Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
However, the Republican-Obama struggle of course has to continue even in this. From Senators like Mccain to the usual talking head rabble of Hannity et al, the criticism has been largely the same -- this President is not taking a "strong enough" stand. At last, we get to see the "naivete" of this "timid" president -- at least thats the message i'm getting.
Question: At what point did we equate diplomacy with timidity? Brilliant men and women have spent centuries analyzing international systems, diplomacy, stratagem. The result? There is no silver bullet, no "easy button" for international relations. I'm still muddling through Kissinger's "Diplomacy" so i dont have a full analysis to present yet -- but the one thing that seems to be consistently pushed is the idea that a complicated world requires complicated strategy.
I was not an Obama supporter during the election - but I welcomed an administration that took a nuanced, thoughtful approach to international politics. It would appear that Congressional republicans and conservative pundits would have us see the world in black and white; the W. Bush Motif of "With us or against us."
We no longer live in a bipolar world. It is not Democracy vs. Communism; U.S. vs. USSR; Warsaw Pact vs. NATO. Logic says we can't continue to implement policies that are based on this premise. There are a few states in the world where the line can be more cleanly or easily drawn - N. Korea, Sudan... but particularly in the Middle East, American diplomacy can not afford to be simply "us vs. them."
As it relates to the ongoing situation in iran ... I think President Obama's approach has been more than appropriate thus far. In our attempts at dealing with a bipolar world, we have played King-maker too often... and too often have paid for the results dearly (post-Shah Iran, Cold War-era Cuba, 1980s Afghanistan... the list can go on). While I am not accusing conservatives of advocating for the U.S. to send physical resources to the Iranian opposition --- what they are calling for would have similar damaging results. Neither our country, nor the Iranian opposition, can ill-afford for this simmering revolution to become a "USA vs the Ruling Party of Iran" contest. Right now, if the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad, can effectively link official American support with the opposition --- all will be lost for the opposition. This is not to say that there may not come a point down the road where the American government needs to send a sterner or more direct message. But for right now, we need to make sure that this remains the Iranian People's struggle. It is their election that has been rigged. Their candidates who have been robbed. Their political future hijacked. Moussavi isn't asking for American intervention. The hundreds of protesters in Tehran and across the various universities aren't begging for America to play its role as the world's Sherriff. There are plenty of ways we as a nation can continue to show our support --- and i think that Obama's measured response so far has been a responsible one.
Friday, June 05, 2009
In the mean time... i am not a Huffington Post afficionado to say the least, but it happens to have both text and the video version of Obama's Cairo speech.
There has been fair amount of quibbling of course, especially from the right... but all in all... i thought this was a dang good speech. Kudos to the speechwriters ;)... i'll try to respond to this as well, hopefully this weekend.
Monday, May 04, 2009
There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.Again... this is not a time for the Republicans to push further right! Its not as if the voting trends around the nation show an eagerness for Republicans to move further right -- states are, in the words of some analysts, turning purple as they move from red to blue - not at all the other way. Again i say, if the GOP wants to stop the bleeding they have to remove the "bunker" mentality and instead get out in the field. America doesn't need more Limbaugh; it doesn't need more Reagan memorial bumper stickers; or accusations of "socialism." What we need is a real debate over the biggest issues; where we can debate the merits of the direction our foreign policy is headed rather than whether Obama "should" have "bowed" to a foreign dignitary; where we can debate our country's fiscal future without ignoring that under the watch of the Republican majority, and a Republican president, our national debt soared. Rather than making worn-out speeches about " the free market" and offering up vague alternatives - what if Republicans could devise actual, detailed working solutions to our nation's fiscal woes? what if more than 3 senators decided to actually come to the discussion table and attempted to provide balance to the majority rather than "toeing the party line" and sitting on the outside like children being benched at a soccer game for misbehaving?
This does not have to signal the end. Rather, i believe wholeheartedly that this is an opportunity for Republicans to not only "re-brand" the party, but even more so to rebuild the party.
UPDATE: hahaha... so i have been writing these thoughts on and off over the past week, and ironically apparently the "rebranding" has begun - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/02/AR2009050202082.html ; http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/05/03/cantor-weve-got-a-lot-to-learn-from-obama/;
I'll have to provide some thoughts on this later...
Sunday, April 26, 2009
To me the "story" of these past 100 days - and really, leading up to '08 election, is actually about the Republican party. It has been a journey that has been alternately fascinating and horrifying, watching the once dominant majority struggle with its new place on the political and cultural scene.
Watching this struggle has reminded me of one of my quirky habits. One of my favorite ways to waste time on the internet when i'm bored is to read the press releases/comments of various entities who have clearly screwed up but are in a state of significant denial. This ranges from the crazed blogging of fans of historically bad teams, to statements by lawyers defending obvious crooks, to supporters of a candidate who has just been badly beaten in an election. I have lately added to my list uber-Conservative blogs/ press releases from Congressional Republicans. I think i had initially hoped that after the '08 election results, there would be some serious soul-searching among Republicans/conservatives which would lead to a movement to make the party more inclusive and relevant. But as life tends to work out, it was not to be.
The aftermath of the 06 and 08 elections have inspired a myriad of responses. Those with a staunch liberal leaning have proclaimed in so many words that this marks the beginning of the end of both the Republican party and "conservatism" in general, while those with a more staunch right-wing leaning have declared this to be an opportunity for the previously erstwhile party to "re-discover" itself, and rebuild upon its "base" and "core values."
Unsurprisingly, i happen to believe that neither perception is true. The more i read various blog posts and news articles, and speak to my peers, the more i have begun to realize that I am not alone in my assessment that a moderate Republican party will be a thriving Republican party.
One of the most brilliant tactics by the Democrats has been to associate talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity with the Republican leadership; a mantle that both gentleman have gleefully seized upon. While both of these man have their fair share of supporters and devoted followers, they absolutely should not be seen as "leading" the Republican Party (read this great article that sums up my frustrations nicely, at least in regards to Rush: http://www.newsweek.com/id/188279).
Neither men has any desire for compromise or discussion with those holding opposing views; they consistently refuse to acknowledge past mistakes and errors; they are infatuated with a nearly mythical past ( All Hail "Reagan Conservatism," thank you Hannity); and they paint complex issues with overly broad strokes (how many times have you seen the word "socialism" thrown out in reference to anything coming out of Washington D.C. these days???). You know what? That is their job. That is how they gain followers, and spark controversies. They can say what they will about whatever b.s. mission they have -- the truth of the matter is that both Limbaugh and Hannity live and die ultimately by ratings. And that is absolutely fine. However, these are NOT the leaders that the Republican Party needs. There has been far too much "ratings" catering by the Party - empty soundbites, vapid populist "anger" -- and no answers. No viable alternatives. It is one thing to lobby fire and brimstone at the "socialists" in D.C. - its quite another to provide a realistic blueprint for a nation to follow. It doesn't take a veteran political strategist to realize that this blueprint is going to have to represent honest and real change from the tired storylines currently being shopped around by the GOP. My next few posts are going to be my ramblings on what i think the "next steps" should incorporate....
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
For Release Upon Delivery
Statement of Senator Margaret Chase Smith
June 1, 1950
I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.
That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.
I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.
I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.
The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.
It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American -- and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us -- yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.
It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we dish out to outsiders.
I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul searching -- for us to weigh our consciences -- on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America -- on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered; that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.
Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism --
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn't? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as "Communists" or "Fascists" by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.
As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln's day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation -- in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.
Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "know nothing, suspect everything" attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself -- and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.
The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.
The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances -- that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.
The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.
Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.
Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny -- Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.
I doubt if the Republican Party could -- simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory.
I don't want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.
As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.
As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate -- and I use the word 'debate' advisedly.
As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.
I don't like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate.
As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of "confuse, divide and conquer." As an American, I don't want a Democratic Administration "white wash" or "cover up" any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.
As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Democrat "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.
It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a "Declaration of Conscience." I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence."(from http://www.mcslibrary.org/program/library/declaration.htm)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
To describe the onset of the new administration as a "relief" from the seemingly continual disaster of the past seven years (W gets a pass in 2001) would perhaps be a gross understatement. From W's foreign policy colossal mistakes, to his domestic blunders, to his enabling of one of the most poisonous partisan eras in recent memory... there's nothing i wanted more than for Jan. 20th to finally arrive.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that every single negative event since after 2001 should somehow be attributed to our 43rd president. To lay the blame at his feet for every catastrophe, every failure, would be naive at best, and misguidedly hateful at worse. "W" inherited an increasingly troubled world... the specter of terrorism in a way that our country has never known, the inevitable bursting of the technology-fueled bubble, a complicated international scene.... and in many ways mishandled opportunity after opportunity. Honestly though, two of the biggest problems i had with the previous administration involved perception, for lack of a better word.
(1) His handling of international affairs was embarrassing on the whole. His administration, with few exceptions, seemed incapable of understanding the nuances of being a superpower in a world that has grown markedly less hegemonic. Gone were the days of the world being carved into two by the US and the Soviet Union. Gone also were the days where the US sat alone at the top, with the capital (economically, militarily and politically) to have its way in the world arena. The rise of China, the growing economic power of the EU, and the return to political significance of un-democratic regimes such as Iran all represented an international system that was entirely different than one that many of Bush's policy advisers had lived their lives in. And they blew their opportunity to make a positive lasting impact in this 21st century world. If the U.S. was a corporation, our "international image" would be about to equal to that of Enron's right now.
(2) His administration's continued refusal to handle the "war on terrorism" with accountability, openness, and a willingness to make changes sparked an incredibly deep partisan rift in our nation that will take years to repair. I'm not at all attempting to condemn partisanship in itself but rather the level of intolerance, irrationality, and antagonism that marked the partisanship of the past eight years. His acceptance speech and inaugural speech after the divisive 2000 election proclaimed the age both of "compassionate conservatism" and bipartisanship. Eight years later, i think its fair to state that neither was achieved by the Bush administration. I've written previously about the former failure; the latter failure is less esoteric but still very real. Try having a conversation with someone who has a different political opinion than you these days. I venture to guess 80-90% of the time that conversation will get tense and antagonistic - regardless of who started it. I honestly believe that the Bush "doctrines" and policies directly impacted the severe polarization of our society, and more than anyone, he had failed to live up to his potential to set a tone that would allow for dialogue and conversation rather than accusations and denials.
So having cleared the air some about my feelings on the past... what of the future? some of my friends have been surprised that i haven't seemed to really celebrate the coming of our 44th president, or grasp the incredible historical significance of what has happened.
This is not at all true. I simply have chosen to remain "cautiously hopeful" (this blog would not be complete without some poetic political paradox right?)...
The inauguration was indeed awe-inspiring, even for someone as "post-racial" (haha) as me, to see something that honestly i didn't expect to happen before i hit my mid-life crisis... a biracial son of an African immigrant has ascended to the most powerful position in our country. I dont know if i can even begin to accurately depict the significance of that...
But that said.... I still think moderation is very much called for. If i am ironic about the rise of Obama at times - it is my "quiet" way of showing that my excitement is still tempered by reality. I understand that Obama has an unbelievable level of popularity, his party in power, and an adoring media at hand. I respect and admire him-- in many ways if i were to ever act on my little political ambitions i would follow his blueprint closely. BUT he shouldn't get a free pass either; he's not above being judged when its necessary, and many of the Obama fans have exhibited a rather scary level of fanaticism over what he's capable of doing, and ignoring any missteps. i'm excited, but i'm tempering it because, simply put, he hasn't actually achieved anything yet as President (this is not a knock on him by any means, i simply am trying to say that i'm not going to be creating any marble busts until after he actually begins making decisions as a president). How many times have we seen politicians on the rise, with such promise, who can never quite deliver? Call me cynical, but i want to be able to judge our new President on his merits and achievements when they happen, and not simply because "he's not bush" or because he ran a phenomenal campaign. In his own words:
"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."
And i think thats the root of any "tempered" emotions that i might exhibit-- i am excited about this man's potential. And am excited about the fruition in some ways of the Civil Rights struggles that have been going on for decades and longer. But i'm not going to be bestowing any mantles of "greatness" on him until he does indeed earn it as President.