Tag Archives: bush

The liberal agenda needs unity

1 Dec
photocredit: Kevin Krejci (flickr)

photocredit: Kevin Krejci (flickr)

Back in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq War, protests blanketed the world. San Francisco, DC, Paris, London, Sydney, Berlin. On that particular day, anti-war protesters united to send a clear message to George W. Bush: No Iraq War!

Actually, it was hardly clear or united. Interspersed amongst the Iraq war protesters were those chanting for Palestinian independence, vegetarianism, the end of sweat shops, more education funding, universal healthcare, the end of military spending, and more gun control. It was hardly a chant, but more of a cacophony of interests, each trying to reach a higher decibel than the rest.

This is a pervading flaw in the liberal movement. Instead of focusing on one overarching issue at a time, or even just a handful at once, liberals (or progressives as some are now calling themselves in the hopes of giving the brand a new beginning) take on more than they can chew. Just look at the aforementioned list of complaints and see how many have actually been addressed 6 years later.

photocredit: D.C. Atty (flickr)

photocredit: D.C. Atty (flickr)

This splintering effect does not only hurt the coherence of the movement, but the credence. It may be why so many people make the “liberal” interchangeable with “flip-flopper,” “wimpy,” or someone who lacks fundamental principles. Each new sub-topic siphons powers away from the most pressing causes of the day.

Conservatives are masters at keeping the pack intact. Even if they are falling off a cliff, they will do so together. There is tremendous power in that. The Republican party currently has little to no political capital, outnumbered in both chambers, a dismal approval rating, and the Bush stain that is hard to rub off. Yet, they are heard and command respect. They still have power while being powerless. Overtures and concessions to the GOP have been made by Democrats, infuriating the liberals that back the latter. By staying united, an unmovable, impermeable blob, they force others to change course or make deals that benefit the conservative cause.

The current political landscape would make anyone think the liberal agenda is steamrolling through Congress and sweeping the nation. But it isn’t. It’s crawling forward, in need of many jump starts, and reaching the finish line a mutated thing alien to many liberals. Compare that to almost any year in the Bush administration with a Republican Congress (2000-2006). Nearly every initiative he proposed was passed, or at least seriously considered. The Democrats were pushed aside, and rarely pushed back. Even policies Bush proposed that jarred with traditional conservatism were approved by GOPers that were still fond of Reagan. Conservative principles were abandoned time and time again by Republicans, but they were so in unison.

Liberals needs to understand this basic fact of political pressure: one firm blow is more effective than dozens of little pricks. If they want Obama to listen to their cause, they need to apply firm pressure, all at once. This has clearly not been the case thus far. Things like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which could be axed out by Obama in one firm blow, are hardly a sure thing. He doesn’t see the urgency in dealing with it. That is where activists come in.

They need to pressure Congress and the President to act and now. But they need to find unity first.

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Where's the Cabinet?

28 Oct

If you’ve ever read a White House memoir, or a book on what goes on inside this or that administration (typically by Bob Woodward), you know president’s often have a peculiar view of their cabinets.

These people, who were handpicked, either happily or not so much, by the president, were originally marginal figures, with as much power as the presidential dog. Ask a White House historian and you may find that Bo has more influence in foreign policy now than the Millard Filmore cabinet ever did.

Around the time Eisenhower and Kennedy picked the men (only men, back then) that would help them lead the nation, some major responsibilities were finally given to the cabinet. They had actual power and were no longer just placemats with fancy titles. As soon as this power was siphoned off to them, it led to interesting subsequent relationships between the hand that fed and the dog(s).

Nixon was typical Nixon when it came to his cabinet. He called them “idiots,” “dirty,” and a bunch of “clowns.” He delegated what he thought of as the boring work to them: domestic policy. Nixon was so antagonistic towards his cabinet (save for his kindred spirit, his national security advisor, Prof. Henry Kissinger) that he would lock them out of meetings or leave them with little hesitation.

George Bush’s cabinet was more like a fraternity. Everybody thought in groupthink, prompting the disillusioned Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to call the scene a “blind man leading a room full of deaf people.” Those that just couldn’t take the blindness left promptly (Powell), while the rest were held tight by Bush with ardent loyalty.

Obama’s cabinet is somewhere in the middle. Although Obama is a seasoned pol who knows the importance of loyalty and respect in politics, he is not emotionally attached to his crew like Bush was. He did not shed a tear when he promptly dropped his nominee for the Secretary of Health, Tom Daschle, when he was caught in tax snafu. The same went for Bill Richardson, his intended Secretary of Commerce and fierce ally. Obama lacks the heat Nixon had toward his cabinet, or the warmth Bush shed over his.

And while the full nature of the relationship between the two has yet to be seen (there has yet to be a disagreement on policy or protocol between them), there is a definite idea as to what role each play in public.

This administration’s cabinet still hasn’t decided what kind it will be. At times it can be a unified front of wiz kids, showcasing their strength and smarts on Sunday morning shows and press conferences. Most of the times, however, it looks neutered, with very little panache of their own.

Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, may be the best example of the latter. As soon as he was confirmed by the Senate, he sparkled with ambition and daring, coming up with innovative ways to rescue the economy. Once those ambitious and daring proposals were shot down by everyone and their mother, he scuttled back behind Obama, wounded and afraid. He has not recuperated much since then, choosing to now flex his muscle in private and in whispers.

Hillary Clinton may be the best example of a cabinet member that can stand on her own, yet collaborate with the president and the rest of the team when needed. She’s taken initiative on various topics (Af-Pak, human/women’s rights around the globe), all while showing a deference to the president. She is, in a sense, the perfect cabinet member–as if anyone would doubt she was capable of taking up this job.

Other Secretaries are somewhere in the middle, trying to become “deputies of their own department,” as Nixon expected from his cabinet, but not willing to pull too far away from Obama and face the cold reality by themselves. Arnie Duncan-  Education, Ray LaHood-Transportation, Kathleen Sebelius-Health, among others, are slowly filling their role, making their own name and departments, but they are not there yet.

Once all cabinet members truly own their departments it will make President Obama’s life a whole lot easier and productive. At the moment, he still has to hold their hand, or intervene when they botch the task. His cabinet is definitely smart, possibly as book smart as Kennedy’s “best and the brightest.” Now they just have to get street smart. Hillary could definitely teach them that.

Obama Welcomes Interrogation Investigations

21 Apr

In a sharp move away from what his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, said over the weekend, President Obama told reporters today that he is open to a deeper investigation of the controversial interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.

This has been a tug-of-war between Obama and the GOP. There was even talk that the Republicans were attempting to blackmail Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to prevent the release of memos detailing and promoting torture techniques written by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Obama is now telling Congress that if they really do want to look into this controversial remnant of the Bush years (another way of saying “Are you sure you wanna do this? Ok, whatever.”), they should only focus at the top of the food chain and use an independent commission rather than a congressional committee.

From Politico:

“I’m not suggesting that that should be done but I’m saying, if you’ve got a choice, I think it’s very important for the American people to feel this is not being done — to provide one side or the other political advantage but rather it’s being done in order to learn some lessons so that we move forward in an effective way,” Obama said.

Former Veep Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and almost any Republican left with too much time on their hands after being laid off, are crying ‘foul’ to anything Obama changes about their torture policy. Of course they would. These are the same people that believe the president’s executive privilege includes overruling international agreements signed by the United States, like the Geneva Convention re: torture.

source: Politico

Obama Blackmailed by Republicans Over Torture Memos?

6 Apr

Welcome to Washington, Mr. Obama.

Another dramatic turn in what is turning out to be some of the most compelling years in American politics, there are rumors that President Obama is being strongarmed by the GOP. The haggle is over four memos written by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel and Office of Professional Responsability, that include explicit approval of specific torture techniques such as waterboarding, confinement in coffin-like containers, and some “head-smacking” for good measure.  Continue reading

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