Tuesday night at West Point, President Obama had a golden opportunity to demonstrate that the world’s only superpower is lead by a tough, determined, world leader, able to make difficult decisions. Instead, President Obama chose to take a hedged, triangulated position between those in America that support the war in Afghanistan and those that oppose it. There was more nuance in the President’s address than there was determination and resolve, which is unfortunate for America and for international security around the globe.
There really are no good options for America and the situation in Afghanistan. Looking backwards into the rearview mirror does us no good; we are where we are and fair or not, the President is forced to look ahead and play the hand he has been dealt. As evidenced by the delay and lengthy deliberation regarding additional troop commitments, President Obama is learning that it is more difficult to actually lead a nation than it is to merely campaign to lead a nation.
Whether the best course of action is committing more troops or withdrawing could be debated by reasonable people, but it is less important than commitment and dedication to one or the other, with resolve. The President needed to get it right last night—either we’re all-in or we’re out—and he failed, choosing conditional commitment and putting his weakness and equivocation on full display for the world.
Rather than attempting to placate his left flank by holding back 25% of the 40,000 troops requested by General McChrystal, the President could have demonstrated he was in it to win it, giving the general the 40,000 troops he requested. Why hold back 10,000 troops? If ever an ounce of prevention were better than a pound of cure, this would be it—give the general what he is requesting and “get ‘er done.” The left is not placated by his gesture to send 30,000 more troops and hold back 10,000, and history informs us well that underwhelming the enemy or relying on the pathetic troop commitments of our allies is a recipe for disaster and defeat.
Clearly, the ultimate pusillanimous act last night was announcing a troop draw-down in 18 months. This was not leadership, but a cowardly act that undermined any attempt by the President to even feign commitment, again serving only one purpose, to unsuccessfully attempt to appease the left.
The left and right are not happy with the President, nor is Middle America, which wants us out of Afghanistan, best achieved by either a total commitment to get out or bucking-up and committing overwhelming force. Giving General McChrystal less troops than he requested and announcing a draw-down in 18 months are jellyfish maneuvers, difficult to rationalize other than through a purely political prism. Middle America deserves leadership from President Obama and knows all too well that the only thing in the middle of the road is a dead possum on a dotted white line.
In American politics, there is a long list of ethical scandals at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle. These breaches stretch back to the founding of this nation and seem to be growing at an alarming rate. They serve as a reminder to voters and arrogant lawmakers of the fallibility of those elected to lead, and of the number of lawmakers currently engaged in ethical lapses. Whether it be the more recent ethical breaches by Sanford, Ensign, Fossella, Paterson, Spitzer, Mahoney, Craig, Vitter, Sherwood or others, the public airing of the transgressions, the cover-up and rambling justifications only legitimize the behavior in the minds and souls of Americans. Tolerance and acceptance of ethical indiscretions should not extend to those elected to serve the public. Instead, they should be stripped of their ability to lead and at best allowed to scurry away into obscurity, to mend whatever fences are still standing at home or elsewhere.
Clearly, impure thoughts are not a crime, or we would all be in jail, some of us for longer than others. But when lawmakers convert impure thoughts into overt action, they have voluntarily chosen to cross into the dark side, from which there is no public return or redemption. Although it’s not a criminal offense, infidelity embodies the holy trinity of sins—lying, cheating and stealing—and America should not accept it, but instead consider such a breach a punishable offense, with resignation and its accompanying self-loathing and self-pity as punishment.
This is not to say that lawmakers who choose to breach the public’s trust should not be forgiven, they are simply unfit to serve. Let them toil on other fronts, wondering what may have been if only they hadn’t traded virtue for vice. There are far too many morally fit men and women treading water, ready, willing and able to serve the public in place of those who are morally bankrupt.
Every time South Carolina Governor Sanford is in the media, it reminds Americans of his sense of arrogance and entitlement. People are angry, not that he was balling an Argentine mistress, which unfortunately happens with great regularity amongst lawmakers, but that he failed to live by the moral standards we expect all elected officials to embody. Us commoners that succumb to temptation correctly employ a double-standard for our elected leaders, who are role models for young and old and who have voluntarily assumed the responsibility of moral superiority that accompanies leadership and elected office. Regardless of the fact that Governor Sanford is now being pursued with charges of 37 ethical violations, the simple fact that he is a liar should be enough for the Republican Party and the general public to rebuke him and demand his immediate resignation.
Morality is non-partisan, but an ethical breach stings even more when it happens to Republicans, who have heretofore sanctimoniously proclaimed the mantle of moral and religious righteousness. Regardless of political party, lawmakers are elected to lead by example, and when they voluntarily yield to immorality and breach the public’s trust, they must do the right thing and step down.
We all have temptations as human beings and a choice to resist or acquiesce. If we do not distinguish between desires and actions, condemning them both with equal punishment, there is no accountability for those engaging in immoral behavior, or recompense for those that don’t. When an elected leader trades right for wrong, he or she chips away at the moral underpinnings of society. For those elected to serve the public, who choose to acquiesce to such temptation—and lie, cheat, and steal—they should be run out of office on a rail, as unfit to serve.
As the healthcare debate is coming to a procedural head on the floor of the U.S. Senate tonight, news this week that the U.S. Postal Service lost money for the third year in a row—a staggering $3.8 billion, versus a loss of $2.8 billion last year—should give Middle America real concerns about government’s ability to effectively insert itself into individuals’ lives and deliver quality, affordable healthcare.
Government is not a bad thing. For those who think differently, view government as a necessary evil, whose purpose is to serve the people, not vice versa. As we were reminded by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address in 1863, “. . . this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. . .” Like it or not, government belongs to the people and it is here to stay.
The speed with which politicians are moving to rush a 2074 page healthcare bill through Congress leads the reasonable person to ask the obvious question, “What’s the hurry on an issue of such great importance?”
Well, the hurry is that this week Middle America picked up the scent of the rationing of healthcare with confusion over when and what women should get mammograms and pap smears. As time drags on, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about how healthcare might be rationed, which has Democrats as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
If ever there was an issue that touched every American personally, healthcare is it. Clearly, something has to give—there has to be some sort of healthcare reform, like the ability to shop for healthcare across state lines, a prohibition against rejecting pre-existing conditions, a requirement that every American have health insurance, etc. However, the need to get healthcare reform done right greatly exceeds the political demands to just get “something” done and declare victory.
Middle America has been betrayed in a way, since every page of the 2074 page bill isn’t being discussed and publicly debated in great detail by this administration, which campaigned on “transparency.” Sound public policy requires a lucid and thorough examination of this legislation, but it appears that once again, sound public policy is being traded for political expediency.
Obama’s advisors and Democrat consultants know that time is their enemy—the longer Congress takes to pass healthcare legislation, the less political capital they have to pass anything at all, and the more likely voters will thoughtfully consider how it might impact their own mammograms, pap smears, and healthcare needs.
The honeymoon period typically extended to new presidents is now coming to an end, if it hasn’t already come and gone. Unfortunately for President Obama and Democrats, they campaigned on delivering “healthcare reform” and staked their political future on it. Making healthcare reform their lynchpin issue was a very calculated decision by Democrats, not done hastily, but after much polling and many focus groups. Democrats have made healthcare a political football and voters are increasingly concerned about it.
Understandably, Democrats exploited the issue of healthcare reform for maximum political value during the campaign, but now the campaign is over and the wolf is almost at the door. Democrats know they have to deliver something, and this “something” really needs to be thought through with great deliberation and debate. If given a choice, Middle America would be better served with nothing, rather than “something” hastily rammed through Congress.
America’s elite and Palin-haters everywhere should not be so quick to dismiss or disregard the future of Sarah Palin. No other national political figure so completely fills Middle America’s vacuum of frustration for the left and right as Sarah Palin.
Middle America has been abandoned by the left and right, who have saddled it with a $787 billion taxpayer bailout, an unnecessary and costly war, a soaring $12 trillion deficit, and an overall neglect of the pocketbook issues that impact Middle America every day. Where are job creation, quality public education, affordable healthcare, and fiscal responsibility, to name a few?
Voters are mad as hell at the left and right and they just might be willing to roll the dice on someone like Palin, who lacks an Ivy League education, is a working class hockey-mom with a disabled child, and who has blue-collar roots like many of the folks in Middle America. The status quo on the left and right have produced nothing material for Middle America, which may toss conventional wisdom into the toilet and throw the lever for Palin, figuring it has nothing to lose, and it may be right.
The Ivy League educated on the left and right have delivered little to nothing for Middle America, perhaps precisely because they are out of touch with the issues that someone like Palin understands personally.
However, to say that Palin is a salmon swimming upstream is an understatement. The results of a CBS News survey released Monday indicate that 66 percent of respondents do not want her to run for the White House in 2012. Seventy percent of respondents to a CNN/Opinion Research poll said she is not qualified to be president.
More difficult for Palin is the fact that the trend is not her friend—public opinion is moving in the wrong direction right now.
In the CBS survey, 43 percent of GOP respondents said Palin would have the ability to be an effective president. Only 11 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents agreed.
However, there is an opportunity for Palin among independents, where Palin’s rating is 41 percent favorable, and 48 percent unfavorable, according to Gallup.
These numbers are not great, but there is plenty of time if she can move the needle by appealing to Middle America and independents, which is where elections are won or lost.
Clearly, Palin has put the monkey on her back, especially with her resignation from Alaska’s governorship in July, a self-inflicted wound that will be difficult to explain away. However, don’t put it past Palin to put lipstick on this pig and paint herself as a victim of politically motivated and baseless ethics charges that prevented her from successfully serving the people of Alaska, forcing her to do the noble thing and take the bullet by resigning.
We can say what we want about Palin, but no Republican in recent history has created such frenzied excitement across the country as she has. Just take a look at the fervor she stirs as she wheels across Middle America on her book tour.
Perhaps this is a misreading of the tea leaves, but one could argue that she creates a wee bit more excitement than Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, the two Republican front-runners for president in 2012. In the land of the blind, this one-eyed woman just might be queen.
Many of us in Middle America are scratching our heads with the announcement that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his alleged underlings will be tried in New York civilian courts. After watching and listening to President Obama and Attorney General Holder justify the decision, the reasonable person is left with a very simple question: “Why?”
It’s easy to get lost in all of the political spinning and back-peddling taking place to justify this decision, but there is only one question that needs to be answered to determine whether or not these individuals should be tried in civilian or military courts. That question is whether the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 was an act of war or a crime. If the bombings were an act of war, then these individuals should be tried in military courts, period.
It appears that President Obama and Attorney General Holder do not consider the bombing of Americans on U.S. soil an act of war, but a crime instead. This seems out of step with Middle America, which rejects the mental gymnastics required to arrive at the conclusion that the bombings were a crime and not an act of war.
Like many of the decisions made by President Obama, this one too appears to be politically expedient, rather than grounded in sound policymaking. President Obama has shamefully chosen to afford these terrorists all of the constitutional rights reserved to American citizens. These terrorists will now ironically and perversely cloak themselves in the very protections of the U.S. Constitution they are trying to destroy, and turn their trials into a media circus. They will portray themselves as victims of over aggressive interrogators and prosecutors, giving terrorists gasoline to pour on their fire of Islamic extremist hatred around the world as they continue to work to destroy this nation.
The techniques used by the CIA, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security to keep this nation safe and bring these terrorists to justice will be in full display in civilian courts, subject to discovery, and in the media for the world to see, compromising the ability of these agencies to keep Americans safe now and for years to come.
President Obama and Attorney General Holder have placed New York in the crosshairs of the world’s highest profile assault on Islam, jeopardizing the safety of its residents and ripping the scabs off the wounds suffered by the families of loved ones lost on 9/11.
What really indicates that this is a political exercise and poor policy is the fact that these terrorists will be unable to get a fair trial in New York or any other city or state in this nation, since every person in this country experienced the horror of 9/11 to one degree or another .
Further, the President and Attorney General have given Islamic extremists exposure they couldn’t buy any where in the world—center stage in New York—to parade their message of hatred to the world.
With the past 12 months as its guide, Middle America is cynical about President Obama’s real reason for trying these terrorists in American civil courts. This administration has been looking into the rearview mirror for the past year, running against the failed policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney, rather than looking forward and putting solid policy solutions on the table for American families. In keeping with their modus operandi, President Obama wants these trials to be an indictment on George Bush and Dick Cheney, around whose neck he plans to hang the fruits of the spectacle that will be viewed by the world when these trials commence. 9/11 was an act of war and these terrorists should be tried in a military court, off of American soil, period.
The announcement of financial overhaul legislation in the U.S. Senate this week smacked of irony as its author, Senator Chris Dodd—the recipient of a sweetheart rate on his home mortgage—announced a sweeping 1,136 page piece of legislation to “protect consumers.” It appears at this point that the protection consumers really need is from this nation’s politicians, who have too long lined their pockets with campaign contributions from big business and who have allowed financial institutions to fleece Middle America.
It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that big business and congress all but eliminated the ability of consumers to effectively discharge their debts in bankruptcy proceedings. At the same time, banks and financial institutions were making loans to borrowers who clearly could not qualify. Banks, financial institutions and credit card companies continued extending generous limits on credit cards and lines of credit to consumers. Now be fair, much of the mortgage activity was driven by Democrats in Congress who believed that everyone had an inalienable right to own a home, evidently whether they could afford it or not. And naturally, Republicans, who long ago sold their soul to big business, positioned their bank and financial institution contributors for all of the mortgage business.
Middle America knew and assumed the risk that what goes up would someday come down, perhaps crashing down, which it did. But when it did and as many Americans lost and continue today to lose their jobs, bankruptcy was and is simply not an available option. Our politicians and big business have virtually eliminated it as an effective option for many consumers.
Now, consumers that are interested in honestly reworking their mortgages cannot even get a return phone call from their lender, and if they do they are told they do not qualify for any sort of loan modification. It’s really great to see all that stimulus money going to work for loan modifications . . .
So here we are—after encumbering themselves with mortgages they cannot afford, credit cards and credit lines they cannot pay down, financial institutions have the shameless audacity to raise consumers’ credit card interest rates up to 30%. Clearly, consumers have to take a certain degree of responsibility for their own condition, but how did our elected members of Congress and the Senate allow big business to systematically repeal consumer protections at virtually every turn?
Middle America really needs to understand how and why our politicians have allowed financial institutions to raise credit card interest rates to a level that is clearly usury. No consumer knowingly consents to a 30% interest rate, regardless of whether there’s a meaningless disclosure on the back of his or her monthly credit card statement in tiny type. Nor do consumers knowingly consent to what has become an ordinary practice by banks and financial institutions of charging consumers $35 for overdraft protection or checks returned due to insufficient funds. Sure, consumers can choose to bank elsewhere, but the practice of gouging consumers with fees has become so universal by financial institutions that consumers really have no meaningful choice.
Without bankruptcy as a viable option to many in Middle America, there is plenty of pain left in the pipeline for years to come as consumers will remain enslaved with unmanageable consumer debt. With no end in sight, consumers will continue to labor under the heavy load of mortgages on devalued homes they cannot afford, credit card bills they cannot pay, and no available remedy in a bankruptcy court that can set them free to start over. It appears that consumer protection is dead and caveat emptor is alive and well.