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Archive for Obama

‘The Secret Heart of Presidents’ or ‘The book Obama must have read’.

April 16, 2010

Ever wonder how Presidents sleep at night? What they dream about? What their hopes and fears are? I do. They are men after all. Subject to the vagaries of life on planet earth. Like us, they are buffeted by change, confused about the motivations of their fellow-man, bewildered by shifting political alliances, troubled by the choices put in front of them. Ever wonder what they wish for?

I’ve just read a great book. It’s called, ‘The Next 100 Years’, by George Friedman. In it, he looks at world problems in terms of economic rather than ideological terms. History and geography, he contends, play a greater role in shaping the planet than any passing political philosophy.

It answers a whole lot of questions that have been plaguing me of late and in no particular order, here they are;

‘Why is it that politicians always act so differently when they achieve power as compared to their campaign promises?

Why have we abandoned space exploration?

What’s up with China?

Tea Party? I mean really, the Tea Party?!!!!

Taken as a whole one would be forgiven for believing that the U.S has lost its collective mind. Here is a sampling; It took a whole year to pass what amounts to a rather meager effort to fix Health Care even though it has been crippling the economy for years. It’s been almost two years since the financial meltdown and yet no reforms have been put in place and one of the only two major political parties is dead set against it. Guantanamo bay is still open and we are still in Iraq.

The President is intelligent, subtle , nuanced and civilized, ( just read his books or listen to what other world leaders think of him), yet, for all of that, a rather vocal minority can only concentrate on the color of his skin.  We on the left of the political spectrum have our own problems with the President’s policies that have nothing to do with his birth certificate and everything to do with the disparity between what he promised and what has actually taken place under his administration so far.

So what happened? Well, George Friedman would say that what happened is what happens to all men who achieve the office of the Presidency of the United States. Once in power they have very few good options on the table from which to create policy. There are geopolitical forces at work which they have no control over. And taken in that context things start to make more sense. As an example, given the situation in Israel and Palestine, would John McCain behave differently? Would he be able to get these two sides together? Can anyone? Given the political instability in China, can anyone dictate currency policy in that country? Given the criminal and rabid partisanship in his own country – where charges of treasonous behavior against him are a daily occurence – how does he achieve consensus on any piece of legislation when all anyone can focus on is the color of his skin? I mean we actually have people in this country who would spit and hurl racial epithets at legislators ( caught on camera) and then deny it happened. And these same people are forming a political party of their own from largely middle-aged white guys who would routinely vote against their own best interests just to maintain the status quo.

Looked at from an immediate standpoint, the countries of the earth are a mess – or rather a mass of conflicting ideologies unable to reconcile their differences other than to wage war. Whether it be wars of aggression or economics or neglect. Looked at from space or history, the world is behaving the way it always has – each country (tribe) trying to secure resources for its own members. And, like it or not, the United States Of America is the pre-eminent tribe on this globe at the moment and, according to George Friedman who makes his living studying these things, will be the pre-eminent tribal power for the next hundred years or so.

So, does President Obama go to bed at night as President Bush and 40 others before them did, consumed by the myriad choices before him and his country? Does he have nightmares about the world consumed in nuclear fire? Does he pray, as Lincoln did, that his administration doesn’t do so much damage in four years that the incoming administration couldn’t fix it? You bet he does. He is a man after all. And he deserves our prayers – and sympathy.

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I Don’t Want To Believe It.

February 23rd, 2010

I just read a very well written, very disturbing essay by Lawrence Lessig expounding on what’s really wrong with congress these days. It was disturbing because it had the ring of truth to it. It’s called, ‘How To Get Our Democracy Back’,  and I encourage anyone who wants some clear insight into the fractured system we live under to read it.

Basically, he is saying that in order to get anything positive accomplished in our society it is necessary to change the campaign laws of the country so that our politicians are not beholden to corporate interests. After all, the old adage is still true – ‘You dance with the one that brung ya’,  and you can’t expect politicians to concentrate on the good of the country and the good of their own war chests at the same time. So far, so good. It may be distasteful to hear but I can well believe it. But what is harder to hear and what I don’t want to believe is that President Obama had a unique, historic opportunity to take on this problem – and he blew it.

At this point I start to protest. At this point my instincts are to start to draw comparisons of character and style between our current President and our former President. At this point I want to point out to Mr. Lessig just exactly what the situation was that President Obama walked into on day one of his Presidency and how unfair it is to rail against him for a missed opportunity here and there when he was neck deep in muck not of his own making. I want to point out that there is no training, no course one can take for being POTUS. It is a high pressure, on the job learning curve that has made more than one man’s hair turn gray overnight and if anyone can handle that kind of pressure and learn and grow in the job, President Obama can.

You see, my emotions are in play.  I, like millions of others, are emotionally invested in this man and what his campaign stood for. It hard for us to step back and dispassionately assess his first year in office when we are still reeling from the debacle that was the previous eight. But facts are stubborn things and the truth exists whether I believe it or not. And the hard truth is that Mr. Lessig is right. Congress is the problem that President Obama should have tackled first.

Congress is indeed broken and has become infested with opportunists who are looking to line their own pockets and, ‘hell and be damned’, to the needs and wishes of their constituents. Everyone is angry – both on the left and the right and the disparity between what our politicians say and actually do, (or don’t do), is becoming more and more blatant. We are becoming more cynical as a nation and there is a danger that we will adopt one of two polarized attitudes – either we become extremists or we become disengaged altogether.

I would like to propose a third option;  ‘Help Him!’.   Who?  The President, that’s who. Let’s engage that most important and least used emotion of our political arsenal, empathy, and do everything we can to help our President. It is, quite possibly, the hardest job in the world. (Well, would you want it?). Lets write our congressmen and sign our petitions and march in our streets, (peacefully). Lets have civil, passionate discourse about our problems and what to do to fix them. Lets pray for the President and ourselves. And above all else – lets believe that it’s not too late to fix what is broken and to stand for the truth – even if it’s hard to look at.

I was Wrong.

Steve_kleur(2) November 8th, 2009

I read a lot of Blogs. It’s become an obsession really. I love to write’em and I love to read’em. It’s an ego thing. Us political bloggers love to be able to look into our crystal balls and predict what’s gonna happen next. We love to display our incredible writing skills for all the electronic world to see and we all harbor a fantasy that someday we’ll write something that is so brilliant that everyone will want to read it and we will finally get the accolades that we so richly deserve. But the funny thing about political blogging is that one is often proved wrong. I have written about 10 blogs now and , while my political insights have been uniformly unique, fun, funny and devastatingly intelligent; I have been wrong most of the time!

‘What?! Whataya mean? ( This is me talking to myself. Bloggers do that a lot.) He actually accepted the Nobel Prize?  I thought he would reject it! The Democrats  tried to pass health care this year? I told them to wait! What????!!!! They actually passed Health Care in the House last night? What the hell is going on?’

Well, as difficult as this is to admit, I think that what is going on is that while I have been busy wittily showing off my profound political intellect, President Obama has been busy writing History. This is the problem with trying to advise people smarter than you are.

So yeah, The House passed a bill that still has to go through Senate machinations before Our President can sign it into law. And yeah, the rhetoric from the Republicans will become increasingly shrill and insane. (See how cleverly I inserted that prognostication?) But now I hesitate to advise President Obama on how to play it ’cause I keep looking stupid.

President Barack Hussein Obama – still the smartest guy in the room.

Now, Mr. President, what shall we talk about? Oh yes; Afghanistan…..

Peace and Understanding

Steve_kleur(2) October 9th, 2009

You really do have to wonder sometimes…..

SCENE: The White House Residence – 3:30 A.M EST

White House Chief of Staff : ‘Mr. President? Mr. President! Please sir, wake up.’ (shakes him)

POTUS: ‘Hmm?  Mmmfff -Yes? What is it?’

White House Chief of Staff: ‘Bad news sir.’

POTUS: ‘Damnit all! I told the Israelis to hold off!’

White House Chief of Staff: ‘It’s not the Israelis sir.’

POTUS: What then? – ‘The North Koreans lobbing missiles into the ocean again?’

White House Chief of Staff: ‘Worse sir, the Swedes just gave you the Peace Prize.’

POTUS : ‘Too early for jokes, Rahm.’

White House Chief of Staff: ‘No Joke sir. ‘( Hands him newspaper)

POTUS: (Reads headline with incredulous look on his face.)’ Damn! ( Throws paper against wall) ( Dog wakes up and starts barking)’Get Gibbs in here. Now!’

Enter Press Secretary Gibbs.

POTUS: (gesturing at newspaper on floor) ‘ Gibbs, please tell me this is an “Onion” piece.’

Gibbs:’ Afraid not , Mr. President.’

Potus: ( Reaches for cigarette) ‘Damnit Gibbs! Just what the hell are they trying to do to me? I’m trying to pass Health Care!’

Gibbs: ‘I know, Mr. President.’

POTUS: ‘You know what to do?’

Gibbs: ‘I think so, Mr. President.’

POTUS: ‘Are the vultures circling yet?’

Gibbs: ‘Since 3:00 A.M Mr. President.’

POTUS: (sighs) ‘ Okay, get my speech writer in here, then.’

Gibbs: ( Clears throat – looks at floor)  ‘Mr. President, you write your own speeches, sir.’

POTUS: ‘Damn it all to Hell and back! Fine. (Puts out cigarette.) Call the press conference. I’ll be over in a minute.’

Sort of writes itself, doesn’t it? Now we all sit back and watch the hysteria for the next week.  Meanwhile, if the President has any advisors worth their salt, they are already telling him he has to respectfully decline the prize. This is actually the best strategy all around. Declining the prize shows his proper humility thus further endearing him to the world. It effectively silences his critics that he hasn’t achieved enough yet to warrant such an honour.  And , he can use this opportunity to speak to the world about domestic matters at home without seeming to exploit his international goodwill. Win, win, and more win.

Gee, if he plays this right he could actually pass Health Care and the Republicans wouldn’t even know what hit them. Go, POTUS, Go!

Blue Dogs.

steve_kleur3April 4, 2009

You really do have to wonder sometimes…

Here we are barely 80 days into a new Democratic administration after years in the political wilderness and we’ve already got dissension in the ranks. I’m talking about this new coalition of Democratic Senators who are trying to make political hay by questioning the new President’s agenda. What are they thinking? They finally win the White House and all they can do is whine and worry that President Obama’s policies aren’t fiscally conservative enough? So, I guess by difference they were happy with the old administration’s fiscal policies? Bush ran up record deficits and didn’t even bother to find out what was happening to the economy. Everyone, every single one of the appointees , from the Fed. chair on down, dropped the fiscal ball but these Senators are now all of the sudden worried about the new guy? Please. There is obviously something else at work here.

These elected officials are commonly known as “Blue Dogs”. Basically this term is used to describe a Democrat who thinks and votes like a Republican. And, if history is any indication, they are usually from the Southern states where they would elect a ‘Yellow Dog” before they would elect a Republican. (This is a throwback to the Civil War days when being a Republican was tantamount to treason against your country. Or, at least, the new country you were trying to create by seceding from the union.) In Ronald Reagan’s time they formed a group bizarrely named “Democrats for Reagan.”

I think the Party Whip ought to remind these Senators that you “dance with the one that brung ya” and that the Civil War has been over for 144 years.  You can’t have it both ways. Either get on board with the new commander in chief’s policies and stop whining or else declare yourselves unfit for public service and go where all self serving politicians go – the Republican Party.

President Obama has inherited enough problems without having to persuade members of his own party which way to vote on policy. Dontcha think?