Tag Archives: pundits

President Obama Shreds the Pundits.

121012_barack_obama_speaks_ap_328Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 1.25.45 PMPresident Obama made the following remarks at a recent fundraiser, calling out the false equivalency narratives spun by the insufferable, Beltway-blinkered poobahs of the pundit class. He should continue to say these things publicly and emphatically – just like Harry Truman would have – all the way up to the mid-term elections.

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. 

“But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. 

mitch-mcconnell“We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

john-boehner-sequester“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. 

Barack Obama by Nitin Vadukul for Newsweek - 12/20/2004“There are no radical proposals coming out from the left.  When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy.  When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism.  We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago.  We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…

“Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system.  All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

paul_ryan_s640x427“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true.  What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”

Now, I wish the mainstream Democratic Party position on climate change was more radical – and I don’t like hearing President Obama extolling an “all of the above” strategy, especially if that means we all get “fracked” in the process.

20090805_nancy-pelosi_33But, let there be no doubt. Progressives must get out the vote this fall. The only answer to our broken Congress is a Senate controlled by Democrats – and a House of Representatives in which Nancy Pelosi once again holds the gavel. Important issues like climate change, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, Wall Street reform and income inequality will never be addressed while Republicans are in a position to obstruct positive change.

clearly-john-boehner-wrote-this-press-release-before-the-jobs-report-came-outThen, in 2016, we must work to keep a Democrat in the White House – because our endangered democracy can’t afford another religiously biased, corporate stooge conservative on The Supreme Court.

But first – we’ve got to get that oversized gavel out of John Boehner’s hands.mitch-mcconnell1-e1365549079396

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President Obama Goes to War…

Syria banner 1Syria banner 2What should a progressive liberal Democrat think about President Obama’s intention to bomb Syria?

What should progressives think about a Nobel Peace Prize laureate launching a punitive military strike against the Assad regime?

What are the political dangers that President Obama faces as he awaits a Congressional vote to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime?

130826194414-exp-tsr-npw-tabler-on-syria-00002001-horizontal-galleryI’ve heard all these questions and more debated over and over on radio and TV in recent weeks by the usual parade of talking heads – folks who’ve been mostly wrong on everything since 9-11 and George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

syriagraphic-bGenerally on channels like FOX, CNN, MSNBC and the network Sunday morning shows the debate about Obama and Syria plays out in the context of a political game in which Obama is either the winner or the loser depending upon the speaker’s own political bias or the pundit’s ability to foresee the future in ways that President Obama evidently cannot.

I’ve listened to all this crosstalk (it can’t be called “debate” or “argument” – which both require that some listening be done) and I think the chattering class and political grandstanders are largely ignoring the central question: the one that I believe is foremost on Obama’s mind.

How should the United States respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people?

Germany US ObamaLiberals and progressives like me (though not necessarily Democratic politicians) are uncomfortable with the use of force. We don’t like military answers to problems that can be solved diplomatically. Unlike uber-hawks like Senator John McCain, we don’t see the sledgehammer as the only tool in the arsenal of democracy.

Syria-War-RoomWe on the left have been gratified by President Obama’s diplomatic outreach to the Muslim world and his reticence to swing our military sledgehammer in the china shop of international relations. Many of the talking heads and politicians clucking today squawked that Obama was too slow to launch a strike against Gaddafi in Libya. I was pleased that, when Obama did move against the Gaddafi regime, he did so in a limited and effective way — just as he did in taking out Osama bin Laden.

So, when this President urges a military response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons I am far less cynical than I would be if Bush and Cheney were still in charge. And that’s not a partisan political calculation: it’s a matter of observation and unfortunate experience.

tomahawk-cruise-missile-bosnian-genocide1Having wound down two costly and controversial wars of choice that have eroded American prestige abroad and the public’s faith in government at home, President Obama surely hoped that the situation in Syria would not escalate to the point where the U.S. would have to consider launching cruise missiles to hold Bashar Assad accountable to international law and standards of human decency.

The thought of bombing someone in retaliation for committing war crimes is hard for peace-loving people to wrap their heads around.

But what are the options?

un-security-council-10-14-782609Getting the United Nations on board is impossible because Russia and China (who have their own obvious reasons for protecting the prerogatives of dictators) will use their Security Council veto to block any UN move against Assad’s regime. The fractious Europeans and the war-weary Brits will not be any help. And our allies among Syria’s neighbors – Turkey, the Saudis, the smaller oil states and Israel – would like to see Assad spanked hard for his transgressions but they rightly fear the chaos that could follow regime change in Syria. The Syrian refugee problem in Turkey and Jordan is already a crisis after years of brutal civil war — and what’s happened in Libya and Egypt after the ousters of Gaddafi and Mubarak does not augur well for a peaceful post-Assad transition in Syria.

0831-obama-isolated-syria.jpg_full_380With all these factors in play, President Obama still feels that the United States must take the lead and defend mankind against the use of chemical weapons by a despot. Clearly, in threatening military action against Assad, Obama intends to fire a shot across the bow of the young despot in North Korea and the religious despots in Iran whose pursuit of nuclear weapons pose even greater dangers to humanity.

So, all that said — how should the United States respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people? I’m glad that the U.S. Congress will be debating that question.

130822172045-tsr-foreman-u-s-options-in-syria-chemical-attacks-00005109-horizontal-galleryTwo things bothered me most about Obama’s run-up to military action in Syria. My first concern was that Obama was ready to act before the United Nations inspectors had finished their investigation and reported their findings. That felt too much like Bush chasing the weapons inspectors out of Iraq so he could start his war. My second concern was that Obama was ready to go to war in Syria (because that’s what firing cruise missiles is, let’s face it) without authorization from Congress.

I don’t know whether the vote in Parliament and Prime Minister Cameron’s decision to bow to the will of his legislature was the deciding factor that led Obama to seek a vote in Congress, but I’m glad he’s doing it. It’s essential to our democracy to debate matters of war and peace.

APTOPIX-Obama-US-SyriaIt’s also good to see John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi both supporting President Obama: a rare display of bipartisanship. Of course, such displays of bipartisanship are what led Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to endorse President Bush’s cowboy adventure in Iraq. But it appears that the lessons learned in the Iraq war vote have led lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft a resolution that ensures a strike against Syria will be limited, specific and short-term, with no “boots on the ground”. (BTW – Does every pundit have to say “boots on the ground”? Can’t someone please say “ground troops” or “infantry” or “ground forces”?)

Syrian-activists-inspect-bodies-2202665I hope Congress focuses their debate on the question of how the United States should respond to the use of chemical weapons by a dictator against his own people. Leave the domestic political games behind. Take a stand based on what’s best for humanity – and with an eye toward the message this vote will send to North Korea and Iran. (Alas, there are bad guys in the world.)

DownloadedFilePresident Obama clearly has little to gain in this whole affair. For himself, that is. But he doesn’t appear to be concerned about his own political fortunes or the mid-term elections or any of the things that the pundits focus on so relentlessly. There have been times in the past 100 years when American strength and resolve stood as a bulwark between oppressed people and the evil forces that threatened them. I believe that’s how President Obama sees this moment in Syria and why he feels The United States must take action to hold Bashar Assad accountable for his criminal use of lethal gas against his own citizens.

AP_barack_obama_syria_press_conference_thg_130831_16x9_992And that’s why I stand by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry — and I urge my representatives to vote in favor of authorizing the use of force against the Assad regime.

Let the debate begin!

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