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Tag Archives: Democrats

Trump & Syria & America

For eight years, I watched a political party come apart at its seams as its members sought to oppose and criticize everything said or done by a President.  As bad as it was from the leadership ranks of that party, it was even worse in the fever swamp of blogs inhabiting that party’s side of the political debate.

If you are a Democrat or a liberal or a progressive, imagine all of the worst things you think about President Trump and Republicans — they lie, they manipulate, they don’t care about America, they’re in the Russians’ pockets, etc. — and all of that was being said about President Obama and Democrats for the eight years of Obama’s Presidency.  Relentless and endless and no quarter given.  The Republican Party was taken over entirely by its right wing fanatics who refused to give an inch and who treated every single thing Obama did as an act of war on America.

I refuse to be that kind of Democrat or liberal.  As much as I cannot stand Trump and his policies and his way of doing things.  As much as I may think he is utterly unprepared and unqualified for the position he now holds.  As much as I fear what he will do to this country, and hell, what he already is doing.  As much as all of that.  I will support him when I think he is right.  Lockstep opposition from our side of the debate is no better than the lockstep opposition Obama faced during his eight years.

At least for one moment, I agree with Trump’s strike on the Syrian airfield following the latest use of chemical weapons by Assad against his people.  Yes, there are all sorts of reasons to question the legitimacy or rationale of the attack.  Maybe he’s doing it to distract from the whole Russia thing.  Maybe not.  Maybe the attack is a meaningless gesture.  Maybe not.  Maybe it is a signal that we are going to be drawn into a greater role and ultimately go back to war in the Middle East.  Maybe not.

All I know, is that for at least that one moment, we did something to signal to Assad that his butchery and treachery has gone too far.  Here is what I wrote on FB the other evening:

This may come as a shock to my friends here on FB, but I applaud President Trump for his statement tonight and his measured action in response to the most recent chemical attack in Syria. There is a lot to be critical of the man, but I also think we should be honest where he gets something right. Or at least as right as it can be. Syria is a mess. But there comes a point when responsible nations have to do something about the horror a government inflicts on its own people. I worry that we’ll get sucked into something that will only be worse. I worry about this particular President’s ability to stay rational and measured. But right now, I feel like he did the right thing. Limited, measured, and relevant. His short statement tonight included some elements I have problems with, but it may well have been the most Presidential thing he has done.

25 years ago I silently screamed for the world to do something about the slaughter going on in the former Yugoslavia. When we finally did, we actually ended the slaughter. That’s what needs to be done now in Syria. It’s what needed to be done a few years ago. It’s a horrible, difficult situation. I waver between my isolationist tendencies and desire that America no longer be the world’s policeman and the recognition that we have such immense power to put a stop to these types of things. I don’t want American lives to be lost. I don’t want any lives to be lost. I tire of paying the price of the world’s wars. But some things just may be worth the cost. The tragedy unfolding in Syria may be one of those times when it is time for us to bear a cost.

 

If we are unwilling to do something about the particular evil that Assad represents, then we are a failure as far as I’m concerned.  There are plenty of risks at play here, but when it comes to evil, sometimes you have to take a risk.

I will continue to keep an open mind and question everything Trump says and does, but when he gets something right, which I believe he did here, I refuse to do what the Republicans did to Obama.  I will not be that kind of Democrat.

 

 

My Final Word

Over on the right-wing blog I read far too much of, there is much crowing and celebrating.  There is a post that suggests that the Republican Party is the American Party now because it not only controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress, but the majority of Statehouses and State Legislatures across the country.

I pointed out the Republican Presidential candidate has received more votes than the Democrat candidate exactly one time since 1988 and that there is no American Party.  And that believing the Republican Party is the American Party is the kind of arrogant thinking that leads the American people to switch gears every few years.  This happens each and every time the Presidency changes parties.

And it is that arrogance that helped defeat the Dems this year.

I think back eight years to when Obama was elected.  He was described as a cautious man.  He would not seek a revolution or dramatic, instant change.  Instead, he believed in incremental change and the long game.  Small steps won gradually would lead to more systemic changes over the long run.  Large leaps forward ran the risk of a revolt against liberal and progressive ideals.

It’s hard to imagine this now but candidate Obama and newly elected President Obama was not publicly in support of same sex marriage.  He did not immediately seek the passage of universal health care and when he did, he ultimately put his weight behind a plan that was Republican before it was his.  There are plenty of other examples of his incremental approach to policy and it was something I appreciated about him.  He was the only adult in the room, recognizing that, for the most part, the American people are not as liberal as us liberals want to believe and neither are they as conservative as the right would like to believe.  Long-term success at making changes that are long-lasting and real rather than flash-in-the-pan tinkering that is turned back with the next election required long-term thinking, and building the foundation.

Only something happened in Obama’s second term.  I thought he saw the end of his Presidency and realized all of that long-term thinking was nice and all but where was the guarantee that any of this would continue beyond his term.  I think he sped things up and got a little arrogant about the idea that the American electorate had changed in some fundamental way.

On foreign policy, he took a softer approach and tried to get other countries to lead some of these efforts.  Not a bad thing, from my perspective, but anathema to the right and some portions of the middle.

On domestic affairs, we went from a very real battle over same sex marriage to suddenly allowing transgender soldiers to openly serve, to forcing transgender bathroom policies on the States from the federal government, and progressives began squawking about free college education for all, and presenting a list of other things that were necessary and right.  I’m not here saying any of this is bad.  I support just about all of on some level but they are anathema to the right and some portions of the middle.

But we liberals and progressives lost sight of some fundamental truths of the American people.  The fundamental truths that haven’t changed in my adult life time.  There are a whole lot of people in this country who don’t want moral behavior pushed on them by the federal government.  Regardless of the “rightness” of the issue, these things need to percolate for a time to achieve permanence.  Think about how long same sex marriage took to achieve.  And it was an effort that really began at the state level — yes, primarily in the more liberal states, but still … at the state level.

Compare that to the whole transgender issue.  Something I don’t recall hearing a lot about until after same sex marriage success was achieved and then all of a sudden, bam, transgender this and transgender that and within a very short time, the federal government was trying to force rules on the States.  This may not be a big deal in your blue bubble, but it is a huge deal in the red swaths of America that absolutely cannot stand that kind of federal supremacy and arrogance.

I really think that liberals and progressives began to believe in the inevitability of “progress” towards their agenda, their version of America.  That America had become a liberal nation, that the Democrat Party had become the American Party.  That a new day had dawned and this tide was going to keep coming in.

Well, we were all wrong.  All completely wrong.  We are still a very, deeply divided nation.  We lost sight of that in the progress made during Obama and thought it inevitable that it could continue for another four or eight years and maybe even more.  Deeply divided.  There is no American Party.  There are only red states and blue states.  The parties are regional and demographic in nature, but neither one of them is national in scope or followers.

The good news?  Republicans are already taking the crown of arrogance for themselves.  Whether it is two or four years from now, if they continue to act with the arrogance they are showing so far, the tide will turn again.  My only hope is that when the inevitable happens, we on the left remember this lesson and accept the long-term view and don’t push for radical change.

The Democrat Debate

My real time thoughts:

Thought #1
One of the Republican narratives has been about how the moderators and questioners made things worse for their candidates by the questions they asked. Pitting the candidates against each other, focusing far too much on Trump, etc. I was interested in seeing how this debate would go — would Anderson Cooper’s questions and approach confirm that narrative. After the first round of questions, I think the narrative may not be reality-based. He’s going after the candidates directly and putting them each on the spot.

Thought #2 Where are all the candidates??? Oh, wait, it’s the Democrat Primary Debate. Let me try again … where are all the candidates. I am monumentally disappointed in my options here, but Bernie gives me hope.

Thought #3 … Hillary aint acting like a front runner with no concerns. Interesting.

Thought #4 … will Martin O’Malley’s every answer result in him near tears?

Thought #5 … this goes to all who speak about the problems in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. I have yet to hear one single candidate or commentator actually offer any specific workable alternative to what is happening now. Leadership — that’s not an alternative. Stop Russian bullying — that’s not an alternative. I really get tired of seeing people criticize Obama’s current decisions and actions without offering credible alternatives. At least Sanders is willing to say “enough, we’re not doing this anymore.”

Thought #6 … fascinating how Hillary lauds her time with Obama and all she did there and has taken numerous positions now that are critical of Obama’s foreign policy maneuvers. Meanwhile Sanders responses on Syria are exactly where I am.

Thought #7 … Benghazi. I so wish that this issue would die the death it deserves. During GWB’s presidency there were numerous attacks on U.S. embassies that resulted in more deaths than at Benghazi. But nobody cares about that. This Benghazi debate has been a politics-driven effort from day one. It needs to be gone.

Thought #8 … Wow. Chaffee needs to not talk about foreign policy.

Thought #9 … clearly, the crowd is packed with Sanders supporters. Seems he is the only one who gets a reaction from the crowd. But I fundamentally disagree with his response that climate change is a national security threat. I don’t disagree that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t make it a national security threat.

Thought # … well I don’t know the number, I thought I just posted #10 but now I can’t find it and can’t remember what the hell the comment was … so, let’s just say this is Thought #11 … Hillary really needs to not laugh, but she wins points for saying “No,” to a request to respond.

Thought #12 … there is an inherent advantage the Dems have. Since there’s only five of them, each candidate gets an opportunity for longer responses to provide more detail. The biggest problem with the Reeps debates is the crowd forced them all into such short answers they couldn’t do anything other than repeat their buzz words.

Thought #13 … we don’t need to create millions of jobs, a free college education, and some of the other things mentioned. Those are all great ideas, but they won’t do a thing to address the fundamental problem. What we actually need is a return to the days when companies treated their workers as the valuable resource they are and did what they could to provide them with benefits and stability so they could live their lives and prosper. As long as companies are driven only by the bottom line, nothing the government does will make a difference.

Thought #14 … whoopsie. Clinton claimed she went to Wall Street and told them to stop foreclosing in 2007??? Sorry, but that’s not possible. The foreclosures didn’t start until the Great Recession started in 2008. She simply cannot claim she did that in 2007.

Thought #15 … there is just something so … odd … about O’Malley.

Thought #16 … Clinton and Obama “crashed” a meeting with the Chinese in 2009??? Maybe not … http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6845952/Barack-Obama-denies-accusations-that-he-crashed-secret-Chinese-climate-change-talks.html

Thought #17 … I don’t disagree with Webb’s complaints about the time for each, but he’s just coming off as a whiny crybaby.

I remember Thought #10 … I was in Vegas last week for the first time ever. I won $375 at the blackjack table. Do you think any of these candidates would prefer to be at a gaming table than where they are right now? If they were, do you think they would win $$$?

Thought #18 … a free college education is one of those issues where I just fundamentally disagree with today’s progressive/liberal movement. While I believe that college expenses need to come down and be more reasonable, I don’t think making it free makes sense. I believe there are things where having a stake in the thing makes it more worthwhile, more valuable, and more effective and efficient. A college education is one of those things. So subsidize it like it was back when I went to college, when my parents, with a sole income and very, very middle class, could afford to send their children to college without borrowing a dime. Unlike today, where I can’t come close to covering the costs for my two kids on an income that is much more than my parents’. So much more to say here, but I’ll leave it at that.

Thought #19 … how would you be different from Obama? Clinton’s answer … “I’d be a woman.” Are you frickin’ kidding me? In some respects that defines the problem with her candidacy. She thinks it is hers. She deserves it. She’s earned it. It is her turn. And it is time for a woman President. That difference alone justifies her candidacy and her ascension to the throne.

Thought #20 … yes, she’s not asking people to vote for her because of her last name, but she certainly is asking for people to vote for her simply because she is a woman.

Thought #21 … does anybody else believe Clinton that she and the President of the United States were walking up and down the hallways desperately looking for the “secret” meeting between Indian and China?

Thought #22 … I’m really disappointed that the Dodgers are winning.

Thought #23 … once again, Clinton’s final response about which enemy she’s most proud to have … the Republicans … doesn’t speak well to her ability or willingness to cross the divide. It throws red meat to the true believers on the progressive side, but it doesn’t speak to the members of the vast middle who want to hear about solutions and compromise.

Thought #24 … I liked O’Malley’s comparison to what you hear from Republicans these days.

A Final Thought … I don’t think this debate changed the dynamic on the Democrat side at all.

Did you watch the debate?   If you did, what did you think?

Why Do I Sometimes Lose Hope

Enough Already (Politics a-coming)

I’ve toyed with this post for a week or so.  Ever since my post suggesting that the PRISM controversy might not be as bad as first thought.  That prompted some rebuttal from a couple of voices I respect.  One, a fellow blogger who, although I’ve never met him, has some solid and worthy views on the subject.  The other, a good friend who is outraged by things such as PRISM and Guantanamo and drone strikes and the like.

I get their frustration.  I get their outrage.  On some level, I share those emotions.  They are idealists.  I am one, as well.  The three presidential candidates who inspired me the most over the past thirty years are Jesse Jackson, Mario Cuomo, and Barack Obama.  Why?  Because as candidates, they were idealists.  As speakers, they were poets.  They could paint pictures with their words and deliver their speeches with such a rhythm and passion that I could actually believe the shining city on the hill might actually be possible instead of the reality of what actually is.

But, I also get this.  Idealists cannot possibly succeed at running a country as complex as the United States in a world that is complex as today’s world.  Even if Barack Obama ran as an idealist, he also realized that fundamental truth.  I believe the single biggest mistake he ever made was to declare victory on that wonderful November 2008 night before the multitudes in Chicago and the millions watching on TV in a way that ratcheted up the idealism of his campaign rather than dialing it down.  Does anybody remember this line from his victory speech back then:

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

Change has come to America.  I have heard about this promise so many times in the years since.  I wish he had never said the words or campaigned so vigorously on the idea of change.  The reality is that most candidates do.  That’s part of the schtick.  But people have held him to that promise at a level unseen for any candidates who ran before him.  “He promised change.  Where is it?”  “Where’s the change the President promised?  I don’t see it.”  These are the kinds of statements I here all too often, most often from people who didn’t vote for him and probably never would.  Yes, I also hear the complaints from those who voted for him.  And to all of them I want to say, “Really?  You actually expected him to turn back the rising oceans, to cure cancer, end unemployment, etc.?  To bring about a new civility in our political discourse?  All on his own?  Really?  Are you that stupid?”

Here’s an example of the type of complaint I here:  One of the frequent complainers I hear from is a friend who is a Republican.  He never, ever would have voted for Obama and he detests him.  We spoke a couple of weeks ago.  He accused Obama of lying and flip-flopping and never sticking to a position.  When I asked for examples, he had nothing specific.  He then moved on to complaining that all Obama does is fly around the country raising money for the Democratic Party.  That he just comes out to California to raise money but he doesn’t actually do anything.  And that GWB never did that.  I pointed out that GWB didn’t come out to California because he wasn’t popular here, but I was willing to bet he did plenty of fundraising in other parts of the country.  We just didn’t hear about it living in California.  (Here’s a little bit of proof … http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/republican-party/president-bush-fundraiser-in-c.html)  My point was that this is something they all do, it’s part of the job.  Raise money for the party and the party’s candidates.  His response:  but what about the change he promised.  He was going to change this.  Where’s the change?  My reply:  so, while the other party and candidates are doing this, he’s just supposed to stop?  Really?  And put the Democratic Party at a disadvantage when the other side isn’t willing to make the same change?  Can I repeat myself?  Really?

I’m flummoxed by this.  Change, change, change.  He promised us change!!!!!!

Here’s the deal though.  What Barack Obama has done, if nothing else, since his election, is run this country as a pragmatist and a realist.  If he had operated as an idealist, he would have demanded single payer health care.  And lost just as the Clintons did in the ’90s.  If he operated as an idealist, he would have closed down Guantanamo and been decried as weak.  If he had operated as an idealist, he would have ended some of these programs we are now learning about rather than allowing them to continue … AS THEY HAVE FOR YEARS AND DECADES PRIOR TO HIS ELECTION.  This is the thing that amazes me about the PRISM and Verizon controversy.  I first learned about the NSA’s reach back in the 1980s — when they had access to all forms of communication back then.  People, it’s a reality.  Plus, imagine the outrage if he had ended these programs and six months later we had a terrorist attack on American soil that could have been prevented if he had not done so.  Change can only happen incrementally.   If he had operated as an idealist, we would have had troops on the ground months ago in Syria to prevent yet another human tragedy.  If he had operated as an idealist, we would be in worse shape than we are and many of the successes he has achieved would have never come to be.  If he had operated as an idealist, he would have lost in 2012.  Just think about the things that would be different with a President Romney.  Seriously.  Imagine it and tell me Obama should have led as an idealist.

I would like nothing more than to see an idealist with the vision I have run our country.  That’s impossible.  Better a pragmatist who has the same set of core beliefs, or at least a similar set, than an idealist who could never get anything done.  You want an example of a failed idealist as President … Jimmy Carter.  One of the most decent, intelligent and wonderful human beings we’ll ever see.  But, a horrible President.  I’ll take Obama’s pragmatism and reasoned leadership any day.

What prompted me to finally write this was a piece from Andrew Sullivan’s blog today.  Not written by Mr. Sullivan.  Instead, it is a comment from one of his readers.  A Republican reader, who voted for Romney, defended Obama’s decision to provide arms to the Syrian rebels, even though he, the reader, disagreed with the approach!!  I think it’s one of the best defenses of Obama I’ve seen.  From somebody who doesn’t agree with him.  People should read it every time they get upset that Obama doesn’t go all the way towards the decision they want.  There’s something to be said for the pragmatic middle.  There’s something to be said for seeking incremental improvement.  There’s something to be said for compromise and collaboration.  Obama’s only real “failing” in this regard is that he is serving as President at a time when the opposition has failed to recognize the value in those ideas.

Is Obama perfect?  Of course not.  Have I agreed with every decision he has made?  No.  But I do think he is being held to a different, higher standard than any President before him and I’m tired of it.

You want to know what the alternative is?  Republicans like Bobby Jindal, who was willing to state the following in his never-ending desire to be relevant in the 2016 Republican Presidential race:

Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don’t have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don’t matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

Come on, people.  What do you want?  Adults or petulant teenagers running your country.

 

 

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