Tag Archives: president obama

on election night…

After the last two presidential election cycles ended, I had to put myself in a media blackout.  Particularly after Bush’s re-election.  In the fall of 2004, I had gotten to the point where I was consuming political information at such an overwhelming rate that I wasn’t even processing it even more.  I would eagerly monitor the changing electoral projection map in each new issue of Newsweek.  My evenings began with Crossfire and ended with The Daily Show.  I had a blog then, but my posts ended abruptly mid-October, simply because I couldn’t take the time to stop and reflect on what I was consuming.

So when it all came to a screeching halt after Sen Kerry’s concession speech, it was a complete shock to the system.  I stopped reading the newspaper, and didn’t turn on my television for any type of programming whatsoever until well after Christmas (once the Southeast Asian tsunami hit and I was shamefully reminded that there was more to the world than American politics…).

2008 wasn’t much better.  Up until late October of that year, I had been working nearly full-time as a caregiver for an elderly gentleman who did little more than change the channel between C-Span and CNN.  I didn’t exactly discourage him, either.  I was addicted to the coverage, craved more of it every day, and even when I left his house I’d rush home and check the HuffingtonPost and MSNBC before doing anything else with my evening.  Granted, I had more reason to be optimistic then.  So much so that my husband and I threw and election night party (figuring we’d probably feel the need to drink regardless of the outcome — luckily the drinking was celebratory).  But I still had to cut myself off from most media for several days at least.  I gave myself one exception:  as I cleaned up from the party the night before, I played, as loud as I could stand it, the original Broadway cast album of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s virtuosic masterpiece Caroline, or Change.  I had always loved that piece, but its truth rang more fully that day than it ever had before.

At any rate, I’ve deliberately taken a different tack this year.  Yes, I’ve had more than my share of spats on Facebook (who hasn’t?).  And I still definitely spend a disproportionate amount of time at my computer reading as many news sources as I can stand.  But there’s definitely a change.

I’m more willing, and able, to stop.  To shut the laptop and call it a night.  To get up and practice at the piano for a couple of hours instead of trolling Facebook for a fight.  To let the world of political punditry go on without me (I doubt they’ve noticed, anyway).

Today, I was folding and putting away some laundry, and it occurred to me, “No matter who wins this election, I will still have to wash, and fold, and put away the laundry, tomorrow, next week, next year.”  Just like that.  Life will go on.

Now, it might not go on entirely as I’d like it.  I have not lost my conviction that elections can, and do, have a real impact on our day-to-day lives.  But — and this expanding perspective is likely the ONLY thing I appreciate about getting older — I feel more certain than ever that the world will keep turning, and that the human race will keep trying, however haltingly and imperfectly, to achieve a free and just world.

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campaign stupidity, and immigration policy…

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I have a penchant for writing public officials on issues that matter to me.  Below is my — what I’m sure will be inconsequential — email to the Obama for America 2012 campaign.

It turns out, on August 1, an email was sent to Obama supporters in New Mexico — by OFA New Mexico’s state director, Ray Sandoval — which encouraged them to read a blog post stridently defending the debt ceiling compromise.  It also turns out that –in an act of such political brilliance you can’t possibly shield your eyes from its glory — the blog post ridicules the Nobel-laureate economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as a “political rookie”, as well as calls to task the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere.”  You can read the original HuffingtonPost reporting here.

Now, not to make this personal, but some of mine and my husband’s most intense arguments are inevitably waged over the subject of the president’s liberal credentials and his commitment (or, rather, lack thereof) to progressive causes.  Personally, I tend to come down on the pragmatic side.  I count myself among those who are not suffering from buyer’s remorse — thank you very much — and feel like I got exactly the president I voted for.  That does not for a second mean I don’t have any complaints whatsoever with the man’s job performance.  But I continue to believe that he is doing the best he can under incredibly trying circumstances, and that a little disappointment is par for the course in politics as messy (downright ugly, really) as ours.

That being the case, I don’t exactly appreciate it when an individual who acts as the face of the president’s re-election for an entire state is so incredibly tone-deaf and obtuse as to “hippie punch” (which I’ve learned is the current expression for liberal-bashing) in this way.  So, naturally, I make my non-appreciation known in writing:

To whom it may concern,

I am a proud and steadfast supporter of the president and his re-election. And it is out of my feelings of support that I offer my two cents: the campaign would be well-advised to dismiss Ray Sandoval as soon as possible.

I don’t consider myself “far left,” and I share the frustration of many in the president’s administration with the constant stream of criticism from that end of the political spectrum. But it is one thing to concede that you’ll never satisfy your most liberal base — it is entirely another to actively bash them.

I appreciate Katie Hogan’s statement that the views expressed in Mr Sandoval’s email do not represent the views of the campaign. But as long as Mr Sandoval is a part of OFA, he represents the campaign, and, by extension, the president. And that is a matter of fact whether he is a canvassing volunteer or the national campaign manager. It is certainly within Mr Sandoval’s responsibilities to defend the president and his record against criticism. But surely he understands that the president is best served when actions on behalf of his campaign are executed with good sense, reasonableness, and dignity.

The campaign must reflect the values and character of its candidate. I assume OFA knows this, which leaves you with a choice: either Mr Sandoval is dismissed; or his actions, in fact, do represent the president and his views. If the latter is indeed true, then even a political rookie can tell you the president is in for a rough re-election.

I appreciate your time and attention,

Eric Anderson, Jr

*****

In other news — and on another subject that led to a heated argument with my husband — the Obama administration announced today a new policy regarding immigrant deportation.  I haven’t had a chance yet to delve too deeply into it, but it’s at least initially encouraging.

Essentially, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will exercise broader discretion in determining “low-priority” cases.  In other words, cases that don’t ultimately have an impact on national security.

The majority of responses to the new policy had to do with the DREAM Act and renewed hope for its passage.  But I was celebrating the new policy for another reason — the very good chance that Anthony John Makk may not face deportation after all.  And that would be a wonderful thing.

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and these people govern our country…?

This is going to be a fairly short entry, but a little news item has me particularly perturbed.  From ‘Politico’

Impeaching President Barack Obama “needs to happen,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told a local tea party group, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday.

Burgess spoke, the paper said, in response to an attendee’s suggestion that the GOP-controlled House use impeachment to stop Obama from “pushing his agenda.”

“It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up,” Burgess reportedly responded. “No question about that.”

When the Star-Telegram’s reporter asked Burgess about the comment, he said the House needs to do what it can to stop the president.

“We need to tie things up,” Burgess said. “The longer we allow the damage to continue unchecked, the worse things are going to be for us.”

Burgess, an obstetrician who is in his fifth term as a lawmaker, is the latest House Republican to call for the president’s impeachment. Last month, Iowa Rep. Steve King said Obama “would be impeached” if he allowed the nation to default.

Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said it would be “an impeachable offense” for Obama to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. In April, former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein drafted articles of impeachment in hopes that House Republicans would introduce them.

So, Rep. Burgess considers impeachment to be a procedural roadblock.  He does.  He has taken the Constitution’s most severe repercussion for the perpetration of high crimes and misdemeanors — such as, say, lying about a White House-ordered break-in or illegally selling arms to a declared enemy of the United States — and declared it to be a means to simply “tie things up” because he disagrees with the president’s agenda.

Men like this control part of our government.

I have nothing else to say.

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early “debt deal” thoughts…

I’m still processing information regarding the debt-ceiling increase agreement that was finally made law this afternoon.  My sister asked me what I thought of it, and all I could really say was, “Well, I’m glad they found a way to avoid default, but it never, ever should have come to this.”

There’s still a lot to be explored/analyzed/discussed about the legislation itself and how it came to pass (no pun intended), and I’m hoping to do those very things.  Particularly in terms of the President’s “performance” in the process.

In the meantime, this op-ed in today’s ‘Times’ got me thinking.  And not necessarily in an agreeable way.

Now, it bothers me not one bit that Nocera goes so far as to call the Tea Party’s actions of late “jihad on the American People.”  I think he’s simply speaking the objective truth.  Maybe it’s not particularly decorous to refer to congressional colleagues, even Tea Partiers, as terrorists.  But it goes a long way towards accurately describing their behavior and ascertaining their mindset.  These Tea Partiers, as Nocera (and plenty of others) has mentioned, are perfectly content to “go down with the ship”… or, “throw the baby out with the bath water”… or, any other cliche that describes such irrational decision making.  They have taken a bare electoral mandate for fiscal responsibility and used it to risk the welfare and stability of the very country they swore an oath to serve.

No, it’s not Nocera’s description of the Tea Party that gets me.  Interestingly, it’s the means he would have preferred to exercise in opposing them.  That is, as he put it:

My own view is that Obama should have played the 14th Amendment card, using its language about “the validity of the public debt” to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Yes, he would have infuriated the Republicans, but so what? They already view him as the Antichrist. Legal scholars believe that Congress would not have been able to sue to overturn his decision. Inexplicably, he chose instead a course of action that maximized the leverage of the Republican extremists.

He has every right to advocate this sort of action, but I find it to be a flawed argument.

First, I’ve never taken much stock in the fourteenth amendment “option.”  I’m not one you would generally peg as a Constitutional “originalist,” but it seems quite clear to me that the debt-related clause in this amendment referred specifically to debt accrued in the Civil War.  Sure, since it declares that the “full faith and credit” of the United States cannot be questioned, the clause can be interpreted to guarantee all federal debt issued at any time.  But that seems to me a perilously loose reading of the amendment, particularly when it leads to an argument that the debt ceiling is altogether unconstitutional.  The Constitution very clearly affords the power to issue debt to Congress alone.

But secondly, and more importantly, as irresponsible as it has been for Republicans to manufacture the current crisis over the debt ceiling, it would have been just as irresponsible for the president to manufacture a second one over executive authority.  Put another way, arguing for the “14th Amendment” option — particularly on the belief, as Nocera asserts, that no court would dare to strike the action down — is essentially asking the president to govern with an attitude of “I’m going to do this potentially unconstitutional thing simply because I don’t think you’re going to bother trying to stop me.”  That would be governing like an asshole.

And that would make him a Republican.

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the gay enthusiasm gap…

See, stories like this really infuriate me.

Now granted, I’m not in any way out to dismiss or diminish the disappointment felt by large portions of the queer community.  I feel that same disappointment to a certain degree.  The President’s insistence that he supports same-sex “civil unions” but not same-sex “marriage” just seems like catering to the country’s religious communities.  His administration’s argument that they are appealing the DADT ruling because they are bound to uphold and defend existing law wears incredibly thin.  But let’s be honest — we have in the White House the most gay-supportive president in the nation’s history.  That’s an admittedly low bar to overcome, true, but we should take a deep breath and think about the long-term repercussions of taking out our frustrations against the President and his party at the ballot box.

The plea of Democrats to the queer community is, basically, the plea to unenthusiastic Democratic voters of all orientations — the change hasn’t come fast enough, but stick with us and it will come eventually.  It’s not exactly a heart-stirring battle cry — it’s simply the cold hard truth.

Because, let’s face it, while we may feel as though Democrats have, time and time again, thrown us under the bus, we know for a fact that Republicans are determined to keep us at the back of the bus.  So if there is really a significant enough part of the queer community that is willing to hand the House to Republicans out of their sense of self-righteous, victimized frustration, then they will be the ones to blame when whatever meager gains we have won disappear into thin air and the issues still facing us are dropped to the bottom of the “to-do” list.

If we abandon the President at this moment simply because we haven’t gotten enough, fast enough, all we’re doing is shooting ourselves in the dick.

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enough already!

I  — and I imagine most reasonable people in this country as well — have been absolutely appalled at the behavior of national Republican leaders these past few days.  The garbage they continue to spew over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”  — which, as has been made abundantly clear, is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero  — is the very stuff of which all Americans should be truly ashamed.

 Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin very shrewdly got the ball of hatred rolling with her infamous plea to “refudiate” the plan to build the mosque.  Although she managed, however awkwardly, to repair her grammar, she continued to shed an unduly harsh national light on the issue.

 Palin, and others, have stuck largely to the argument that Ground Zero is “hallowed ground” and therefore anything remotely relating to Islamic culture being established in a borough-wide radius of the site would be an unforgivable “slap in the face” to all Americans who still feel the sting of September 11.  Because, I suppose, it was the whole of Islam that attacked our nation that day.   No doubt some elements of this country believe that – but they are completely, frightfully wrong.

 Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, has gone right for the anti-Islam jugular – claiming that the proposed center is “an assertion of Islamist triumphalism… an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.”  And, apparently, because that sort of hate-mongering isn’t abhorrent enough, he continues – “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

 Because what better way to preserve our own civilization, and its founding principle of religious liberty, than by imitating one of the most repressive theocratic states on the face of the planet?  Take that, Islamo-fascists!

 (This argument, of course, from the man who suggested that the way to prevent America from becoming a socialist nation is to follow the corporate tax policies of communist China).

 Though he has wisely, and characteristically, tried to remain above the fray for the past couple of weeks, President Obama used the occasion of last Friday’s iftar to remind his guests, and the nation at large, of what makes us great as a nation:

 As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.  And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.  This is America.  And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.

 Now, frankly, I find it a little embarrassing that the President even feels the need to provide such a reminder in such blindingly obvious terms.  But it is clear that several prominent members of this country’s political class have willfully, and maliciously, chosen to ignore the principle of religious liberty in order to ignite their political base and thus preserve their political power.  It’s enough to make me vomit.

 The President continued by drawing the distinction, yet again, between Islam as a whole and the distorted extremism of those who attacked us on September 11:

 So that’s who we’re fighting against.  And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply strength of our arms – it is the strength of our values.  The democracy that we uphold.  The freedoms that we cherish.  The laws that we apply without regard to race, or religion, or wealth, or status.  Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us – and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.

 Naturally, Mrs Palin couldn’t let this avowal of fundamental American values go un-commented upon, so she replied the next day via Facebook:

 Mr President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people?  Please tell us your position.  We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?  And, no, this not above your pay grade.

 First of all, Mrs Palin, you are correct in saying it is not above his pay grade – it is, in fact, well below it.  You might take note of the fact that the President affirmed the right of the Islamic community to build their cultural center “in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”  The fact is, as far as the specifics of the development are concerned, the project is entirely a locally governed issue – and the local government has overwhelmingly approved it.  It would be most inappropriate for the President to interfere at that level.  What is appropriate for the President to do, and what the President ultimately did do, is address the larger issue and help guide the national discussion of it.  And that larger issue is how, as a nation, we are still reeling from and adjusting to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

 There was a particular expression that was used repeatedly in the days that followed the attack — if we let “such-and-such” happen, then the terrorists win.  It was that mantra, that stubborn resistance against allowing a murderous bunch of religious extremists to change our way of life, that kept us together and moving forward during a time of unimaginable trauma.

 As far as I’m concerned, if we give in to religious fear and ignorance, if we exploit the events of September 11 in service of that fear and ignorance, if we are willing to go so far as to deny the most fundamental right of religious liberty based solely on that fear and ignorance — then the terrorists will have won.  They will have succeeded in shaking us to our very core and compelling us to forsake those values which are the source of our greatness.

 I, for one, have not been that shaken.  I will stand by my American principles and will defend to the death the right of other Americans to enjoy them.  And it is my willingness – my capacity, in the President’s words – to defend those principles that makes me, and this country, better than our enemies.

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gen mcchrystal and the future of afghanistan…

This past week, I finally got around to reading the infamous Rolling Stone article that prematurely ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal, and there are two things that stand out:

First, the article’s author, Michael Hastings, writes that as the general moved up the military ranks, “[he] relied on the skills he had learned as a troublemaking kid at West Point:  knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out.”  Hastings couldn’t possibly have known how prescient his description was, but it does beg the question:  if the general had in fact developed such a keen sense of how far to push the envelope, where was that sense when he allowed himself, and his closest aides, to let down their guard to such a degree in front of a reporter?  Frankly, it leaves the impression that (like Rep. Barton’s apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward) that this was no gaffe or accident.  This was deliberate.  What his motives were – was he simply seeing how far he could push his commander-in-chief? did he expect and in fact look forward to being relieved of command? – can only be guessed at.

Second, while the incident has served as a helpful reminder of the proper respect the military must have for its civilian leadership, what has gone less remarked upon is how the incident also reveals, quite starkly, how dysfunctional the relationship is between the military and its civilian counterpart.

Hastings writes that while McChrystal’s team had been the “indisputable” voice at the helm of all military operations, “there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side.”  In fact, there is such a position – the NATO Chief Civilian Representative, a post held by Englishman Mark Sedwill.  But, as an anonymous official tells Hastings, “that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight.”

Not even so much as weight, but a sense of coherence in the mission.  It quickly becomes clear the degree of overlap and redundancy that troubles the civilian end of the Afghanistan effort – a chief NATO representative responsible for direct communication between the war zone and NATO headquarters, as well as coordinating communications between senior Afghan officials and the international community; an American ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, who is presumably responsible for overseeing the US State Department’s program of promoting a stable and accountable government, as well as representing American interests as regards Afghan politics; and the special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, shuttling around to maintain international support of the mission in the face of growing skepticism, and hoping for a chance to more actively negotiate between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.  In the vacuum left by this diplomatic chaos, it is no surprise that Gen. McChrystal sought to fill it, even at the expense of the overall mission, which must have an equal civilian effort if there is to be any hope of a stable and secure Afghanistan.

Luckily, newly appointed Gen. Petraeus seems to understand this.  It gives a small amount of hope that the military and civilian forces will soon be operating from, if not the same, than at least a more similar playbook.

*****

What has gone even more unmentioned in regards to Afghanistan is the recent announcement of the existence of large amounts of mineral deposits in the country.  This news should be transforming the public debate about Afghanistan – on the other hand, it’s probably premature to discuss the long-term value of the discovered mineral deposits until the country is considered more secure.  But this offers the US its greatest chance yet to affect some long-term benefit for the country, and the region.  First, there is finally a viable alternative to the black-market fueled poppy industry.  Second, the establishment of a transparent, stable, and ecologically sound mining industry is a tangible post to which the development of a non-corrupt Afghan government can be tied.  Finally, the so-far inestimable value of the mineral deposits presents the possibility of an Afghanistan that is no longer an impoverished backwater, but a financially prosperous and self-sufficient state.  This is an opportunity that must not be passed up or, more importantly, screwed up.

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