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Sounds bad. It is bad. But it is also a misleading headline.
The Washington Post reports that there was a 20% increase in civilian casualties. This headline is somewhat misleading, as I said. Civilian casualties attributable to US/ISAF forces dropped 18% (to 742), while civilian casualties attributable to the Taliban have risen by 25% (4,738). This is the direct result of Gen. David Petraeus’ population-centric counter-insurgency strategy.
Here is the Washington Post article from today:Number of civilian casualties in Afghan war rises 20%, U.N. report shows
“Before it gets better, it may get worse,” he said.
The report concluded that the number of civilian casualties attributable to insurgents increased by 25 percent during the 10-month period. It said insurgent groups were responsible for killing or injuring 4,738 civilians during that period, while 742 were killed or wounded by Afghan and international troops – a drop of 18 percent.
In a statement Thursday on its Web site, the Taliban called the civilian casualty figures in the report “a propaganda stint aimed at concealing American brutalities.”
U.S. airstrikes, long controversial in Afghanistan because of the high incidence of civilian casualties associated with them, were the leading cause of civilian deaths by NATO forces, the report said. At least 162 civilians were killed in airstrikes and 120 were wounded during the 10-month period.
On Thursday, NATO said it was investigating reports that one of its units had mistakenly killed two Afghans in northwestern Faryab province.
The grim statistics come as U.S. military officials are claiming some success in their effort to halt the Taliban’s momentum as the war enters its 10th year.
De Mistura said insurgent groups are likely to try to undermine NATO’s sense of traction by staging spectacular attacks in the near future.
“We should be ready, I’m afraid, for the next few months, for some tense security environment,” he said.
The quarterly report said the period between July and October saw a 66 percent spike in security incidents compared with the same time frame last year. Assassinations reached an all-time high in August, it said, with most attacks targeting civilians and Afghan police. Suicide attacks occurred an average of three times a week, most of them directed at NATO troops, police and Afghan government officials.
Five civilians were wounded in a suicide bombing Thursday in Kunduz City, in northern Afghanistan, NATO said in a statement.
The number of NATO troops killed this year also reached a new high, according to a tally kept by the Web site icasualties.org. At least 705 international troops were killed here this year, far more than the 521 killed in 2009, the previous record.
The report also said the United Nations “welcomes the spirit” of President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to oust private security companies from Afghanistan, which he says have operated here with impunity for years. But it also expressed concern that the firms’ disbandment “before security could be assured by Afghan authorities” would lead to “a withdrawal of many development projects and activities.”
KABUL – The number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan war increased by 20 percent during the first 10 months of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to a U.N. report issued this week.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 23, 2010; 5:45 PM
First of all, for those who are unaware, I am a practicing Catholic. Now…
Conservative Catholics have lost their minds. They have confused their faith with their extreme right-wing ideology. These wayward souls have even gone so far as to align themselves with right-wing Christian groups who hate the Catholic Church, have likened the Pope to the anti-christ, and regard the Church as inherently evil. Have these Catholic Conservatives no shame? Do they not realize that they have made a pact with people who hate them and are only using them for political gain?
The reason I write this today is because President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame, where he was also given an honorary degree. Conservative Catholics, along with their right-wing Christian/Republican friends, have gone mad over this development. Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee Chairman, said it was “inappropriate” for Notre Dame to give Obama an honorary degree. Other U.S.Catholic leaders have rebuked Notre Dame for its invitation of President Barack Obama and intend to boycott his visit to the University. The president of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue, was quite vocal in his opposition to the President’s presence at Notre Dame, saying, “To give him an honorary degree would be like Howard University giving David Duke a degree in racial politics.” Donahue, keep in mind, is a flaming Republican, who rarely speaks out against the shortcomings of Conservative politicians. Only 55 American Bishops (roughly 20%) have complained about Obam’s address, as have some Cardinals including James Francis Stafford. He has gone so far as to say that Obama has “an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.” Strong words, but do they reflect reality?
The protests against the President’s address at Notre Dame included Alan Keyes, and other Republican figures. As many as 39 people have been arrested because of the address, including Norma McCorvey, better known as “Roe,” the plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case that made abortion legal. She has since become a pro-life activist. Protesters, including Keyes, were pushing strollers containing dolls covered in fake blood. Among those who were arrested was a Priest, who complained aloud, “Notre Dame is arresting a priest. Why are you arresting a priest for trying to stop the killing of a baby? You’ve got it all backward.” Well, apparently trespassing is illegal, and that was why he was arrested, along with Keyes. Many of the critics of the decision to invite the President have also called for the resignation of Notre Dame’s President Rev. John I. Jenkins, gathering some 360,000 online signatures. Though the protests and criticisms have been strong, Jenkins has been quiet and resolved. He did, however, put out a statement: In a statement well before the ceremony, Jenkins wrote that the invitation: This “does not mean we support all of his positions … [on] abortion and embryonic stem cell research.”
In what appears to be a somewhat silent break with American Catholic officials, the Vatican has been mum on the controversy. In late April, for instance, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, essentially chastised the American Catholic leadership for exaggerated “forceful concerns”. The document, though pointing out differences with President Obama, seems to be reaching out to the new President: “On ethical questions, too — which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops — Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed.” In other words, he is not the radical they worried about initially. Indeed, the Vatican seems more interested in building stronger ties to Jewish and Muslim communites, as well as encouraging progress on peace in the middle-east. Since Obama’s election, the Vatican has shown signs that they are quite impressed and enthusiastic about the new President, and their silence on this issue is yet another sign that the Vatican is looking forward to working with this administration on a range of issues including, Global Climate Change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, combating poverty, encouraging fairer economic policies for poor families, health care, a living wage, working with women who are pregnant in order to help them choose life over abortion, and a whole host of other issues.
In short, the Vatican and the Obama administration have far more issues in common than issues that divide them.
The same is true of Catholic American laity. 67% of Catholics approve of the way he is running the country, according to a Pew Poll. Pew also found that half of American Catholics supported Notre Dame’s invitation of Obama, while only 28% opposed the invitation. 22% had no opinion. Just as a reminder, it is also important to remember that Obama won 54% of the Catholic vote in November’s election. Again, it is the small, albeit vocal, group of Conservative Catholics who confuse their allegiance to the GOP with their faith that are opposed to Obama’s commencement address.
As President Barack Obama took the stage and began his speech before the 12,000 people, there were some boos, which were interrupted and quieted by the graduating class and commencement audience. One heckler was likewise heckled until silenced. Before he spoke, Rev. Jenkins praised the President for his ability to speak with people who disagree with him, unlike those “who [stop] talking to those who disagree with him.” This was a not-so subtle jab at those who opposed Obama’s address. As the President spoke, he was supported with cheers, loud applause, and standing ovations. Many students had the words “Viva Obama” written on their caps. Critics wondered what Obama could possibly say, assuming, I suppose, that being pro-choice would only confound him whilst among a pro-life audience. Instead, as the President often does, he reached out to the critics, offering an opportunity for “fair minded” discussions about abortion. Striking a different tone than those zealots who would shut him up, he also highlighted their similarities: “Let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their child to term.” He recognized that “no matter how much we want to fudge it … the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable,” but he urged that people stop “reducing those with differing views to caricature. Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It’s a way of life that always has been the Notre Dame tradition.” “I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,” the president said. “Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.” His speech was quite inspiring, and it demonstrates the President’s commitment to bridging the gap between “enemies” with communication. He’s a uniter, not a divider.
But it was not only the President asking for “fair-minded” discussions, the Valedictorian, Brennan Bollman, (in an interview with the Huffington Post) said that “this issue has not divided the campus by any means,” because the President is bringing “everyone to the table.” In response to those Catholics who have seen red over the President’s address, Bollman responded: “We know exactly what it is to be Catholic because we are inviting President Obama to speak to us.” She even went as far as to say that President Obama has “given [respect] to human life through many of his policies,” adding that many of his policies reflected Catholic values: “President Obama takes a lot of pro-life positions. I don’t think that he is strongly pro-abortion.”
Catholics, like myself, are proud of the President’s speech. We’ll see how the Conservatives will respond.
Below is the full text of the address:
Well, first of all, congratulations, Class of 2009. Congratulations to all the parents, the cousins — the aunts, the uncles — all the people who helped to bring you to the point that you are here today. Thank you so much to Father Jenkins for that extraordinary introduction, even though you said what I want to say much more elegantly. You are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. Your continued and courageous — and contagious — commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all.
Good afternoon. To Father Hesburgh, to Notre Dame trustees, to faculty, to family: I am honored to be here today. And I am grateful to all of you for allowing me to be a part of your graduation.
And I also want to thank you for the honorary degree that I received. I know it has not been without controversy. I dont know if youre aware of this, but these honorary degrees are apparently pretty hard to come by. So far I’m only 1 for 2 as President. Father Hesburgh is 150 for 150. I guess that’s better. So, Father Ted, after the ceremony, maybe you can give me some pointers to boost my average.
I also want to congratulate the Class of 2009 for all your accomplishments. And since this is Notre Dame …
(Speech is interrupted by anti-abortion protesters.)
We’re fine, everybody. We’re following Brennans adage that we dont do things easily. We’re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes.
Now, since this is Notre Dame I think we should talk not only about your accomplishments in the classroom, but also in the competitive arena. No, dont worry, I’m not going to talk about that. We all know about this university’s proud and storied football team, but I also hear that Notre Dame holds the largest outdoor 5-on-5 basketball tournament in the world — Bookstore Basketball.
Now this excites me. I want to congratulate the winners of this year’s tournament, a team by the name of “Hallelujah Holla Back.” Congratulations. Well done. Though I have to say, I am personally disappointed that the “Barack OBallers” did not pull it out this year. So next year, if you need a 6-2 forward with a decent jumper, you know where I live.
Every one of you should be proud of what you have achieved at this institution. One hundred and sixty-three classes of Notre Dame graduates have sat where you sit today. Some were here during years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare — periods of relative peace and prosperity that required little by way of sacrifice or struggle.
You, however, are not getting off that easy. You have a different deal. Your class has come of age at a moment of great consequence for our nation and for the world — a rare inflection point in history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age. It’s a privilege and a responsibility afforded to few generations — and a task that youre now called to fulfill.
This generation, your generation is the one that must find a path back to prosperity and decide how we respond to a global economy that left millions behind even before the most recent crisis hit — an economy where greed and short-term thinking were too often rewarded at the expense of fairness, and diligence, and an honest day’s work.
Your generation must decide how to save God’s creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it. Your generation must seek peace at a time when there are those who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.
In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. And it’s this last challenge that Id like to talk about today, despite the fact that Father John stole all my best lines. For the major threats we face in the 21st century — whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease — these things do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.
Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.
Unfortunately, finding that common ground — recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a “single garment of destiny” — is not easy. And part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man — our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin. We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see here in this country and around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.
We know these things; and hopefully one of the benefits of the wonderful education that you’ve received here at Notre Dame is that you’ve had time to consider these wrongs in the world; perhaps recognized impulses in yourself that you want to leave behind. You’ve grown determined, each in your own way, to right them. And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing together persons of good will, bringing together men and women of principle and purpose — even accomplishing that can be difficult.
The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.
The question, then — the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?
And of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.
As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here, I was reminded of an encounter I had during my Senate campaign, one that I describe in a book I wrote called “The Audacity of Hope.” A few days after I won the Democratic nomination, I received an e-mail from a doctor who told me that while he voted for me in the Illinois primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life — but that was not what was preventing him potentially from voting for me.
What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my Web site — an entry that said I would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” The doctor said he had assumed I was a reasonable person, he supported my policy initiatives to help the poor and to lift up our educational system, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, “I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.” Fair-minded words.
After I read the doctor’s letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn’t change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my Web site. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that — when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.
That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.”
So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Those are things we can do.
Now, understand — understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.
Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It’s a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. A lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where “differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love.” And I want to join him and Father John in saying how inspired I am by the maturity and responsibility with which this class has approached the debate surrounding today’s ceremony. You are an example of what Notre Dame is about.
This tradition of cooperation and understanding is one that I learned in my own life many years ago — also with the help of the Catholic Church.
You see, I was not raised in a particularly religious household, but my mother instilled in me a sense of service and empathy that eventually led me to become a community organizer after I graduated college. And a group of Catholic churches in Chicago helped fund an organization known as the Developing Communities Project, and we worked to lift up South Side neighborhoods that had been devastated when the local steel plant closed.
And it was quite an eclectic crew — Catholic and Protestant churches, Jewish and African American organizers, working-class black, white, and Hispanic residents — all of us with different experiences, all of us with different beliefs. But all of us learned to work side by side because all of us saw in these neighborhoods other human beings who needed our help — to find jobs and improve schools. We were bound together in the service of others.
And something else happened during the time I spent in these neighborhoods — perhaps because the church folks I worked with were so welcoming and understanding; perhaps because they invited me to their services and sang with me from their hymnals; perhaps because I was really broke and they fed me. Perhaps because I witnessed all of the good works their faith inspired them to perform, I found myself drawn not just to the work with the church; I was drawn to be in the church. It was through this service that I was brought to Christ.
And at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Archbishop of Chicago. For those of you too young to have known him or known of him, he was a kind and good and wise man. A saintly man. I can still remember him speaking at one of the first organizing meetings I attended on the South Side. He stood as both a lighthouse and a crossroads — unafraid to speak his mind on moral issues ranging from poverty and AIDS and abortion to the death penalty and nuclear war. And yet, he was congenial and gentle in his persuasion, always trying to bring people together, always trying to find common ground. Just before he died, a reporter asked Cardinal Bernardin about this approach to his ministry. And he said, “You can’t really get on with preaching the Gospel until you’ve touched hearts and minds.”
My heart and mind were touched by him. They were touched by the words and deeds of the men and women I worked alongside in parishes across Chicago. And Id like to think that we touched the hearts and minds of the neighborhood families whose lives we helped change. For this, I believe, is our highest calling.
Now, you, Class of 2009, are about to enter the next phase of your life at a time of great uncertainty. You’ll be called to help restore a free market that’s also fair to all who are willing to work. You’ll be called to seek new sources of energy that can save our planet; to give future generations the same chance that you had to receive an extraordinary education. And whether as a person drawn to public service, or simply someone who insists on being an active citizen, you will be exposed to more opinions and ideas broadcast through more means of communication than ever existed before. You’ll hear talking heads scream on cable, and you’ll read blogs that claim definitive knowledge, and you will watch politicians pretend they know what they’re talking about. Occasionally, you may have the great fortune of actually seeing important issues debated by people who do know what they’re talking about — by well-intentioned people with brilliant minds and mastery of the facts. In fact, I suspect that some of you will be among those brightest stars.
And in this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you’ve been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. In other words, stand as a lighthouse.
But remember, too, that you can be a crossroads. Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the belief in things not seen. It’s beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.
And this doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us even as we cling to our faith to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.
For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It’s no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule — the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. The call to serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.
So many of you at Notre Dame — by the last count, upwards of 80 percent — have lived this law of love through the service you’ve performed at schools and hospitals; international relief agencies and local charities. Brennan is just one example of what your class has accomplished. That’s incredibly impressive, a powerful testament to this institution.
Now you must carry the tradition forward. Make it a way of life. Because when you serve, it doesn’t just improve your community, it makes you a part of your community. It breaks down walls. It fosters cooperation. And when that happens — when people set aside their differences, even for a moment, to work in common effort toward a common goal; when they struggle together, and sacrifice together, and learn from one another — then all things are possible.
After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the “separate but equal” doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God’s children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the 12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
There were six members of this commission. It included five whites and one African American; Democrats and Republicans; two Southern governors, the dean of a Southern law school, a Midwestern university president, and your own Father Ted Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame. So they worked for two years, and at times, President Eisenhower had to intervene personally since no hotel or restaurant in the South would serve the black and white members of the commission together. And finally, when they reached an impasse in Louisiana, Father Ted flew them all to Notre Dame’s retreat in Land OLakes, Wisconsin — where they eventually overcame their differences and hammered out a final deal.
And years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin, they discovered they were all fishermen. And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history.
I will not pretend that the challenges we face will be easy, or that the answers will come quickly, or that all our differences and divisions will fade happily away — because life is not that simple. It never has been. But as you leave here today, remember the lessons of Cardinal Bernardin, of Father Hesburgh, of movements for change both large and small. Remember that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family, the same fulfillment of a life well lived. Remember that in the end, in some way we are all fishermen.
If nothing else, that knowledge should give us faith that through our collective labor, and God’s providence, and our willingness to shoulder each other’s burdens, America will continue on its precious journey towards that more perfect union. Congratulations, Class of 2009. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
John McCain is a sore loser.
Ever since President Barack Obama took office, McCain has griped and complained about all of the President’s proposals and has only endorsed policies that reflect the Bush-era way of running the country. Well, George W. Bush is no longer President, and neither are the Republicans. Democrats are now in charge, and John McCain and the GOP can’t stand it. Jon Stewart put it best when he said: “It’s supposed to taste like a shit taco.”
Instead of being an opposition party with constructive ideas and criticisms, they have embraced obstructionism and outright demagoguery, in hopes of regaining seat during the mid-term elections. Their pseudo-populism makes me vomit a little bit.
John McCain put his madness on display last tuesday after a recent Department of Homeland Security report, which warned that right-wing extremist groups have been trying to recruit disillusioned veterans. After the report’s release, John McCain demanded an apology from the White House for “insulting” veterans. But John McCain wasn’t the only one filled with self-righteous anger: Pat Robertson was also hysterical, as he made a complete fool of himself (which he does often) on his show. Robertson was clearly agitated as he complained that the DHS was conducting a witch-hunt against veterans, pro-life groups, gun rights groups, and groups opposed to illegal immigration. Robertson complained that the Obama administration was attempting to take away their basic constitutional rights to free speech. Both McCain and Robertson have intentionally mischaracterized the report.
The cries from the right (and some from within the Democratic party) have grown so loud that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has been forced to apologize on several occasions for the wording in the report, which others have construed to be offensive. There have even been demands that she resign and face a congressional hearing. Jeez! Republicans are so eager to burn Napolitano at the stake for an accurate security assessment, but they are wholly opposed to any form of congressional hearings or investigative panels into the wrongdoings of the Bush administration. As far as I’m concerned, the DHS report doesn’t even come close to being as offensive as the use of torture during interrogations, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Bush, Cheney, and the whole administration. I don’t recall John McCain demanding a White House apology for that. I don’t recall Pat Robertson being outraged over Bush-era counter-terrorism policies that clearly violated our constitutional rights. Despite the fact that Napolitano did succumb to pressure to apologize, she insists that she will not resign.
But what exactly did the report say that has everyone so riled up? If you’re interested, I suggest you read the report yourself. The report itself is only nine pages long, and it is fairly uncontroversial. It begins, roughly, by asserting that a Democratic administration, with the first African American President, has given new vigor to radical right-wing extremist groups, who “may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues… [such as] real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit.” The resurgence of radicalized right-wing groups parallels the rapid growth of right-wing extremist groups during the 1990’s, when Bill Clinton was President.
The obvious consequence was the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 carried out by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who was radicalized by right-wing extremist propaganda, such as the fear of a New World Order, a single global currency, a single global police force, and the belief that the government planned to take out every gun owner so that the UN could easily take over the country. He collected large quantities of guns and ammo, and one of his favorite books was The Turner Diaries. He also believed that the government had implanted a computer chip in his butt. McVeigh had returned home from war a hero, but he became disillusioned with his country and the military, and he found it difficult to find employment. In an angry letter to the Lockport Union Sun & Journal, published on February 11, 1992, McVeigh wrote:
…Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises” they will increase. They mess up we suffer…Racism on the rise? You had better believe it… No one is seeing the “big” picture… What is it going to take to open the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline. We have no proverbial tea to dump. Should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a civil war imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.
Clearly, for McVeigh, he felt that the broken system required the shedding of blood. Many of his gripes and concerns can be heard to this day. Believe me: I attended a TEA party rally!
All of this made him easy prey for radicals such as Terry Nichols (also a Gulf War veteran) and James Nichols. The group practiced making bombs, collected right-wing extremist propaganda, and collected guns. The Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents were all the proof they needed to see to understand that the government was waging war against people like them. As McVeigh’s hatred intensified, he began wearing a shirt with a picture of President Lincoln on the front– with the words SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS— THUS EVER TO TYRANTS. On the back was a picture of a bleeding tree with the words of President Jefferson: THE TREE OF LIBERTY MUST BE REFRESHED FROM TIME TO TIME WITH THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. It was only a matter of time before McVeigh and the Nichols brothers would plan and execute the deadly Oklahoma City bombing, which took the lives of 168 people– 19 of whom were children.
Notice his shirt
The report cites an even more recent case, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where “three police officers” were shot to death, “on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’” These beliefs are eerily similar to the ones held by McVeigh, and these people are not alone. Many of these people are online, where they can exchange more of these racist anti-government ideologies and can potentially plot domestic acts of terrorism.
The critics (McCain, Robertson, et al.) complain that the report targets conservatives who disagree with the “leftist” policies of the Obama administration. This is clearly not so. The report clearly indicates that their focus is on radical and extremist groups who are prone to commit violence. The report does not focus on everyday Americans exercising their right to free speech. Those people on the right who have their panties all in a bunch are having a hard time differentiating themselves from the radicals, which seems weird to me. Let me put it this way: a protester outside of Planned Parenthood to commemorate the anniversary of Roe V. Wade is not who the report is talking about– it’s the loon who commemorates the occasion by blowing up an abortion clinic. It’s not the asinine religious zealot with a religious “news” network who has to worry– it’s the asinine anti-semite who shoots up a synagogue that we should worry about. Of course, in both examples, the damage is already done before the offender’s extremism is fully realized. We live in a free country where people can pretty much say and do whatever they want. The consequence, as events have shown, is that people take advantage of our freedom to commit horrible acts of violence. Should we limit freedom to stop these people? Bush and his ilk would say, “YES!” However, I say, “No.” If we want to live in a free society, we have to understand that that freedom can have violent consequences. What we can do, all of us, is be aware of our friends and family members who take their grievances to the extremes. I’m not talking about the sort of snitching the government encouraged during the red scare of the 1950’s. Timothy McVeigh’s friends all remembered him talking about committing acts of violence, but they never reported it or even found it strange. Of course, after the Oklahoma City bombing it made sense, but hindsight is 20/20, right?
Illegal immigration is another issue that is a rallying call for extremist groups. White supremacists, especially perturbed by the election of an African American President, are especially concerned by the influx of Mexican immigrants into our country. There already has been an increase in the number of crimes committed against Hispanics. The report cites two instances: “In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had
discussed and conducted surveillance for a machine gun attack on Hispanics. A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.” This is not language protected under the First Amendment. If you’re as ignorant as Pat Robertson, maybe this is acceptable language, but for society (and the LAW) this is not acceptable language: indeed, this is quite illegal.
The section of the report that has stirred up the most controversy is the section titled “Disgruntled Military Veterans.” Notice that it doesn’t say Military Veterans. It specifically uses the term “disgruntled” so as to avoid confusion. In our heavily politicized country, the McCains and Robertsons of the country have deliberately mischaracterized the report in order to score political points, or to bring down the President’s poll numbers. Disgruntled veterans, such as Timothy McVeigh, return home from war with anti-government sentiments. They possess training and skills that radical right-wing groups would love to take advantage of. True, as McCain points out, McVeigh never built a bomb during his time in Iraq and Kuwait, but he certainly regarded his mission to destroy the Murrah building in Oklahoma City in military terms. This, for him, was the full use of his powers to strike back at a corrupt political system, draw a substantial amount of blood, and gain national attention to his cause for reform. As the report makes clear, there were a number of Gulf War veterans who joined the ranks of radical right-wing groups during the 1990’s.
The DHS report actually cites the FBI, which “noted in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.” This report, mind you, was written in 2008 under the Bush administration, yet it did not elicit calls from McCain for an apology or calls of resignation from Republicans. The hypocrisy is vast and sickening. These people are now trying to paint themselves as targets of the Obama administration, targeted only because they have political differences. That’s just bullshit. They neglect to mention, of course, that on January 26th, the DHS also issued a report regarding left-wing extremists. Using their “logic,” Obama’s targeting everyone.
The report says the following:
[It] assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing
extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.
— (U//LES) DHS/I&A has concluded that white supremacist lone wolves pose the most
significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy—separate fromany formalized group—which hampers warning efforts.
— (U//FOUO) Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.
— (U//FOUO) Arrests in the past several years of radical militia members in Alabama, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania on firearms, explosives, and other related violations indicates the emergence of small, well-armed extremist groups in some rural areas.
The report concludes that the political climate (i.e., African American President and a Democrat controlled government), technological advances, and the downward spiral of the economy, are all factors in the resurgence of right-wing extremist groups.
The report in no way concludes that all veterans are susceptible to these extremists groups, nor does it conclude that citizens with conservative “values” are potential terrorists. The report is very clear about drawing a line between people with honest policy differences (as protected by our constitution) and those who are potential domestic terrorists.
John McCain, you owe the American people an apology. You have deliberately mischaracterized and misinterpreted the DHS report for political gain. You are a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself. You have proven to be just as underhanded and deceitful as you were during the 2008 election. Please go away.
Again, the report is very short and I encourage people to read it.
Here it is.
Everyone, take a deep breath.
Chill the fuck out.
I understand the furor over the AIG bonuses. Not only do they go “against our most basic sense of what’s fair, what’s right, it offends our values,” but they also are symptomatic of a system in serious need of fundamental change. And everyone is outraged over them, from the President right on down to the homeless guy out in front of the McDonalds by where I work.
But are we so “outraged” that we are losing sight of the big picture?
Afterall, the bonuses, though outrageous and boneheaded, are really an insignificant piece of the bailout money they’ve recived. The $165 million in bonuses is only one-tenth of one percent of the $180 billion they recieved in bailout money.
Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve never been great at math, but I’m sure that it works out like this:
$165,000,000/$180,000,000,000 = .0009166
The psuedo-populist rage that exists now originated with the Republican party, eager to shift blame onto President Barack Obama. When President Clinton left office, the national debt stood at $5.73 billion; when President Bush left office, the national debt stood at $10.66 billion. Not only did he double the national debt, but he also accumulated more debt than any President in American history. Some analysts predicted before the current fallout that the national debt would rise to as much as $2 trillion dollars. With President Obama’s stimulus packge and soon-to-be budget those figures are going to rise dramatically.
The GOP is trying to take advantage of American’s collective amnesia. So far, unfortunately, it is working. The party that is now screaming at President Obama to be fiscally responsible was the party, over the last eight years, that spent money like it was going out of style. President Bush did not even use his veto-power until the Democrats came into power in 2007. The sage Alan Greenspan, who recently stated that he was wrong to believe that the financial institutions would self-regulate, also famously admitted, in his book Age of Turbulence, that he had been angered by the Republican’s attitude that “deficts don’t matter.” His advice to President Bush, just as it was under President Reagan, to exercise fiscal responsibility was completely ignored. This attitude not only caused him to leave his position as Federal Reserve Chairman, but it also caused him some measure of happiness when the Republicans were swept out of power. To the surprise of many, this long-time Republican wrote that President Clinton (a Democrat) was far more fiscally conservative than any of the six presidents he worked under, and that he appreciated Clinton’s efforts to slash deficits and reduce the national debt.
Now, let’s turn the clock back to 1993…
President Clinton was putting together a budget hat would increase taxes on th rich, spend more money on important programs, and cut the budgets of programs that were not working. So called fiscal conservatives were outraged by President Clinton’s “tax and spend” budget, but what they missed was the fact that he was implementing short-term growth, but he was also preparing for long-term sustainability of that growth. That is exactly what is happening now under President Obama. Yes, he’s having to spend a lot of money, but he is also investing in long-term growth that will raise the American economy out of the depths of this recession.
But I’m geting ahead of myself.
The AIG bonuses have distracted people from the overall picture. The American public, thanks to the GOP and the “Pro-Obama” media, have been worked up into a frenzy over a semi-irritating story.
The reality is that the bonuses were included in the original bailout deal that was worked out in November 2008… wait… who was President in November?
Oh, yeah! Bush!
Within the original bailout agreement, AIG was allowed to payout retention bonuses to its prized employees, which initially totaled $469 milion (according to an SEC filing by AIG). In a November 2008 HuffingtonPost blog by Representative Elijah Cummings (A Bonus by Any Other Name Still Stinks), he wrote that “the company’s executives will be receiving ‘cash awards’ as ‘retention payments.’ AIG can dress this money up in fancy names, but no one is fooled. A bonus by any other name still stinks.” So, clearly, this was not a process that was clandestine or otherwise kept from the public. And, again, this was known before President Obama came into office.
The public, as usual, was not paying attention.
And, again, the public is not paying attention. They are distracted by their own “outrage” over the AIG bonuses. And President Obama is reaping all the blame that belongs to President Bush and the GOP.
Well, maybe he is partly to blame…
In February, as the Stimulis Bill was making its way through congress, an amendment was added to the bill which would allow companies that recieved bailout money to provide bonuses to “valuable” employees. According to Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn), Treasury officials came to him and insisted that he insert the amendment into the Stimulus bill. Apparently, the move was an effort to prevent lawsuits against the government from employees who were contractually promised bonuses. As Rep. Cummings noted, their bonus is keeping their job.
The President, who may or may not have been aware of the added amendment, has also expressed “outrage,” yet he has urged Americans to keep their eyes on the big picture. The bonuses, he remarked, though distateful, are an unfortunate and neccessary pill to swallow.
Just tonight, in fact, the Congress has passed a bill which places a 90% tax on those individuals that recieved bonuses. President Obama has indicated that he will not sign the bill. Secretary Treasury Tim Geithner has also said that he will deduct $165 million from the already planned additional $30 billion going to AIG.
Hopefully, this story loses its legs soon. Its nothing more than a distraction and an attempt to bring down President Obama’s numbers, which are still high. According to Gallup, President Obama enjoys a 65% approval rating, despite the gloomy economy and the furor over the AIG scandals of late. The American public, despite GOP efforts, still trust President Obama and still have a lot of hope for his presidency.
As President Obama said during his 60 Minutes interview, he is feeling the heat, as many bad choices made over the last few years (before he was President) are forcing him to make decisions that narrow down to “bad and worse”. He, nonetheless, continues to be steady, confident, and eloquent in his ability to convey his message to the American public. In the last week, he spent two days in California– a visit that included a stop on the Jay Leno show. Tonight the 60 Minutes interview airs, and later in the week he will make a televised appeal to the American people in order to rally support for his budget. This generation’s “Great Communicator” has a lot of explaining to do.
Senator Ted Kennedy suffered a massive seizure, which lasted for sometime, during the luncheon celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama. He was seated with former Presidential hopeful Walter Mondale and Senator Robert Byrd, who has also suffered an emergency health situation. According to eyewitnesses, the seizure was quite violent and it lasted well after he was placed into a wheelchair. Theresa Kerry, Senator John Kerry’s wife, attempted to assist Sen. Kennedy just before paramedics arrived. Sen. Kennedy was then moved from the building in a stretcher.
Senator Orrin Hatch walked with Sen. Kennedy as he was placed into an ambulance. According to Sen. Hatch, just before he was moved into the ambulance Sen Kennedy was conscious and gave an “old Irish grin.”
According to Sen. Rockefeller, as the seizure occured, silence was called, the lights were dimmed, and President Obama went to Sen. Kennedy’s side immediately.
As mentioned, Sen. Byrd also suffered a health situation, though it is not yet clear what has happened. He was attended to by paramedics. Just a few moments later, Sen. Kennedy suffered a seizure.
CNN’s Sanjay Gupta reported that Sen. Kennedy would most likely have his medication level checked and receive another brain scan in order to compare it to previous scans. Sanjay Gupta is also someone who might have a role in the incoming administration as Surgeon General.
Please keep them in your prayers.
We are now at the end of day 12 of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Remember that the June 1967 war lasted only six days. In that war, Israel was able to defeat Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and a few other Arab states that contributed some troops to the war against Israel. Israel’s quick victory demonstrated to the world, and to the United States in particular, that they were mightier than they were in 1948. The victory not only crushed Arab Nationalism and unity, smashed Nasser’s political relevance, and gained them huge territorial gains, but it also earned them the support of the U.S., who wished to use Israel as a bulwark against any possible Soviet Union incursion into the middle-east. Israel took the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, and they also took control over the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. This war and the ongoing occupation has continued to influence the conflict in the region.
In the last few days, the violence in Gaza has escalated. An Israeli attack on a school in Gaza where the UN was sheltering about 350 civilians has resulted in the deaths of 40 people, injuring dozens more. This has been the third attack on schools in Gaza in the last twelve days. Most of those killed were civilians, according to paramedics, though Israel maintains that Hamas militants were using the school to fire rockets into Israel. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. General Avi Benayahu said, “We face a very delicate situation where the Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as a protective vest.” The UN will begin investigations into the school bombing. John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said that the UN schools were all “clearly marked” with UN flags and that Israel had been given the global positioning coordinates of all school locations. Ging went on to say that, “We’re demanding full accountability in accordance with international law and the duty of care that the parties to the conflict are obliged to adhere to.” He also denied Israeli assertions that Hamas militants were using the school, saying, “So far we’ve not had violations by militants of our facilities.” He insisted that the UN had vetted all civilians requesting shelter.
So far, nearly 600 civilians have been killed and roughly 2,750 have been wounded in this war. There are conflicting reports over whether or not this Israeli operation was given a green-light from the Bush Administration. Vice President Dick Cheney denied the assertion on CBS’s Face the Nation, saying, “They didn’t seek clearance or approval from us, certainly.” An Israeli website– Debkafile.org— however, reports that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud received a green-light from Presidet Bush, who approved “Israeli air, sea and ground operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” According to the site, Bush also promised Olmert that “the US would veto a resolution condemning Israel at the UN Security Council meeting next Monday.” Bush also reportedly assured Olmert that President-elect Barack Obama was being updated regularly on the ongoing conflict. Texas congressman and politcal rabble-rouser Ron Paul has also expressed his belief that the U.S. provided Israel with a green-light: “Israel depends on us; they depend on us economically, they depend on us for their military power and all their weapons and they really got a green light from our administration.” In another setting, he added, “No matter what they do, it is our money, it is our weapons, and they are not going to do it without us approving it.”
There have also been some reports that Israel has made some crossings into southern Lebanon, sparking fears that Israel might extend its war into Lebanon. There’s speculation that this might be a way of provoking Hezbollah, who has already promised retaliation for Israel’s assassination of a Hamas commander, Imad Mughniyeh. It is doubtful, however, that Israel would want to open a second front with Lebanon during the current conflict. Israel is still smarting from its failed attempt to crush Hezbollah, a radical/militant Shiite group in Lebanon with tremendous influence in the region (and backed by Iran), in July 2006. The incursions into southern Lebanon, more than likely, was Israel’s way of warning Hezbollah to stay out of the fray. Hezbollah, for the most part, has been staging protests against Israel’s invasion, Egypt, and the U.S. The July 2006 invasion of Lebanon was also Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political Waterloo. He is now being forced out of office and elections are being held this February for a replacement.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has again put forward a cease-fire plan, which both men hope Hamas and Israel will take. Though many in the UN applaud this plan, Condoleeza Rice, on behalf of the U.S., has not supported the plan: “We need urgently to conclude a cease-fire that can endure and that can bring real security. This would begin a period of true calm that includes an end to rocket, mortar and other attacks on Israelis and allows for the cessation of Israel’s military offensive,” she said. The current plan, she fears, would lead only to a return to the status-quo. However, after a meeting with Sarkozy, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has announced that Hamas is willing to accept the terms of the truce, saying, “They are ready [to make a deal]. They were ready, they are ready.” The Russian Foreign Ministry has also confirmed that Hamas is willing to agree to a cease-fire, after having met with Hamas’ political leader Khaled Mashaal. According to Mashaal, they would stop the rocket firings if Israel would lift the 18-month blockade that has crippled Gaza’s access to basic neccessities, like food, water, and medical supplies.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meets with Israeli Foreign Minister and PM hopeful Tzipi Livni
However, Egypt, particularly Mubarak, has earned the scorn of Arabs across the region. They view him as someone who has colluded with the enemy at the expense of the Palestinian people. This attitude towards Egypt goes as far back as the U.S. brokered Camp David Accords of 1978, when Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement. They also are angered by his refusal to open the Egyptian border with Gaza to let refugees out and supplies in. Though he has “slammed” Israel’s invasion of Gaza, he blames the invasion of Israel on the failure of the Hamas government to renew the truce, which expired December 19, 2008. He also criticized groups such as Hezbollah, who, he argues, the “plight of the Palestinian people” for “political capital.” Because Egypt is the only “Arab” (though technically Egypt is in Africa) country to border Gaza, many Arabs feel Egypt has an obligation to protect and support the people of Gaza in this desperate time. They feel that Egypt has failed in that regard.
To complicate matters, the spokesman and deputy chief of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a ten minute taped message blasting Egypt, the U.S., and President-elect Barack Obama. He attacked Mubarak as a “traitor” and a “partner” in the “siege and killing.” “At the time when Israeli planes drop their bombs from the air, he closes the borders with his forces so that the plan of the killing of believers in Gaza is fulfilled,” al-Zawahiri said of Mubarak. Al-Zawahirir also blamed Barack Obama for the conflict in Gaza, adding that the conflict was a “gift.” He labeled the attacks a “crusade against Islam and Muslims” and blasted Obama for his silence and his inaction. Al-Zawahiri also encouraged Muslims everywhere to strike back at the aggressors “everywhere.” The recording was posted on several militant Islamic websites, along with a picture of him holding a gun. Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind, has not been heard from in quite some time, prompting some in the intelligence community to wonder about his health, or whether or not he is even alive.
Barack Obama, who is adverse to drama, has had to deal with the Blagojevich scandal and the subsequent attempt to appoint Roland Burris to Obama’s vacant senate seat, the stepping down of Bill Richardson as Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee, Diane Feinstein’s public criticism of Obama’s selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, coming up with a stimulus package, determine his policy on cap-and-trade, plan for tax cuts, and now he has to brace himself for the conflict in Gaza. In the taped recording, al-Zawahiri criticized Obama for his efforts to portray himself as “the savior who will come and change American policy” during the U.S. election but is now “killing your brothers and sisters in Gaza without mercy or even pity.” Obama issued a statement in response to al-Zawahiri: “Starting at the beginning of our administration, we are going to engage effectively and consistently to try to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East.” He also added that he was “deeply concerned” about the loss of life in Gaza. Al-Zawahiri is prematurely blaming Obama for the violence in Gaza, a sign that they did expect Obama to be more proactive when it came to the middle-east. It might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it could be a sign that the war on terror is going to change as Bush leaves office.
This was a landslide, bottom line.
According to CNN, Barack Obama won 349 Electoral Votes to John McCain’s 163. Barack Obama also came away with 52% of the popular vote to McCain’s 48% (roughly 58 million to 52 million, respectively). Last night’s victory was not only a victory for Barack Obama, or the Democratic party, but it was a victory for America. It was also a victory for the world. Finally, the American people have repudiated the Bush administration and have embraced Obama’s message of change. We will see in the next few months how that change will look.
As President-Elect Obama begins his transition into the White House, he faces tremendous challenges. In his acceptance speech last night, he acknowledged that it will take time to overcome all the challenges– it will take more than one year, and more than one term, to overcome all the challenges that he will face as President. The premier challenge, no doubt, will be the failing economy. He will also have to move quickly to meet his promise of resolving the Iraq war within the first 18 months of his term. In addition to that, he will need to tackle the Afghanistan war, which will require more troops, more money, and more co-operation from Pakistan. The biggest challenge, and most important challenge in that region, will be the Middle-East peace process, which has suffered greatly due to a non-existent U.S. role during the last eight years. Of course, there are a whole host of other domestic issues he has to face: health care, education reform, energy independence, and more. Those might have to be placed on the back-burner, unfortunately, until the economy levels off.
But Obama is off to a great start.
He’s already offered the job of Chief of staff to former Clinton aide and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emmanuel. Robert Kennedy Jr., a leading environmental activist, has offered his help to the President-Elect, as has John McCain and a whole host of former and current government officials, including former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, Colin Powell (who has already said he would not serve in an Obama administration), John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and many more. Obama has a whole range of people to choose from when he starts to appoint cabinet members. One thing is for sure: if he is serious about reaching across party lines, then he needs to include Republicans in his cabinet. Otherwise, those promises will be just as hollow as when President-Elect George W. Bush made them.
As Obama gears up for January 20, 2009, the GOP and John McCain are gearing up for civil war.
This election was a repudiation of President Bush, but it was also a repudiation of the GOP brand. Now that the election is over, the party needs to turn inwards and reflect upon its mistakes. It has to change and adapt to the new political environment if it wants to survive. If it does not, then the GOP will find itself in exile for years and years to come. The new task is to find a new leader and to find the courage to work with Democrats in congress. Otherwise, they will find themselves in the role of obstructionists without a direction.
One such leader might very well be Sarah Palin. Many GOP insiders reject the notion out of hand, but there are party members who love the idea of Palin being the new voice of the party.
Of those who reject Palin are George Will and Kathleen Parker. They view her as unready, unknowledgeable, and unpopular. The basis for these claims stems from her less than stellar interviews and her performance on the campaign trail. Others, such as Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity, think that she is a person who can run in 2012, effectively putting her at the head of the party as John McCain’s defeat (and the defeat of several GOP Senators and Representatives) has created a power vacuum.
In the last day or so the quiet grumblings between Palin and McCain aides has exploded onto the national stage. McCain aides have already begun the process of scapegoating Palin. Before the election, anonymous McCain aides described Palin as a “rogue” and “diva”, who was not absorbing the complex policy issues. Palin, for her part, has been complaining that the McCain camp was keeping her from being herself and keeping her from participating in interviews. The McCain camp simply responded, essentially, the few interviews she had were horrific enough– imagine dozens of those kinds of interviews. Their argument basically came down to damage control. Which begs the question– Well, then why the hell did you pick her?
John McCain now has the chance to spend more time with his family, as Sarah Palin begins to prepare for a possible 2012 run, America, and the world, prepares for an Obama administration.
The world over has been celebrating the Obama win. It signals to the world that the U.S. is back. We’re ready to be that beacon of hope, that shining city on a hill, once again. Iran has expressed it’s congratulations and hope that Obama will engage them in direct diplomacy, adding “The president-elect has promised changes in policies. There is a capacity for the improvement of ties between America and Iran if Obama pursues his campaign promises, including not confronting other countries as Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also concentrating on America’s state matters and removing the American people’s concerns”; French PM Sarkozy spoke glowingly of President-Elect Obama: “With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America’s identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond”; Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai applauded Obama’s vitory, yet added that he would like to see the killing of Afghanistan’s civilians halted; Britain’s PM said, “Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack Obama and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy”; Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “I offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your historic victory in the presidential election. The world faces significant challenges at the start of your term. I am convinced that Europe and the United States will work closely and in a spirit of mutual trust together to confront new dangers and risks and will seize the opportunities presented by our global world”; Kevin Rudd, Australia’s PM, added that “Senator Obama’s message of hope is not just for America’s future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future”; Israel’s FM Tzip Livni said, cautiously, “Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue along with the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries”; and an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s President, said, “We hope the president-elect in the United States will stay the course and would continue the U.S. engagement in the peace process without delay. We hope the two-state vision would be transferred from a vision to a realistic track immediately.”
Obama’s got a huge mess before him and he’s going to act fast, in a manner reminiscent of FDR’s first 100 days. For those people who claim Obama is a radical, or is dangerous for our country, think about this: He has inherited Bush’s mess and does not want to be stuck with the blame by making it worse, so he will do everything in his power to solve these problems. Another factor to keep in mind is the fact that he is this nation’s first African-American President. If he fails to provide effective leadership, or is too radical, then he will have effectively ruined any possible hope for another African-American president, or any other minority, for that minority. He has the eyes of the world upon him, but he also has the burden of history on his back. He cannot fail and he cannot do anything to compromise his legacy as the first African-American President.
Expect him to find his way towards unity and compromise. Also, expect him to use restraint and caution in his decisions– he is not impetuous or spontaneous. He will be deliberate and thoughtful with every decision. As Colin Powell said today in an interview, we have no reason to be worried about an Obama administration.
The Election is tomorrow!
In other news…
On highway 101, in Santa Barbara, California (just an hour south from where I live in Santa Maria), there is an Iraq war vet waving a gun and flag, wearing his camouflage uniform, and screaming anti-Obama slurs. He has caused the whole highway to be shut down, as SWAT teams are in place, and apparently are trying to negotiate with a clearly delusional and suicidal individual.
I’m very disturbed by this. I’m worried about the state of our country.
Just the other day, a friend was telling me about a pick-up truck with a horrible anti-Obama sign on it. It read:
<center><i>What’s the difference between Kennedy and Obama?
This racist bullshit is very upsetting to me. I am so ashamed of my country every time I see this. How can we be the beacon of hope for the rest of the world when we still have subversive and fringe elements that cannot even tolerate an African American as President. We’ll have to be constantly on guard against an assassination attempt. It’s very disappointing.
Why can’t these people disagree with him on substance and issues (as I have, as many of you might recall from the Primary season), instead of race? This is the sort of feelings that have been encouraged, implicitly, by McCain and Palin over the last few months.
I really feel bad for the vet. I am guessing that the war had a serious impact on his mental health. He needs to see a professional and get some help… then he needs to be locked up for the duration of Obama’s presidency. That’s one less psycho on the streets.
The whole election is really getting to me.
I’m constantly thinking about, talking about it, writing about it, and reading about it. I dream about it! I’ll be awake for the next three days I’m sure!
I am of two minds on the election: my rational and irrational mind.
The rational side of my brain thinks he will win in a landslide. The polls, I believe, do not take into account the huge number of people that have registered (overwhelmingly as democrats) during this election, especially among African Americans and the youth. I also think there might be a reverse Bradley-effect.
The irrational side of my brain thinks John McCain still has hope. The polls show a tight race, with Obama about 5% ahead. Polls also show that about 5-7% of voters are undecided. If McCain can win the bulk of those voters, he can win this thing. Also, if the youth voters continue their tradition of not voting, then Obama is screwed. He needs them to vote, not to stay home and smoke weed while playing Guitar Hero.
I’m very worried, but not as worried as Larry David, the co-creator of <i>Seinfeld</i> and the creator of <i>Curb Your Enthusiasm</i>. Here’s what he wrote on the Huffington Post:
<i>I can’t take much more of this. Two weeks to go, and I’m at the end of my rope. I can’t work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I’m anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I’m finding enjoyable. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it’s worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there’s still a potential cure. With this, there’s no cure. The result is final. Like death.
Five times a day I’ll still say to someone, “I don’t know what I’m going to do if McCain wins.” Of course, the reality is I’m probably not going to do anything. What can I do? I’m not going to kill myself. If I didn’t kill myself when I became impotent for two months in 1979, I’m certainly not going to do it if McCain and Palin are elected, even if it’s by nefarious means. If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it’s due to racism rather than if it’s stolen. If it’s racism, I can say, “Okay, we lost, but at least it’s a democracy. Sure, it’s a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it’s a democracy.” If he loses because it’s stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I’d rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one. (It’s not exactly a Hobson’s choice, but it’s close, and I think Hobson would compliment me on how close I’ve actually come to giving him no choice. He’d love that!)
The one concession I’ve made to maintain some form of sanity is that I’ve taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being. Sure, there are times when the system breaks down. Michele Bachmann got through my radar this week, right before bedtime. That’s not supposed to happen. That was a lapse in security, and I’ve had to make some adjustments. The debates were particularly challenging for me to monitor. First I tried running in and out of the room so I would only hear my guy. This worked until I knocked over a tray of hors d’oeuvres. “Sit down or get out!” my host demanded. “Okay,” I said, and took a seat, but I was more fidgety than a ten-year-old at temple. I just couldn’t watch without saying anything, and my running commentary, which mostly consisted of “Shut up, you prick!” or “You’re a fucking liar!!!” or “Go to hell, you cocksucker!” was way too distracting for the attendees, and finally I was asked to leave.
Assuming November 4th ever comes, my big decision won’t be where I’ll be watching the returns, but if I’ll be watching. I believe I have big jinx potential and may have actually cost the Dems the last two elections. I know I’ve jinxed sporting events. When my teams are losing and I want them to make a comeback, all I have to do is leave the room. Works every time. So if I do watch, I’ll do it alone. I can’t subject other people to me in my current condition. I just don’t like what I’ve turned into — and frankly I wasn’t that crazy about me even before the turn. This election is having the same effect on me as marijuana. All of my worst qualities have been exacerbated. I’m paranoid, obsessive, nervous, and totally mental. It’s one long, intense, bad trip. I need to come down. Soon. </i>
I feel his pain.
I have to say that I am totally disappointed in Senator Obama’s performance tonight. This was a perfect opportunity to put away Senator McCain, and Obama blew it. Instead, he spent a great deal of time defending himself and explaining himself. Throughout the debate, Obama was cool and collected, and he was able to connect to voters on important issues like health care and education, but he allowed McCain to assume the dominant and aggressive position throughout the night. Now, Obama did not have to hit a home-run tonight because he is in a commanding lead in the polls, but he really should have performed better. He was flat and boring. In short, Obama sucked tonight.
On the other hand, while McCain was aggressive and in attack mode (his comfort zone), he failed to hit a home-run, as well. He failed to provide any details or background on his proposals. More importantly, he failed to follow through on his attacks on Obama, vis a vis Ayers and ACORN. Like his campaign thus far, he was erratic and all over the place, instead of being focused and on message. To his credit, he beat Obama over the head with two issues: Obama’s tax policy and the economy. The latter has been Obama’s strength, but McCain bested him tonight on that topic. However, overall, McCain came across as mean spirited, hateful, and angry. This may have been the cause of his erratic responses throughout the night. While McCain may have pleased his base on issues like abortion and taxes, he did not connect with Independent voters, who will be deciding this election. And, as I wrote in my previous blog, they hate attacks, which is all McCain did tonight. It will be interesting how they respond to tonight’s debate.
Tonight was a draw. Simply put. Obama failed to wow the viewers, and McCain failed to prove his case that he is any different from Bush or that Obama is a dangerous individual. Though tonight was a draw, that is essentially a default victory for Obama and a default loss for McCain. Obama needed only maintain the staus quo of the race, while McCain needed a decisive victory, which he failed to get.
The real winner in tonight’s debate, however, was moderator Bob Schieffer, who succeeded in drawing the two candidates away from their talking points and succeeded in getting them to confront one another. He asked thoughtful and interesting questions tonight that made this the best debate of the election. Good for you, Bob!
Now, we’re off to November 4th!
Oh, and I do have to make one other point. I went to Canada over the summer for my honeymoon. My wife and I stayed in Victoria. We fell in love with the place, but we also fell in love with the people. They were so kind, tolerant, intelligent, thoughtful, and giving. I thought, “Wow, the Canadians are very different from Americans.” I come across so many people in America who are ignorant, hateful, loud, and selfish. By no means do I think all, or even the majority, of Americans are that way, but there are elements of our country that fail, I think to live up to the standards of our forefathers. I thought Canadians had.
Well, that bubble sure burst when I started getting such hateful posts from an individual called clancop, who is a Canadian. He’s a little ball of hate, that guy. I guess I was wrong about Canada. Well, that’s what happens when you make generalizations, I suppose.