Monday, September 28, 2009

The Virginia Gubernatorial Race: The Most Important Gubernatorial Race EVER (this year)!

Point: Liberal Sister

For the better part of my life, I felt that my home state of Virginia wasn't very important on a national scale, politically speaking. In Presidential and Senatorial Elections Virginia has been historically counted on to vote for the Conservative candidates; we have a long history of electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate and from 1968 to 2008 Virginia's electorates went to the Republican candidate for President. These are interesting statistics, considering that in over 100 years, Virginians have only elected 5 Republican Governors, and only 8 Republican Governors total since the Democratic and Republican parties adopted their present identities.

Despite Virginians' tendency to like Democrats to run their state (but not their country), Barack Obama won Virginia's electoral votes in the 2008 Presidential Election - the first Democratic candidate to do so since Lyndon Johnson. Of course that was a huge story on the national scale, but that wasn't the only big story to come out of the Commonwealth during that election. Former Governor Mark Warner was elected to join Senator Jim Webb in the U.S. Senate, giving Virginia two sitting Democratic Senators for the first time since A. Willis Robertson (1946-1966) and Harry F. Byrd (1933-1965). Suddenly Virginia could no longer be counted on to lean to the right, and it seems to have stirred both the Conservative and Liberal bases.

With the 2009 Gubernatorial Elections fast approaching, Virginians find themselves in a position rarely experienced - not only are we anxious to see the outcome, but it would seem that the Democratic and Republican parties as a whole are keeping their eyes on the contest, as it may have broader implications as to the ever-shifting pendulum of political ideology. With that in mind, let's explore the candidates: Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R). If you look at the basics of their core issues, they're incredibly similar. Both want to stimulate the Virginia economy, to bring new jobs to the state, to seek out energy alternatives to create more jobs and lessen the environmental impact, to promote government efficiency, to improve veterans' services, to enact harsher penalties for violent criminals, and to lower health care costs for Virginians. Of course it's the methods that differ for Deeds and McDonnell, but even some Conservatives like Creigh Deeds because, as so many Democratic Governors before him, he is slightly more moderate than Liberal.

Of course not all Conservatives are fans of Deeds. If you watch any of the anti-Deeds ads running on TV right now, you'll learn that Creigh Deeds wants to raise taxes and increase spending. These attacks are nothing new - all political contests in this country mention tax-and-spend mentality. Bob McDonnell, the self-proclaimed "Friend of the Taxpayer" (according to his web site), is no fan of raising taxes. In fact, if you visit his web site, Bob McDonnell has a pretty lengthy section about taxes - and by lengthy I mean a 2 minute, 11 second video clip of him discussing taxes, a record of how he voted as a member of the House of Delegates and, strangely enough, information about programs he supported as Attorney General. (Side note: no one should care what an Attorney General thinks about taxes, unless he is dealing with the legality of those taxes.) All this is pretty impressive, considering that on Creigh Deed's web site, there is not a single piece of information about his views on taxation. There is a quick mention of how he would like to "build on the Warner-Kaine legacy of fiscal responsibility", however. For some, that might be enough information - McDonnell is willing to talk about his tax plan, while Deeds is not. And that very well may be true. So why am I not on board with McDonnell?

Simple: the dreaded thesis. The Washington Post was the first to break this story, scouring the Regent University library to find McDonnell's Master's thesis. You've no doubt heard about it by now - how he said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators", how he found a 1972 Supreme Court decision (Eisenstadt v. Baird) to legalize the use of contraception by unmarried couples (that was actually a Supreme Court case??) to be "illogical", and how he wrote that feminists and working women were "detrimental" to the family. Of course since the thesis has been uncovered, McDonnell has gone on to say that his opinions in 1989 no longer reflect the way he feels today, but I find that suspicious. I have hated beans since 1979, and I will continue to hate them for the rest of my life. I am fairly certain that I will not wake up in the future and decide that I no longer hate them. Of course that's a minor comparison, but I think you get the idea.

If McDonnell was so strongly opposed to birth control measures, cohabitants, homosexuals, fornicators, feminists, and working women that he based portions of his 93-page Master's thesis on explaining their faults, how can any one of us believe that, 20 years later, he magically changed his mind about any of these topics? Obviously, we cannot believe that he has changed - in fact, his legislative career would indicate otherwise. How will he further the 15-point action plan laid out in his thesis if he is elected Governor?

According to an editorial in U.S. News & World Report by Doug Heye, this thesis nonsense is exactly that: nonsense. He accuses The Washington Post of manufacturing a scandal, as he says they did to former Governor George Allen during his 2006 Senate bid. I may be willing to concede the point that Allen's usage of the word "macaca", while ignorant and stupid, was most likely not ill-intended. However, there is an enormous difference between a guy saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment versus a guy spending months constructing a graduate-level thesis to explain whom he dislikes and why, and how he alone is going to save the world.

For me, this is a no-brainer: Even though Creigh Deeds has been accused of secretly wanting to raise taxes, he's got my vote. I'd rather vote for a candidate who wanted me to pay higher taxes than for a candidate who thinks I have no business in the workplace to begin with.

Counterpoint: Conservative Brother

Okay, there's certainly nothing like being asked to express a contrary view and being put in a position of having to do so AFTER such topics as abortion and women in the workplace have been raised. You've certainly been good about not putting any land mines in my path!

This will be one of the many elections where I vote on issues that are of particular importance to me. With a wife and children, I'm considering positions on taxes, education, infrastructure (so that I can get to my job to earn the salary out of which money will be taken to pay the taxes that support public education and infrastructure - a vicious cycle!) and on social issues in which I feel I have a right to comment. I have positions on many things which fall in the realm of personal moral and religious choices - abortion and the death penalty among them - but as a man I don't think it is necessary for me to tell my daughters or wife what they should be doing or when they can be doing it, whether it is getting a job or making a life-changing decision about having a child. I don't think any man, regardless of his views, should tell a woman what to do; sadly, this is a debate that won't be going away any time soon.

You can also call me a dreamer or an optimist, but I do believe in a person's capacity for change. George Allen aside (side bar: He had already served as a governor and one term in the Senate, and should have known better than to shoot off his mouth - never mind the fact that he knew there was a camera in the room and even looked directly at it when he made his remark. Hey Senator, I bet you know what YouTube is now, don't you! End side bar.), I can't condone what McDonnell said in his thesis - but I can't say that he may not have changed. I only need to look at myself to note that ideas do change, especially since some of my views have shifted over the years; capital punishment is one area in which my views are not at all the same as they were 20 or even 10 years ago.

I'm sure that many of my Democrat friends would disagree with me here, and throw around "A tiger can't change its stripes," "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," or even "A Bob McDonnell opinion of 20 years ago can't be changed." Truth be told, had McDonnell not even mentioned this thesis in an interview, it wouldn't be an issue (I throw that out not to try and justify things, but rather to show that George Allen is by no means the only Virginia politician to have experienced a "D'oh!" moment). And I agree to a point with U.S. News about the way the Post has carried the story - the same way that Fox has hammered the whole ACORN situation and Keith Olbermann uses his platform on MSNBC to hit the worst person in (his) world every day. It's how the media in general makes its bread and butter: it tries its hardest to sway public opinion and win elections for the candidate they in whom they are most in love (look no further than the way networks fell over themselves to bask in the Obama glow).

All of this to say that my vote is based on what will directly impact me and my family AND on what I feel I have a right to discuss. On that point, I'll roll back to your comment on McDonnell's two-minute video on taxes; at least he can expound on his views on taxes. As I recall, Creigh Deeds changed his view and gave no answer on the issue of taxes several times in a few minutes. Senator, saying that you won't raise taxes and then saying you'll find new ways to raise revenue for the transportation trust fund isn't the same thing - especially since gas taxes are how the trust fund is kept solvent!

So I'll be voting for McDonnell - not because I condone what he said in his thesis but because I think people can change and because he has done a helluva lot better job giving answers on fiscal responsibility and planning than his opponent.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy: The End of an Era

Conservative Brother

(Liberal sister, I think we may actually agree on something else here.)

In centuries past, it was sometimes tradition among kings and generals who were victorious on the field of battle to pause and pay tribute to the bravery of their fallen opponents. Yes, it could have been perceived as a slight dig at their foe (a "we won and you didn't" moment), but as a whole it was a symbol of respect for the valor and accomplishments of their vanquished enemy. By no means am I trying to put myself on the level of a Caesar or a Napoleon as any sort of winner on the battlefield, nor have I come out victorious (that I'm aware of) in anything of any significance recently. But with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy earlier this week, I do want to take a moment to show my respect for the accomplishments of the Lion of the Senate.

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.

Liberal Sister

Three weeks ago, my mother came to visit me and I showed her the brilliant HBO documentary "Teddy: In His Own Words". I had seen it maybe 4 times at that point, but I wanted to share the experience with my mother, who had lived through the majority of the events covered in the film. About thirty minutes into the film, my mother was in tears, and she continued to choke up until the documentary was over. I realized that, for the two of us, the film meant two different things. For me, it was a deeper education of a man who had long stood in the shadow of his brothers. For my mother, it was a retrospective of the beauty and tragedy of America's most famous family, and a reminder not only of all that could have been, but what was.

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

Birth Certificates and Death Panels: Panic! At The Townhall

Point: Liberal Sister

A storm has been brewing in America for the last several weeks - not the typical summer storm we're used to that passes over with relative quickness, but rather a tumult with an ever-broadening reach and increasing strength. This storm is located directly above each and every town hall meeting held by members of Congress on what can only be described as the "Glutton for Punishment Tour," and forecasters have yet to predict when the skies will clear. This storm has two very loud arguments fueling it - birth and death. At issue, the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate and U.S. citizenship, and the Sarah Palin-dubbed "Death Panels" that many people seem to think are mentioned in the current Health Care Reform Bill that is before the House. These issues have whipped a great number of people into a frenzy, but why? Even some Republicans will tell you that these arguments are baseless, which one would hope might keep the debates more focused and even-keeled, but unfortunately, the opposite has happened. Which leads me to wonder, why isn't anyone listening?

1. The Birth Certificate! When I first heard about people questioning Obama's citizenship, I thought it was a ridiculous argument that would never build momentum. I would have been right if the Democrats had been able to do something that they very rarely do - nip silly ideas in the bud before they are even able to gain traction. Of course they failed to do so during the 2004 Presidential Campaign, when John Kerry's credibility was attacked by the Swift-Boaters, who managed to convince a great number of people that Kerry was not, in fact, a Vietnam War hero, even though we all knew that he was. The Democrats laughed at the attack ads instead of putting the kibosh on them definitively and with immediacy.

The Democrats seem to think that these attacks, that serve no other purpose than to plant seeds of doubt and fear in those who fail to do their own research, are nothing more than minor annoyances, when the opposite is true. When allowed to fester, these attacks become very real in the minds of some citizens, who often become blinded to the truth. As far as Obama is concerned, I have heard some people question his citizenship based solely on his father's Kenyan citizenship. If that alone were the argument, then only Native Americans would have ever been eligible for office, as 99% of us are the children of immigrants. Of course then there is the argument that President Obama was born in Kenya, complete with a falsified birth certificate (copied from one belonging to an Australian citizen) touted by Dentist/Real Estate Agent/Lawyer/One-Doughnut-Shy-of-a-Dozen Orly Taitz. In my opinion, any genuine argument that the so-called "Birthers" may have ever come up with was destroyed the second Taitz declared herself to be the voice of the argument.

To anyone who questions Obama's birth in Hawaii on August 4th 1961, I submit the birth announcements found in two Hawaiian newspapers. If those aren't legitimate, then I have fallen victim to the most elaborate 48-year-old plot that hinged solely on the idea that maybe, one day, Barry Obama would be elected to the Presidency. Additionally, many people are demanding that Obama release his birth certificate and are baffled by his refusal to do so. Did it ever occur to those folks that maybe he hasn't addressed the issue because it is insane? To this blogger, I think the real issue driving the Birther Movement has less to do with actually questioning his citizenship, and more to do with a disapproval of his policies and desire to find something - anything - to disqualify him as President.

2. Death Panels! First of all, shame on you, Sarah Palin. With one tweet of your hand, you created a maelstrom of epic proportions. Her usage of the phrase "death panel" played off of the fear and confusion that many Americans were already feeling in regards to Health Care and from what I can see, she must be pretty pleased with herself. (2012 Platform Suggestion for Ms. Palin: Vote for Sarah Palin and live!)

As everyone knows by now (or should know), the Health Care Bill before the House has no mention of "Death Panels", and no provision saying "We will send all old people into the woods to give up their ghosts." There is mention of end-of-life counseling and preparation, but certainly nothing alluding to Death by Firing Squad for Gramma and PaPaw. The Death Panel tactic serves only to scare and enrage, and that is shameful. Furthermore, it takes away from the real debate - U.S. Health Care as it exists now is heavily flawed, controlled by very wealthy lobbyists, and showing no signs of becoming magically less-expensive. Who wouldn't want a change?

Personally, I have my own private insurance plan. However, in the last few years I had to switch to a plan with less coverage and higher deductibles because my premium sky-rocketed to an amount that was higher than my car payment. I have been fortunate enough to be fairly healthy, and only use my insurance for annual check-ups. But what about people who have insurance and are very sick? What about the people who can't even afford the bare minimum of coverage? What are they to do?

I have heard the argument that the Haves are unwilling to pay taxes to insure the Have-Nots. Also the word "socialism" gets thrown around a lot, with digs at socialized care in Canada, France, and England. If people are afraid of socialized programs, why isn't anyone demanding that our public education system and police departments be done away with?

But I'm getting sidetracked. Back to DEATH PANELS! Anyone who has health insurance, particularly anyone who has had a terminally ill loved one, will tell you that death panels exist right now in our corrupt insurance system. Who do you think disallows procedures like life-saving surgery or chemotherapy if they consider it to be an unnecessary procedure? How many of us have had loved ones pass away while stuck in insurance limbo?

If people want to disrupt town hall meetings, that is certainly within their rights. I know the First Amendment has been tossed around quite a bit this summer, most often by Conservatives who wonder why, when they protest, they are called crazy instead of exercisers of their right to free speech. Many wonder why no one called the members of Code Pink crazy and disruptive when they shouted during Congressional meetings. If you ask me, shouting on either side of the aisle is unproductive. Instead of buying into propaganda and believing whatever panic-inducing nonsense Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck spout, I think everyone needs to take a deep, calming breath and proceed in a respectful and orderly fashion (and that goes for Democrats AND Republicans). And if that doesn't work, take matters into your own hands the old fashioned way - get out and VOTE.

Counterpoint: Conservative Brother

Having attended town meetings for a number of years as a congressional staffer, I have had experience with vocal constituents - and the occasional crazies - who showed up to (for lack of a better term) "make their views known and their voices heard." Now, in my life away from the town meeting realm, I most certainly feel a tremendous sense of relief that I'm not involved in the chaos that we're seeing in cities and towns around the country.

I agree in large part with what you've said here, particularly on the issue of the "birthers." Yes, conspiracy theories are great and entertaining - we didn't land on the moon, there were CIA sharpshooters in the sewer at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, there's an alien army on standby at Area 51 - but this one is pretty far-fetched. You're exactly right that Obama's parents AND the State of Hawaii AND the newspapers in Honolulu (and perhaps even the government of Kenya) would have all had to decide before he was born, "This man will one day be President of the United States - let's make sure we've got our bases covered and that he is in fact an American citizen. Frankie, you post the fake listings in the paper. Johnny, get going on the fake birth certificate (and make sure the International Paper watermark doesn't show up). Benny, make sure all of the maternity ward doctors and nurses are 'on board' with our objectives here. And Joon, get to work on the college transcripts now."

Enough, folks! If Republicans and Democrats are going to focus on things like this and lose sight of the bigger picture - and much more important issues - like cap-and-trade and health care reform and labor unionizing legislation, then what's the use in even being part of the debate? If a football team is more concerned about the guy in Section FF, Row 33, Seat 12 and whether he bought a ticket legitimately through the box office or whether it's a fake bought by a scalper, they're going to lose the game.

Health care is a similar issue, and I agree that throwing around the phrase "death panel" was a horrible miscalculation on someone's part. Yes, it succeeded in getting the conservative base revved up again, and as a result the poll numbers have turned sharply in recent days to a majority of folks being opposed to reform. But now that the Senate Finance Committee is going to remove this provision on end-of-life-consultation, what now? What will the next thing be to get folks, as Gretchen Wilson would say, "all jacked up"?

I think people should be entitled to health care; I don't think it is a right - and in this sense I suppose I'm a strict constructionist - but there's no reason that we shouldn't be able to provide it. 48 million people without access to health care is a travesty; we as a nation should expect better of ourselves and "love our neighbors as ourselves" - expecting that the poor family with eight kids should get the same access to a doctor as me and my family or any other middle- or upper-class family.

Do I think this bill is the answer? Well, it's hard to say, since there is no final bill yet; three versions in the House of Representatives have yet to be rolled together, and there aren't even two bills in the Senate yet to roll together. Do I think the government should be involved in managing care? Of course not. Do I want my taxes to go up to pay for someone else? Of course not. Do I think jamming something down our throat is the answer? No.

I have many friends who contend that the United States has wasted too much time on this, and that this isn't a rush job since nothing has been done in the past 40 years. I agree that four decades is a lot of time to waste when we could have been looking at meaningful ways to provide health care reform (and while we're at it, keep Medicare and Social Security from going broke). Unfortunately, it seemed to be the sexier thing to do to fight things and win political points than pass something good and meaningful and bipartisan and win statesmanship points. On the flip side, though, drafting bills and shoving them through committees and to the floor as quickly as possible also isn't the answer.

In the long run, neither is screaming at your congressman or flipping the bird at your senator. Yes, it makes for great television, and like cussing out the driver who just cut you off on the highway it gives you a good release. But it's not constructive. If you're going to go to a town meeting and scream, make it over something useful; some of the folks I've seen on television are doing so, and because of the age of many of them I hardly find them to be part of some vast organized campaign to derail this legislation. If all you're going to do, however, is yell and stomp your feet about birth certificates and doctors killing you, you're not contributing to any meaningful debate.

The room for that is reserved at Area 51.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Introducing the 44th President, Mr. Stretch Armstrong

Point: Liberal Sister

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

Is Sarah Palin Going to Get the Same Treatment as Colin Powell - From Either Side?

Point: Conservative Brother

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 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

The GOP Candidate for 2012: Who Can It Be Now?

Point: Liberal Sister

A strange thing seems to be happening to the GOP. In the past several weeks, it appears that potential candidates for the 2012 Presidential Race have removed themselves from the race before it has even really begun. Personally I think it's an amusing scenario, but it begs the question: what in the world is going on over on the Right? Let's explore:

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.

Counterpoint: Conservative Brother

Nice use of the Spanish there, but flashy language won't distract folks from what's really going on here (unless, of course, you count our current president, where flashy language did distract enough folks to get him elected - substance be damned). What this is, despite its haphazard appearance, is a Republican Party that is trying to re-form itself and get its feet back on solid ground. Remember, there was (to varying degrees) this same sort of sense of doom for the GOP in 1964 (the year of the Goldwater blowout), 1976 (the year Carter was mistakenly elected; ah, hindsight is 20/20), and 1992 (the Clinton revolution, which lasted all of two years until the congressional majority flipped).

I will say that the GOP has adeveloped quite a tendency in recent years to circle the wagons and then fire inward; think of how long those old John Wayne movies would have lasted had the scripts then called for the same thing. Governor Sanford's Latin American adventure (side bar: for what it's worth, it was announced that he didn't use state funds for his trips, but that's almost irrelevant at this point) and Governor Palin's decision to quit in order to strengthen Alaska (side bar 2: it reminds me of the SNL skit in 1996, when Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton - in an effort to one-up Bob Dole's decision to resign from the Senate to run for president - announced that he was resigning immediately from the office of the president so that he could devote himself full-time to running for the office of president) have certainly rasied eyebrows.

But I assume you're expecting me to handicap the race. Here are my guesses and opinion at this point.

Mark Sanford - Um, no discussion needed. He's done.

Tim Pawlenty - Minnesota governor that most people outside of political junkies really haven't heard of, unless you count the big news this past week that he signed Al Franken's certification for the Senate. He's still got a lot of time to build his public image, and his decision to not run for reelection - but serve out his full term - will give him that chance. I give him slight odds.

Bobby Jindal - Louisiana governor and an up-and-comer in the GOP. He has made dramatic strides in reforming state government, expertly handled the execution of the disaster recovery plan following the latest major storm to hit his state, and has very high approval ratings. But he's still very young - just 38 - and his performance as the GOP counter to Obama's address to a joint session of Congress earlier this year left much to be desired. Better odds than Pawlenty, but I think he needs a bit more experience under his belt (although by the time of the next election he'll be 41, still several years short of the 46 that Clinton and Obama had both reached).

Sarah Palin - Several times during the past few days, we've heard the media and political experts say that you either really like her or really hate her. I think that's a problem within the GOP itself, and I think that's the reason she won't last through the primary season if she chooses to run. I see her more really as a cabinet secretary or head of an agency, but not president. If she runs, she'll make it through a few primaries, but not to Super Tuesday.

Mike Hucakabee - I'm sort of biased because I've had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him on two occasions, and as such I think he will make a great candidate - and I'd be willing to say now that he will run again. If the GOP sticks to its next-in-line philosophy about who becomes the nominee, he would be next since he lasted the longest in the last election before McCain sealed the deal. Will run through Super Tuesday and perhaps stay in until the convention.

Mitt Romney - The events of the past few weeks have really helped him out, and if you notice he's been very selective about where and when he appears and speaks. I think he's doing his homework to make him an even stronger candidate than he was in 2008, and the way other candidates are falling by the wayside he may emerge by the end of next year as the frontrunner. He'll be your nominee...


Yes, there is an unless. Unless an unknown candidate that no one sees coming emerges, someone that's really off the radar right now. I don't think it will be Gingrich, who I admire as an idea guy. I don't think it will be Governor Haley Barbour, really for no other reason than I think he's too southern. I also don't think it will be Rudy, who didn't do well the last go 'round.

So those on the left can look at this as an amusing scenario right now, but be warned: there's a lot of time left for the GOP to solve its internal disputes and resist its temptation to be exclusive, and there's just as much time for the Obama Administration to fall on its face. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Closing Gitmo – What’s the Rush?

Point: Conservative Brother

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.