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 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

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...