Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today Is D-day!

Today is D-day!  The day Washington begins to destroy our economy.
The Republican controlled House returned the Democrat controlled Senate’s “clean “continuing resolution to fund the government… and mucked it up with a footnote. 
The note demanded, among other things, a one year delay in the implementation of Obamacare.  Given the limited time remaining before Monday’s midnight deadline to forge a compromise, it would appear that a government shutdown is imminent.
It would appear that come Tuesday morning 800,000 federal government workers will be told to stay home…without pay.  Among them will be the nice people that send out those monthly benefit checks that tens of millions of Americans depend on.  The national parks will close.  And you might have to cancel that overseas business trip if you are waiting on a passport.
We don’t get it?  Why would Republicans risk crashing the economy and incurring the wrath of millions of voters over Obamacare?  If it the law is as bad as they say it is won’t people will hate it.  And if people hate it, won’t it eventually implode on itself?  Why risk taking a beating at the polls?
Ted Cruz inadvertently gave us the answer at a recent Q & A session with supporters.  Cruz said this is his party’s last chance to repeal Obamacare because “once people get addicted to the sugar you can never take it away.”
Translation…Republicans are frantic to repeal the law because they are scared to death that you will like it.  And if there is one thing that Republicans fear in their bones it is another successful government program…especially one passed by THIS president.
They won’t tell you that.  So they make stuff up to scare you.      
Republicans say that we should repeal Obamacare a myriad of reasons.  They say the law is too big and too cumbersome.  They say the sign up process is confusing and the paperwork a nightmare.  They say the rates are high and will go even higher.  They say that you won’t be able to get the coverage or services you need and that it will take forever to get a claim paid.
That sounds very similar to the system we have now…the one Republicans want us to return to.
So today is D-day.  The day Washington will begin to destroy our economy.
All because Republicans fear that Obamacare will actually work.      

Friday, September 27, 2013

Everything Else Is Simply Nonsense

The insanity in Washington continues.
Today the senate is expected to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at current levels… including the president’s Affordable Health Care Act.  The vote would have occurred yesterday but Senator Cruz delayed the vote until today.  Apparently the senator had previously sent out notes and emails to supporters encouraging them to “watch the show on Friday.” Not wanting to deprive his supporters of another chance to see him perform, the narcissistic junior senator from Texas selfishly deprived the congress of valuable time to avoid a government shutdown.  Meanwhile Republican Senator Bob Corker took to the well of the senate to publically scold Cruz on his self serving tactics.  Cruz questioned how corker, a Republican, could dare to vote with the Democrats.    Fun!  While this nonsense may provide great material for Jon Stewart and the cast of SNL it doesn’t help to resolve the very real possibility that the government will shut down on October 1st .
Such an event is not without precedent.  The United States government has shut down 17 times in the past.  The most recent in 1996 when then Speaker Newt Gingrich and his Republican caucus shut the place down for 21 days.  Bill Clinton destroyed the Republicans in the media for their recklessness and became one of the world’s most popular figures.  Newt Gingrich eventually was run out of Washington.  The two parties DID manage to balance the budget and the government employees received back pay for their time on the sidelines.  There is zero chance that this congress will find its way to a balanced budget.  And the 800,000 “nonessential” employees who will be sent home can forget about any back pay.
While a government shutdown will damage the economy and impact millions of Americans it pales in comparison to the economic Armageddon that the failure to raise the debt ceiling will bring.  And that game of Russian roulette has begun.
The Treasury Secretary has advised Speaker Boehner that the government will run out of money on October 17 and consequently will be unable to pay its bills.  As we expected, Speaker Boehner responded by releasing a list of conditions that he will demand from the president in exchange for a vote to raise the debt ceiling.  There are 15 items on the list ranging including: defunding  Obamacare, adoption of the Ryan tax reform plan, building the Keystone Pipeline, defunding the Consumer Protection Agency, eliminating EPA emissions restrictions etc. etc.  There was talk of including a ban on late term abortions but that proposal failed to make the cut. 
If this grab bag of conservative goodies sounds familiar to you…it should.  This is the same Republican platform that presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigned on in 2010…and lost.
The president responded by saying that he “will not negotiate the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”  Speaker Boehner said:  “Well, that’ not how this works.”
The stakes here are high and very, very real.  If the government fails to increase the debt ceiling the economic repercussions will be felt worldwide.  Billions of people could honestly lose their life savings over night.
Allow us to put these two events into perspective.
The health care law that has Republicans fuming will affect the roughly 10% of the population that is currently uninsured.  The remaining 90% will continue along as they have before.
 The increase in the debt ceiling is not about enabling the government to increase its spending in the future.  The debt ceiling must be raised in order for the government to pay for the goods and services it purchased in the past.
Everything else is simply nonsense.   


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Calling "Bullshit" on "Small Government Conservatives"

Having dispensed with the Ted Cruz promotional extravaganza the senate returned to matters at hand.
The first order of business was a cloture vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government.  The senate passed the cloture motion and will vote on the continuing resolution within the next 24-48 hours.  The senate bill funds the government at the current spending levels and includes funding for Obamacare.
(It should be noted that the whole purpose of Cruz’ faux filibuster was to prevent a cloture vote on the senate bill because, as Cruz said: “a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare.”  Cruz then went on to vote “yes” for cloture.  The motion carried 100-0.)
If the senate passes their bill it then goes to the House.  The House must first vote to take up the senate bill for debate… and then vote to pass it. 
All of this must be accomplished by midnight Monday or the government will shut down.  A shut down could delay the delivery of essential benefits and services to tens of millions of Americans.
There are those that like to downplay the impact that a shutdown will have on the populace.  Some say that the government will find away to get key benefits and services to those who need them.  “Don’t worry about your Social Security checks or your Medicare benefits being delayed.  The government won’t let that happen”, they say.  We’ll see.
But what about the other government agencies that are considered “discretionary” for funding purposes?  They will most certainly close their doors if congress fails to act.  What affect will their closure have?
Take the EPA for example.
For all intents and purposes the EPA is a government agency that most Americans feel they can do without.  Those who call themselves “small government conservatives” have a particular dislike for this government agency.  They view the EPA nothing more than a ham fisted bureaucracy that interferes in the manner in which they conduct their business by imposing expensive and unnecessary regulations.  Small government conservatives would like nothing better than to see the EPA defunded.
That is unless they happen to live in the Boulder, Colorado area.
You see Boulder has experienced a huge growth in the development of oil and natural gas production.  Oil and gas production facilities have been are sprouting up like weeds in the Boulder area.  Tragically the vast flooding and mudslides that have plagued Boulder have washed out many of these oil and gas facilities.  There is a big concern that the flooding has caused the toxic chemicals used in these operations to leach into the water table and pollute the drinking water. 
The folks in Boulder asked their state and local officials to test the water supply around these facilities for containments.  Unfortunately, as part of the austerity measures, the state of Colorado has cut back on the number of state inspectors.  They don’t have enough state inspectors to handle all of the damaged facilities.
Call for the EPA!
So now the good people of Boulder want the EPA to come to the rescue.  We can only assume that some of those who are pleading for federal assistance are small government conservatives.
This is just another in example of why those who refer to themselves as “small government conservatives” are simply full of it.
Small government conservatives carry signs reading: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
Small government conservatives oppose gay marriage…until they discover that one of their loved ones is gay. (Ref. Dick Cheney)
Small government conservatives opposed the president’s stimulus plan…and then lined up like sheep to get some for their districts.
Small government conservatives opposed the Obamacare provision that requires members of congress to buy their health coverage through the newly formed government insurance exchanges…until they discovered that they could buy their coverage 8%-10% cheaper through the exchange than they could get on the open market. 
The list goes on and on.
Let’s call out this small government ideology for what it really is. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Welcome To Whoville!

The Republican clown show continues!  This particular showing warrants a big gulp and a jumbo bag of popcorn.
At 2:41 yesterday afternoon, Senator Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor to filibuster the funding of the president’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act.  In fact he is still speaking as we write this.  The good senator has vowed to continue speaking “until I can no longer stand.”
That statement is a lie.  As a point of record, the junior senator from Texas has made several fictional statements during his time at the podium.  In fact this whole production is a lie.
You see this is not even a filibuster.  It is not a filibuster because Senator Cruz and Senate Leader reached a “pre-filibuster” agreement that Cruz would stop speaking no later than noon today to allow the senate to continue its business.  So in fact Senator Cruz will continue with his faux filibuster “until I can no longer stand” or until 12:00 noon whichever comes first.
And what exactly is the good senator faux filibustering.  He wants to delay a senate vote on the House continuing resolution that does NOT include any funding for Obamacare.
For those of you just entering the theater, allow us to summarize.  Senator Ted Cruz is engaging in a fake filibuster to delay a senate vote on a continuing resolution passed by his Republican House colleagues that gives him everything he is fake filibustering for.
Cruz has been pillared by virtually every member of his own party for participating in this charade.  They don’t have the votes in the senate to defund Obamacare and they know it.  They want to move on to battles that they can actually win.  But Cruz will not be deterred.
So why is Cruz doing this?
He is doing it to appease the Tea Party folks back home that sent him to Washington to do this very thing…stop Obama and the government.  He wants to be able to say that he and he alone stood up to the advances of big government.  He firmly believes that these tactics will stand him in good stead when the 2016 elections come around.  One thing is clear.  Ted Cruz is not about country or party.  Ted Cruz is all about Ted Cruz.
Now we respect the good senator’s right to speak in opposition to the president’s health care initiative.  But we do not believe that he has the right to lie about it in the process.  Here are just of Ted’s erroneous remarks:
(Obamacare) “Allows the IRS to decide whether your grandmother lives or dies.”  False!  There is nothing in the law that supports that statement.
(Obamacare) “Allows the government to decide if you get that kidney transplant that you so desperately need.”  False!  There is nothing in the law that supports that statement.
“Health care costs are skyrocketing under Obamacare.  False!  Health care costs have increased by 4% each of the last three years…the lowest increase in the past 50 years.
“Obamacare isn’t working.”  False!  Obamacare has yet to be fully implemented.  In fact it will be at least 3-5 years before we will know whether or not the law is working as intended.
 Cruz compared the funding of Obamacare to Neville Chamberlain’s acquiescence to the Nazi’s taking over Europe.  Crazy!
The republicans are blowing an opportunity here.  For the first time in his presidency, Obama’s approval ratings are upside down in the polls.  The Republicans could use this weakness to further their cause on immigration, taxes, spending and a whole host of very important matters.  Yet they all Ted Cruz to dive their clown car into yet another ditch.
Cruz took time during his faux filibuster to read his young children a couple of bedtime stories. 
Reading Dr. Seuss to his children may make Cruz a good father. 
But he is one lousy senator.
Simply put…faux filibusters and green eggs and ham do not make for constructive government.   


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Speaker Boehner Has A Plan

Speaker Boehner has a plan…a very dangerous plan.
The word from the Hill is that the Speaker is trying to persuade his Republican colleagues to stop the nonsense of tying the vote to fund the government to the defunding of Obamacare. 
The Speaker knows he doesn’t have the votes to pull that off.  So do the Democrats.  In fact the only politician that doesn’t seem to understand that is Ted Cruz.  And we know that Ted’s only interest is in raising his national profile for a 2016 presidential run.
Speaker Boehner believes he has a better idea.  Boehner would like to push back the debate on funding Obamacare to next month when the government must pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling.  He wants to tie a vote to raise the debt ceiling to defunding Obamacare, building the Keystone pipeline and a veritable bucket list of conservative goodies.  Boehner believes that in this debate he can make the president blink.
Playing politics with the full faith and credit of the United States is a very dangerous proposition.  As bad as we are economically right now, the United States economy and its currency still stand as the cornerstone for the world’s commerce.  Even the hint that the US might default on its obligations can cause tremors to reverberate through the international markets.  Shutting down the federal government for a few days is an inconvenience.  Defaulting on our debts is a whole different animal.
You may recall that the last time we had this debt ceiling debate it didn’t go so well.  A few wacko congressmen suggested that allowing the government to default was a viable alternative to raising the debt ceiling.  Even though this was little more than political bluster from the lunatic fringe, the very fact that we were having the conversation caused the markets to tumble.  In the end we looked like amateurs and for the first time in our history the country’s credit rating was downgraded. 
Not much has changed.  Should the country default the economic consequences would be cataclysmic.  Think Greece x infinity.  Boehner is betting that the president will do anything to avoid such an occurrence.
If Boehner is right then he will have pulled his party back from the brink of irrelevance and saved his speakership.  But if he is wrong he runs the risk of collapsing the economy both here and abroad.
Speaker Boehner has a plan…a very dangerous plan.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Wayne's World!

The president addressed the families of the victims of the Naval Yard shooting.  It is the fifth time he has addressed such a gathering. 
The president offered his condolences and challenged the country to change the culture of violence that is rampant in our society.  “Tears are not enough” he said.  “Prayers are not enough…we have to change.”
Noted gun advocate and NRA executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre responded in his usual thoughtful way.  LaPierre is perhaps best noted for his comments after the Sandy Hook massacre when he said:  The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
“The problem, (at the naval yard) said LaPierre, was that there weren’t enough good guys with guns.  What did they have…a security guard, who ran toward the shooting; bless him…six guys guarding the gates?” When the good guys arrived the shooting stopped.”
So how many armed guards should there have been at the naval yard. 
Seven apparently wasn’t enough!
What about ‘8”?  Would 8 guards have been enough?  Nine?  Ten?
This is Wayne’s World…where the only way to stop the senseless violence in this country is to add more security.
In Wayne’s World every business should have a line item in their budget that reads: “Armed Security.”
In Wayne’s World there would be a chicken in every pot and an armed guard on every stoop.
In Wayne’s World families across the nation sit around their kitchen tables: “Honey, how many armed guards do you think we need…one for the front for sure…maybe one for the back too…and one to walk the perimeter just to be safe.”
“I wrote this ad…tell me what you think.  Wanted! Three armed security guards to protect our suburban home.  Applicants must be proficient in the use of all military grade weaponry.  Special Forces experience a must.  Seal Team Six a plus.”
How many armed guards do we need to protect our homes, our schools, our churches our shopping malls?
It’s fall in a tiny New England hamlet.  The morning sun on the horizon announces the dawning of another beautiful day.  Bright orange, red and yellow leaves dapple the trees.  The morning air is crisp and light dew coats the well manicured lawns…armed guards in the cammo gear walk the children to the bus stop while humvees escort their parents to work.
Is this what we want?
This is Wayne’s World…and it is coming to your neighborhood.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Traitors, Food, Health and the Pope

So much to say…so little time…
A  TRAITOR IN OUR MIDST!  For the past three months Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have waged a holy war against their more moderate Republican colleagues in the House, goading them into voting to defund Obamacare.  Cruz, Lee and Rubio have targeted moderate Republican districts, run 30 second ads, staged town hall meetings, made hundreds of speeches and issued thousands of press releases; all designed to shame what they referred to as the “surrender monkeys in the House” to stand up and defund Obamacare.  Then, on the very day that Boehner announces that the House WILL do exactly what Cruz, Lee and Rubio have worked so hard to achieve…pass a continuing resolution to defund Obamacare…these three idiots say “never mind.”  The stand before reporters and say that defunding Obamacare is not worth shutting down the government.  They say that it will take at least two more elections to repeal the law.  After weeks of bullying House Republicans to take a politically suicidal vote on principle they say they won’t be able to do the same in the Senate.  Lucy just pulled the football away from Charlie Brown.  Words cannot describe the vitriol now being directed at Cruz, Lee and Rubio from within the Republican caucus.  Over the past three months Cruz, Lee and Rubio have raised their national profile, raised millions for their campaign war chests, added hundreds of thousands of names to their campaign mailing lists…and inflicted irreparable harm on their party.  Democrats are smiling!
HOUSE DEFUNDS FEEDING CHILDREN:  If that sounds like pandering then so be it.  Yesterday the Republican led House voted to strip $39 billion from the food stamp program over the next ten years.  The idea here is to cut government spending, reduce unnecessary waste fraud and abuse and force “those people” to get off the government dole and go to work.  76% of food stamp recipients are elderly, disabled, homeless military veterans and children.  Another 23% are working families that don’t earn enough at their job(s) to take care of their families.  “Those people” make up the remaining 1%.  The number of families on food stamps has risen from 2,000,000 in 2000 to over 6,400,000 in 2011.  This is not a matter of waste fraud and abuse.  This is about the effects of a weakened economy brought about by greed and ineffective government oversight.
REPUBLICANS HAVE A PLAN:  Republicans have railed against the Affordable Care Act since the day the president signed it into law.  We have commented many times that if Republican’s find the law so appalling they should offer a detailed alternative.  We’ll they finally did.  The just released Republican health care plan offers individuals and families who purchase health insurance tax deductions of $7500/person and $20,000/family.  It expands access to tax deferred health savings accounts, permits companies to sell policies across state lines and allows small businesses to join together to seek better rates from insurance carriers.  It also caps damage awards for pain and suffering, emotional distress and similar noneconomic damages at $250,000 unless a state has a higher cap.  First of all let us just say that we appreciate the effort.  It has been a long time coming.  Now let’s have a discussion on the merits.  We imagine that this plan will be well received by those who have a substantive income and money in the bank.  But it fails to take into account the ever increasing numbers of poor, working poor and disabled who don’t have the income to really benefit from a tax credit?  How does it help them buy the coverage they need?  And what of the 30 million who don’t have insurance for whatever the reason.  Under the Republican plan they will still be able to obtain free treatment in emergency rooms while the rest of us pay the bill.  Setting access aside; what about lowering the cost of health care?  Remember, before Obamacare there was bi-partisan agreement that the cost of health care was skyrocketing out of control and presenting a danger to our economy.  We find little effort here to reduce the cost of those services.  Basically this Republican plan is designed to make health care more accessible and affordable for the top 1% wage earners.  It does not control cost and it does nothing to help the remaining 99% of the country.
THERE’S A NEW POPE IN TOWN: …and we like him.  Pope Francis has caused quite a stir in the halls of the Vatican.  In his first interview as Pope, Francis offered a frank assessment of the institution and his place as its leader: “I am a sinner…It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner.”  We find his humility, his openness to the gay community, to the role of women in the church, and to returning to the simple teachings of Christ…that being a good person and treating others with kindness and mercy supersedes “small minded rules”…to be a breath of fresh air.  You can find excerpts from the interview below.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum

Speaker John Boehner has surrendered control of the House of Representatives …to Senator Ted Cruz.
The Speaker announced that the House will vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government at the current sequestration levels EXCLUDING any and all funding for the Affordable Care Act.  The vote is expected to take place tomorrow.  After months of warning his caucus of the political perils of taking this action, the Speaker finally caved.
Senator Ted Cruz was almost giddy while appearing on FOX NEWS.  “I am pleased that the House has listened to the people.  I urge them to stand firm.”  Cruz’ remarks were a not so veiled attempt to lay any negative backlash at the feet of the House.
Boehner was having none of it.  “The House has voted 40 some times to repeal or defund Obamacare.  It’s time for the Senate to step up.”
Scores of conservative legislators and pundits weighed in to criticize Boehner’s decision.  Conservative King Maker Karl Rove called it “political suicide.”
Senator Cruz says that the House members are simply listening to the people.  If this action results in a government shutdown, and Social Security and Veterans Benefit checks fail to arrive on time, Cruz and Boehner will get more than an earful.       
The Republican Party controls one half of one third of the federal government.  The Tea Party Caucus controls less than half of the Republican Party.  Their purpose is twofold:  to further the interests of white, male, heterosexual, Christian gun owners and to defeat at any cost any measure offered by this black president.  Through fear mongering, hate speech, misinformation and obstruction they have managed to take control the entire federal government.
Bar the windows and bolt the doors.  The inmates are running the asylum.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This & That!

FALLOUT:  As expected a tsunami of criticism washed over the White House over the president’s decision to deliver a political economic speech while the Naval Yard tragedy was playing out just blocks away.  Republicans fell all over themselves to express their shock and indignation over the president’s tone deaf response to the shootings.
As a matter of record, we have supported, for the most part, this president’s efforts during his two terms in office.  But he got this one wrong.  Surely his economic agenda could have waited another day.  We have to ask…would he have given that speech if one of his friends or family members were working in that naval yard.  Would he have chuckled and delivered those political barbs while uncertain of the fate of someone close to him.  Even his defensive response to the criticism, “I was in contact with the FBI making certain that the appropriate resources were in place…Congress has a lot of work to do…” lacked the compassion that we have come to expect from this president.  Where was the Consoler in Chief that moved the nation in the aftermath of Sandy Hook?
That said is not the Republican indignation just as off-putting and tone deaf?  Think of the hypocrisy in their shock and dismay.  After all, aren’t these same Republicans the ones who have blocked even the most minimal attempts by this president to curb gun violence in this country?
Then again, maybe we are wrong.  Maybe the president got it right…a few brief words of sorrow and then on with business as usual.  For isn’t that exactly what we as a nation do whenever we have one of these mass shootings?  We lower our flags, bow our heads…and then go on with business as usual.  Nothing ever changes.  In fact we re-elect those who stand in the way of any substantive change.  Our society has become so immune to these senseless acts of violence that we just shake our heads and move on.
The Bureau of Statistics defines a “mass shooting” as one resulting in the deaths of four or more individuals.  Since Barak Obama took office in 2009 there have been 49 mass shootings in this country.
SELF INFLICTED WOUNDS:  The government will run out of money in two weeks.  Absent a budget, the congress must pass a continuing resolution authorizing the funds to allow the government to continue to function.  Tea Party house members have said that they will vote against any continuing resolution that contains funding for The Affordable Care Act.  A government shutdown runs the risk of plunging a weak economy into a very costly recession.  Tea Party Republicans, embolden by their gerrymandered constituency, believe that they can use this leverage to bring the president to heel and dismantle his health care achievement.
In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal, the flagship for conservative views, called Republican efforts to shut down the government a “Kamikaze Mission” noting “Kamikaze missions rarely end well, especially for the pilot.” The journal rightly notes that the “leverage” that Republicans think they have “exists only in the world of town hall applause lines and fundraising letters.”
It should be noted that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.  The voters reaffirmed the law when they elected President Obama to a second term.  Congress reaffirmed the law when they voted “No’ to 41 separate Tea Party attempts to defund the law.  And the Supreme Court reaffirmed the law ruling that the Affordable Care Act fell within the legal tenants of the Constitution.
If the Tea Party Republicans are successful in shutting down the government they will not bring about the repeal of The Affordable Care Act.  But they will bring about the end of the Republican Party’s as an influential participant on the national political stage.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Is Wrong With Us?

There was another mass shooting yesterday.
12 dead… 8 wounded.
Yet we do nothing.

The shooter carries a firearm.
He has a legal permit to do so.
He has fired his weapon before.
Reports say that he fired shots through his apartment ceiling to quiet a noisy neighbor.
Reports say that he fired at passing vehicles whose occupants mocked him.
Reports say he shot out the tires of his neighbor’s car over a dispute.
12 dead…8 wounded.
Yet we do nothing.

The president makes a speech while members of his government lay dead and wounded.
He expresses his condolences for the dead and injured.
He praises first responders who rushed into harm’s way.
Then he seamlessly attacks his political opponents over economic issues.
Those on the podium behind him laugh at his barbs.
His aide says the speech was scheduled months ago.
His aide says that postponing the speech was never considered.
12 dead…8 wounded.
Yet we do nothing.

The NRA says that the only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.
There were armed guards in that naval yard.
12 dead…8 wounded.
Yet we do nothing.

The nation will mourn today.
Flags will fly at half staff.
And those left behind in places like Columbine, Blacksburg, Aurora and Sandy Hook will relive the horror once again.
12 dead…8 wounded.
Yet we do nothing.

When will this senseless slaughter end?
When will politicians put the will of the majority over their own selfish interests?
When will the fringe understand that a loaded weapon cannot compensate for their impotence?

There was another mass shooting yesterday.
12 dead…8 wounded.

What is wrong with us?

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Lesson Learned

“The mistake of my first term…was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right.  And that is important.  But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”
That was newly re-elected President Barak Obama responding to a question put to him by CBS NEWS’ Charlie Rose on July 12, 2012.  Rose had asked the president to name the biggest mistake he made during his first term.
Let’s fast forward to September 15, 2013. 
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have just reached an agreement on the elimination of Syria’s stock pile of chemical weapons.  ABC NEWS’ George Stephanopoulos has asked the president for his reaction to the agreement given his seemingly muddled attempt to win support for a punitive military strike against the Syrian regime.
“I’m less concerned about style points.” the president said.  I’m much more concerned with getting the policy right.”
It would appear from the president’s own statements that he has failed to learn from his previous mistakes.
The presidents’ policy on Syria has lacked clarity from the very beginning.  He tried to clean it up by giving an impassioned speech to the nation laying out his case for military action.  Then he closed by calling for patience and a diplomatic solution.  As a result his soaring oratory failed to move the needle.
The same thing is happening with the president’s signature legislative achievement…The affordable Health Care Act. 
The support of the American people for the president’s health care plan is eroding daily.  53% of the people now think that Obamacare is a bad idea. 
(Interestingly when these same people were asked if they understood what was in the law, 70% said “No”.  How do you oppose a bill when you don’t know what’s in it?  That’s another story.) 
The president got the health care policy right.  The goal for Obamacare is to provide affordable coverage for everyone while reducing health care cost.  That IS good policy.  But the president has failed “to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose” when it comes to America’s health care.
We see the same phenomenon with the replacement for retiring Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke.
The president’s choice to replace Bernanke is former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.  Instead of doing dirty work to fight for Summers’ approval, the Obama administration floated a trial balloon by leaking the president’s selection to the press.  Senate Democrats shot it down.  They blame Summers’ de-regulation policies as Treasury secretary for paving the way for the casino atmosphere that permeated the banking industry and nearly wrecked the economy.  Instead of fighting for their candidate the Obama administration backed off with barely a whimper.  Having received zero support from the White House, Summers withdrew his name for consideration.
Was Larry Summers the right man for the job?  Is The Affordable Care Act good policy that will make health care available to all American’s while lowering our health care cost?  Was the right policy in Syria a punitive military strike or the removal and elimination of all the regime’s chemical weapon stockpiles?
There is an old saying in campaign politics…when you are on the stump repeating your policy agenda over and over and over again…when those traveling with you have heard the speech so many time that the mere thought of listening to it again puts them to sleep…only then has your begun to resonate with your audience.
This president has never learned that lesson.  He still operates under the false belief that the only thing that matters is getting the policy right. He still believes that the announcement is the end game when in fact it only the beginning.  He has shunned the back room arm twisting and deal making that lies at the very core of his chosen profession.  And he finds himself in a weakened position because of it.
The president said that his one big mistake in his first term “was thinking that the job was just about getting the policy right.”
Unfortunately for the country and the world, the president

Friday, September 13, 2013

It Has Been An Interesting Week!

It has been an interesting week.
Assad says he doesn’t possess any chemical weapons.
Assad agrees to turn over the chemical weapons he says he doesn’t have to the UN.
Assad orders his military to scatter the chemical weapons he says he doesn’t have to undisclosed locations.

President Obama says he has evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.
President Obama portrays Assad as a monster for using chemical weapons against his own people.
President Obama says he will order a limited military assault against Assad in retribution for the regime’s use of chemical weapons.
President Obama says he has the constitutional authority to order the assault without obtaining congressional approval.
President Obama says he will obtain congressional approval.
President Obama goes to Capitol Hill to make his case to members of congress.  He urges them to give him the vote for military action.
President Obama says he will take his case for military action to the people.
President Obama conducts six live television interviews making the case for military action.
President Obama meets with congressional leaders and asks them NOT to take a vote on military action.
President Obama addresses the nation.  He makes the moral case for military action against a regime that has gassed 1400 people including 400 children.  He urges congress to support his decision.
In the same speech President Obama tells congress to hold off on their vote in order to give diplomacy time to work.
President Obama, having urged congress to take vote for war while asking them to hold off on the vote for war, proclaims that it is time to get on with the people’s business.

Senator Rand Paul takes it upon himself to issue a response to the president’s address.
Senator Paul questions whether or not Assad used chemical weapons.
Senator Paul says Assad must go.
Senator Paul says that the US should not intervene.
Senator Paul says that Assad must die.  

Secretary Kerry portrays Assad as a monster who has slaughtered over 100,000 of his own people including the use of chemical weapons to gas innocent men, women and children.
Secretary of State Kerry makes the case for a military assault against Assad.
Secretary Kerry categorizes the military assault against the monster that has slaughtered 100,000 of its own people including the use of chemical weapons to gas innocents as “unbelievably small.”

Speaker Boehner says that it is time for congress to get on with the conducting the people’s business.
Speaker Boehner then allows another House vote to repeal Obamacare.
For the 41st time the House votes to repeal Obamacare.

Vladimir Putin writes an op-ed in the New York Times in which he criticizes the US for intervening in the internal affairs of foreign nations in general and Syria in particular.
Vladimir Putin has shipped over a billion dollars in arms and munitions to the Syrian regime.
Vladimir Putin has Russian troops in Georgia and Chechnya.
Vladimir Putin questions America’s self proclaimed “exceptionalism” saying that in God’s eyes “we are all equal.”
Vladimir Putin’s government is persecuting homosexuals.
Vladimir Putin has signed a law that bans the adoption of children by gay couples and single gay individuals. 
Vladimir Putin has signed a law that allows Russian police to arrest tourists or foreign nationals that they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or pro-gay.
Vladimir Putin is about to sign a law that will allow the government to remove children from parents that are gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian even if the parents are the child’s biological parents.

Senator Ted Cruz was recently discussing former Republican Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms.
Senator Cruz said: “What we need in the Senate is 100 more like Jesse Helms.”
Jesse Helms was a vicious racist and homophobe.
Hems once referred to the University of North Carolina as the University of Negroes and Communists.
Once upon a time Helms found himself standing in an elevator with Carol Moseley Braun who was the only black person serving in the Senate.  He turned to his companion and said:  “I’m going to make her cry.”  And then he began to sing “Dixie” to the senator.  “I wish I was in the land of cotton…”




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Putin: The Gift That Keeps On giving

Vladimir Putin has what some might call an oversized ego.  He is fond of being photographed doing manly things like riding horses while shirtless, hunting big game, scuba diving or beating up some poor schmuck in judo class. 
He has admitted that some of the photographs were staged.  So what!  It’s the image that counts.  Vladimir the badass!  Bring it!
He is also a world leader with a very big chip on his shoulder when it comes to the United States in general and the US president in particular.  He bristles at the second class mantle that hangs around his once mighty nation; and his animosity toward President Obama is palpable.  Pull up any video of the two of them appearing in public and the image is always the same…Obama using his soaring oratory to make a point while a slouching Putin looks away with total disinterest.
So it is not surprising to see Putin use the president’s “difficulties” with Syria to take center stage in the world arena.  What better chance to promote himself and his beloved country in the eyes of the world.
Putin has assumed the position of leadership in the Syrian conflict.  When Secretary of State Kerry off handedly commented that the United States would hold off on military intervention if Syria gave up its chemical weapons, Putin immediately instructed his Foreign Minister to accept and muscled his Syrian ally to agree. 
Suddenly Putin is a world hero being considered for a Nobel Peace Prize.  In the blink of an eye he has replaced Obama as the world leader running the show on the Syrian crisis.
Embolden by his rise to stardom the egomaniacal former KGB chief placed an op-ed in the New York Times.  In the piece Putin channels Rand Paul.  He criticizes the United States foreign policy saying “US military intervention in the internal conflicts of foreign countries has become commonplace” and warns that the president’s use of military strikes in Syria runs the risk of “spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.” 
He ends by taking a personal shot at Obama’s reference to “American exceptionalism.” “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.  There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those that are still finding their way to democracy.  Their policies differ, too.  We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessing, we must not forget that God crated us all equal.”
Now there are those in our government who will bristle at Putin’s commandeering the spotlight from the president and the world’s lone superpower.  We can already hear Senator McCain screaming “the president is leading from behind.”
But we welcome Putin’s willingness to grab the spotlight.  And so should the president.
A resolution to the Syrian conflict now rests with Putin.  He owns it.  Now he has to deliver.
We have said before that the US cannot win the peace in the Middle East by way of unilateral military strikes.  World peace can only come through the world’s involvement.
Putin has handed Obama a gift. 
Just say “thank you.”        


Obama Makes His Case For War...And Peace

The president addressed the nation last night and tried to thread a needle.
As expected he made his case for a military response against the Assad regime in order to send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.  At the same time he called for patience to allow a developing diplomatic solution the time to gain traction.
He called for his congressional friends on the right and on the left to support his decision to use military force.  Then he asked them to hold off on their vote to give diplomacy a chance.  Earlier in the day the president met privately with congressional leaders urging them to postpone their vote…a vote he knew that he was certain to lose… so as not to undercut him in the eyes of the world.
The president’s policy on Syria has taken a very circuitous route toward its current position of being backed into a corner. Given the hand that he has dealt himself, last night’s speech was probably the best he could do.
Overall the reviews from the chattering class are not good.  We’ll leave it to others to parse each word.
Our take away is as follows.
Last night the president pushed the reset button.  He gave the world a chance to develop a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict while holding the threat of military intervention over its head.  If diplomacy is successful then it is a win win for humanity.  If diplomacy fails he can always intervene militarily.  And next time he won’t wait for congressional approval.
The hawks won’t take kindly to this strategy.  Relying on the evil Putin to broker a peaceful settlement is not their idea of strong American leadership. 
The doves won’t like it either.  In their view holding the threat of military intervention as a bargaining chip is never acceptable.
It complicated!
It is time for the country to learn that America’s influence in world affairs is waning.  We can no longer go it alone.  America’s military might cannot solve the world’s problems.
Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  In the aftermath of that horrible day, America unleashed upon its enemies the full force and fury of its military might.    Al Qaeda has been decimated, Bin Laden is dead, Hussein is dead, and Gadhaffi is dead, Afghanistan has returned to the second century haven for terrorism that it once was, and Iran has filled the power vacuum in Iraq.  Thousands of American lives lost…to what end. 
We have been at war for twelve years and the Middle East looks very much today as it did on 9/11/2001…a region in conflict threatening to boil over into a worldwide conflagration.  The lesson here is that we are powerless to stop it by ourselves.
The key to a new world order in the Middle East lies in Syria, Iran and Israel/Palestine.   They are all interconnected.  A long term solution cannot be found at the tip of a cruise missile.
The key to worldwide peace is the world’s involvement in creating that peace.
The sooner we learn that lesson the better.
The president tried to thread that needle last night.
Under the circumstances he did the best that he could do.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Putin Just Threw Obama A Lifeline

Yesterday the White House put on a full court press to make the case for military action in Syria.  What was supposed to be a strong unified performance played out across the national news networks turned out to be yet another version of amateur hour.
The president sat with six national news anchors and made his case for military action.  He stressed the importance of sending a strong, clear message to the Syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons would not go without severe consequences.
Meanwhile his chief diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, was telling his audience how “unbelievably small” these strikes would be and that they were not intended to alter the course of the Syrian civil war.
(Which poses for us the question:  if this military action is so “unbelievably small” and will be inconsequential in altering the course of the Syria civil conflict then why seek congressional approval? Or why do it at all for that matter.  But we digress.)
Then, in response to a reporter’s question: “What could Syria do to stop the US from striking?”  Kerry shrugged and nonchalantly said that they could hand over all of their chemical weapons and promise to never develop them again.  It was intended as a rhetorical response, not a policy statement.
That is until the Russian leadership seized on Kerry’s remark and said that it was a great idea; to which the Syrian leadership agreed. France then offered to bring the measure up before the UN Security Council.
To be fair, a similar proposal has been in the works within the halls of congress.  But the idea had lost steam until Kerry’s offhanded remarks.
Suddenly Washington insiders were scrambling.
Senate Majority Leader grabbed the first microphone that he could find and said the senate would put off a vote on authorization until more information on the latest developments could be examined.
The White House tried desperately to gain control of the message.  They said that while they were encouraged by the discussion, they would remain skeptical and cautious in their approach.  The president himself made it clear that this sudden apparent capitulation on the part of the Syrian regime came only as a direct result of his very clear intention to use military force.  A host of presidential standard bearers led by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the president.
That breeze that blew through the trees yesterday afternoon was the collective sigh of relief coming out of Washington.
Nobody in Washington wants to take this politically toxic vote.  Not the White House, not congress…nobody.  They were all desperately seeking a way off the ledge without jumping.
And Vladimir Putin handed it to them.
The president is scheduled to address the American people tonight.  His job is to convince the American people that a military strike against Syria is the right thing to do.  All the poling suggests that his task is almost impossible.  There is no appetite in this country for another military intervention in the Middle East…no matter how “unbelievably small” it might be.
Given the recent overtures of the Russians and the Syrians we expect that tonight’s address will take a different tract.  The president will still make the case for taking out Assad’s chemical weapon capabilities.  But he will remind us that he has always favored a diplomatic solution.  And since Assad does not pose an imminent threat to the homeland he will acknowledge that there is still time for the peaceful solution that he has always preferred.  He will comment on his skepticism of the Russian proposal and he will remind us that such a proposal only came about as the result of the very real prospect of US military intervention. 
Stay strong!  Save face!
When the president finishes his remarks he should get on the phone and thank his not so very best friend, Vladimir Putin.
Because Vladimir Putin just threw the president a lifeline.