Attention Deficit Syndrome

October 23, 2012

If you stayed up to watch the final presidential debate you saw both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney try and convince the viewers that they have what it takes to be Commander in Chief and advance the national interests and the national security of the United States. But the key point here is whether you stayed up after a long Monday at work, or if you were watching did you really focus on the debating skills and message of each candidate? There is no doubt that we have now crossed over into the realm of election overkill and into the kingdom of ” I Can’t Wait Till This is All Over.”

It may not matter much that President Obama likely scored more debating points than Governor Romney in this foreign policy debate ( which was only partially about foreign policy and more like a rehash of the domestic debates). Both can claim that they possess the stuff of presidential leadership, both got their message across, and both seemed to agree on major issues, which may send a signal to friend and foe out there in the world that  US foreign policy will not change dramatically after the election. Winning a debate at this stage, especially a debate on foreign policy probably doesn’t mean that much in polling numbers or in the decision of those early voters.

Americans are now suffering from a kind of political attention deficit syndrome as this long march to the White House has exhausted them and reinforced their view that we need to become Canada where the election is six weeks and costs chump change. In the last two weeks before the election, the race for the presidency will not be national but basically a fight to convince the voters in Ohio to pull the voting booth lever for Obama or Romney. The rest of America will become a mere curiosity as they deal with their attention deficit syndrome.

It is kind of interesting that in a country which is acknowledged as the premier superpower and the most important nation in the world, many Americans sat bleary-eyed watching a debate over issues that are not in their comfort zone. If anything was accomplished in the final debate it was that both the President and Governor Romney gallantly tried to convince viewers that they have what it takes to keep the United States # 1.  But that perception only matters if the viewers were not suffering from the political strain of ADS.


Tea Party 1-Liberals Minus 0

August 2, 2011

If you are of the liberal persuasion, which appears to be a slowly dying breed, then politics in Washington and the policy positions of the # 1 liberal, Barack Obama, are certain to make you a little queasy, if not violently ill.

There is no sugar-coating the fact that in the debt-ceiling battle, the Republicans won, the conservatives won, the Tea Party won and the liberals got hammered.

Sure Social Security and Medicare were protected, but the cuts that will go into effect in the next ten years will hurt the middle class and the poor, while the wealthy and the corporations go scot free.

The President got the debt ceiling issue put off until after the 2012 election but that’s about all he got in terms of achieving one of his key goals. Tax revenue, closing corporate loopholes and the Grand Bargain all got dumped in the circular file.

Liberals are furious with the Presidnet and his team for not standing tall for what Democrats are supposed to stand for -using government to help those in need and to invest in the future. There’s a lot of talk in liberal circles that the President just doesn’t know how to frame an argument to counter act the right or how to use his office to slam the right with liberal and progressive positions.

The President just seems intimidated by the right and willing to go along with the flow rather than meeting conservative positions with liberal ones.  The President and most liberals, except the hated Nancy Pelosi, seem afraid to attack the right, to use outrageous comments to counter act outrageous comments and to use the Internet to show how off the wall the Tea Party positions really are.

Liberals just seem to be willing to be beaten up politically and then complain about being beaten up. So another victory for the right with the left being taken to the cleaners. When will the word ” fight ” enter the liberal vocabularly?

Taking the 14th

July 27, 2011

Somewhere in the deep recesses of the West Wing a gaggle of lawyers for the Obama administration are pouring over the obscure language of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment as perhaps one very odd way out of the debt ceiling crisis.

The Civil War era amendment states in part “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Now anyone reading Section 4 would likely come to the conclusion that this language has little if anything to do with the current debt ceiling imbroglio, and they would be right – perhaps.

We are getting down to crunch time here in the USA and the gridlock in Congress does not seem to be abating. The President must do something to avoid default and one option is to invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment. It is clearly a stretch, although former President Bill Clinton has already advised Obama to invoke the amendment to at least temporarily avoid another financial meltdown.

Obama and his lawyers are not so sure about whether Section 4 of the 14th Amendment has legal standing in this issue, but there is disagreement in the White House. The argument for using the 14th Amendment is that Obama invokes it, raises the debt ceiling, is sued by the Republicans and the issue goes to the Supreme Court for review.

Here is where it gets interesting. The Court often stays away from what are termed issues that are termed “political” in nature. Advocates of the 14th say that the Court would stay out of this mess, even though there is a constitutional challenge. Of course this is pure speculation, but there is precedent for the Court staying out of the political fray, and this is certainly a time of political fray.

Perhaps this constitutional sideshow will remain on the sidelines and a deal will be struck at the 11th hour. But Obama does have one option that could be used in desperation. It might be instructive to reiterate that the 14th Amendment came out of the Civil War, and this debt ceiling fight certainly is a civil war.

It’s His to Lose

April 5, 2011

There has been much talk about the changed political landscape in this country as a result of the ” shellacking” the Democrats took in the 2010 mid-term election. The changed landscape means to many Republicans that President Obama is vulnerable in 2012 and the GOP has a great shot at taking back the White House.

All of the above is true, except that the Republicans, no matter how hard they try, do not have a credible candidate to challenge Obama. Sure they have candidates, near-candidates,quasi-candidates and psuedo- candidates, but no real candidates with the kind of gravitas to unseat an incumbent with a huge campaign warchest, the advantages of the White House and what appears to be an economy on the mend.

It has been said more than once by pundits and professors that the Republicans do not have a serious candidate for the presidency or a serious mindset to run the United States of America. Yes, they have policy positions, yes, they have grassroots support, and yes, they have an incumbent who is not exactly lighting up the public opinion polls.

What they don’t have is a group of presidential hopefuls who make voters ask themselves,” why change from Obama to this guy/gal?” For all his miscues and misjudgments President Obama is best on the campaign trail and in making his case to the American people. He will rely on his campaigning skills to once again make the American voter question the need to change horses in mid stream.

What makes Obama’s chances even better is that the Republicans seem bound and determined to cut at the heart of the entitlement programs and safety nets, while doing little at all to corporate welfare, banking favoritism, and billionaire tax breaks. The American people are starting to catch on that the real problem out there is not big spending liberals, but crony capitalism, where wealth is redistributed upwards to the rich and corporations are permitted to send profits offshore and avoid paying taxes.

What this slow but steady shift in thinking about who is the enemy of the middle class means is that Obama the campaigner can overcome the impact of the right-ward shift from the 2010 election and convince voters to keep him in office. Because the Republicans only speak the language of no and have little to say about how to make American great again ( other than to cut corporate taxes ), the 2012 presidential election is Obama’s to lose.

Making Up for Rwanda and Kosovo

March 29, 2011

President Obama added a new foreign policy position to our existing doctrines with his decision to join NATO forces in the no fly zone over Libya and the agreement to take ” all necessary measures” against Col. Gadhafi as outlined in United Nations resolution 1973. The United States is now committed to coming to the assistance of those fighters for freedom who face ” looming genocide.” As the President stated in his speech on March 29th at Ft. McNair, ” I refused to wait for the image of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

In the tradition of former president Jimmy Carter, who added human rights and opposition to supporting authoritarian dictators around the world to our foreign policy prescriptions, the Obama Doctrine now takes this country down the road to protecting democratic rebels in countries where we do not have a direct national security interest.

With this involvement in Libya the United Staates has now resurrected the Carter position that we must take action not only because of national security and national interest, but also because of our values, our guiding principles, our belief in human rights. In short, this country cannot just sit by and let people be killed who want to be free, even though we really don’t know how much they are committed to freedom or our values, principles and beliefs.

Although there has been much made of the women on Obama’s foreign policy team such as UN Representative Susan Rice, National Security advisor Samantha Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushing the president to take this new direction in foreign policy, there is also the memory of the United States standing by when the killing started in Rwanda, killing that eventually took the lives of 750,000 innocents. Also there was Kosovo where the United States waited far to long to get involved knowing that thousands of Muslims were ” cleansed” by Serbian nationalists.

So with the Obama Doctrine in place the obvious question is, will this new policy direction be used elsewhere, such as in Syria or perhaps even Iran? Is the Obama Doctrine just an aberration because this country was pulled into the fighting by the British and the French? The Obama Doctrine is new and really untested, so only time will tell whether the United States has indeed taken a new direction in its response to popular uprisings against tyrants.

But one thing is clear, rather than turn away from the killings in Libya as the US did in Rwanda and Kosovo, Obama decided to save lives.

I’d Give Him a B

January 25, 2010

To listen to Barack Obama’s critics, you would think the guy has been asleep at the wheel for the last year and purposely doing nothing to make this country more secure and a better place to live. The huge unemployment rate, the failure to get health care reform passed, and the housing and bankruptcy crises are often cited as proof that the President has been one big failure.

Well, let’s all take a deep breath,come to our senses and let thoughtful and fair-minded moderation take over this debate about how Number 44 has been doing. Certainly a clear case can be made that the President spent way too much time and political capital on health care reform. Obama like Clinton just didn’t understand that in our broken and contentious governmental system “comprehensive” or “universal” do not compute. 

If Obama had just carved together a series of bills or agreed to move forward with those where there was agreement, a sense of momentum would have been achieved, which over time just might have had the desired result of achieving “comprehensive” or “universal” health care reform. But make no mistake, Americans do want health care reform; what they don’t want are backroom deals. The c0nservatives worst nightmare is that Obamacare will become popular and accepted, like Social Security and Medicare, and they will look like petty and selfish obstructionists.

So with that strategic criticism out of the way, let’s talk about some real accomplishments. First, a solid case can be made that the President saved this country from a complete and total economic meltdown. His decisive action early on, his use of  bank bailouts, rescue techniques for the auto industry and stimulus money brought stability to the financial and economic systems and stopped what would have been the second Great Depression. Today the economy is moving out of recession, the stock market is moving upward, 401Ks are on the plus side and sustained economic growth is no longer a pipe dream. 

Then there is the war on terrorism. Yes, the intelligence community got it wrong on Christmas Day, but Obama is no fainting violent when it comes to anti-terrorism. More drone attacks, more special forces on the ground in Yemen, no closing yet of Guantanamo, new troop levels in Afghanistan and a smart departure from Iraq are examples that this is a war on terrorism president, no matter what the conservatives say.

And to all those right-wingers out there, how about this – no gun confiscation, no new taxes, no illegal immigration reform, no major expansion of gay rights. Obama has been moderate, cautious, and non-threatening, and he has tried to be bipartisan. Everyone would like to have lost jobs back, everyone would like to have some kind of health care reform, and everyone would like to have the go-go economy of the 80s and 90s. But what we have with Obama is a record of putting this country on the right path toward real change. I’d give him a B.