Tag Archives: Obama

It is not the wind

It is not the wind.

The house shudders. A cold front is moving across the Midwest. Tiny snow crystals blown by high winds have returned. I hear a wail as it comes down the street, the cold drafts seeping through the walls.

But it is not the wind that I hear and it is not the cold that chills me and frightens me.

It is not the wind that woke me. What I hear is the wail of a thousand children, a thousand thousand children and their parents for whom the safety net has just been removed, from whom hope has just been stolen

I am up in the middle of the night, shaking and in tears at what I fear is the end of the most promising presidency since my childhood. How sad that it seems that it was only our projection on the blank slate of Barack Obama – large shadows of finger puppets projected by a flashlight on a back yard sheet

The President has written himself into a straight jacket from which, I fear he will not be able to get free. His is not Houdini. How can he start a desperately needed jobs program and cut domestic spending? How can he pass the most needed health care reform without initial increases in costs even if they might ultimately result in savings? How can the economy be restored without stimulating small business and entrepreneurs? How can families survive without extensions of unemployment insurance, and food stamps and job training and . . . and . . .

We have waited a year for bold action. We should have known better. Bold action is more than rhetoric.

When I saw the headline in my email Monday night, “President Obama Rather Be Really Good One Term President – ABC News,” I knew another shoe would drop. It reminded me of all the Presidents who have boasted of doing the hard thing when it would have been easier to do what was popular – In each case they were doing what they thought would be popular instead of the right thing.

I pray that I am wrong, that it was only a nightmare and in the morning I will find I imagined it all or that somehow I am missing something and that Wednesday night he will make sense of it all and soar again.

But I fear it is not just the wind that keeps me awake tonight.

Praise where praise is overdue: Obama on Israel

Those who follow this blog may be forgiven if they were under the impression that I am hostile to President Obama but they would be mistaken. Barack Obama was the first candidate for president for whom I ever voted with enthusiasm. If I have been critical here it is because I expect much and there are issues on which his positions or actions have been troubling.
But there is one area where he deserves special commendation and he isn’t getting enough — his policies toward Israel and Palestine.

I am a strong supporter of Israel and not that many years ago considered moving there, but ever since Nixon I have been aware of a strange phenomenon. Candidates who are touted as “good for Israel” usually aren’t. Such candidates usually encourage Israel’s worst tendencies. I won’t pretend the issues are easy but the American policy for many years of supporting (or at least turning a blind or winking eye toward) Israel’s expansion of the settlements has done Israel much harm. Resolutions of the conflicts that would have been merely difficult years ago have been greatly complicated by Israel’s constant expansion into the West Bank and around Jerusalem. It may be a form of tough love and it may be almost too late but Obama’s clear position on settlement policy is a beath of fresh air after years of stagnation. An interesting recent article on the subject can be found in Thursday’s piece by M.J. Rosenberg in the Israel Policy Forum.

So, thank you President Obama. Perhaps our children will be able to see the day when two states live in peace side by side as a result of your courage (and a lot of hard work and risk on behalf of both Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbors).

Tiptoing around the edges of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not humane

Tiptoing around the edges and tinkering with the details just won’t cut it any more. Yesterday Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reported to have said, the military might not have to expel someone whose sexual orientation was revealed by a third party out of vindictiveness or suspect motives. As an example he suggested that someone who was “jilted” by the gay service member might not be discharged.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at to see if there’s at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed,” Gates said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Nonsense… Can you imagine the hearing? What would the evidence be? How is this human?. What difference does it make how the information is revealed?

The time has come to permit our military to be open about who they are. “Don’t ask” is a good idea – the answer is TMI. But not asking has to be coupled with a No Consequences policy no matter the source of the disclosure. Anything less is inhumane and continues the second class citizenship of gays in the military.

A longer view

A friend recently emailed:

I am really disappointed w/Obama. The joint is a mess w/NO staff to deal w/issues and more and more having problems w/tax issues. What is WRONG w/those people? I bought in to the idea that they knew what they were doing.
Not to say the alternative was better. McCain would have been done in by Palin by now…or he’d just be napping. BUT what is WRONG w/the new team?
director.

I replied:

I too am a bit disappointed but 6 months ago the current financial meltdown was barely becoming visible. The tax issues are embarrassing but generally not substantive, not any more than the nanny tax issues were 12 years ago. If Obama’s original choice for OPM had not withdrawn over a paltry amount, it would not have been necessary for Daschle to cave. (His problems were of perception blindness in an era when accepting freebies was not as big a deal as it is now that bank CEOs have to travel at the back of the bus.)

Right now good candidates with solid incomes are afraid to risk federal employment at ridiculously low salaries without knowing what they can come back to. And as to finding good people to handle the financial meltdown, the problem is no one really knows what to do so it is hard to find people willing to risk their necks.
Let’s see where we are in 6 months. 12 years ago Clinton had barely started to nominate his cabinet, caved in on good choices over the nanny tax or forthright candidates (e.g. Lannie Guenier) and he wasted his first term failing to appoint judges for many vacancies and lost the opportunity when the Republicans took over the Senate in 94.

Obama is way ahead under impossible circumstances.

[Just think, a year ago I was sorry that a third of my assets were in cash and now, thanks to the economy, they have climbed to 50%.)

Change We Can Believe In? Update

UPDATE: 2/24 One prisoner has been released from Guantanamo. The big issues now are how to handle the rest of them: Release – to where?; continued imprisonment – where? Rights – Any?

Commentator

Amazing! We are  barely one month into the Obama administration and already he has:

  • Endorsed the Kyoto Treaty;
  • Written environmental and labor safeguards into NAFTA;
  • Drawn down troops from Iraq;
  • Adopted realistic goals in Afghanistan, eliminating bombing attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan that kill civilians;
  • Closed Guantanamo;
  • Ended extraordinary rendition;
  • Supported the right of prisoners in Guantanamo to have their custody reviewed under traditional principles of habeus corpus;
  • Withdrawn U.S. legal objections to review by Federal Courts of cases brought by U.S Citizens held in custody by (or at the request of) the United States in other countries;
  • Ended the use of the claim of national security as justification for keeping those who claim illegal incarceration from seeking redress in U.S. courts;
  • and

  • Supported dismissal of charges in cases where the government refuses to provide evidence on ground of national security.

Oh, wait . . . Not only has the President failed to take these actions, he has supported the opposite principles in these matters and others too.

Oh, well. There is always the politics of hope.

[Readers are invited to submit additional hoped for changes which have been contradicted for inclusion on this list.]

Bipartisanship Won!

Churlish headlines this morning read, “Stimulus 2, Bipartisanship 1.” But they spell it wrong. Bipartisanship Won!!

How can I say bipartisanship won? Because in during the election campaign which ended so happily on my birthday, Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional campaigns reached out to everyone, and especially to centrist Republicans (sometimes to the short term frustration true blue Democrats). And they succeeded. The focus of the media has been on the lopsided votes in the House and Senate, where troglodyte Republicans are holding on to the past and imagine that they are proving something by refusing to participate in addressing the serious economic problems we face.

But in November centrist jurisdictions elected Democrats. Republican voters voted for Democratic candidates. The congress we now have includes may centrist Democrats who are sensitive to the concerns of their constituents. Our President and the Democratic party are now “bipartisan.” Centrist and liberal elements co-exist in one grand party.

The remaining “Republicans” in both houses are the tired right-wing dredges of their party spouting worn out slogans and touting more of the same failed policies that got us where we are.

I am among those who have complained that the stimulus and some of the other proposals of the current administration have not gone far enough in addressing the excesses of the truly partisan policies of the past eight years. I hope those policies will be reviewed and progress extended. But I have come to realize that they are the result of the fact that the Democratic party is now, under Barack Obama’s leadership, truly a big tent. What look like failed attempts to reach out to the Republican Party are really, in part, necessary accommodations to the former Republicans who now find themselves within the Democratic party, either in Congress or in the electorate. There is the true bipartisan stretch.

This sometimes leads to short term frustration for purists, those of us who would prefer the perfect to the [insert your favorite term: good, necessary, possible . . .]. But in the long view it this may be for the best. The remains of the Republicans in both houses may think they are having the best of both worlds, letting the Democrats carry the water while they sit back and carp, in the theory that if current policies fail they can point fingers but if they succeed they will share in the benefits. But in reality they are just falling behind.

As Arlen Spector said, “I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation.” Except in the most reactionary jurisdictions their perfidy will come back to haunt them.

Specter, along with centrist Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe were the only Republican members in either house to join in crafting and supporting the stimulus, but millions of other Republicans joined on November 4th to create the bipartisan Democratic Party that made this possible.

Poor Jud is Gone

There are those who will lament Judd Gregg’s withdrawal of his nomination for Secretary of Commerce and use it as another so-called example of the failure of bi-partisanship. But his selection even for the backwater post of Commerce was a mistake given his inability to accept the basic program of the administration.

Bi-partisanship does mean reaching out to the other party but it does not mean capitulation. A team of rivals is not the same as inviting a fifth column to undermine your basic program.

Congressman Stenny Hoyer’s comments today on bi-partisanship are well taken. See Politico today.