Posts Tagged Republicans

Crimea conundrum

It’s Friday, which means conservatives are decrying President Barack Obama for harming the country.

Actually, they do that every day.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has made the President for accusations that he is weak from, among others Senator John McCain and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Obama has already called for sanctions, and is working with European nations to present a united diplomatic front in the face of Russia’s aggression.

Yet some seem to think more drastic action is necessary. The question is: what kind of action?

If the recent history of Republican foreign policy is any indication, the American people probably won’t like where they want to go.

Prominent conservatives can call Obama all the names they want, but their record is far from laudable.

The war in Afghanistan is just winding down, and I’m pretty sure Obama didn’t start it.

Neutralizing Al Qaeda was a legitimate military goal, but the Bush Administration allowed its military adventure in Central Asia to drag on through its two terms without making any serious attempt to end it.

That’s an example of gross foreign-policy incompetence. It’s a testament to this country’s short memory and political partisanship that one of the main architects of the bungled Afghan war is still considered a credible source for criticism of the current President.

In general, the kick-ass-because-America method of military intervention rarely produces the desired results. Did we ever find those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Even smaller-scale interventions tend to become massive embarrassments. Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Granada wasted resources and accomplished nothing, while his support of the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua set the stage for one of the biggest scandals in American presidential history.

These types of interventions only succeed if there is a clear goal, and there really isn’t one here.

Yes, Putin’s annexation of Crimea violates the sovereignty of Ukraine. However, the U.S. doesn’t have a clear interest here, which makes choosing a course of action difficult.

There’s no physical U.S. presence to be defended, or concrete issues to serve as bargaining chips. The U.S. wants Russia out of Crimea simply to maintain the international balance of power, and because it’s the right thing to do.

Would it be worth going to war with Russia over a piece of land that most Americans probably can’t locate on a map?

I’d wager most people would answer “no,” but subjectively, diplomatic solutions like sanctions seem inadequate with Russian troops walking the streets of Sevastopol.

That’s where the conservatives come in. They’re always looking for opportunities to bash the President, and people’s confused feelings about Crimea have created the perfect opportunity.

So, yes, Crimea is a problem that needs to be dealt with. But blaming Obama isn’t a solution.

, , , ,

2 Comments

Reforming the healthcare reform debate

The most painful part of today’s passage of a bill that will allow people to keep their health insurance plans–regardless of whether they meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act–isn’t watching President Obama capitulate to more Republican pressure. It’s listening to everyone complain about it.

Obama was wrong to say that people could keep their plans in all circumstances but this, along with the constant criticism of Healthcare.gov, is getting out of hand.

The President should have been clearer about the law, and the people handling its rollout should have made sure the website worked. They didn’t. It’s not that big of a deal.

People like to point to the constant political strife in Washington as the nexus of this country’s problems, but the strife runs much deeper than that.

The Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) is a very middle-of-the-road policy, which is why no one likes it. Liberals don’t like it because it’s not a single-payer system. Conservatives don’t like it because Obama created it.

Everyone else seems to be disgruntled because it requires them to change policies or pay more money. Never mind that they’re getting more coverage.

“Healthcare reform” means just that. It’s about providing access to healthcare for the maximum number of people, and implies no guarantee that certain people won’t be inconvenienced by a change of the status quo.

That big-picture reality applies to people’s ideas about healthcare reform as well.

Many liberals decry Obama for not enacting a single-payer system, and instead delivering millions of customers to the insurance companies. But where were these people when the Affordable Care Act was being drafted?

Did they stare down conservative opponents of the law, or just criticize the President for not doing what they wanted?

Two years after the passage of Obamacare, people are still complaining about the lack of a single-payer system. Yes, that would be fantastic. But the time to advocate for it was when the law was being drafted.

The biggest problem with Obamacare may just be that it is the President’s signature domestic policy. It makes it too easy for people to criticize the man and abandon the policy in the process.

Supporters of healthcare reform need to be for healthcare reform, not their own specific idea of healthcare reform. They need to stop throwing their hands up and shaking their heads every time a setback occurs. The ship will never get anywhere if everyone jumps off.

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

A victory for government, and adulthood

US CapitolNormally, I use this space to rant about things that are wrong with the world; I don’t always follow up when things go right.

I am immensely relieved that the government shutdown is over, and that Democrats were able end it without defacing the Affordable Care Act.

I tend to give less emphasis to these types of events because, right or wrong, I feel like this is simply how things should work.

The Republican healthcare-for-hostages scheme was completely unreasonable; the GOP was trying to block a law that had already been approved by Congress, and vetted by the Supreme Court and the people’s votes for President Obama in last year’s election.

Republicans may not like the law, but that’s not a reason for shutting down the government. Wednesday’s solution was the only logical way for this to end.

I say that not as a supporter of Obamacare gloating over a hard-won victory, but as someone who has faith in the mechanisms of the Federal government.

In a democracy, not everyone will agree 100 percent of the time, but our system of government has always been able to contain those disagreements (with the exception of the Civil War). Over the past couple of weeks, that system was tested by a group that simply wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and it passed.

The American people passed the test too.

We stood up for that system of government, not letting concepts of “fairness” or “compromise” become transmuted into a tyranny of the minority, realizing that adults need to be able to handle not getting their way.

Many people assume that constant fighting is an inherent part of how Washington works, but the government shutdown has shown that obstruction by a few shouldn’t be misconstrued with overall incompetence.

Now that we’ve gotten a taste of how government is supposed to work, maybe we’ll be less lenient the next time Republicans conjure up a crisis to advance their agenda.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

The will of one

Clouded Captiol [Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP]

Clouded Captiol [Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP]

Five years ago, a Jewish businessman in Dothan, Alabama saw that his synagogue was running out of congregants.

So he put up $1 million to recruit Jews, offering a financial incentive for them to move to Alabama and join the congregation.

Money can accomplish seemingly-impossible things, like getting Jews to move to the Deep South. However, that becomes a problem when there is no other power to balance the influence of cash and an individual willing to use it to exert his or her will.

An individual like John Ramsey. A 21-year-old Ron Paul fan, he used money inherited from his grandparents to start the Liberty for All Super PAC.

According to Rolling Stone, the PAC funded the winning campaign of  Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, one of the hardline proponents of the government shutdown.

People have a right to contribute resources to causes they believe in, but without forces to balance them–like a string government or informed populace–what we get is essentially feudalism: the people with the money decide what happens.

Liberals have (rightfully) criticized corporations of exerting this kind of undue influence through lobbying and job-baiting, but things will get much weirder if that guy who just won the lottery becomes a political influencer.

The government shutdown is an example of tyranny of the minority: a group that’s been outvoted is holding everyone else hostage because they can’t deal with losing.

If Super PACs and their untraceable campaign funding are allowed to continue corrupting the electoral process, we’ll just get more of that.

In a democracy, not every person can have his or her way 100 percent of the time. Let’s make sure that having money to spend on a political campaign doesn’t change that.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Political perspective

US Capitol“Our political life is becoming so expensive, so mechanized and so dominated by professional politicians and public relations men that the idealist who dreams of independent statesmanship is rudely awakened by the necessities of election and accomplishment.”

I guess it’s good to know that some things never change. Then-Senator John F. Kennedy wrote the above description for his book Profiles in Courage, which was published in 1956. As we wait to experience the fallout of the Sequester, it seemed especially timely.

Kennedy could have easily been describing the political madness of 2013. The “necessities of election and accomplishment” seem to take precedence over government.

As Kennedy says, that kind of political life is indeed expensive and mechanistic. Candidates have to spend millions and billions of dollars on ads in a seemingly never-ending election cycle, inviting special interests and rich backers to gain undue influence. Every appearance and statement is tightly choreographed, making our representatives seem like walking lists of talking points.

Of course, things have changed since 1956. Kennedy goes on to mention the Cold War and how the rigid ideology it spawned was also affecting American political discourse. It’s also hard to compare the party dynamics of the 1950s Congress to today’s without doing some more research. Perhaps another day.

Regardless, the government Kennedy worked in, as both a Congressman and Senator, and later led as President, was able to muddle through several international crises and the Civil Rights Movement. Have our leaders done everything perfectly over the past 57 years? Nope. Yet the government, and the United States itself, is still here.

Political strife may have reached an all-time high, but parties and individuals have been arguing with each other since this country was founded. Just look at the stories of the eight Senators Kennedy profiles, or watch Lincoln.

Past Congresses have had to enact the founding principles of the United States, fight wars, and bring about social change. All this Congress had to do was pass a budget. Its members may not like each other, and they may need to get their priorities in order, but that didn’t stop their predecessors.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The 2012 election is over… Now what?

Obama victory speech 2012If anyone actually reads this, sorry for the missed posts. It’s been a busy week.

I was very pleased by the results of Tuesday’s election, but they do put the country in an interesting place. As Jon Stewart pointed out, Obama is still president, the Democrats still control the Senate, and the Republicans still control the House, so America’s billionaires apparently wasted their money. So how do we keep from repeating the mistakes of the past four years?

Bipartisanship seems to be the key, and it is, but not all the time. If both parties put aside their differences, forgot the ugliness of this decidedly ugly campaign, and compromised to create practical policies, it would be a major achievement for rationality. However, it might not solve every problem.

I’m a fan of Matt Taibbi, but when he wrote, on the morning of the election, that there was essentially no difference between the candidates, I had to disagree.

“When push comes to shove, we all should know most Americans want the same things, but just disagree on how to get there, which is why it should be okay to not panic if the other party wins,” Taibbi wrote on the morning of November 6. That’s true, but sometimes Americans disagree. What then?

The vitriol and plain bullshit slung by both politicians and the media in this election was awful, not just because it made compromise harder, but because it obscured real issues that Americans genuinely disagree about.

Could a woman really believe that Romney had her interests in mind, even after he talked about banning abortion, or after his “binders full of women” comment? If one of the two main presidential candidates make a threat to one’s rights a part of his platform, there is no reason to assume that he will not act on that. Otherwise, why bother having elections?

So the solution to America’s problems isn’t blind compromise. Politicians and their constituents should stop the name calling, and generally recognize their opponents’ humanity, but both sides have the right and obligation to try to enact their policies.

Some might argue that this is what caused the ongoing deadlock in Washington: both parties pushed to get what they wanted done, and tried equally hard to obstruct their opponent.

However, we just had an election, where the majority of the country chose a Democratic president, that seems to point things in a certain direction. The Democrats shouldn’t ignore the Republican constituency, but the Republicans need to acknowledge that, in the White House and Senate races, they lost.

After a major Republican upset in the 2010 midterm elections, Mitch McConnell said that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Someone really needs to call the Republican party on this counterproductive behavior.

When Mitt Romney is accusing President Obama of being anti-coal, and the President is accusing the former governor of being a corporate raider, some people think that all the parties care about is defeating each other. However, we need to remember that this all started with the Republicans and, now that they’ve lost the presidential race, they need to be stopped from continuing to obstruct the functions of government.

A maxim of journalism is that there are always at least two sides to every story. That’s true, but not every side is equal. In politics, compromise is important, but the job of politicians is to serve the people, and the people have spoken.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Mitt Romney: Do as I say, not as I do

map of the Middle EastI was finally able to vent my near-homicidal rage against television journalists and concentrate on the issues (imagine that!) in the final presidential debate Monday night. As usual, I was left wondering if Mitt Romney actually hears the words that come out of his mouth.

Twice, the former Massachusetts Governor told President Obama that, “Criticizing me is not a foreign policy.” That seems like a noble statement, except Romney spent almost the entire debate criticizing the President while offering only a vague phantasm of what he would actually do if he wins on November 6.

Romney criticized nearly every aspect of Obama’s foreign policy, from the drone strikes that killed al Qaeda’s leadership, to his use of economic sanctions on Iran, to when he “skipped Israel” during a trip to the Middle East.

Obviously, debates are all about criticism, but if Romney wanted the President to say something constructive instead of just attacking, why didn’t he?

Instead, Romney went for semantics. He said he would put tougher sanctions on Iran, and label China a “currency manipulator,” which is apparently more severe than actually prosecuting China for trade violations, as Obama has done.

When asked what he would do if Israel decided to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, Romney begged off saying he wouldn’t answer a hypothetical question like that. Instead, he used the time to attack Obama… again.

Perhaps it was because Romney didn’t know how long it would take Israeli planes to reach Iran: earlier in the debate, he said Syria was an important ally for Iran because it gave the latter access to the sea. Iran has its own coastline, and the two countries do not share a border (Iraq is in between).

So much for building a foreign policy on ideas instead of criticism. Obama, on the other hand, gave specifics, as he always does. He outlined the aforementioned cases against China, and reminded Americans who was responsible for eliminating their arch enemy, and a dictator that even the Republicans’ favorite president, Ronald Reagan couldn’t take down.

With regards to Iran, Obama, said he would put every option on the table. That sounds a lot more presidential than Romney’s “answer.”

Conservatives probably have their own criticisms regarding Obama’s policies, but what I want to emphasize here is Romney’s “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. If attacking your opponent doesn’t help build a foreign policy, then stop wasting time attacking your opponent. It goes both ways.

Romney doesn’t seem to think the laws of language apply to him; he thinks that he can say one thing and have it mean something else. That is one of many reasons why he is unfit to be our president.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment