Archive for the ‘president barack obama’ tag
Much has been said and written today about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Barack Obama, from Michelle Malkin’s spastic, right-of-right, true-to-form fragmentary post on the subject, to the Huffington Post’s more rosey view of the man. This BBC story attempts to give a sweeping view of some of the sentiments coming from the American media on the announcement.
Obama is the third sitting president to have been given the honor, followed by Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Jimmy Carter has also won it, but that award came 20 or so years after he left office. Al Gore has as well.
I think this award, more than anything else, amounts to Obama being perceived in much of Europe as the “un-Bush,” as David Ignatius of The Washington Post dubbed it, perhaps fueled, in part, by his speech Sept. 23 to the U.N. General Assembly, and his speech in Cairo, and in his speech on race, and his diplomatic policies, his reaching out to the Muslim world, and, finally, his stance on nuclear nonproliferation. As Ignatius notes,
That’s what he’s being honored for, really: reconnecting America to the world and making us popular again. If you want to understand the sentiments behind the prize, look at the numbers in the Transatlantic Trends report released last month by the German Marshall Fund. Obama’s approval rating in Germany: 92 percent compared to 12 percent for George Bush. His approval in the Netherlands: 90 percent compared to 18 percent for Bush. His favorability rating in Europe overall (77 percent) was much higher than in America (57 percent).
Some, of course, like Dick Cheney, would argue that it doesn’t matter whether we are popular. It matters that we are safe. But, unless our plan is to continue our imperialistic ways forever, I think it does matter, and is a good thing, if other, respected countries within the global community think we are on the right track internationally. No good at all can surely come from being disliked by most of the industrialized, modern countries of the world, as we were under the last woeful administration.
This award, in truth, is not about any one thing Obama has done, for he hasn’t done much on the global stage. It’s about an ideal for a more globally connected America. And while some will cry foul and say many of the other 200-something candidates were actually doing hard, hands-on work to promote peace, I do believe that this award says more about this country than this president, signifying the stunning reversal from the last administration’s G.I. Joe approach to foreign matters to our election of a diplomat. The Nobel Prize committee, using any rational, could never give this award to Obama based on any tangible accomplishments (and Obama admits this), but as he said, it’s a “call to action.”
Some, like this YouTube user, wrongly suggest that the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s decision was “apparently made just after the president took office.” (One can gauge this person’s level of credibility by noticing the channel he happens to be watching in this video.) No. In fact, nomination submissions close Feb. 1, but the choice isn’t made until October. Thus, it is true: someone nominated Obama just after his inauguration, but Obama’s leadership through these seven-eight months must have had some impact.
Regardless, as I’ve said, does he deserve it on his own merit? Probably not. And he says so himself. Is it a good thing for our country? Absolutely. John Adams, a founder whom I’m come to revere greatly, saw, not only the importance of believing in his “country,” but also recognized the importance of being respected on the world’s stage. If we aren’t, we’re cowboys. Though Cheney and Bush would seemingly have it no other way, the era of cowboys and gunslinging is long gone, and we must move with, not against or in spite of, other sovereign, modern, democratic nations.
It’s disheartening that more GOP members overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus plan. They, of course, made it clear why they did it: not enough (or the right kind of) tax cuts, an “orgy” of spending, as Lindsey Graham dubbed it, etc etc. Despite President Obama’s numerous statements that he would like the bill to be a bipartisan effort, I think it was a rancor move by the GOP to so overwhelmingly vote against it, as if to say, “We can’t have it our way? Fine. We’ll take our cookies and go home.”
Republicans did have an alternative, which was John McCain’s $421 billion plan that focused more on cutting income and payroll taxes and less on spending. Critics like to rail that we shouldn’t just throw money at the problem and that the best way to fix some of our economic woes is to give more tax cuts to businesses, thus creating jobs. But here’s the rub: That sounds like a good idea, but our problems are much larger than job creation at this point. Some of our most basic institutions are in dire need of assistance. This bill, indeed, “throws money,” quite rightly, at three such areas, among others:
Education — In my home state (South Carolina), local school districts are scrambling to make ends meet amid widespread budget cuts from the state. Local officials seem to be doing a good job, at least in the county I live in, of cutting wherever necessary without having those cuts affect what happens in the classroom. But if the cuts continue, what happens in the classroom will eventually be affected, whether it be from cutting teacher salaries and benefits (some of this has already happened) thus not attracting quality educators … from making reductions in the quality of supplies, books and the like to save some cash. The current bill offers $44.5 billion to help local districts attempt to delay cutbacks and layoffs.
Health care — Giving tax cuts to small business is fine, but many small businesses can’t afford private health insurance, and Cobra is outrageous. The bill offers a 65 percent subsidy for those on Cobra, among other provisions, like assistance for states to continue funding Medicaid. One case in my state was that of Medicaid-funded hospice care. The state said it would discontinue paying on hospice, thus forcing those with chronic conditions to visit hospitals, rather than get cheaper home care for their conditions. One child with cerebral palsy was costing $131 per day to be treated by hospice professionals. His mother was paying with Medicaid. Had hospice been dropped, she would have taken him to the hospital or other doctors for the care he needed. One day in the local hospital here for him would have cost Medicaid more than $1,000. It makes fiscal sense to do all we can to keep Medicaid well-funded, lest folks with chronic conditions are forced to settle for indignant care at local hospitals, given the ballooned cost of basic health care. What sort of drain would it mean for the economy if hospitals across the country tanked because there was no system like Medicaid in place to help meet the needs of people who require expensive treatment just to keep them alive? Medicaid is not the least of the institutions which needed money “thrown” at it.
Unemployment — Again, this state’s jobless funds are in trouble. The bill provides $40 billion for states’ unemployment benefits.
(The above information about the stimulus plan comes from this AP report.)
Thus, the Obama administration’s bill is really more than just an economic stimulus; it’s a wide-sweeping plan to not only help put more money in individual pockets, but to bolster some of our most basic, and critical, institutions. It’s also at least a beginning to a potential fulfillment of one of Obama’s campaign promises: to fix broken schools, broken health care and broken infrastructure. It’s far-reaching. Why Republicans see this as a bad thing is a mystery. There were certain elements about it that I question. I haven’t checked if these were eventually axed, but they include:
- A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion pictures;
- $650 million for the digital television (DTV) converter box coupon program; and
- $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees. (From: CNN.com)
The Republicans’ notion of smaller government sounds good in theory, but in critical times like this, it’s simply inadequate for such weighty problems. It’s equivalent to if there existed only one small hospital and one hotel in a large metropolis: the institutions are dwarfed by the need. In times like these, the notion of small government breaks down.
It’s also interesting to note that politicians and talking heads who tout such an idea are on board when it comes to certain areas (gun control, financial deregulations, for instance) and all for government intervention in other areas (abortion, gay rights, censorship, for instance). They are all for that silly notion of trickle down economics (Let’s not actually help the poor and middle class too much, let’s wait for the rich’s resources to run down the pipeline. We saw how well that worked as banks and lenders greedily operated almost unchecked, darn near running our entire financial system into the ground. They were clearly interested in funneling some of their cash our way, huh?). Yet, in the latter areas, some on the right believe government has (and should have) a monopoly on morality and seem to think we can’t take care of ourselves and that we should read our Bibles more. The contradiction is shocking.
Regardless, the bill passed to the chagrin of many and will supposedly create about 3.5 million jobs, along with “throwing money at” struggling institutions. We can only wait to see how it will pan out, but what was needed was sweeping reform that tackles many critical areas at once, and right or wrong, this bill gives us that.
On Feb. 9, President Barack Obama held a campaign-style town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind. On Feb. 10, he was at another one in Florida. These were unprecedented — at least in the last eight years and possibly before — and a refreshing break from the tradition of supporter-only, screened events, where under Bush’s administration, some crowds were even quizzed on their support for the president. Smacks a bit like Communism or Nazism, no? According to Think Progress:
Bush even screened the assembled group of soldiers he would meet in Iraq during a 2003 Thanksgiving visit: Soldiers had to fill out a questionnaire asking whether they supported Bush.
Obama on the nature of the town hall meeting themselves, said:
Here’s the deal on questions: First of all, we didn’t screen anybody, so there’s some people who like me in the audience, some people that don’t, some people agree with me, some people who don’t. It doesn’t matter. We want to take questions from everybody.
What I think is even more noteworthy is that he held the meetings in unfriendly territory, according to how folks voted, essentially reversing what Bush did during his tenure. McCain won the county Obama spoke at in Indiana by 12 percent and the one in Florida by 11 percent. Of course, if someone doesn’t like Obama, chances are they aren’t going to be interested in attending one of his events, but since they weren’t screened, you never know what sort of mix composes the crowd.
The meetings were refreshing indeed and one person from the St. Meyers crowd summed it up well when he said, to paraphrase, “Thank you for coming to listen to us. This hasn’t happened in eight years.”
Watching the inauguration speech today, it seemed evident to me from Barack Obama’s tone and content that, while the speech included much of the inspirational verbiage we heard in Philadelphia’s Speech on Race and Denver’s Democratic nomination address, we were listening to a man who’s position in history — and his high calling amid numerous national and global crises — had been fully realized.
As was mentioned in a local newspaper editorial, the irony of the moment was palpable. Forty-five years to the day that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, Obama stood in Denver and accepted the nomination to lead the Democratic ticket. A day after the holiday honoring King for his service to the country, we inaugurated Obama as the first black president.
King Jr. famously said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Today, Obama stood inside both those moments. Surely, it was a happy, triumphant occasion for his family and himself. But it was also a day where the critical position he found himself in, as frigid air beat down on the crowd of a million or more — the largest ever to assemble in Washington — must have come crashing down around him.
Some Republicans have claimed he’s just another politician. And he may very well prove to be nothing more. And even if he is nothing more, we will still be able to say that, for a time, he made many hope and believe a better day was coming — that a betteer day and a more perfect union was within our grasp, just as 40 years prior, King helped us believe the same. Even if Obama turns out to be a dud, at least he gave us that.
But, of course, I sincerely hope (and think he will) turn out to be much more. He’s not a wonder-worker. But these things he brings to the table, which have been missing for awhile: poise, thoughtfulness, careful deliberation (almost to a fault), compassion and erudition.
As the next months and years play out, we should get behind him and remember his Inaugural Day words:
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.