Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Kennedy was the sort of elected official who comes along only once or twice in a lifetime, one who was defined by his (in this case) liberal ideology and was used by the Republican Party as the centerpiece of many a campaign fundraising brochure - but who, at the end of the day, could (as highlighted in a great piece in the Washington Times) after a day of fighting his colleagues across the aisle join them for a beer. In fact, I'm beginning to think it was a pattern among Massachusetts Democrats of Irish descent to fight one minute and toast the next; Tip O'Neill was another great example of this sort of throwback politician, one who could lambaste Ronald Reagan for eight hours and in the ninth hour join him to raise a pint.
But Kennedy's career wasn't always defined by simply opposing Republicans. In the same Times story (which you can read in its entirety here), Joseph Curl laid out an impressive list of times where the Lion worked with colleagues from across the aisle to forge bipartisan deals on significant legislation: the Americans With Disabilities Act (with Bob Dole); the Mental Health Parity Act (with Pete Domenici); the Ryan White AIDS Act (with Orrin Hatch); and the No Child Left Behind Act (with President George W. Bush), among many others. And the significant accomplishment of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s was a watershed moment not just for Kennedy and his colleagues, but for the entire nation.
His passing comes at a time where many would say his voice and his leadership were definitely needed, with health care reform legislation again at the fore. I agree something needs to be done, although I'm not convinced that the current bill is the right way to go. (Side bar: Republicans cannot be called the party of no necessarily with this bill, as they don't have the majority anywhere; could the Democrats find some unity, they could pass it on their own. Additionally, those who say the Republicans aren't offering any suggestions of their own are conveniently ignoring the reform legislation they have introduced in recent years - and which has been ignored by the current leadership because it doesn't go far enough. The way things with the Democrats are imploding at this point, their bill won't go far enough for most, either. End side bar.) However, following his brush with death in the plane crash of the 1960s, Kennedy made health care reform his major cause. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, there is no disputing the fact that his voice was - and will be - missed throughout this debate, and as someone who could bring folks together from opposite sides of the room and make agreements stick his leadership may have made the difference.
But I won't use my half of this post to debate legislation or who is right and who is wrong in the current political environment. I also won't drag up all of the problems Kennedy had in his life and the tragedy that he experienced; everyone has problems, everyone has screwed up, and everyone at some point will experience tragedy. What I will do is say "thank you" for representing a bygone age of politics, one in which disputes were left at the door and folks at the end of the day could still be civil with each other. "Thank you" for recognizing that a party didn't have to do everything alone, and that there was a time and a place for compromise and cooperation. Sadly, many of today's politicians seem to have forgotten what they can do in order to focus on what they think they should be doing.
When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008 and appeared at American University the day he was officially endorsed by Ted Kennedy, I was in attendance for no other reason than to witness a historic moment (and to get a sample of the Obama hype I had been hearing about). Like Obama or not, it was an important day - and Kennedy was in his element; he was commanding, he was uplifting (for the Obama supporters), and he definitely did his part to rally the troops. It was the only time in my life I saw Kennedy in person (even with all of the time I worked on Capitol Hill), and after news of his passing it has taken on an entirely new significance.
His family, his friends, and his constituents are mourning the loss of a father, uncle, grandfather, supporter, and advocate. More than the man, though, I am mourning the era that has passed away with his death.
I grew up with an understanding of Jack and Bobby - of what they had done and who they were, of what they meant to my mother and to the nation - a knowledge of where my parents were when they learned of Jack's and Bobby's deaths, and a sense of pride in knowing that my father drove to Washington, D.C. to join the long line of mourners who filed solemnly past the President's coffin. In all the years, however, I had never heard much mention of Teddy from my parents. As I got older, however, and became more interested in politics and all things Liberal, I gravitated toward Teddy, mesmerized by his words, captivated by his passion, and in awe of his dedication to fulfilling a promise to America that his brothers had made.
For me, Teddy Kennedy is my one link to the days of Camelot, and as romanticized and dreamy as those days were to so many, I have always been more interested in what Teddy himself had done in his lifetime, as I was directly impacted by his work. My brother mentioned some of his bipartisan legislation earlier, but I will attempt to sum up the man by saying this: in the last 40 years, no one has done more for the causes of civil rights, women's rights, the rights of the disabled, and the rights of the poor and disenfranchised than Ted Kennedy. He fought for more than thirty years for Health Care Reform, was instrumental in lowering the voting age to 18, had great concern about the care given to veterans, and he worked to provide aid to refugees from war-torn countries. As so many have stated since his passing, he was born into a life of privilege, but dedicated his life to being a champion of the voiceless, the less fortunate, and the forgotten.
It is nearly impossible to put into words the legacy of this great man, and I am certainly incapable of doing so in this forum. I will only say that, whether or not one agreed with his ideology, Ted Kennedy is a man to whom respect must be shown. Too often his failings and self-admitted regrets were used as a rallying cry for his detractors, but his is a life that must be examined in its entirety. Like him or not, history will undoubtedly remember him as the greatest Senator of the 20th century and as a man who devoted his entire life to serving the country he loved so well.
I think all Americans can take pride in that.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I don't think I'm going to shock anyone by saying that I am a big fan of Barack Obama. Like so many of his supporters, I was excited and hopeful about what was on the horizon when he was elected - a new direction for America and a way out of the mess we'd found ourselves in for a long time. I still feel that sense of excitement and hope, only now with a touch of nervousness and frustration, and I don't think that I'm alone in that. Why the change? Simply put, I think Obama has gone from the guy who wanted to make things right (the right way) to the guy who wants to put a band aid on the dam (right now). He has an enormous amount of plans on the agenda, and rather than prioritizing and giving focused attention to each, I feel lately he has an unorganized and hurried approach to the bulk of the problems we face. Is he stretching himself to thin? If you ask me, the answer is a definite YES.
I'm certainly not the only person who has voiced a near-disappointment in the current state we find ourselves in; while his overall approval rating is about 59%, depending on what poll you look at, his approval ratings based on policies have slipped notably in the last several weeks, and opposition to his proposals is steadily on the rise. While many people want drastic turnarounds to the problems we face (economy, health care system, environment, wars in 2 countries, etc. etc.), it seems that it's getting harder and harder to get on board with Obama's proposed solutions, and as painful as it is to admit, count this Liberal among the doubtful.
Obama came into this job knowing there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed in America, but the pace at which he wants to solve every problem, while admirable, is manic. We all want America to be a perfect, shining beacon on the hill, but the hill is high and the rock we have to push up it is enormous. Obama knows this, which I assume is why he won't stop giving press conferences and prime time addresses. I get it, Mr. President - the last administration was a little lacking in the disclosure and reassurance department, but there is such a thing as talking too much. We know you want to change things! So stop talking about it and start doing it. And while you're at it, enough with the Today Show interviews. Yes, you looked silly in your mom jeans at the All Star Game, but does the public need to know how you feel about it? Or would they rather know if the stimulus plan is going to create real, positive developments in their hometowns?
There are no easy solutions to any of America's problems, but the work is doable, provided Obama and Congress get on the same page, with plans that have been carefully and thoughtfully considered - plans that keep the Lobbyists out and put the spotlight where it belongs, on Americans. I still have faith in President Obama, and I am still glad I voted for him. I hope he doesn't let me (or anyone else) down. That's Congress's job.
Counterpoint: Conservative Brother
Two things came to mind after reading what you had to say here - "Who is this person?" and "I tried to tell you!"
There's a scene in the movie "Beverly Hills Cop 2" when Eddie Murphy's character Axel Foley visits the office of a slightly off, scheming insurance agent played by Gilbert Gottfried. In an effort to get Foley to forget the unpaid parking tickets he had accumulated, Gottfried bribes him and says something to the effect of, "Let's say I've got something in this hand [cash] that makes you forget what's in the other hand [tickets]. You focus on this hand and think, 'Wait, what's that, I forgot what I was looking at over there.'"
Ladies and gentleman, November 2008 proved folks were looking at the cash in this hand, and the past few months are now revealing what we had ignored in the other hand.
By no means is President Obama the first one to try and jam a truck-load of legislation through in the first few months of his Administration, particularly with majorities in both houses of Congress to back him up. Back then, though, there were no 24-hour news channels, bloggers, and rash of pundits and commentators that we have now. It was easy for LBJ (as an example) to shove legislation down our throat and strong-arm Congress - even members of his own party - to get the job done without doing so in the glare of the public spotlight. But as Bob Dylan said, "The times they are a changin'."
Do I think that folks should have access to health care coverage? Sure. Do I think that we need to take care of the environment? Certainly. Do I think that we need to pile even more unfunded mandates on the American people and drive up the deficit more than it already has in the past few years? No. We can't pay for the things we have now; programs like Medicare and Social Security are on borrowed time; discretionary spending is out of control. Why in the world does anyone think that adding even more debt more heartache at a time when unemployment and personal debt are rising and GDP and a host of other indicators are falling? And if the true focus of the Administration was summed up in Joe Biden's recent acknowledgement that the country should spend even more money to get out of debt, then we're off to a good start.
My family has debt - but do I in good conscience think that I could go to my wife and say that the way to eliminate our debt was to spend more? Of course not, and whether they're saying it directly (like Biden) or indirectly (like the President) to all of us, how in good conscience can they do that to the American people?
An ambitious agenda is great, and I'll even go out on a limb here and say that I hope some good things come out of the next four years that benefit all Americans without killing them economically. I'm not one who hopes for failure so that we can get someone else in the White House or in control of Congress; if government fails, we all fail. The problem is, government has failed over the past few decades, and it's getting worse with every passing day.
And as far as your concern, liberal sister, about Obama talking so much and that you are at the point where you want to say "I get it!" I would ask this: who is he trying to convince that things are going to get better - the American people or Barack Obama?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I couldn't help but chuckle as I read through today's on-line edition of the Washington Times and ran across a story with the headline "Palin Plans to Stay in Politics." As I went through the story, I was surprised to find the governor say that she would stump for conservative issues and for Democrats who "share her values on limited government, strong defense and 'energy independence.'"
Why did I chuckle? Because I'm waiting to see if the GOP will end up treating her exactly as they did Colin Powell.
Within minutes of General Powell announcing that he would be endorsing then-Senator Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the howls of protest from the far right started. "Powell is a RINO!" "Powell is a traitor!" "The Republican Party doesn't have room for folks like him!" Never mind that the record clearly showed that Powell had, in addition to voting for Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bushes 41 and 43, voted for Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter - yet no one seemed concerned about that in previous years. Now, we have a new situation - a superstar in the Republican Party who has given up her seat as governor, presumably to run for president again in 2012, and who will be devoting her time to conservative causes and conservative candidates.
Wait; and Democrats who share like opinions? Let's review: Democrats who share her opinions on fiscal policy and limited government make up the Blue Dog Coalition in the House of Representatives. The Blue Dogs, while voting against Democrat leadership on such issues as the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, are still Democrats who help Pelosi, Hoyer et al. hold the majority in the House by a pretty sizeable margin. Hypothetically, any like-minded Democrat for whom she campaigns could conceivably help the Democrats hold the majority.
So where is the outrage on this one? Palin has been ordained by many as the savior of the Republican Party - never mind the Mike Huckabees and Mitt Romneys and Bobby Jindals of the world. When she resigned as governor before her term was even finished she was defended by conservatives who said this move would give her more time to focus on the 2012 race and buttress her national credentials. Now she's saying she'll possibly campaign for some Democrats; what will the defense of that be among the hard-right wing of the GOP? I've had one person say that this will allow the Republican Party to increase in strength while loosening the death grip of hardcore liberals on the Democratic Party.
But for me, that opens up another point to consider. There are some who want the hardcore liberals out to make the Democrat Party more moderate - and yet they want the moderates out of the GOP so that they can make it more conservative. Using that logic, wouldn't that make moderates and independents more inclined to move to a place where they see they are more welcomed? Even more, wouldn't that greatly increase the likelihood of a third party?
This article ran on a Sunday, a traditionally slow news day. I just wonder how things will look on this by Wednesday.
Counterpoint: Liberal Sister
Firstly, I don't necessarily have a counterpoint for this topic, because I don't think this topic falls under the typical debate format.
Secondly, a message to Sarah Palin: Keep your hands off my Party!
In regards to the treatment Colin Powell received from his own party after endorsing Barack Obama (despite his aforementioned voting record), in my opinion the backlash he received for his endorsement was due to a sense of betrayal felt by members of the Republican party. I seem to recall a time (pre-2000 election) when many Conservatives looked to Powell as a potential savior of the party. He was, and still is, highly respected on either side of the aisle, and had he run for President, I suspect many Democrats, particularly the moderates, would have cast their ballot for him. (I probably would have.) Therefore, his endorsement of Obama may have seemed like a slap in the face to so many Republicans who, perhaps mistakenly, believed that Powell agreed with all Conservatives, all the time - an idea that, regardless of one's political leanings, is hardly ever the case. As for Sarah Palin, I think that since so many Conservatives have already written her off, and perhaps blame her for losing the 2008 election, her offer to help out the Moderate-Lefties probably isn't seen as a betrayal at all, but rather a welcome gift. Perhaps they are thinking: "YES. Stay away from our Party! You've done enough damage!"
Palin's willingness to campaign for Democrats could have a number of explanations. I think she has a tendency to demonstrate what I like to call "A.S.B.", or Attention-Seeking Behavior. Campaigning for Democrats would undoubtedly garner oodles of attention for her, and I think we all know how much Palin loves the spotlight. It could be a brilliant idea - she does draw in tremendous crowds, but I can't see any Democrats, Blue Dogs or not, turning up for their candidate's rally solely because they connect with Palin's "folksiness".
And maybe this idea of campaigning for either side is an attempt to draw Democrats closer to her in an attempt to secure their votes for a 2012 run at the Presidency. I think that is unlikely to happen on two fronts: 1.) There is no way she will ever secure a nomination for President, and 2.) No matter how moderate or fiscally conservative a Democrat is, Palin isn't going to get those votes.
Or perhaps this gesture of campaigning across the aisle is something else...something far more sinister.
(Cue scary Vincent Price music.)
What if, behind that perfect smile and adorable winking, lies a plot so dastardly that no one would ever see it coming? What if, by campaigning for Democrats, she intends to destroy the Democratic party from within? It seems so far-fetched and yet...so completely plausible. It is the stuff of nightmares for this Liberal - but it's such a silly idea, right? Right???
And so I say again - Sarah Palin: Keep your hands off my Party!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Governor Mark Sanford. Where to begin? In talking with my Conservative friends, even they find his current predicament laughable, and according to reports, several South Carolina Conservatives have had just about enough of him. I have truly enjoyed reading his alleged email to La Maria Bonita (who knew Sanford had such a flair for la lengua del amor?) but there are obviously bigger issues at hand than just his romance novel ramblings. Firstly, funding his secret get-aways to Argentina with tax payer money is absurd. (Spare me the Obama date-night comparisons, please.) Secondly, when Clinton was embroiled in Lewinsky-gate, Sanford was among the loudest voices calling on Clinton to be impeached, resign, etc. Faith and values? Check. Hypocrisy? Double Check. Of course no one can know what goes on in the enigmatic mind of Sanford, and I've never known the intoxicating power of the Tango, but let's face it - any chance Sanford had at being a legitimate candidate in 2012 has been completely wiped out. Oh wait...he's working it out with his wife? More power to him, but his future political aspirations have most likely been tossed out with la basura.
Governor Sarah Palin. It's funny to still say "Governor" in front of her name, but she does hold that job for another 19 days. I'm not sure what the majority of Conservatives really think of her (I know she does have some supporters), but any credibility she had in 2008 was lost during the campaign, I felt. Of course she has been slightly inarticulate in communicating her reasoning for resigning, which has led to much speculation. Does she want to spend more time with her family? Sure, that's completely understandable. Is she going to run for the Senate? Maybe, but I highly doubt any Alaskan would vote her in as his Senator since she couldn't even finish a full term as Governor. Is she looking toward a re-do Presidential bid? Maybe, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she would never come close to a nomination, and I highly doubt she is on any short list for VP again. Resigning from office is certainly within her rights, and that's fine, but I suspect that this is the death knell for any political ambition she may still have.
Who does that leave? Newt Gingrich? Kay Bailey Hutchinson? Will Dick Cheney take a stab at it since he is apparently quite comfortable speaking to Americans now? Who knows? The good news is that the GOP has quite a bit of time to prepare for the 2012 election. The bad news is that, at this rate, there won't be anyone to run on the GOP ticket.
Friday, June 19, 2009
The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should not be closed.
There. I said it.
I think that the Obama Administration is making a huge mistake by closing down that facility and trying to pawn off the detainees on other countries around the world. It is abundantly clear that the public here in the U.S. is opposed to having any of the accused terrorists anywhere on our shores (myself included), particularly with the sensitivity that we understandably still have following the events of September 11, 2001. But other countries around the world have also had their own tragic experiences with violence and terrorism throughout the years, so why should they be any more enthusiastic about having these folks unloaded in their neighborhood?
First of all, look at where the detainees are being sent. If I didn’t know better, I would think that these men, who are alleged to have participated in the planning and execution of numerous terrorist attacks over the past two decades, have won the lottery. Four of them have been sent to Bermuda (hardly the first place I would think of when trying to come up with an appropriate place for imprisonment), and in the days since they arrived have been treated as rock stars. Seriously – television interviews? Photo ops? A nice house and a beautiful new island home, complete with soon-to-arrive Bermudan citizenship?
And then there is the mighty nation of Palau that has inherited responsibility for 17 of the detainees – except I question their willingness to have taken on this burden if the government hadn’t slipped them a check for $200 million along with the end of the chain holding these folks. If Palau – a beautiful island resort, judging from the pictures I’ve seen and from having flipped through the official website for the Palau Visitors Authority – had really been willing to accept these folks, would the President have had to bribe them with the promise of a big chunk of change?
No, the detainees should be left right where they are – in Guantanamo. Yes, I agree that the process for putting these men on trial has been extended for far too long, but here’s a thought: instead of letting them go to Club Med or Rio, put them on trial! Don’t offer them any more or any less than that to which they are entitled under the articles of the Geneva Convention – simply put, don’t extend to them the protections that normal American citizens enjoy and to which they are entitled. They are not citizens, and they weren’t arrested for a DUI or robbing a bank; they were captured as a result of battlefield conflict or for their roles in planning and executing attacks that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
I can understand this being part of Obama’s plan for restoring American’s standing in the Middle East and around the world. However, what does bending over backwards to extend mea culpas to everyone and releasing the detainees into resorts around the world have to do with restoring our standing? If anything, in this particular instance I think it makes us look incredibly weak. I don’t recall the government of Yemen apologizing when their nation was used as the launching pad for the attack on the USS Cole. I don’t recall the king of Saudi Arabia picking up the phone or sending out a statement apologizing for the fact that many of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Why should we apologize for what we are doing to protect ourselves and to seek retribution and punishment from those responsible?
A recent Pew survey found that more people – 46% - are opposed to closing the Guantanamo facility than are in favor of keeping it open (45%). Mr. President, Madame Speaker, Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton – the people are telling you no (just as they have on everything from TARP to auto industry bailouts), and once again you are ignoring them?
At some point, when we as a nation weren’t looking, our national motto was changed. Thanks to Fernando Lamas, I fear our new motto – our new overarching concern – is that “It is better to look good than to feel good. Do you know what I’m saying?”
Yes, Fernando, we know – and we think it is a crock.
Counterpoint: Liberal Sister
Guantanamo must be closed now! Don't believe me?
"Obviously the Guantanamo issue is a sensitive issue for the people. I very much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to court." - George W. Bush, May 8, 2006
"I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognize that we're holding some people that are darned dangerous, and that we'd better have a plan to deal with them in our courts. No question, Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends - provides an excuse, for example, to say, ’The United States is not upholding the values that they're trying (to) encourage other countries to adhere to.’ My answer to them is, is that we are a nation of laws. Eventually, these people will have trials and they will have counsel and they will be represented in a court of law." - George W. Bush, June 14, 2006
So let me get this straight...a Conservative President opened the doors to this prison and the same Conservative President realized that it should be closed (three years ago), and you are placing the blame on Obama?
Guantanamo has held roughly 800 detainees in about 7 or so years, and approximately 240 remain. Of those, how many have been actually charged with a crime? According to Bush in 2006, the problem with being able to actually press charges against the men was determining whether or not the trials should be held before a civilian court or a military tribunal. So...what's the hold up? Guantanamo has been used to house actual terrorists, suspected terrorists, and according to former Secretary Powell's then-chief of staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, "innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants." Surely I am not the only one who sees a problem with imprisoning potentially innocent men for any length of time, let alone six or seven years.
As for the aforementioned Uighurs, their release to Bermuda was certainly an upgrade, and the media spotlight has been bright, for sure. I suppose the reason they were released was because they were innocent! The reason they were not sent to China? The Chinese Government would kill them. How would be able to justify imprisoning innocent men for years, then sending them back to China knowing that they would be executed?
And how about some alternative plans? You mentioned that Palau has taken some of the detainees...what about the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Care and Counseling in Saudi Arabia? Certainly it has had very mixed results with the former detainees it has taken in, but it was not President Obama who sent prisoners there, it was President Bush (who, just this week, blasted Obama for reading from the very playbook Bush left for him by considering sending 100 Yemeni prisoners to the same Saudi Center). Or what about the town of Hardin, Montana? A town that has been hit so hard by the economy that the town council unanimously passed a measure to house detainees in their very expensive, and very empty, prison? If the plan is ultimately to charge these men for crimes against America, why not have them housed actually IN America?
I know there are some very bad men in Guantanamo, but I believe strongly that there are also many innocent men there who have never had a day in court, and at this rate, may never. If there was enough evidence to detain them in the first place, there should be enough evidence to charge them.
There is no saving Guantanamo. With each day that it remains open it continues to say to the world that Americans love the Justice System...most of the time.