Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ tag
If any of us thought there was any chance for the GOP to grow up and move past partisanship in order to get something done in Washington during Obama’s remaining years in office, we might as well dream on. This do-nothing bunch of Republican lawmakers seem dead set on not only inaction, but attempting work against the administration, no matter how detrimental this might be to the nation itself or people’s faith in the political process.
Here’s part of an article from Slate:
In the past couple weeks, in interviews with House and Senate staffers for the Republican leadership, there has been a depressing message: Nothing is going to get done for the next four years. Again and again, the same mantra could be heard. Partisanship and election jockeying for 2014 and 2016 is going to keep everything locked up.
Watching the live feed from the White House on Friday it became hard to argue otherwise. President Obama held an event with mothers defending the Affordable Care Act, the start of a monthslong effort to protect his signature achievement, which Republicans have promised to fight all the way to the 2014 elections and beyond. Then, shortly thereafter, White House press secretary Jay Carney jumped between answering questions about the administration’s response to the attacks in Benghazi to the Internal Revenue Service targeting the Tea Party and other conservative political groups for audits.
It’s going to take some time to get to the bottom of these controversies, but we can conclude the pessimists are probably right. Nothing is going to get done in this siege environment.
This New York Times editorial also highlighted this pervasive tone within the GOP camp in Washington. The paper even goes so far as to recommend that Obama outright abandon any attempts to extend an olive branch to the Republicans:
It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.
At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.
I can’t say that I disagree, but we should also remember that on at least one piece of important legislation, the Affordable Care Act, Obama and the Washington Democrats moved forward and did the right thing without GOP support. The Republicans have not been interested in actual leadership the past four years, only interested thwarting Obama’s policies, and they even seem willing to let the nation default on its debt to make a point. This is not nasty, cut throat maneuvering; it’s childish school yard politics.
Here is how The Times concluded its editorial:
Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.
Some folks within the nonbelieving community have suggested that the History Channel’s series, “The Bible,” may produce an adverse effect than what its creators may have anticipated, as “casual” believers or fence-sitters see depictions of the mass murders and other atrocities that Yahweh in the Old Testament either caused directly or ordered through his followers. It just occurred to me that today we call the deaths of thousands of people, like on Sept. 11, 2001, a tragedy. Yet, God orders the mass slaughter of nonbelievers in the OT, and no one raises an eyebrow. Some of the people murdered on Sept. 11 were believers; some were not. Their deaths were, by all accounts that I have heard the last 10 years, tragic. Yet, a deity can order the slaughter of thousands of nonbelievers and somehow that’s OK. Today, we would call that terrorism. I’m amazed at religion’s power to desensitize so-called “morally upright believers” to violence, rape, incest and genocide.
But in any case, a question over at Bunch has been raised whether “The Bible” will turn off believers because of the many deaths the series depicts that are directly attributable to Yahweh. Matt O. wrote:
I suspect, and I might be wrong, that History’s The Bible mini-series might be one of the best things for atheism to happen in a long time. As the Bible is actively read by some 16% of Christians this is giving millions an opportunity to see parts of the cannon that are morally objectionable attributed to their god.
And he then listed numerous scenes in “The Bible” in which Yahweh wipes out mass amounts of people from Earth in the OT, to which I replied:
It may turn off some “casual” believers, but it won’t make much difference to the “church every Sunday” crowd. They know full well what Yahweh did and commanded that his followers do in the OT, and they believe anyway because any amount of wickedness or depravity can be justified in their eyes since we supposedly live in a fallen world and God’s law is supreme no matter how morally bankrupt it appears to us.
Beck goes and makes a comparison between what appears to me to be an ill-cast Satan character in the History Channel series, “The Bible” and Barack Obama. Here’s a side-by-side:
From Beck’s perspective, this was just another opportunity — he doesn’t really pass up any — to take a jab at Obama and vilify the president by any means necessary. In fact, this is a good summation of the general program of conservative right wing radio in general.
As for the Satan character, I always pictured Satan, were he to take human form, as a young and attractive alpha male kind of figure. Does the History Channel really want to go on record as casting the most evil being of all time as an old black man? The History Channel? Oh well. Looks like that die has been cast.
While the full implications surrounding the “War on Terror” that was initially waged by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, have been brought to light many times before (here, here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Atlantic recently asked some hard questions that, because of Bush’s declaration and the United States’ commitment to ending terror, don’t admit to any easy answers.
One of the most important and morally gray questions: does torture work, and if so, should we be willing to use it to extract information that is vital to national security. Coates notes some of the inconsistencies surrounding President Obama’s own policy on fighting terror:
The president is anti-torture — which is to say he thinks the water-boarding of actual confirmed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong. He thinks it was wrong, no matter the goal — which is to say the president would not countenance the torture of an actual terrorist to foil a plot against the country he’s sworn to protect. But the president would countenance the collateral killing of innocent men, women and children by drone in pursuit of an actual terrorist. What is the morality that holds the body of a captured enemy inviolable, but not the body of those who happen to be in the way? (Italics mine.)
I don’t have an answer to that last question. Critics of torture never tire of arguing — and as Quentin Tarantino argues in Reservoir Dogs — a person will say anything to make the pain stop. Or, in the infallible logic of Nice Guy Eddie:
If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!
Or, perhaps Mr. White’s rather nuanced view is correct:
Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.
What about the view of Creasy from Man on Fire:
I am going to ask questions. If you don’t answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I’m going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.
Or, how about Jack Bauer:
Jack Bauer: Ibraham Hadad had targeted a bus carrying over forty-five people, ten of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you’re saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means, and that you are above the law.
Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason, and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: Even if it means breaking the law.
Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is results. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because sir, the truth is … I don’t. (“Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am“)
I realize these are just arguments from the minds of entertainment writers, but the questions and concerns aren’t going away because of the Pandora’s Box that Bush opened when he first uttered the words “War on Terror.” Remember his remarks from 2007:
On every battlefront we’re on the offense, keeping constant pressure. And in this war on terror, we will not rest or retreat or withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Admittedly, the extremism would have arisen and grown with or without Bush; the president simply committed the United States and its allies to the impossible task of wiping terrorism in its totality off the map. That was the critical mistake that Bush made. The threat of violence from extremists will never be removed as long as zealots and extremists cultivate the idea that a religion or a powerful leader can rise to such heights that any amount of death and suffering are justified in order to protect them. This is why John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was so important, and why we should never forget his lyrics:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
As long as zealots have something to kill or die for, they most certainly will because in their deluded and splintered minds, it gives them something, ironically, to live for.
After the U.S. Census Bureau reported earlier this year that white newborn babies were now in the minority camp, the agency is now indicating that whites as a whole in America will be a minority by 2043, a reality that, while it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, will no doubt raise anxieties among some white folks, especially in the South.
Witness some of these odious responses on the News-Sentinel website:
TOLDYOUSO: Oh goodie, then we can race bait like jesse and al.
GOJO: Then whites will get preferential treatment as a minority.
transplantedhillbilly: There goes the neighborhood! Now they will be burning crosses on OUR lawns!
activehollow: white history month…finally!
ragebucket: When whites are no longer the majority, can we have white pride month?
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out in May after the report on newborns, the actual figures related to demographics in America aren’t as black and white as we might believe. People technically of Hispanic origin but have lived in the United States since infanthood may be just as well feel comfortable checking the “white” box if other branches of their family tree find their roots in say, Eastern Europe, like Yglesias. What about people with Hispanic origins whose families have lived in the United States for multiple generations, and they have no immediate connection to Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere.
Here is Yglesias:
As books like How The Irish Became White and How Jews Became White Folks: And What That Says About Race in America make clear, whiteness in America has always been a somewhat elastic concept.
It’s conceivable that 40 years from now nobody will care about race at all. But if they do still care, it will still be the case that—by definition—whiteness is the racial definition of the sociocultural majority. If the only way for that to happen is to recruit large swathes of the Hispanic and fractionally Asian population into whiteness, then surely it will happen.
… The future of American whiteness will likely evolve to include a larger share of ancestry from Asia and Latin America, just as in the past it’s expanded to include people from eastern and southern Europe. The idea that every single person with a single non-white ancestor counts as non-white will look as ridiculous as Elizabeth Warren’s past claim of Cherokee identity.
The long and short of it: she had no jurisdiction on consular security. That would be up to the state department. Rice is one of the candidates under consideration for the Secretary of State job.
Tomasky essentially makes the case that the Republicans, particularly McCain, went after Rice because of frustrations over the election and, perhaps most important in my view, failing to win the argument on foreign policy:
… most middle Americans recognize Benghazi for what it was—a terribly sad tragedy, but the kind of thing that, in a dangerous world, happens. And yes, many middle Americans would consider it a smudge on the administration’s security record, but most middle Americans also know that record is otherwise rather impressive. It seems to me someone just ran for president trying to argue otherwise, and he lost pretty handily.
And finally and maybe most of all, McCain and others are furious that the Republicans have lost their “natural” advantage on national-security issues. They are desperate to change that, and the quickest way to start doing so is to get Rice’s scalp.
Mitt Romney seems to be resolute in his delusion about the election and why he really lost.
This week during a conference call with some big-money supporters, he threw plenty of blame around, most of it involving charges that Barack Obama offered various “gifts” for certain segments of voters, like women, blacks and Hispanics.
According to this New York Times article:
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
This statement is contemptible for numerous reasons.
First, rather than Obama’s policies being viewed through a lens of necessity and obligation to move civil rights ever forward in order to actually help people — rather than, you know, merely giving lip service to the idea that you care about average Americans — Romney casts Obama as some kind of political profiteer, and indeed the whole election as just one big sales pitch. This approach not only dehumanizes politics; it dehumanizes and trivializes the candidates as well as the voters.
Romney’s statement above also happens to be a wild misrepresentation of what really happened. Obama didn’t just focus on civil rights and immigration during the debates and speeches leading up to the election, and Romney didn’t have anything new to offer on jobs, foreign policy or military strategy. Regarding employment, he said that he would create 12 million jobs in four years, true. But Moody’s Analytics has estimated that 12 million jobs will be created through 2016 regardless of who is president. Job creation estimates are based on policies that have already been implemented. This was Romney’s only substantive claim about job growth.
Further, during the final debate, other than the obligatory Republican call to expand the military, we couldn’t really tell how Romney was any different than Obama on foreign policy and the military. According to this Reuters article:
Monday night’s foreign policy debate between the Republican presidential nominee and the Democratic president was striking for the frequency with which Romney aligned himself with Obama’s strategies rather than distancing himself from them.
So, what was this “strategy” Romney was talking about that was focused on the big issues? On most of the big issues other than health care, he more closely aligned or even agreed with Obama’s policies.
I don’t make a practice of watching a lot of MSNBC because I think that would make me no better than FOX News viewers who tune in every day to have their own views confirmed, but Al Sharpton (He should not be a TV host for many reasons) did have an interesting segment tonight in which he featured a previously unreleased audio recording of Lee Atwater outlining what he thought should be the more modern GOP strategy for taking advantage of white bigotry in the early 1980s. Here is one of the more offensive parts:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Romney, Bill O’Reilly, Paul Ryan and others within the GOP have essentially used this strategy to cater to the uneducated, white vote in the South and other rural parts of the nation. While they can’t say anything approaching the offensiveness of “nigger” anymore, they can play on the same white fears that they have for the better part of a century. It’s a hideous but effective strategy.
I believe you grow the economy from the middle out. — Barack Obama, 2012 election ad
Michael Tomasky with The Daily Beast argues that supply-side economics, as well as its ugly stepsister, Reaganomics, died on Election Day when Americans largely rejected the general economic platform of Mitt Romney in favor of a “middle-out” philosophy trumpeted by Barack Obama.
Tomasky makes a good case, but I would suggest that Americans began pulling the curtain on Reaganomics earlier in 2008. There was no secret at the time that the McCain/Palin ticket supported a policy of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation, while Obama wanted to go in a different direction. Even during the Clinton years, I don’t think Americans were completely convinced that Reaganomics was indeed suffering slow entropy. While the Gore/Bush race in 2000 was close — remember that Gore actually won the popular vote — a general ideological shift had yet to occur, as Bush was still commanding a lead in key states like Virginia, Ohio and Illinois. Judging by the votes Bush got in those states between 2000 and 2008, plenty of people still bought into the old guard strain of economic thought.
Here are the last four Electoral College maps from 2000-2012
By 2008, the shift had seemingly already begun, and the Democratic Party’s renewed influence in pockets of the nation that previously went for Bush two elections prior was built on three foundations: disdain and weariness about the Bush years, enthusiasm surrounding Obama himself and, most importantly, a collective realization that America’s focus should no longer be on propping up the wealthy, but bolstering the middle class, indeed, that economic growth flourished alongside middle class success. While the shift may have come full circle this election year, a case can be made that it definitely found its impetus in the 2008 election.
I call this growing up. Understanding that many pockets of America are still clinging to the former ideology, the majority of the nation has come of age and, at least in some measure, has recognized that Reaganomics was not tenable in the 1980s — Tomasky calls it “at best half a success” — and it’s certainly not tenable now.
Tomasky sums it up this way:
Supply side was rejected. And in its place, voters went for an economic vision that says: don’t invest in the wealthy in the hope that they’ll decide to spread the wealth around; invest in the middle class, because it’s demand from a prosperous middle class that ultimately creates more jobs, and because doing that makes for a healthier society all the way around.
Bill Maher and Chris Matthews make a related point in this video, that the election was not necessarily about Obama for a lot of people but about continuing on the path that we have been on that will put the middle class and civil rights in the forefront (See 3:45-5:00):
“When radicals scream that victory is indubitably theirs, sensible conservatives knock them on the nose. It is only very feeble conservatives who take such words as true and run round crying for the last sacraments.” — British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, as quoted by David Frum
I found myself agreeing with much of what David Frum has to say in this column about the future of the Republican Party. It is true; the modern Republican Party is filled with “feeble conservatives” who are masters at bitching, playing the blame game and identifying all that’s wrong with America while providing few substantive solutions. While I don’t necessarily have a dog in the hunt, I would prefer as a voting American that the GOP step away from the fringe cliff because as they drag their party further to the right, they legitimize all the nutcases who want to raze entire departments within the federal government and would go so far as to actually sign petitions in support of state secession.
For those folks, and for everyone else within the Republican Party, Frum has some reasonable advice, and it starts with calling out people who purposefully misconstrue the facts and those, like Bill O’Reilly, who clearly have a dim view of millions of their fellow Americans. Here is Frum’s response to the nonsense in the above video:
You’ll hear O’Reilly’s view echoed wherever conservatives express themselves.
Happily, the view is wrong, and in every respect.
America is not a society divided between “makers” and “takers.” Instead, almost all of us proceed through a life cycle where we sometimes make and sometimes take as we pass from schooling to employment to retirement.
The line between “making” and “taking” is not a racial line. The biggest government program we have, Medicare, benefits a population that is 85% white.
President Barack Obama was not re-elected by people who want to “take.” The president was re-elected by people who want to work -- and who were convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the president’s policies were more likely to create work than were the policies advocated by my party.
The United States did not vote for socialism. It could not do so, because neither party offers socialism. Both parties champion a free enterprise economy cushioned by a certain amount of social insurance. The Democrats (mostly) want more social insurance, the Republicans want less. National politics is a contest to move the line of scrimmage, in a game where there’s no such thing as a forward pass, only a straight charge ahead at the defensive line. To gain three yards is a big play.
Whatever you think of the Obama record, it’s worth keeping in mind that by any measure, free enterprise has been winning the game for a long, long time to this point.
Frum rightly says that the next step for the GOP was to “reassemble a new coalition for limited government and private enterprise,” one that will not just consist of a “white establishment” but one that must necessarily include multiple ethnicities. Criticizing O’Reilly again, Frum then added:
To assume from the start that only certain ethnicities will contribute, and that others aspire only to grab, is not only ugly prejudice; it is also self-destructive delusion.
He ends by saying that the GOP needs “more sensible conservatives” who are able to contribute something meaningful to the political discourse:
As for the feeble conservatives, they should take a couple of aspirin and then stay quietly indoors until the temper has subsided and they are ready to say and do something useful again.
I’m particularly interested in the one on Cleopatra. It is shameful that here in the United States, we have struggled collectively through the 20th century with the issue of women’s rights when in the example of Cleopatra, we have a woman of immense power and charm more than 2,000 years ago.