GOP playing tricks, or getting down to business?
Archive for the ‘Mid terms 2010’ Category
The victory of the Republicans who picked up at least 60 seats in the House but didn’t manage to overturn the Dems Senate majority, thus comes the promotion of John Boehner as speaker of the House, the first Catholic GOP speaker will go down in history as the GOP gains were greater than the seats gained in the 1994 midterms with Newt Gingrich at the helm.
Now however the wonderful checks and balances come into play, or what in pratice means, nothing gets done. As was said “The country awakens this morning to all the same problems — but the menu of solutions is up for grabs. ‘Yes, we can’ has collided with ‘Oh, no you don’t.'” Interestingly however the article notes how “the seeds of future squabbles were sown inside the enemy camps”. So instead of having a resonably unified GOP as was the case in 1994 that faced off with President Clinton, now there is the chance of the GOP squabbling with itself which would then bring government to a standstill. Even worse for the GOP, they would do it all by themselves, no help from the Dems.
It argues that the Democratic Senator-elect of West Virginia, Joe Manchin “saved the Senate for the Democrats by winning this race — but he managed to win the race only by strongly distancing himself from Obama. He promised to repeal parts of the health-care reform — ‘overreaching,’ he said of the bill. And he literally put a bullet in climate-change legislation, airing an ad that showed him chambering a cartridge, shouldering his rifle and blasting a bullet right through the controversial cap-and-trade bill”. Not only that but President Obama’s relationship with Speaker-designate John Boehner is said to be only amicable. What will happn when the two men have to work with each other is another matter altogether or will it be?
Moving to the future, the article notes how “If you take the President’s 2008 victory map and subtract the states where his fellow Democrats were obliterated in major races on Tuesday — Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida — you discover that Obama’s 2008 landslide has evaporated into a dead heat”. It goes on to say how “Republican Party has won the midterms by moving to the right. That leaves the rest of the spectrum wide open. If Obama can settle his differences with moderate voters, and seize ownership of the middle ground, he will find a lot of the electorate waiting patiently for him”.
However this leaves other questions to be answered, how strong will the Tea Party be in 2012 after two years in office making decisions that not everyone is going to like? Who will the GOP nominate in 2012? Sarah Palin or someone who can attract the moderate voters with experience and knowledge, Mitch Daniels or Rob Portman who by most accounts had little to do with the Tea Party but was elected anyway. Will President Obama moderate or will he not learn his lesson? Will the GOP stop government working, or will they cut spending and raise taxes to plug the deficit?
On a broader point it should be noted that the checks and balances introduced by the founders were great then but in this age we live in and the increasing polarisation (and thus clarity in the positions of the parties) maybe its time the congressional system was retired so something could actually get done by the executive, without this nonsense?
Below are some of the what are considered to be the most important midterm results, in what has been an interesting, to put it mildly election, in no particular order:
- Democratic Joe Manchin won the Senate in West Virginia race beating Republican rival John Raese.
- Tea party favourite Marco Rubio won a Senate seat in Florida beating Governor Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent.
- As expected Rand Paul won a Senate seat in Kentucky.
- Russ Feingold lost in Wisconsin to Ron Johnson.
- Mark Kirk won President Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois. The loss by the Democrat Alexi Giannoulias is seen as an embarrassment to Obama and his party.
- In Pennsylvania Pat Toomey beat Congressman Adm. Joe Sestak for a Senate seat.
Republicans won a Senate seat with John Boozman defeating incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in the state of Arkansas.
- In Nevada, Sharron Angle lost to Harry Reid. It is however at this time unknown if Reid will keep his job as Senate Majority Leader.
- In South Carolina, GOP favourite Jim DeMint won against Democratic nobody Alvin Greene.
- Across the country in California, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) won re-election against former HP CEO Carly Fiorina. While the in the governor’s election Jerry Brown won the election to the governor’s mansion beating Meg Whitman, former CEO of Ebay.
Lastly, there is no word as of yet if Tea Party favourite Joe Miller won in Alakska, or if Obama favourite, Michael Bennet won in Colorado against Ken Buck. While in Rhode Island, former sentor Lincoln Chafee won his election to become the first independent governor of Rhode Island.
There is a certain amout of respect that should be given to the Tea Party. However recent developments have done little to endear their cause to the people during the upcoming midterms.
Carl Paladino, who is running to become governor of New York, has made some misinformed statements about homosexuality when he said “That’s not how God created us”. He was attempting to distance himself from his rival who once took his daughters to a gay pride parade. Mr Paladino however made a fair point when he said that “‘They wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other and it’s just a terrible thing,’ he said. ‘Why would you bring your children to that?'” His other remarks that he doesn’t want his children “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option – it isn’t” are ill informed and dangerous and belie an ignorance that is unsettling for someone trying to reach high office. Former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani said “He should recognize his remarks were highly offensive and he should apologize for them”.
The article makes the point that the remarks of Paladino highlight a steady “trend for eccentric or offensive comments in the current election cycle, which has been attributed to the appearance of inexperienced candidates, mostly under the Tea Party banner”.
The recent remarks of Christine O’Donnell in Delware’s senate election of how her opponent, Chris Coons, is “a Marxist” underscore a trend that will only continue. In the debate with Coons, O’Donnell was asked which Supreme Court decision she disagreed with, to which she replied that “Right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise you”. Mr Coons replied to the question immediately, citing Citizens United v Federal Election Commission.
The Tea Party should be admired for staunchly supporting their, some would say, uncompromising belief in a reasonably well defined set of principles. Yet their repeated and well documented gaffes, coupled with their policy inexperence, only harm their cause and therefore their ideology.
There is a case for the party, at a regional level at the very least, to select its own candidates rather than have peddlers of such dangerous populism chosen by the people themselves. If the party is unable or unwilling to do this then the two party of system in the United States has ceased to work, and other parties should be formed with a party list system as the mode of voting.
In a scathing piece on the departure of General Jim Jones as President Obama’s NSA David Rothkopf describes how Gen Jones “will go down in history as the least successful national security advisor since Adm. John Poindexter”. Jones was planning to leave after the midterms but his departure was sped up for Jones’ sake.
Rothkopf goes on to say how President Obama hired him on the logic that Jones was a military man, but Rothkopf points out that “military experience is no guarantee of success in the job. Poindexter’s predecessor, Robert MacFarlane, also had an extensive military background, and he was another disaster”. He points out how the model of the NSA is “Scowcroft [who] came into office with a deep, personal relationship with the president. Jones and Obama, aloofness squared, never got there”.
He goes on to laud Scowcroft as “an extraordinary man. No one who ever had the job worked harder. No one was smarter. No one had a better, more nuanced worldview, and I include in that Scowcroft’s boss when he was deputy, Henry Kissinger, who was almost certainly the second-best national security advisor ever”. Well into the article Rothkopf rightly brings in some nuance, noting how Obama was very inexperienced with little or no formal foreign policy experience to speak of, “He [Obama] didn’t know what he wanted. He vacillated on key issues. He simply demonstrated the problems America repeatedly has when it hires men with no foreign-policy background to take on the most important international job in the world”. He makes the point the Obama whether on purpose or by accident had his “campaign foreign-policy deputies to continue to report directly to him, and this led to some public and private backdooring of Jones that undercut his authority”.
Turning to Tom Donilon as the incoming NSA, he makes the point that Obama has a much better relationship with him but as has been mentioned, Donilon has no military experience whatsoever. Obama seems to have gone from one extreme to the other with his appointment of Donilon. As Rothkopf says “The question is whether he will imprint the process with his own stamp or whether he has been hired to make the memos run on time, eliminate controversy, and fade into the woodwork”. Fairly however he argues that “Just because Donilon has never done anything to suggest that he was a policy guru or someone who could regularly stand up to a president doesn’t mean he can’t do it”.
Stephen Walt on his blog asks if Donilon has “expressed an interesting or novel foreign policy idea, or shown that he has a larger vision for what the United States’ position and strategy ought to be”. Not only that he asks if “Donilon [has] ever taken a position that involved some level of moral courage? Has he ever done or said anything that might be regarded as controversial inside the Beltway?”.
This shows the importance of having the right personnel not just in officialdom but everywhere.
The GOP are always moaning about the deficit, yet things like this, kind of dull their message. They need a reality check, seeing as their favoured approach to de-regulation, with the help of Bill Clinton along the way, got us to where we are today.
Yesterday marked the withdrawal of the last US combat divisions from Iraq. However, it should be noted that “50,000 US troops will remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests. A further 6,000 support troops will be in Iraq until the end of the month, when US combat operations will end”.
After almost two decades the US obsession with Iraq can said to be cured. In an often turbulant relationship with the country that went from reluctant support while the Iraqi regime balanced against Iran in the 1980s, to kicking Hussein out of Kuwait after his invasion at the end of the Cold War, to Clinton and many of his officials seeing Iraq as a growing threat. If Clinton could have run for a third term, it would not be streching it to say that Iraq would be high on his agenda. There is also a good chance that he would have invaded had he been given the chance.
However, after the March election there is still no governement but it would not be unreasonable to suspect the US will keep large numbers of troops in Iraq for decades to come, having left its bases in Saudi Arabia. There needs to be a governemnt agreed quickly in order to maintain the resemblance of stability that Iraq now has. More importantly, the decrepit oil infrastructure needs to be updated so pumping can begin in earnest to help shore up the struggling world economy, as well as Iraq’s own.
John McCain (R-AZ) said during the presidental election that the US should stay in Iraq for 100 years. Indeed, some have argued that America’s ADD will ultimately bring it down. It is too soon to say that America’s withdrawal from Iraq is a good thing or not, despite the recent rise in violence, President Obama has directed that Afghanistan is now where the energy is being focused.
With the mid terms racing towards us some are saying that the “Republican Revolution” when the GOP took back the House in 1994 is set to happen again. However, we should bear in mind that it wasn’t really a revolution, so much as the completion of what had started with Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) in the 1960s.
The article notes how “A full 50 percent of respondents said they intend to vote for a candidate who opposes President Obama. Sixteen years ago, 51 percent of voters said the same of President Clinton heading into the midterm elections”. However, as it admits “Obama’s approval also hovers above that of former President George W. Bush in 2006 and President Reagan in 1982”.
Interestingly, though perhaps not suprisingly, the GOP are staying away from what’s going on in California, “Instead of ‘gay marriage,’ said U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in a 138-page ruling, there is simply marriage”. The result is that “Vaughn’s meticulously detailed and sometime plodding ruling struck down California’s 2008 ballot initiative, known as Prop 8, and restored the Golden State to the ranks of five other states where same-sex couples may wed”. The GOP knows that it can get more independents giving out about “big government” and high taxes than playing to the social conservatives and hyping the California decision, despite accusations that Judge Walker was biased, they still refuse to run with it.
This however is something of a myth, as Jack Hunter points out, “If conservatives want to know how Obama and his party are currently able to get away with creating colossal debt and an even more monstrous government they should look no further than the last administration. Where was the Right — as the Left often asks, and justifiably so — when Bush doubled the size of government and the national debt during his eight year term”, Hunter also notes how “Bush created the largest entitlement expansion since Lyndon Johnson, with Medicare Part D? What was Limbaugh complaining about the same week Dubya was enacting the federally intrusive education disaster ‘No Child Left Behind’?”.
The GOP will probably take the House, or at least come very close, but some seem to be saying that Obama’s base won’t even vote for him this November. As the article says “Pew Research Centre found in June that only 37% of liberal Democrats were ‘more enthusiastic than usual’ about going to the polls, compared with 59% of conservative Republicans” this does however leave all the other categories that the article didn’t mention. Obama can give his base achievements, Lily Leadbetter Act, health care but Robert Gibbs recent outburst on how he “lamented that nothing Mr Obama did would ever be good enough for some on the left. As for those who thought the president was like George Bush, ‘they ought to be drug-tested,’ fumed Mr Gibbs”. Gibbs does have a point though perhaps it wasn’t the best time to bring it up.
Ultimately much like the GOP, the Dems base has nowhere else to go, that should be of some comfort to Obama’s supporters. As has been mentioned here before, if the GOP does take the House it could be a disaster for them if history repeats itself. That could in turn lead to another 1996 election where the incumbent easily defeated his rivals thanks partly to an overzealous GOP in combination with a lacklustre (or equally overzealous) opponent.
Ronald Reagan, the boogy man of the Left and darling of the Right is caricatured as a war mongering loon or a national hero that stood up to violent and vicious communism. Of course it is just a caricature but the problem is that people from both sides rarely want to see beyond it.
In an well researched piece that gives a pretty accurate picture of Reagan the author says only half in jest “every time someone on the American right bashes President Barack Obama for kowtowing to dictators or failing to shout that we’re at war, they light a votive candle to Ronald Reagan”, while predictably “Sarah Palin invokes the Gipper so frequently that some now speculate that she might launch her 2012 presidential bid in his hometown”.
He says that those on the Right have created “a mythic Reagan who never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight. But the real Reagan did both those things, often”. Let’s not forget Lebanon when he pulled US troops out but while lecturing the evil empire he also sat down with them in Iceland to discuss where things were going. Reagan is usually credited with ending the Cold War singlehandedly, anyone who knows their history knows this is impossible. Reagan might have pushed the process further along the road but to say that when Reagan came to power the USSR started crumbling is bizarre and bares no relation to history. International pressure, internal reforms (glasnost) as well as other factors helped cause it, not just Reagan. As the author says “Reagan began abandoning his hard-line anti-Soviet stance in late 1983, 18 months before Gorbachev took power”.
The author compares Bush 41 and Clinton to Reagan saying “on the ultimate test of hawkdom — the willingness to send U.S. troops into harm’s way — Reagan was no bird of prey”. After all Clinton sent troops on their next adventure, on average, only eighteen months after the last one.
In another example he points out that “courts in Florida indicted Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega for drug smuggling.” Supposedly “Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams — backed by his boss, George Shultz — began pushing for a U.S. invasion. Reagan refused and instead tried to convince Noriega to relinquish power in return for having the charges dropped.” Fairly he notes that “It was left to his supposedly “wimpy” successor, George H.W. Bush, to depose Noriega with 27,000 U.S. troops.”
We should all be wary of ill informed lazy caricatures, irrespective of of beliefs. Only when these are done away with will their be proper informed debate.
Firstly, happy Independence Day.
In a piece written some time ago examining the tea party movement, David Frum argues that the tea party is costing the GOP many of the independents that it needs to win in the upcoming midterms and on to 2012.
This raises an interesting point, just how far should parties bend their policies to the electorate and what, if any, principles should or could be ditched for the prize that is political office? Frum compares the Senate elections in Ohio and Illinois where he says “In Illinois they have Mark Kirk – a socially moderate, fiscally conservative member of Congress, who represents the suburbs north of Chicago. In Ohio, the Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a former US Trade Representative and White House budget chief”.
Frum contrasts these with “Kentucky and Nevada, [where] Tea Party activists won nominations for two of their own: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle. Both have aligned themselves with an array of wild positions. Mrs Angle wants to abolish social security and Medicare and has spoken favourably of armed insurrection against the federal government”. He understandably dismisses the candidate in Nevada, who Harry Reid must be thanking his lucky stars for. Frum says that “Mrs Angle’s problem seems less that she is kooky and more that she cannot speak without saying something foolish. Republican leaders have barred her from speaking to the press until she is ‘ready’ – which they acknowledge may take some weeks”. While of the contest of Kentucky, he makes the point that “On the day Rand Paul won the GOP nomination, he led the Democratic nominee Jack Conway by almost 30 points. Mr Paul now leads by only six – and Mr Conway has not yet launched his negative ads.”
He sums it up succiently saying “while moderates have held two and gained one, the Tea Party radicals may have lost one and thrown away another.”
However, there must be some fundmental tenets from which a political party must not deviate if they are to have any credibility with themselves as a party, or with the electorate. In one sense what the principles comprise of is irrelevant. What is interesting about the tea party movement is that it refuses to alter its message for the voters, irrespective of the electoral results, which is highly admirable. Instead of a party, or section within a party, trying to get into office by telling the electors what they in essence want to hear, the tea party movement resolutely sticks to its principles and waits for the electorate to follow it.
Now doing away with social security and Medicare might be a step too far but, irrespective of how successful this movement is, and I think Mr Frum is broadly correct in his analysis, you have to admire the passion of the convictions they hold.
Iran has dismissed the recent sanctions that have been placed on it as “a used hanky”.
The sanctions “target Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments”. However, in typical UN fashion, thhe oil exporting industry “are not affected because targeting them would have cost the US essential support from Russia and China”. President Obama described the sanctions as “Actions do have consequences, and today the Iranian government will face some of those consequences”. The Iranian UN Ambassador said that “Iran is one of the most powerful and stable countries in the region and never bowed — and will never bow — to the hostile actions and pressures by these few powers and will continue to defend its rights”.
Interestingly but not suprisingly, “We do not see sanctions as an effective instrument in this case,” Brazil’s UN Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti said. I could give you the usual nonsense of the BRICs and their new influence, but instead, when the US gets tired of the sanctions being ingored, will something happen?
Either it could give Israel the green light for a poxy attack on Iran while of course disavowing all knowledge. However, the coming and going of the first anniversary of the disputed presidental election, largely without incident could shows just how, either disorganised the Green Movement is, or how powerful the Iranian governemnt is. A crediable case could be made for working with the mullahs on some level and ignoring whatever colours people take to painting themselves, until of course something comes of it when engagment will change, should it be needed.
I wonder if this would have been reported the way it was if men had been elected? I doubt it.
Looks as if Bader Ginsburg is on her way out. The article mentions that her retirement is “less than two months away” . According to rumours, the Administration plan is that once Kagan is confirmed, “Ginsburg would then announce her retirement, so that confirmation for Ginsburg’s replacement could be finished before the end of the year”.
The article says the the proposed timetable for the second SCOTUS appointment of the year is based on “fears Democrats may lose enough Senate seats in the mid-term election to make it more difficult to confirm a liberal appointee after the next Congress convenes in January 2011.”
Diane Wood? Merrick Garland? Or Obama could pick Janet Napolitano, DHS Secretary which would then leave him free to pick again at the DHS. How practical this would be were he to chose this course however is questionable.
In his extremely interesting recent post, on Elena Kagan, who will more than likely be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States sometime before September, Glenn Greenwald says that should she be confirmed, she will move the Court to the Right. He criticises Kagan’s lack of judicial opinions, especially on the matter of the Bush/Cheney tactics for national security and dealing with terrorists. He then makes quite a leap and says because of this she must move the Court toward the Roberts/Alito/Scalia philosophy and not to the progressive side of the Court as he would wish.
He cites how she “agreed wholeheartedly with Lindsey Graham about the rightness of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism template: namely, that the entire world is a “battlefield,” that “war” is the proper legal framework for analyzing all matters relating to Terrorism, and the Government can therefore indefinitely detain anyone captured on that “battlefield””. This shows just how petty some of the Left have become, instead of thinking about the broader implications for national security they are more concerned with the “rights” of terrorists. These are just the sort of people who want to close Guantánamo Bay because they see the terrorists as the put upon party.
Of course it would be better to close it as President Obama has said, but on a purely pratical level, want to you do with these people after? You can’t release many of them, but equally they are too dangerous of normal prisons – so by default you have come full circle and have to keep the camp open. This, I suspect, is exactly what happened to Obama when on the first day in office he said he would close Gitmo by 20 January 2010. He however soon realised that there was little other choice but to keep it open. I am not overstaing the threat of terrorism, it is a constant force in the world and will never to totally defeated, yet for these few years it should be seen as important, before we start fighting each other over far more important things like oil and water.
Greenwald continues, saying that Kagan supports the theory of the unitary executive. While I’m no John Yoo, I do have some sympathy with the need for a more Hobbsian view of the executive branch and perhaps a slight dimunition of the checks and balances system that seems to be all the rage these days.
Finally, Greenwald says that Kagan’s tenure on the Court would long outlast Obama and that “any pro-executive-power decisions she issues will apply to future George Bushes and Dick Cheneys”. As if a 11 September would happen every couple of years! To put the final nail in the coffin of his “argument”, “Kagan’s record on social issues will likely be perfectly satisfactory, even pleasing, to most progressives. She is, by all appearances, solidly pro-choice and in favor of gay equality” [I wonder why].
He closes saying that there are other “superior alternatives” for the Court, ie more in tune with his views, who see the world as they wish, and not as it is. Among them he names, Diane Wood, Leah Ward Sears, and the “genuinely liberal Harold Koh”. Is he living in the clouds? One word, midterms! She can get confirmed resonably quickly and be sitting on the Court by the first Monday in October ready for the new judicial term.
Next up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Hill brings a note of reality to the upcoming midterms when they predict that the Dems will lose neither the House or Senate. It predicts the the stimlus coupled with the gradual uptick in the economy and subsequent fall in unemployment numbers will keep the Dems in control, though it would be foolish to expect no losses.
They also predict the some form of the health care bill will be passed – however something to watch out for is if they use it as a campaign tactic or not. It says that the David Paterson’s will give way to the Andrew Cuomo’s and former Houston mayor, Bill White’s of the party as the GOP ie Rick Perry in this case run on “the Civil War-age anachronisms of secession, nullification and interposition that will not create one job, build one business or educate one child in Texas.”
If all goes to plan in November, Obama will have enough time to get re-elected in 2012 – if that’s a good thing or not it’s too early to tell.
TIME on the stimlus or ARRA says that “what makes the bill’s success hard to judge is that it was oversold. Before the stimulus was passed, a report from President Obama’s economic advisers predicted that the bill would ensure that the unemployment rate would remain at 8% or below. By that estimate, the bill looks like a failure. A few months ago, the unemployment rate hit 10%; currently it is 9.7%.” While all of that is true it is difficult to discount that Congress. despite there being the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it still took effort to pass it! There’s a time for checks and balances and then sometimes there just isn’t!