law as well as constitutional reforms guaranteeing everyone the right to peaceably assemble. He must call for the release of anyone who was imprisoned for protesting at Tahrir Square (and other locations throughout Egypt) and for negotiations with the anti-Mubarak opposition.

You Know We've Won the Battle

when gay couples are featured in mainstream, albeit, college newspapers.

It's only a matter of time.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Limits of American Power

In an interview with David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network, former Governor and FOX News panelist Sarah Palin criticized our president, Barack Obama, for his apparent failure to tell us who will replace Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian, military-backed president, when he is forced to step down.

Last week some Egyptian protesters blamed our government, which has backed the military-backed regime in Cairo, for its failure to pressure Mubarak to resign. Some held empty tear gas canisters saying "Made in America" to prove their point that the weapons which we sold to the Egyptian government were used to suppress them. Some believe we owe them our support.

Anti-war leftists have used similar claims about American imperialism to condemn our country's interventionist policies.

Some neoconservatives criticized our president for what they believed to be his failure to back the Iranian protesters insisting upon a recount after their country's government certified the results of a presidential election that they claim was fraudulently decided.

Some neoconservatives, in their efforts to justify and rationalize the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said our invasion might serve as a catalyst for change in the region. Arab subjects in the neighboring states would clamor for democratic reforms if the democratic experiment was successful in Iraq.

What do these neoconservatives, anti-war isolationists, Sarah Palin, liberal hawks (who sided with the neoconservatives on Iraq) and the American people in general (we tend to back our government and never challenge the assumption that we will be "welcomed as heros")have in common? They believe we have the power, if not the moral authority (and this is where they diverge), to remake the world in our image and they condemn us for either our failure to or our success in, creating a set of facts or reality that suits our national interests.

Sarah Palin faults the administration for its failure to tell us whom we have anointed (if not crowned) to lead the Egyptian subjects while the Egyptian protesters condemn us because they believe we have already chosen Mubarak's stalwart ally in the intelligence agency as his successor.

They hare hopelessly naive. Neither side has given any thought to the claim that the Egyptians, and not the American government, is in control of its destiny. I don't think our president wanted these protests because the democratic government that could replace the Mubarak could put the Middle East peace process on hold for another decade. And I am sure that, if he had his choice, he would opt for a democratic and free Egypt that was a friend of Israel.

But our president knows we don't live in an ideal world. Barack Obama knows that he must, as head of government, negotiate with the governments other countries have and not the governments which we want. We made our deal with Hosni Mubarak for a reason. He was ready to make a deal. Mubarak would uphold his part of the bargain by preserving the peace with Israel and torture terrorism suspects when we didn't want our hands to get dirty. In return, we offered him billions of dollars in aid and the freedom to rule Egypt as he saw fit. Revolutions come from within. They are born from the aspirations of a people who think they can do better and are willing to die so that their families can do better. They are not forced down a person's throat with the barrel of a gun.

Those who say we should have cut our ties sooner and more forcefully press for reforms need only look at our failed experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq. By removing Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein from power, we unleashed some political forces that could not be contained. The factionalism that simmered under Hussein's rule came to a boil. Sunnis bombed Shiite mosques. Shiite death squads raided Sunni, Jewish and Christian neighborhoods. To date we have failed to get the three major factions to agree on Kirkuk's political status, oil revenue sharing, and constitutional reform.

Our efforts in Afghanistan have proven no more successful. Here we are forced to back an ineffective and corrupt administration which lacks the conficence of the Afghan people over the Taliban insurgents that once backed the terrorists who planed the 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C while land seized from the Taliban is lost to the Taliban. Obama himself, acknowledged that the key to winning the war in Afghanistan lies in our ability to win the war in a nuclear-armed Pakistan and our options there are limited.

These failures, more than anything may have led our president to think twice beowre we intervene in another country's domestic affairs. President Obama didn't know whether the Iranian revolutionaries had the wherewithall and the means to overthrow their country's mullahs and the Republican Guard. And at this moment, he probably doesn't know if the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, could outlast the protestors now congregating in Alexandria and Cairo. The information we are getting is decidedly mixed.

The military, up to now, has neither backed nor suppressed, the protesters and they are the key to Mubarak's surival or departure. Nor do we know what we can expect from the protestors since they have not appointed their leader for the negotiations over his departure. Obama knows his options are limited. He doesn't know if they can outlast Mubarak or if the military will pick a side. The president is hedging his bets. Obama doesn't want to offend the people who might topple their president, but he doesn't want to offend the president who might outlive the protesters, because the president will have to negotiate with the government Egypt has, whether he likes it or not. We couldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mubarak's Vice President

This is just speculation but it could mean one of two things (or both):

1. it is an attempt to hold onto power by calming any fears within the armed forces, that Mubarak would name his son as his eventual successor.

2. it is his face-saving attempt to ease his way out of power within a matter of months in an orderly way.

I'm worried. President Hosni Mubarak may have been a thug but he is our thug. One that supported the Middle East Peace Process. One that supported the embargo on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and one that vociferously supported the war against Islamist terrorists.

We really can't do anything. The Egyptian military isn't putting the rebellion down, which raises the question of whether Mubarak will survive or not. Will he be replaced by another army thug that can restore order and preserve the balance of power in the Middle East? Will he be replaced by a genuinely pro-Western social Democrat or will he be replaced by a coalition that includes the Muslim Brotherhood?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SOTU: Maybe Changing the Seating Wasn't a Great Idea

Our representatives on Capital Hill have reduced themselves to kids sitting at the school cafeteria lunch tables. Who, may we ask will be sitting with whom. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) apparently will be sitting with her "BFF." No friggin' way. Way dude. And she had "back ups" just in case Senator Olympia Snowe stood her up - "Johnny" and "Bob" (Senators John Isaacson and Bob Corker). I wonder how Isaacson and Corker will feel about Landrieu calling them "back ups."


Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will sit with with "his good friend" (if I may use a term often used by senators from opposing sides of the aisle in the middle of a debate) Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee). and US Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said he could sit with US Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland). They "try to talk quite often." Try.

Show I vomit now or later. Who cares where they sit? Why don't they just pick their seats and let whoever sits next to them sit next to them? And don't tell us who is sitting next to whom. We're going to watch to hear what the president says, not to see who our local congressman or woman is sitting with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arizona Ceremony Honoring the Fallen and the Living

Some very brief comments:

The president shined. No doubt about it. He rose to the occasion though I'm sure there will be some on FOX News complaining because the president, towards the end of his speech, said he wants "our democracy to be as good as she [insert Christina Taylor Green] imagined it" (as opposed to stating we are the shining city on the hill). Sigh. One can imagine a Republican presidential nominee using this in his or her campaign commercials. Still, he touched all of the important points and kept the focus where it belonged - on the victims, both those that survived and those who died. Noting that Congresswoman Giffords opened her eyes was classy and brought hope when it was needed.


I was pleased that the opening spiritual ceremony was led by Native American who delivered a non-Christian prayer (if it could be called that). I'm only sorry he spent so much time introducing himself. His job was to pray pure and simple. Not talk about himself.

The students' speeches weren't that bad either. Something tells me they, particularly the her-denying hero Hernandez, will be running for office one day.

Speaker of the House John Boehner should have accepted the invitation to attend this ceremony. He is the Speaker of the House and as its leader and primary representative he should have been there to represent the House and show his support for his wounded colleague now fighting for her life in the hospital

Sarah Palin should not have spoken today and because she spent the time defending herself, portraying herself as a victim of "blood libel" of all things. She looked small and petty, particularly when compared to the president who did everything to make his speech about those who lost and saved lives and nothing about himself.