Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Predictions and other stuff

I've been absent because I was waiting for some rationality to appear in our politics. No such luck. Old Republicans like Bob Dole and Bill Frist came out to support health care reform only to be slapped aside by the sitting team. The health care sausage making is about two-thirds through and Hapless Harry Reid has managed to put in a public option, which paves the way for this major reform to be adopted by Christmas break. My gut tells me the late night assault on health care reform by the insurance industry kicks the can over. It was too blatantly an act of intimidation.

I believe the no vote on the Gay Marriage Proposition in Maine will pass. The reasons have more to do about Maine than the issue. During the 2008 presidential election, Republican Senator Susan Collins begged the RNC to stop the Bill Ayres robocalling against Obama because Mainers were offended by outsiders trying to pressure them. The pro-Gay marriage campaign ran ads with real people from Maine while the anti-marriage crowd ran the same people seen in California and ran alarms about the possibility of gay marriage actually being taught in school. The Maine attorney general and the head of the school boards had to shut this down. The so-called teachers in the ads were from Christian Schools of states to be named later. The other slip was that the anti-gay marriage crowd ,according to Maine law, has to reveal their donors, which they are suing to prevent. Not a great image to have. While the vote is close, I think marriage equality will hold. This would be the first electoral victory on this issue after a series of defeats.

I also see Creigh Deeds going down to defeat in Virginia. I don't think the Obama get out the vote blitz at the end will be enough to save him. Deeds made one fatal mistake in turning down Obama's early offer to campaign and then ran a lackluster campaign.

The most defeatable Governor-Jon Corzine, will squeak to victory in New Jersey. Doggett's third party run will siphon off the Christie vote. Christie's campaign has been mired in controversy over the past month.

In the very beautful congressional district in upstate New York, the Republicans look like they could actually lose the district for the first time since 1871. This district was never won by Senator Pat Moynihan or Hillary Clinton during their Senate runs. It is as solid a Republican district as could be. But the Republican assemblywomen chosen by the party is facing a rich Conservative Party candidate supported by the teabaggers, Dick Armey, head teabagger, Sarah Palin, The Club of Growth, Tim Pawlenty and assorted Southern congressmen. It is a preview of the fratricidal goings-on in Republican ranks.

At the end of the day, the 2009 electoral contests will reveal nothing about the future. But the internal revolt of teabaggers, Ron Paulists and others to "purge" the Republican party of all those who fail to conform to the anti-government mantra will delay the party's rebuilding into a national force. Personally, I don't think Republicans can get their act together in time for 2012.
Even with electoral victories, it's hard to project anything the party represents.

Dick Cheney resurfaced at Frank Gaffney's Award dinner to try and win the national security debates he lost in 2004. This time it's Obama fault and not George W. Having failed to pay attention to Afghanistan for eight years, Cheney demands that Obama escalate now to protect our troops. We all remember John McCain's Afghanistan policy--"just muddle through". Now even John wants Surge II. By the time I return from Africa, the decision will be made and it will probably be sending more troops but not the total requested by General McChrystal.

I also believe Iran will accept the third country enrichment proposal supported by the United States. The reason--all sides need to buy time. Our digital generation reports that Iranian pro-democracy activity has increased--not decreased over the last few weeks, despite our own media's failure to report.

If you want to know what President Obama foresees for our economy, you should listen to the Geek-in Chief's address to MIT. I believe this was as significant as JFK's Moon speech. It received hardly any attention ,probably because it was too wonky. But he outlined the role new energy technologies will play in transforming our national economy. A little known fact--within the stimulus package was the largest funding of scientific and technological research in the history of the world. As one of the last Republicans who believes in science, this was deliriously wonderful.

Meanwhile back to 2012 GOP prospects, it's clear the next Republican presidential nominee will be a creationist--Palin, Huckabee, Pawlenty are all anti-evolution people. Mitt Romney, much to his political disgrace, is not a creationist. For the anti-government party, one has to look toward Oklahoma for the new bill being proposed on the fetus as person, which requires a battery of papers to be filled out by the pregnant woman and that doctors will be forced to conduct periodic vaginal probes to determine viability. The state's Senate delegation is headed by foremost climate change denier Jim Inhofe and Senator Ensign's adultery enabler Tom Coburn. How strange is this mix and can the world's largest--even though damaged--economy afford these people?

New Gallup polls show more Americans than ever are religiously "unaffiliated" and the number of "atheists" is growing. Atheist Christopher Hitchens retained his intellectual honesty by noting that the unaffiliated are not those who are not religious but those who have been turned off by the religious right. Evangelicals sensing this recently held a conference at a seminary where they expressed alarm that the younger generation of evangelicals believe politicians are all hypocrites and that religious people should get back to religion. Somehow this became a debate between Christopher Hitchens and a minister on FOX over the rise in unbelief and the minister "proving" Christianity, which is beside the point of recent findings. The religious right's failure to dissent from GOP positions on the economy and healthcare reform gives validates alot of the younger generation's perceptions.

New Gingrich finally woke up from his stupor. Newt is coming out against the "purge "of the Republican Party,saying that with 20% you can have a very vigorous movement but to govern you need 50% plus 1. Party ID has now slipped to 20% and people fear that 20% is composed of birthers, vaxers, tenthers and the handful of neoconservatives left. The new plurality in American politics are independents, which have a slight lead over the Democrats. It's hard to envision independents breaking for a group of people who act mad.

Roger Ailes said he won't run for President. It's delicious to see the brains behind Nixon's media efforts being attacked by the Obama White House. Ailes has broken new grounds in news broadcasting. Fox News is the first major metwork ever to have organized and promoted months in advance anti-government rallies. This is a whole new dimension to political activism.

And I leave you for a while with the following question," Why isn't Karl Rove in jail?"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

America's Nobel Peace Prize

Remember when Europeans said,"We are all Americans now." after September 11th. Within a few short years, the United States took a tumble to the seventh most admired country and a plurality of the world believed that America was a force for evil in the world. After almost a generation where Latin America had lost its anti-Americanism, it came back in force. Throughout the Arab world, Bin Laden actually polled higher than the American President. In seven short months, the National Brand Index showed the United States had regained its past position as the number 1 admired country in the world. According to the NBI pollsters, this was the most rapid comeback in its history. They attributed this to the popularity of the election of President Barack Obama.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee did the United States a huge favor in awarding President Obama its prestigious award. In its commendation, it made it clear that the award was for accomplishments done and not just hopes for the future. In essence, their award was for defining the new language for international affairs and his outreach to the world in seeking cooperative solutions to the challenges of the 21st century. Awarding the President of the United States the Nobel Peace Prize was a recognition of the centrality America plays in formulating the solutions to the world's problems from climate change to peace in the Middle East. Of particular note, they underlined his commitment to seeking a world without nuclear weapons. In fact, he was the first American President to preside over a United Nations security Council and got a Security Council resolution adopted proclaiming this as a goal of the global community.

Americans should be deeply flattered. The Europeans recognize the catalytic role America plays in encouraging human rights and democracy around the world and its power to seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts. It was clear that they missed the America who urged the world to listen to its "better angels" rather than its darkest instincts. A nation that pioneered international law had deliberately and overtly abandoned its own creations. A nation, who historically forbade its military to torture, publically embraced a policy of torture against all domestic and international commitments it made to the contrary. A nation, which founded the United Nations, abandoned its commitment to reforming an institution that had become plagued by both corruption and a tolerance of despots. A nation, which had sought alliances and multinational cooperation, had now defined itself as exceptional in its unilateralism. A nation, which had refined the policy of deterrence, abandoned it for preemptive war without restraint. With Barack Obama, the Europeans found reason to hope for the restoration of the America they admired and with whom they would be partners.

There was another reason for the award--the perception by the Norwegians that America was still captured by forces that extol ignorance of science,elevate racism and disdain education. It was telling that the committee made reference to not waiting three more years. Hidden in this language was their knowledge that the Nobel Peace Prize can not be given posthumously. It should be recalled that another young American Nobel Peace Prize winner had been slain in his struggle for racial equality in this country--that man was Martin Luther King, Jr. The dark forces of anger over the election of President Obama generates this cloud of threat over our political landscape.

Reaction in the imperial capital was predictable. The pundit class questioned the achievements of the President. In Washington, there is still no awareness of the degree to which our country had become reviled at worst and ignored at best. That the international community might actually root for the success of our President simply escapes these people. In a rare grace point, Senator John McCain said that all Americans should be proud of their President receiving such a prestigious honor. His was one of the only voices from the President's opposition who offered congratulations.

The Nobel Peace Prize may go to personalities who have achieved great things but there is another tradition of awarding it to people aspiring to change the world. Bishop Desmond Tutu won his for his lifelong struggle against apartheid even though he would have to wait years before he saw white-rule end in South Africa. A prize winner from the 1930s was awarded for his opposition to Adolf Hitler, although it would take another decade before Nazism was defeated. Willy Brandt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his Ostpolitik, almost two decades before the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was united. Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Peace Prize for advancing the Middle East peace process, even though it has not been achieved to this day. The award is meant to focus attention on the aspirations of mankind and the hopes for peace and the end of injustice, even though they remain out of reach. What was intriguing was the Committee's statement that in President Obama's request that we all take responsibility in solving these problems that they made the award as part of their shared responsibility--a lovely gesture.

Only two other sitting Presidents have won the Nobel Peace Prize--Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt for his successful negotiation of the Manchurian war in the unlikely location of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Woodrow Wilson for the Versailles Treaty and the doomed League of Nations. An aspect of the award to President Obama is the deep seated fear of Europeans that America will turn neo-isolationist. Here is an internationalist President who has lived around the world during his youth and is eloquent in defining America's commitment abroad. It should be noted that the Committee recognized his uniqueness in defining the totality of global challenges today. It is through the power of his words and his influence in other parts of the world that brought him his prize.

Outside the Beltway and the new Romans, the right-wing talk shows went ballistic over the award, even demanding he turn it down. After celebrating America's defeat at the Olympic bids, these characters again resurrected the old meme of the President as celebrity with no substance as criticism of the award. The Europeans would just trying to glomb onto his charisma. In part, this is true but for very precise reasons. Such avatars as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh declared it was a joke and that the President is the laughingstock of the world for being given the Nobel Peace Prize. Although later in the day, Glenn Beck suggested his tea-baggers should get it. The right has had problems with the Nobel Peace Prize since it was awarded to President Carter for his humanitarian work around the world, a gesture they thought was an insult to George W. Bush. Ironically, the right wing blogosphere suggested Bill Clinton was a more worthy person for the honor. Bill Kristol thought this was all a parody and suggested John McCain deserved it for his advocating the Surge in Iraq. By and large, the right has descended into their isolationist cave and believe any international honors awarded to an American is an insult to our exceptionalism. Mind-boogling in its idiocy was the RNC's letter from Michael Steele, which went out by midnight yesterday essentially mocking the President. To think, these people actually discuss this all day!

Trying to bring back the debate over war and peace, our Left got a late start. But by late afternoon, they rifled off the essential points that America was still waging two wars and dislocating thousands of Pakistanis and the President was holding war councils the day of his award to discuss the escalation of the Afghanistan conflict. It was almost a knee-jerk reaction going back to the old days of America the Terrible. By the end of the day, I felt the Right and the Left should have a jamboree since apparently both now seem to despise the country.

For his part, President Obama handled the situation with typical grace. Acknowledging he felt humble and not deserving to be placed in the honor of such distinguished company, he talked candidly about the on-going conflicts and why he would accept the award for all those who are seeking justice and dignity. The press was interested in whether this would create greater partisan divides--like one side likens him to Adolf Hitler and now it's going to get worse; and what he's going to do with the money. The latter he is donating to charity.

After squandering our economic and military power, it's nice to see that the world still sees us as relevant to solving the questions facing the planet. For all of us who work abroad and in international affairs, the Nobel Prize for Peace to the American President makes our work a little easier. Thank you, Norway! I accept on behalf of the United States.