Posts Tagged With: Obama administration

ANOTHER WIN FOR DYSFUNCTION

Last time I wrote about the deal emerging in negotiations to limit Iran’s capability to achieve nuclear weaponry. I pointed out that in its efforts to reach some sort of nuclear arrangement with Iran, the Obama administration is very likely to reach some terribly wrong agreement. Like allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium which is at the very core of a nuclear bomb. Or like setting a term-limit on the agreement reached to only 10 years. Which means that at the start of the 11th year, Iran could very easily start to assemble nuclear weapons on their assembly lines. In the meantime, Iran gets the benefit of a relaxation of all economic sanctions that most of the world has placed on it. Oil production would dramatically increase, and the Iranian economy would boom. But even worse than this deeply flawed treaty is the action of 47 Republican senators in sending a letter to the mullahs that exercise iron-clad control over that country. The letter, in effect, stated that any agreement reached between the Obama administration and the Iranian government will be short lived because when the Republicans take power in less than 2 years, they will likely chuck it into the garbage can. For mind-boggling recklessness and sheer outright stupidity, this action is almost beyond comprehension.

Let’s start with the premise that has supposedly been woven into the American landscape since the end of WWII. That premise states that the political divide in this country stops “at the waters edge.” This means that we can bicker internally about all sorts of political issues; but when it comes to dealing in foreign relations and with foreign governments, we speak with one united voice. How else can we successfully achieve our foreign policy objectives? As an analogy, lets turn back the clock to early 1940, when the Nazi military was on the march throughout Europe. The Roosevelt administration had established a “lend-lease” program to supply England with the vital weaponry it needed to fight Hitler’s troops as they threatened to invade the British Isles. If isolationist Republican senators who were opposed to this program had sent Hitler a letter at the time, saying “don’t worry about lend-lease. When we win the election slated for later this year, we’ll just toss that whole lend-lease operation into the trash bin.” One can only imagine the tragedy that would have ensued. Fortunately for us, and the rest of the free world, no such letter was ever sent. But that hasn’t stopped modern day Republicans, whose antipathy, or outright hatred of everything Obama, from going deeply beyond the waters edge.

The GOP excuse for writing that letter was that they wanted to explain to those crazy kids, the ayatollahs, that so-ruthlessly run Iran, about the intricate points of the U.S. constitutional form of government.  Right. If you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge that connects Brooklyn with Manhattan that I’ll sell you real cheap. First of all, by writing to the ayatollahs, the most fanatical and hate-mongering segment of Iranian society, and telling them that any pact reached with the current administration isn’t worth the paper its printed on, only reinforces the ayatollahs doctrine that the U.S. can never be trusted. That the U.S. is the great satan that must be destroyed, along with Israel, of course. That it’s an absolute moral imperative for every Moslem to seek the total destruction of the U.S. and Israel. So, any effort on the part of our current administration to reach some form of reasonable accommodation with Iran is now pretty much out the window.

At the heart of such recklessness is the GOP’s undying antipathy toward Obama and his administration. It explains the daily gushing river of vitriol and venom directed against not only Obama, but his Attorney-General Eric Holder, as well. The first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Day after day, this vitriol pours forth from Fox News and right-wing-whacko talk radio. But who could possibly infer that there’s anything racial going on here. A Rush Limbaugh or any of his wannabes would, of course, never admit to that.

The Republican mantra of hating everything Obama is further illustrated by the Attorney-General situation. Toward the end of 2014, AG Eric Holder announced that he was resigning and would leave office as soon as a new AG has been approved by the Senate. President Obama thereafter announced that he was nominating a New York prosecutor named Loretta Lynch to be the replacement AG. She would be the first black woman to occupy that office. The Senate panel overseeing such nominations declared that she was well-qualified and approved her nomination for a full Senate vote. The problem is that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, refuses to schedule such a vote. On the one hand, confirming Lynch’s nomination would be the quickest way to be rid of the despised Eric Holder.  On the other hand, Loretta Lynch would just be another Afro-American carrying out Obama administration policies. A female Eric Holder. What a conundrum. To vote her down would allow the racial disease within the Republican Party to become too obvious, even for voters that hardly pay any attention to such matters. So, at this point, it appears that the GOP has no end-game strategy, other than endless delaying tactics, until, they hope, time runs out on the Obama presidency.

Such is the state of of American politics in the year 2015. Every time one might think that we’ve hit a new low in political dysfunction, polarization, and hyper-partisanship, the political class seems to sink us even deeper into the quagmire of mud and slime. And it’s only going to get worse in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

 

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FAKING SINCERITY

To appreciate the full ramifications of the Republican sweep of last Tuesday’s election, one has to explore various and complicated aspects of the human condition.  For example, as I wrote previously, the election results in most cases were decided by the people who didn’t vote, versus those that did. About 45% of eligible voters did cast their ballots, which is actually slightly higher than most off-year elections. But a solid majority of eligibles couldn’t be bothered to show up at the ballot station, or couldn’t care less about who won. Supposedly, most of those that did vote were turned off by Obama Administration and Democratic ineptitude and failures, and that prompted a fairly strong turn-out for the Republican cause. This was best illustrated in the state of Virginia, where Democratic Senator Mark Warner was supposed to have coasted to an easy re-election win over a Republican hack named Ed Gillespie. Instead the election was a nail-biter through the entire evening with Gillespie leading most of the time. Warner finally edged out a win by the skin of his teeth in the early morning hours. The reason for Warner’s near loss- people in southern Virginia were motivated to turn out in heavy numbers to vote Republican as a protest against Obama; while Democratic strongholds in northern Virginia saw meager numbers of voters at the polling booths. Ironically, people that benefit most from Government assistance, such as the poor, the sick, and the unemployed, tend to vote in light numbers, while those opposed to Government redistribution vote much more heavily. Also, young voters who generally are more liberal tend not to show up at the polls, while oldsters, like myself, who are usually more conservative, will vote in heavier numbers, even in off-year elections. What else do they have to do with their time.

Then, there’s the way candidates appeal to the voting public, as a crucial factor. In 1946, both Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon had returned home from fighting in WWII, and both were elected to Congress that year. In Kennedy’s case, it was part of family tradition to run for high public office. But in Nixon’s case, no political aspirations were initially in evidence. Not until a group of wealthy businessmen from southern California approached him, and said they liked his style and that he should consider entering the political arena. They, the businessmen, would provide the necessary financial support for such an effort. Nixon was grilled on variety of issues to ensure that his views were sufficiently conservative to suit the businessmen’s interests. But most of all, Nixon was told, to become a viable candidate, he had to appear thoroughly sincere in belief of the issues he would be promoting. “Well, hell,” replied Nixon. “I can fake that; at least as well as the next guy, if not better.” Since I wasn’t at that meeting, perhaps the exchange of verbiage didn’t go down in exactly those words. But I’m pretty sure that it was very close to that. Nixon was so good at faking his sincerity, that he would go on to be elected Congressman and then Senator from California. Next he was chosen to be Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1950s. From there, after some political setbacks, Nixon was elected to the Presidency in 1968. He made huge accomplishments as President; but was eventually done in and disgraced by his own paranoia during the Watergate scandal, which forced him to resign the Presidency. Faking the sincerity factor no longer worked for him.

Another good example of the fickleness of the average American’s political thought-proceesses also occurred during the tumultuous 1960s. In 1968, America had already been devastated by the assassinations of two leaders of monumental consequence, namely, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In 1968, Robert Kennedy, affectionately known to his supporters as Bobby, decided to enter the fray for the Democratic nomination for President. He had been Attorney-General in his brother’s administration, and then was elected Senator from New York. Possessing much of his brother’s charisma, he generated huge popularity and seemed well on his way to securing the the Democratic nomination, when he too was assassinated in June of that year. It was a shattering loss for most Americans. I remember writing at the time that no nation, not even one as powerful as the U.S., could sustain such devastating losses in leadership without going into a tailspin. Hubert Humphrey, a decent enough Senator from Minnesota would go on to obtain the Democrat nomination while Richard Nixon was the GOP nominee. But there was a third player in that year’s election.

His name was George Wallace, and he was the racist Governor of Alabama. In 1968, segregation and Jim Crow laws were still alive and well throughout the South. Wallace decided to run as an independent in the Presidential race that year, figuring that he had as good a shot as the main-stream party candidates. So, who was George Wallace? Five years previously, he had declared, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That racist statement occurred when Wallace stood in the school house door to block black students from entering the University of Alabama, as had been decreed by the courts.  He eventually was forced to back down by an edict from then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who had to federalize National Guard troops to provide protection for those black students. But that wasn’t the most interesting part of that 1968 scenario.

The most interesting part was that the very  people that had actively supported and voted for Bobby Kennedy in the Democratic primaries, were now turning out in huge numbers to listen to, and support George Wallace on the campaign trail after Kennedy’s assassination. Even though you couldn’t have two politicians who were more diametrically opposed to each other. Kennedy was a liberal who was for civil rights, and strongly opposed segregation and Jim Crowism. He was opposed to the war in Viet-Nam and promised disengagement if elected. He vigorously favored Government intervention to help the plight of the poor and sick. Wallace was just the opposite. He was not only a strict segregationist, but he was also one of the few public supporters of the Viet-Nam war. He couldn’t care less about reducing poverty, as noted by the fact that Alabama was the second poorest state in the union, with Mississippi being dead last. And yet many of the same people who were enthusiastic about Bobby, became similarly enthusiastic about Wallace.

How does one account for that? It’s the sincerity factor. When questioned about this supposed anomaly, voters were unapologetic. Bobby was a good man because he wasn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth, said one man. Now, Wallace is the only guy who means what he says and isn’t trying to please everyone at the same time. One woman added that “they say what they mean and they don’t try to beat around the bush.” So, in the end, it’s not about ideology. It’s about which candidate can sell the public on the fact that they are the authentic, real-deal. After all, politics is a game of salesmanship. The one that can best fake sincerity will usually rise to the top.

 

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LEGALIZING THE ILLEGALS

As you’re probably well aware, there is a great debate going on in Congress, mostly in the Senate, about enacting legislation that would create a pathway to legalization for an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. Almost all of the 11 million, as you know, are Hispanic. The idea is to give these people legal status so they can work openly without fear of deportation, pay taxes, get driver’s licenses, and openly provide a public education for their children. The main obstacle to such a course of sanity and rationality is, of course, the tea-party element of the Republican Party, which includes almost everyone calling themselves Republican. Although the proposed legislation is being pushed by an Hispanic Republican senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, most GOP senators and representatives are on record as opposing this effort. The facade of obstruction emanating from these looney tunes right-wingers, is that legalization of undocumented persons should not occur until our border with Mexico is tightly secured so no further illegals can enter. Since the border with Mexico is almost 2000 miles long, I guess this would mean building a 100 foot high concrete wall along that 2000 miles, with electrified barbed wire on top. Plus extending the wall 20 feet below ground so illegals couldn’t tunnel their way in. Plus adding about 9 million security guards along the border, plus drones, sensors and other electronic gadgetry. When it comes to securing our border with Mexico, money is no object to right-wing whackos.

Opponents of legalizing the illegals claim that race or ethnicity is not a factor, but I strongly disagree, and will prove otherwise. Lets change the scenario, slightly. For example, our border with Mexico is under 2000 miles, but our border with Canada is well over 3000 miles. Plus our Canadian border is lightly manned, and virtually anyone that wants to, can enter the U.S. from Canada, illegally, by just taking a stroll through the woods, almost anywhere along the U.S.-Canadian border. So let us suppose that instead of illegal Hispanics, we had 11-12 million illegal Canadians in our midst. They got fed up with the long, cold Canadian winters, or with socialized medicine, or whatever, and millions came streaming across the border and headed south to warm up. Let us further assume that most of these illegal aliens were primarily French-speaking. Does anyone think that this would even be a blip on our political radar-screen. Of course not. Why? Because these illegal Canadians are white like us with the same ethnicity. And besides, doesn’t French sound so much more cultured and sophisticated than Spanish? So, 11 million illegal Hispanics- big problem. Eleven million illegal Canadians- no problem at all. They would just blend into the population.

Thus, as I’ve said, right-wing tea partiers, and other assorted kooks and racists are fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent this very modest legislative effort from succeeding.  One of the bill’s main opponents in the Senate, a newly elected tea-party favorite named Ted Cruz, is one of the most vociferous in leading the opposition. The fact that he himself is Hispanic, will not, in any way, compromise his right-wing ideology of preventing his own people from attaining the benefits of legalization and eventually citizenship.  Then there are those who fear that should these illegals eventually obtain citizenship, they would mostly vote Democratic. God forbid. Although I can’t imagine why, since the GOP seems to welcome Hispanics with open arms. The prognosis, at this time, is that Rubio’s bill will likely squeeze through the Democrat-controlled Senate, but will face very rough sledding in the Republican-controlled House. It might very well be impossible to get House Republicans to agree to this legislation, and, in the end, all that effort will be for nought. Time will tell.

Democrats these days are having a multitude of political problems, not the least of which is President Obama’s sinking poll numbers. A lot of people, especially young voters, are upset over the NSA snooping into our phone calls and e-mails. Although I’ve written a previous entry explaining how this was not only necessary, but vital, in preventing further terrorist attacks. The Director of NSA has claimed that over 50 planned terrorist attacks have been disrupted thanks to these NSA “snooping” efforts. Then there are the IRS fiasco and the 4 killed Americans in Libya, that the GOP has skillfully manipulated into being labeled as Democratic “scandals.” To say nothing of a still very sluggish economy, high unemployment, and oceans of red ink. And let us not leave out the huge problems the Administration is having in trying to implement Obamacare. It doesn’t look like implementation will be ready by 2014. So by all rights, the GOP should obliterate the Democrats in the up coming 2014 elections. But that’s not likely to happen because of Republican right-wing ideology. For example, just the other day, the Republican-controlled House passed legislation to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Just to further piss-off the women voters they lost in the 2012 presidential election. All to satisfy their evangelical (religious fanatic) base, and, even though they know that this bill will almost certainly die in the Senate. And even though it’s contrary to the law as established in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe V. Wade. It’s just who they are.

It reminds me of an old story you may be familiar with. It seems that a turtle was sitting at the edge of a river, contemplating swimming to the other side. Along comes a scorpion who says to the turtle- I would really like to get to the other side of the river, but I can’t swim. But you, Mr. Turtle can swim. So if you let me ride on your back we can both make it to the other side. The turtle says- I’m not going to to that. You’ll sting me with your venom, and I’ll die in the river. That’s ridiculous-replies the scorpoion. If I did that we would both drown. The turtle is finally convinced that the scorpion means him no harm and says-ok, hop on my shell and we’ll head for the other side. About half way across, the scorpion suddenly stings the turtle’s with a lethal dose of poisonous venom. Why did you do that-cries out the turtle. Now were both going to drown and die. Couldn’t help it-replies the scorpion. It’s just who I am.

 

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