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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been in the process of moving, not to mention the fact that I’ve had a whole slew of personal family issues that have neccessitated any extra attention I may have had.
So, where to begin… I suppose I’ll start with President Obama’s first 26 days or so…
Sorry, Barry, but I give you a x for your job performance. Granted, you’ve done better than Bush or McCain would have, but I’m still unimpressed. For all the praise you’ve gotten for your ability to communicate, you’ve done a less than stellar job in communicating your stimulis bill to the public. Instead, you’ve allowed the defeated and repudiated Republicans to control the debate and define your stimulus bill. The othe glaring failure, has been you nominations. One after another has been shown to have tax problems, and most have had to drop their nominations. You have, through actions, told the American people that there are two standards: one for them, and one for elites. Though you have apologized for these blunders, you nontheless have started off on the wrong foot– and out of step with the message you spread throughout the campaign.
A red flag should have gone up when Bill Richardson dropped his bid for the Commerce Secretary spot. Since then, there have been a number of candidates drop thier nominations: Tom Daschle, and Nancy Killefer, and or, in the case of now-Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, get approved by congress under a dark cloud. There was also the hideous nomination of Republican Senator Judd Gregg to the Commerce Secretary position, who subsequently withdrew his nomination because, as it turns out, he doesn’t agree with Obama’s economic policies! Duh! How could he be the point-man on selling Obama’s economic policies if he doesn’t even agree with them! Not to mention the fact that in 1995 Judd Gregg had lobbied hard for the abolishment of the Commerce Department. Hmmm… doesn’t seem like he was the right guy to have nominated.
To be fair, Senator Gregg did lobby President Obama for this position. He apparently asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to express his interest in the position to the President’s aides. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recently said that “Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda.” President Obama probably viewed this as an attempt at bipartisanship; however, Gregg soon found himself at odds with his Republican colleagues who, like Rush Limbaugh, want President Obama to fail. In a move thaqt surprised the White House, Gregg withdrew his nomination. In the picture above, the President clearly looks as if he wants to tear Gregg a new one. One more failed nomination to add to the list.
Of course, the biggest blunder has been the stimulus bill. Republicans, to their credit, have been able to hijack the discussion and sway public opinion. Our President, however, assumed that his November victory would compell the support of the American public. Following through on his promise to reach across the aisle in bipartisanship, President Obama met with GOP leaders on the hill and held several meetings with them in order to incorporate their ideas into the stimulis bill; however, the GOP seems to not understand that they are the party that lost (big time) in the last election. Instead of being thankful for being included they demanded that Obama bend to their will. By the time Obama took his case to the public, in early February, the GOP had convinced the public that the bill would not save the economy, and that the bill was loaded with pork.
Adding to his headache, Democratic leaders, eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, in both houses were squabbling with one another about how much money was needed in the stimulus bill. Many in the Democratic party were even critical of his attempts to incorporate tax cuts into the stimulus bill.
The President has not been able to catch a break.
By the end of the whole process, after Senator Lindsey Graham screamed about how scare-tactics don’t constitute leadership (funny– where was he over the last 8 years?), President Obama signed the bill into law. He could have passed the bill weeks earlier without GOP support, but, instead, he wasted so much time and effort (not to mention political capital) trying to reach across the aisle to a group of people who do not want to be bipartisan. Thus, his hope for “One America” died within weeks of taking office.
Though President Obama has tackled his foreign policy agenda rather aggressively, he has still failed to address the problems in the middle-east. He dispatched former Maine Senator George Mitchell, his enovy to the region, in a sign that he wants to focus on the issue, but he has not followed that with any action. While he may have been distracted by political and economic issues at home, he still needs to be able to divide his attention. Events on the ground are progressing in such a way, at present time, that could undermine any hopes for peace in the near future.
Mitchell was an obvious choice, since he was key in resolving the seemingly intractable conflict in Northern Ireland. However, the middle-east is far more complicated and nuanced an issue; there are questions of refugees, settlements, security, historical narrative disputes, and a whole host of boundary issues. If Obama and Mitchell hope to make any success they have to do more than just talk and listen, which is what Mitchell did on his whirlwind trip through Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is going to take someone who can strong-arm both parties to make concessions and adhere to any agreements made.
But there is hope for Mitchell. He has a history of involvement in the middle-east. For instance, he went on a fact-finding mission to the region during the second intifada, after which he published a 2001 report on how he would resolve particular disputes. He wrote that the second intifada was the manifestation of Palestinian frustration and grievances over the failure of Israel to abide by previous agreements. He also noted that the cycle of violence will only continue as both sides resort to violence. He also noted that both sides of the conflict had lost all confidence and trust in the other, a problem that would need to be remedied if there was any hope for success and peace.
Of course, the Israel lobby has been very critical of Mitchell. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, blasted what he called Mitchell’s “evenhanded” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Sen. Mitchell is fair. He’s been meticulously even-handed. But the fact is, American policy in the Middle East hasn’t been ‘even handed’ — it has been supportive of Israel when it felt Israel needed critical U.S. support. So I’m concerned. I’m not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.” The fact that so many people, like myself, applaud Mitchell’s evenhanded approach is frightening to pro-Israel groups who adored Bush’s laissez-faire approach to the middle-east. Another source of mistrust is the fact that he identifies himself as an Arab-American, which concerns the pro-Israel groups who prefered the Jewish Dennis Ross.
The Israelis have taken a large part of the West Bank, according to Israeli officials, for the purpose of constructing some 2,500 homes. Despite pressure from US officials to halt settlement construction in the West Bank, Israel has boldly moved forward with their plans to increase settler activity. Palestinian landowners have objected to the construction of these homes, but the Israelis have ignored these complaints. Mahmoud Abbas, PA President, has warned that future talks would be crippled by this move. Nonetheless, as it seems the Israeli government will be ruled by right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu, it all but certain that these settlements will expand, war with the Palestinians will occur with greater frequency, and the Palestinians can kiss their hopes for change goodbye.
President Obama could act. He could do something to change the conditions on the ground, or at least publicly condemn this brazen act of defiance, but he has not and he will not.