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Category Archives: Barack Obama
Sarah Palin was a guest this past Thursday on Fox’s Sean Hannity. According to reports, America’s most infamous Hockey Mom said of President Obama, and I quote from the article in today’s DailyBeast, “Our sitting president was not vetted,” referring to the 2008 election.
Um… my initial thought was too vulgar to write (my Mom and sisters are regular readers of my blog) but after my mental synapses stopped overheating from possible responses (considering the source) I thought, “How could you of all people level that accusation?”
What is she talking about? Was she not following the bruising Democratic Primary that went a heck of a lot longer than the current Republican Presidential Primary has gone? Did she follow the series of debates, which aided in the vetting process? Oh yeah, I forgot, she was busy watching Russia from her house in Alaska and must have missed all that. Oy vey this woman annoys me.
The U.S. military’s shameful and homophobic policy banning homosexuals from serving openly was officially repealed at midnight today. No doubt in the years that follow, history will remember Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as a strange policy. Initially signed into law by President Clinton, it took another Democrat, President Obama, to end this discriminatory policy some 18 years later.
Where does this rank in importance to me? Its hard to say. I never had any desire to serve in the military but the fact that this policy was on the books was shameful. Even more frustrating is knowing that so many leading Republicans tried to stop DADT from being repealed. Add it to one more thing that makes me despise the Republican party. Intellectually, I know the Republican party is made up of many moderates who are advocates for greater equality, but my heart has hardened over the years and I no longer consider this party a viable option for me. Chalk up DADT as just one more nail in the Republican Party coffin, because I’ll be quite pleased to bury this shameful party which has spent the last half a century promoting divisive and prejudice-laden language.
Gay activists of all varieties have camped themselves in Washington, D.C. this weekend. For sure, some will attend both the National March for Equality and the HRC Annual National Dinner, but for many this is a divided camp with a common purpose – advancement of GLBT issues and rights. And tensions between these two camps - the first predominantly local and grass roots organizations which run the gamut from the radical Left to Log Cabin Republicans; the second mostly wealthy gay and lesbian supporters of the Democratic National Party – is getting more rancorous.
A direct result of this increasing friction can be seen on the web as this debate within the GLBT community spills over into mainstream (albeit liberal) media. Just this week (to name a few) there is the featured article in The Daily Beast, “Can Obama Make Peace with Gays”; the lead story on The Huffington Post, “Gay Rights Speech: What Should Obama Say Tonight”; and Andrew Sullivan’s scathing review in The Atlantic, “The Battered Wife Syndrome of the HRC”. All are causing a lot of chatter on the internet and really only represent the tip of the iceberg of what is currently online.
Like the various groups referenced in the articles above, I have conflicting feelings and vacillate between pleasure to have Obama in office, because I truly believe he wishes me no ill will (I honestly did not feel that way about the former President) and disapointment that more has not been done either through supporting legislation or executive order. However, I do remind myself that although Obama is fairly liberal, he is socially moderate/conservative with regards to GLBT issues. He has never said anything that made me hold out hope that he would dash D.O.M.A. or lead the charge with any significant legislation.
Representative Barney Frank a Democrat from MA has long been reviled by many conservatives. Like most members of Congress, Frank can be quite pompous and downright arrogant. However, unlike most members of Congress, Frank also has brass balls, is not afraid to speak his mind and is exceptionally intelligent. His left leaning bias aside, the so called “Blue Dog” Democrats and other moderates would do well to take notes on how Rep. Frank handled himself at a recent town hall.
Near the end of the Town Hall a woman stepped to the podium and asked, “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?” Frank handled this exchange in much the same way many of those who are disrupting other town halls should – directly and by calling them out for what they are – hateful rhetoric not based in truth, fact or reality.
Approximately one week ago news stations and blogs were obsessed by reports that the Director of the C.I.A. – Leon Panetta – had recently visited Congress and disclosed that for the past 8 years there had been a secret counterterrorism program that had intentionally been concealed from the Senate and House intelligence committees.
The NY Times July 11th article, “Cheney is linked to concealment of C.I.A. Project” implicates V.P. Cheney. The Times asserts, “The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.”
It turns out that the program was designed to target leaders of Qaeda, which I think most Americans (especially in the days that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) would favor. The Times issued a follow up story in their July 13th article, “C.I.A. had plans to assassinate Qaeda leaders”. The article indicates that “Mr. Panetta scuttled the program, which would have relied on paramilitary teams, shortly after the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center recently informed him of its existence. The next day, June 24, he told Congressional Intelligence Committees that the plan had been hidden from lawmakers, initially at the instruction of former Vice President Dick Cheney,” again implicating former V.P. Cheney.
I know many people do not have a problem with the idea of taking out leaders of terrorist organizations, but that is really not the issue that makes me so uncomfortable. Rather it is the lack of disregard for the “checks and balances” that makes our Democracy work (and worthwhile) that time and again seem to have been completely disregarded in the Bush administration. This concept that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney knew what was best and could only be effective if they were allowed to operate without supervision and without having to answer for their actions leaves me sick to my stomach. What would be the reaction (I wonder aloud) if President Obama and V.P. Biden operated in such a manner? What if they acted with the best of intentions but refused to disclose information, respect other branches of government and twisted laws to find interpretations that suited their means?
In the weeks leading up to this controversy, V.P. Dick Cheney was on the proverbial war path asserting that President Obama was compromising the safety of the U.S. He made several visits to the Sunday morning talk shows (i.e. Meet the Press, Face the Nation, etc…) and his daughter, Liz, was almost a permanent fixture on MSNBC and CNN expressing her disdain for the new administrations’ actions.
However in the days that have followed since Panetta shut down the Bush era counter terrorism program, there has not been a single peep from anyone named Cheney. Why the sudden silence now? Silence is not an impartial judge, and I’m left to wonder if the former V.P. believes the public’s assumptions are preferable to his answering these accusations. Mr. Cheney are you even more evil and despicable than my assumptions would lead me to believe?
Earlier this week, four significant memos written by the Bush administration between 2002 and 2005 on the interrogation of terror detainees were released. Among the interrogation documents released, was a list of 13 techniques authorized by the Justice Department for use by the C.I.A. on high-level suspects. The NY Times details some of the methods in their article on Friday, “Interrogation memos detail harsh tactics by the CIA”. However, the reason I am writing this entry is not to dwell on techniques approved by the Bush administration and applied to unsavory characters, but to revisit a blog entry I wrote in November 2007, “What are Values?”.
I know that many Americans have no problem with the thought of the U.S. torturing individuals or using any necessary means to secure the greater good for the public. Although I think I can make a strong argument that torturing people is not an effective way to get reliable information, I wanted to respond to the news of these memos for a different reason. When I think of men torturing people, I conjure up images of communist Russia and China or rogue nations like Chad, Syria and Iran – these are places where liberty is unknown. For reasons rooted in our Judeo-Christian culture and our founding political ideals (the very things that make us such a unique and special country) I can not imagine an America that would engage in serious dialog about ‘acceptable torture techniques’.
There should be nothing acceptable about torture. Are we a nation that hold our ideals true or do we only speak of these values (i.e. sanctity of life, rights of all individuals, etc…) when we are correcting our children or in our respective houses of worship? I expect our country to walk the talk and lead by example – not footnote exceptions for torturing individuals when our very ideals become inconvenient. I can not reconcile the image of a United States that condones torture with the image of my country when we are at our best. Martin Luther King appealed to the better side of Man in his “I have a dream” speech. I have chosen this excerpt which I think better expresses my fears and hopes for a better America.
“In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream, 1963
Yesterday President Obama’s administration formally endorsed a UN statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, reversing a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign. You can read the full article here.
As I’ve pointed out from time to time on my blog, there are many reasons I vote for a party vs. the individual. Paramount in that decision is the fact that while there may be many moderates in the Republican Party who have no problem with the fact that I’m a homosexual – they have no power or voice in a party that is in the arms of the Christian Far Right so why would I willingly allow a single seat to that party even if I like the individual candidate? I’m not here to change a political party – I expect to feel that I have a seat at the table of a political party. This latest reversal of the Bush administration is one more tangible and distasteful reminder that for a gay man – there is only one political party – so much for having choices.
It seems like the recession is the topic du jour every day and provides journalists, politicians, economists and everyone else for that matter with hours of speculative conversation. While I don’t understand everything discussed, I feel like there seem to be two main thoughts on how best to handle the crisis. The first is a more laissez-faire approach that suggests letting the market self-correct with minimal involvement by cutting both taxes and spending. The second is reminiscent of FDR’s approach advocating government spending for large-scale projects to get money into the economy and create jobs.
Although people are fairly impassioned about what needs to be done, I’m pretty certain that both schools of thought could ultimately work. The real question in my mind is how long would it take and what would the U.S. economy look like after? How many jobs would be lost forever? How many more Americans will be living below, at or near the poverty level? The questions go on and on, but despite the postulating in the media nobody really knows the answers to these questions. Views are shaded by philosophical biases that either advocate for the more laissez-faire or FDR approach.
However, since state and local governments from coast to coast seem to be increasing taxes and fees for both businesses and citizens and since it is unlikely we will curb spending with one war (hopefully) wrapping up in Iraq and another ramping up in Afghanistan – I simply don’t understand how the first approach realistically can even be tried. That leaves me feeling like the only other option is the proverbial – Plan B – or the second option of government stimulus.
So even though I don’t know what to expect from Obama’s $787B stimulus package, I feel like it is realistically the only option available. The decision to commit to this path is not something one makes easily, and I will continue to respectfully listen to those with dissenting opinions on the matter. However, I will need more than dogmatic, philosophical opinions about cutting spending and taxes as reasoning.
For the laissez-faire approach to be tried, the Federal government needs to remove the US from the world-stage and our many costly obligations as well as ensure that states and cities work in conjunction to cut spending and taxes. Otherwise, this approach seems doomed to fail, because we will not be adhering to the principals of less spending and lower taxes. I don’t think the US will ever willingly remove itself from the world stage and I don’t know how the Federal government can make states and cities stop raising revenues through taxes and fees so the point might be moot.
Like the mythic phoenix rising from its own ashes, I feel like America is once again reborn. The rise of the new America comes from a feeling that the political landscape is shifting again. The lessons learnt from previous generations are there for us, but this president and our generation are not encumbered by their hang-ups and generational perceptions that have shaped and sometimes shaded political opinion.
Part of this stems from the fact that what it means to be an American and what an American looks like is truly being redefined. The First family is a tangible example of this, but it goes beyond simply black and white. Today’s Politico.com has an interesting article “Latinos fight for political recognition” by Gebe Martinez.
In the article Martinez reminds us that Latinos voted 10million strong in the November 2008 presidential election and more importantly, they represent significant populations in key states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and California. Martinez points out that “there remains a gap between the power they (Latinos) have earned and the Washington elite’s perception of their power.” This provides the newly sworn in President (and his party) the opportunity to reach out and work more closely with this important constituency to help empower them. Closing this gap of perceptions is important, because perception can be misconstrued as reality if not called out.
It probably will not be long before we swear in our first Latino president and when that day comes – it will be just as moving because we will have redefined (yet again) what the office of President means and how people relate to that position of power. Obama’s swearing in really does signify a dawning of a new day. I hope that we can harness this energy and enthusiasm to continue to engage all Americans and welcome them into the political process. Apathy serves nobody in a democracy.
The Boston Globe has posted Dan Wasserman’s best OpEd cartoons from 2008. Many of these are quite funny. I’ve included one of my favorites. If you would like to link to Boston.com to see all of Dan’s cartoons link here.
I remember when the Republican Revolution led by Newt Gingrich (R) overtook the House of Representatives in 1994 ending the Democrats 40 year majority in the lower house. That night the Republicans picked up more than 50 seats in the House and nearly 10 seats in the Senate. As a Democrat (and a liberal one at that) the night was quite depressing.
Fast forward 14 years to present day and the discontent that was so clearly levelled against the Democrats in 1994 seems to be this time aimed at Republicans. Most Americans blame the economic problems we face, the quagmire that is referred to as the ‘war in Iraq’ and the diminishing prestige of the United States in the world squarely on the shoulders of President Bush and the Republicans who controlled both houses of Congress for nearly 8 years.
The wave of frustration is sure to provide the Democrats with some remarkable wins on November 4th. The real question remains how much of that frustration will turn into voting out Republican incumbants? Names like Sununu, Dole and Coleman all seem vulnerable and states like NC, FL and GA all have competitive races that might result in Republican incumbents losing what even two months ago were presumed to be ‘safe’ seats. Check out the RealClearPolitics Election ’08 to track the latest Congressional, Governor and Presidential polls.
The potential for a landslide in Presidential, Congressional and Gubenatorial races next week is a mixed blessing. Democrats will inherit a huge budget deficit, bailout promises that must be followed, a country poorer and more disenfranchised as well as a world that is openly hostile to the U.S. due to our ‘cowboy’ foreign policy that showed disdain for diplomacy and tainted our reputation by endorsing the use of torture.
The challenges for the next U.S. President are certain to be many and so it is with baited breath that I wait for Sen. Obama to win what seems to be a potential for a landslide victory – debunking my predictions that he would only win by 2-3% back in August when I wrote Ms. Piggy for President. Without a friendly Congress ready and willing to work with a President Obama I don’t think the country would have a chance to get through this difficult time.
Each election cycle I watch candidates (generally but not exclusively from the Right) call into question the patriotism of their opposition. Bush’s attacks on John Kerry serve as a prime example. Kerry (like him or hate him) enlisted and served with honor in Vietnam. However, in the 2004 general election Kerry’s service in Vietnam was portrayed as calculating; not patriotic. By contrast, President Bush’s service in the TX Air National Guard was characterized as patriotic. Strange? It was to me. However, what was even more strange was the general public’s acceptance.
There is a pervasive belief that if you are liberal you are less patriotic. Even if I was the best writer in the world I know that I could not convince people differently so I don’t bother. However, I am impressed that Barack Obama has challenged this assumption in a speech he gave today to veterans by calling into question why John McCain would assume someone like Barrack Obama would not be as patriotic as anyone else.
Attached is an excerpt of his speech which I read on Politico.com today.
“But one of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can’t disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America’s national interest. Now, it’s time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.
Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain. When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views. You are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. But you all served together, and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag. You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America — you served the United States of America.
So let’s have a serious debate, and let’s debate our disagreements on the merits of policy — not personal attacks. And no matter how heated it gets or what kind of campaign he chooses to run, I will honor Senator McCain’s service, just like I honor the service of every veteran in this room, and every American who has worn the uniform of the United States.”