Over the past 16 months, I have thoroughly enjoyed conservatives' attempts to pin every one of our country's problems on President Barack Obama. Of late, they've been calling the BP gulf oil spill "Obama's Katrina." This is such a non-sequitur that I can't help letting out a little laugh each time I hear it. Oh yeah, because providing timely emergency response to a natural disaster threatening thousands of human lives, which IS the government's duty (think FEMA and the numerous major hurricanes that our government has promptly responded to prior to Katrina), is so very much like plugging a deep sea oil well leak, which the government has no expertise in. Can anyone say 'Apples to Oranges'? However, this spill should certainly cause any reasonable person to ponder the wisdom of doing more off-shore drilling and the adequacy of the current deep-sea drilling regulations regime.Read more
In the break room at work we have a TV that runs news programs throughout the entire day.Since the office is primarily Republican, I get an earful from Fox News every second away from my desk. Fox News retains 25% of the population’s attention, and appears to have a clear understanding on whom to market their outrage to. Listening to their undertones and self promotion demonstrates one firm conclusion; the Republicans are starving for an identity.
What exactly do Republicans stand for? Under the Eisenhower era military prudence was tied directly to Republicans. In the Regan era conservatism was embraced. Under the Clinton era Newt Gingrich led the Republican New Deal urging smaller government. Over the past several decades, all of these ideals have been forgotten. George W. and his Republican dominated leadership increased the size and scope of government to record levels. The federal budget under his watch jumped 38% as President Bush did very little to control this rise in spending. Yet when I watch Fox news, I am led to believe that the Conservative ideals are alive and well.
To agree with Frank Rich, Fox News and the Republican Party are screaming into an echo chamber. The louder they scream, the more they believe themselves. Take for instance the stimulus bill that just passed congress. To the Republican right an absolute disaster; to 51% of Americans, a step in the right direction. Or how about Obama’s cluster of tax cheats nominated to cabinet positions? To Rush Limbaugh, a strong demonstration of Obama’s inept decision making ability. To 68% of Americans a forgivable offense in which they still offer support for the president.
Besides identity fallout, what hurts the Republican platform is the negligent insistence on tax cuts to solve all economic problems. We tried that in 2002 and 2003. How did we fare? Many on the right will incorrectly point to the tax cuts as the key driver of the four year boom from 2002-2006. The truth is that falling interest rates and leveraged equity were the real contributors. The tax cuts in 02-03 put money back into the pockets of the super wealthy, who then proceeded to watch it disappear in the securities fallout. Many still cling to the supply side theories of Reagan’s policies to bolster their tax cut claims. Two problems with this belief: Jimmy Carter had already started lowering tax rates on the upper class with little success, and two, Reagan was the recipient of Paul Volkner’s rate-slashing Federal Reserve. What has been forgotten by Republicans is that conservatism at its root does not drive tax cuts. Conservatism preaches smaller government, in which tax cuts are a byproduct.
The GOP’s lack of identity and shrinking base impacted the elections of 2006, 2008, and most likely 2010. The extreme big government policies of the last eight years, coupled with an unfavorable war, pushed moderates to the left. However, the biggest problem for the Republicans going forward is their shrinking base, which is wedging out the younger demographic. Fox News and the Republican leadership had a field day teeing off on Howard Dean in the 2004 primaries. But it was Dean who inspired many of the college age kids who turned out in droves in 2006 and 2008 to vote Democrat. The GOP has kept a single eye on big business and the religious right, and has failed to court their future base.
Republicans need to regroup and tell America what they stand for. The American people are ready for extended dialogue and genuine conversation from both sides of the aisle. If the GOP can’t embrace a persuasive identity, and continue to use tax cuts as a substitute for thinking, change will continue.Unfortunately, it’s probably not the change the Republicans desire.
Tax and Spend Liberals. If I had a nickel for every time I heard this phrase, I would be writing this post from an exotic hut with glass bottom floors somewhere in the French Polynesia. This negative connotation has been associated with the Democratic Party for several decades, and will be an effective talking point for elections to come. The irony: I would much rather be a tax and spend liberal, then a free charging conservative.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose number one disagreement with the current Democratic candidate was his commitment to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire (one might ask, why were the Bush tax cuts passed with an expiration date?). This, in essence, would be raising taxes.I followed up with a question regarding the consequences of deficit spending; their response, “government needs to be cut.”
There is not one current presidential candidate who shares this conservative ideology. Although Obama’s proposals are beyond McCain’s in cost, McCain’s proposals will increase deficit spending much faster that of Obama ($5.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade -- source: CBO). Why?McCain is proposing vast tax cuts including voiding the AMT, doubling child credits, and lowering the corporate bill. This would be like cutting my salary by 20%, and not changing my spending habits. Needless to say I would rack up vast amounts of debt forcing me to leverage every asset I could to support my current lifestyle.
Think of the national debt as one giant Black American Express. Where does this limitless credit card come from? This is the scariest question of them all.We are currently expanding our money supply by borrowing from foreign countries. We are allowing Saudi Arabia, Japan, and China to become our shareholders. So, during this Olympic season when you are complaining about China’s human rights violations, just remember they are making our mortgage payments.
Looking at the last four presidents, government spending increased 36% under Reagan, 17.2 % under Bush I (only 4 years – 34% for 8 years), 21.2% under Clinton, and 32.4% under Bush II. What is most interesting from this comparison is that the economy was expanding at the fastest rate under the Clinton administration, providing them with the strongest justification to increase spending (higher tax revenues). Yet it was the tax and spend liberal who balanced the budget and kept the National Debt basically stagnant his final year in office.
Two major consequences of a rapidly expanding money supply (national debt) are declining currency value and inflation. When your two dollar milk now cost three, or the gas prices skyrocket at the pump, thank deficit spending and a weakening dollar. This is exactly why economists call inflation “the hidden tax”. However, we should take comfort that the current administration has passed sizeable tax cuts to off-set these cost to households making more then 250,000 a year.
In the upcoming election when sizing up candidates, don’t be so quick to dismiss the tax and spend liberal. Just remember over the last 30 years it has been the tax and spend liberals who have made the most progress on limiting governmental spending, keeping the national debt in check, and maintaining responsibility with America’s money.
With the 2008 presidential election coming into play, I thought I would write five reasons why each candidate will win in November:
- Money.Money wins elections. Money allows the candidate to reach even the most remote constituents, and control the strategy of the election. Barack Obama is on course to raise more money from donors then any other presidential candidate. Even more remarkable, is his refusal to take lobbyist and PAC money. Many are projecting him to double the intake of opponent John McCain. Barack’s war chest will allow him to play in states previously deemed Republican strongholds. The most recent whisperings is that Obama is trying to putArizona, McCain’s home state, into play!
- Voter Turnout. Perhaps the most remarkable statistic in this year's primary season was voter turnout. The Democratic primaries recorded 40 million voters compared to 20 million Republican voters. It is fair to say that the main driver of the vast amount of Democratic votes came from a tight race between Obama and Clinton, however, voter turnout was astounding.
- State of the GOP. The GOP’s popularity is alarmingly low. Scandals over the past several years have predominantly come from the GOP side, and President Bush’s approval ratings are at an all time low. History shows that incumbent parties with low popularity numbers have a daunting task toward reelection.
- Voter’s number one concern. Barack is favored when the economy is America’s number one concern. Democrats have always been associated with a stronger economy. This can be attributed to two reasons: theory and luck. If there is one positive aspect of the Bush presidency, it will be the crumbling of supply side economic theory. Democrats have always followed a Keynesian approach to the economy, which offers a more stable solution to our economic woes. Luck is also a factor, as the association of a Democratic president controlling the White House through the tech stock boom of the 90’s offer voters a false sense of security.
- Lack of experience. I have been approached with concerns from friends and family about Barack’s experience. From my point of view this is one of his greatest assets. When the elections heat up, Obama will have more of McCain’s votes to scrutinize then McCain will have of Obama’s. Many political pundits believe this is exactly why Kerry lost in 2004. There is a reason that the last five of six presidents never served in congress. Compromise and activity are fundamentals of Senate members, each leaving a political trail that can be dissected and rehashed. Obama’s lack of experience also allows him to be painted as an outsider. With Americans disenchanted withWashington’s current political state, electing an official (McCain) deemed part of the problem is favorable to the inexperienced.
- Voter turnout (I know I put this for Obama):Over the past several elections Republicans are better at turning out the vote in November. This is largely due to the voter population and key constituents of the Republican Party. Many voters assume that the lower class would provide a boost to the Democrats, given their dedication to bigger government. This is incorrect. The dirty little secret is that the poor do not vote. Republican turnout is also strongest where needed most, in swing states.
- Independents. Rewind four years prior and you will find a very different John McCain. McCain was very persuasive in the Senate and deemed the title of Maverick. He worked across party lines and was the first to blast incompetent members of his own party and their policies. It was during this time that he won the respect of Independents, and has managed to keep their loyalty through his current positions. Independents are the sole group that determines the presidency, and McCain has their ear.
- Security. The GOP and John McCain are associated with stronger security. With the War on Terror resonating in voter’s minds, McCain is viewed as the candidate tougher on our enemies. The vast stance on Presidential visits to rouge nations between McCain and Obama is one disagreement that will be capitalized this election season.
- A Real American Hero. What US citizen is not enchanted with John McCain’s POW story? The son and grandson of Admirals, McCain comes across as the more patriotic candidate and a leader in times of fear and distrust. McCain will prey on Obama’s lack of military experience and paint his opponent as soft on crime and terrorism.
- Republicans are better at politics. From Swift Boat malice, to talking point propaganda, the Republicans are better at controlling the conversation. Their sales pitch is sweet and direct, while Democrats are more theoretical and not as constrained. Media outlets are Republican controlled and influenced. Cutting taxes, banning abortion, and stopping gay marriage are direct and unmistakable. WithAmerica’s short attention span, Democrats do not carry the ear of the voter long enough to explain their position.
There you have it, five reasons as to why each candidate will win in November. It will be interesting to watch the election unfold, and I am sure I will have many more posts in the months to come.
As many of you have probably guessed, the change in the control of the House and Senate is welcomed by me. Oversight, balance, and hopefully bipartisanship will be restored to the federal government, in hopes that the divided America will champion both sides of the argument.
I have also discussed with friends and family the expectations of the new Democratic powers. Interestingly enough, other perspectives are a bit more extensive then mine. I suspect that Democrats will work with President Bush to raise the minimum wage, find common ground on immigration, and work out a plan to fix the Medicare system. For those who believe that the Iraq policy will be reversed, or that taxes will increase, you have watched one too many campaign commercials. There is a larger focus of the Democrats’ control of congress, November of 2008.
Waiting for the Clinton/Obama ticket (just guessing), Democrats in the House will be careful with their oversight. They will not cut funding for the Iraqi war to change policy, as was done withVietnam, and they will not use any pre-war miscalculations to punish President Bush. They will use their political soapbox to weed out corruption, and try to exploit findings involving their Republican colleagues. They will not try to pass any drastic legislation that will hurt their popularity with the moderate voter. Plus, the President maintains veto power, and will probably use it more than just once as in the previous six years. The Democrats will use their renewed power to restage committee heads, and bring legislation to the floor that benefits their agenda. The leadership might sponsor wedge issues that hurt the President’s popularity, like stem cell research.
I believe that the congressional changing of the guard is not a vote for the policies of the Democrats, but a referendum of the actions of the Republicans. Democrats have earned about as much “political capital” as Bush in 2004, and hopefully will maintain a better track record. As Jon Stewart put it, “Democrats played the role of the boy who left the room as his brother is punished for burning the garage down”. I am excited to see the power shift, and hopefully it will lead to a better America.
One of the most controversial moves of President Bush’s presidency occurred last year. While Congress was on break, President Bush’s nominee of UN Ambassador slid in the back door. During the confirmation hearings John Bolton was accused of harsh treatment of his subordinates. His record was challenged by Democrats and Republicans alike. His nomination left committee not with a stamp of approval, but with a washing of hands. Sending the nomination to the full Senate allowed the committee to play the political game; support the President, but avoid responsibility for his decisions. Bolton was highly unpopular with the minority Democrats and the nomination was resented by the Republicans. The Ambassador’s hearings quickly approached winter recess, which came with no resolve. President Bush played an unusual presidential card, and placed the new US Ambassador without confirmation through an emergency appointment.
Due to the rules of such an appointment, Bolton’s Ambassadorship expires at the end of 2006. President Bush has asked the lame duck session of Congress, to renew the appointment alienating Democrat’s opposition. This interesting political move might backfire on the President. With Republicans crippled by the policies of the President, such a controversial nomination will become a wedge to the congressional body. Even if the nomination is approved within the next two months, Democrats will look at this appointment as partisan politics. They will believe President Bush’s comments about bipartisanship and compromise a media event, with actions speaking louder then words.
Ever wonder how reliable your news source is? A couple years back there was a study conducted on news sources and the viewer’s/reader’s knowledge of current events. Very interesting read especially when the report begins to detail cable and network news programming. Ever wonder which viewers have the most distorted perception of current events? Read on….
(Fox News Incorrectly Labled Mark Foley as a Democrat)
Written in 2004
As election time nears and many of my friends are undecided, I have taken some time to explain a couple reasons why I feel this country needs a change. I have tried to be as factual as possible to strengthen my arguments and form a persuasive essay. Most of you know I am voting for John Kerry in November; this paper is not to explain why I am voting for Kerry, but rather why I am not voting for Bush. However, unlike the Bush campaign I will not use half truths pounded out by the media, I don’t need too. There are too many factual examples of manipulation and corruption within the present day administration.
As this paper stands I wonder how many of you will take the time to read these viewpoints. I have included many examples but left out even more. I do not discuss Bush’s refusal to involve the Federal Government in the California Energy Crisis due to Enron’s involvement (Ken Lay was Bush’s third largest donor at close to $500,000). I also left out the disappearance of the EPA’s lawsuit against Cintas and the contributions of the Cintas chairman. I did not discus the economic policies of the current administration and how the effects will last until the interest rates begin to rise (right about the time of the elections…interesting). I also fail to write concerning the 2,000,000 jobs lost or transferred over seas within the last four years (He is the only president to lose jobs in the history of the US). I did not take time to detail Bush’s tax cuts even though 50 % of the cuts benefit the wealthiest 1 %. I missed explaining how Bush has taken record surpluses and changed them into record deficits. I did not take the time explaining how Bush rejected bills bolstering homeland security and the nation’s police force. I do not go into Bush’s refusal to allow stem cell research even though the future of human life could be affected. I did not go into many more points of hypocrisy and corruption, or just bad judgment. This election will be about Bush’s leadership regarding 9/11 because there is very little else he can focus on. The world rallied around a leader, but today, that leader does not rally around the world.
It is not ironic that the beginning problem to be addressed with Bush is the 2000 primaries. Perhaps this paper on the GOP President would be nonexistent if Bush and his political attack team would have played nice when dealing with their own party. The beginning of the 2000 Primaries saw John McCain, the Arizona Republican Senator, become the frontrunner for his party’s nomination. Winning three of the first seven states[i] sent a message to George W. Bush; this would be race till the end. That’s when Bush’s team went to work on McCain. Using all forms of vile obscenities attacking both McCain’s policies and personal life, Bush with a seemingly unlimited treasure chest, went to work on the presidential candidate. Bush went to great lengths to discredit the maverick senator, even creating a push poll about McCain fathering an illegitimate child.[ii]
The primaries were devastating to McCain with Bush using the media to leverage negative opinions about his opponent. During the South Carolina Republican primary in 2000, rumors were spread by fellow Republican senators about John McCain's mental health as a result of his imprisonment as a POW. McCain immediately quashed those rumors by voluntarily releasing his entire military record, which confirmed no indications of adverse physical or mental conditions.
McCain has always been a viable threat to corporate agenda. His continual call for campaign finance reform, limiting “soft” money donations, would undermine the influence big business maintained within the political arena. McCain is the only Republican vocal enough to attack the tobacco companies (They gave close to nine million between '95-'01 to the Republican Party[iii]) and conservative enough to fight the media sleaze broadcasted by some of Bush’s largest donors. Though “Bush’s silver-spoon fed business career”[iv] yielded many embarrassments, it did teach him the power of corporate money. McCain was a threat to various corporations and Bush and friends were determined to keep him out.
John McCain is one of the last decent politicians. A Vietnam POW, McCain understood better then any politician the great divide that occurs with decisions of such magnitude. McCain retains job approval ratings of 70 percent among independents, and is a favorite of conservative Democrats. His dedication to his constituents and the United States is never questioned. His mere presence in office would discourage any Democratic presidential nomination.
Howard Fineman of Newsweek writes: “His [McCain] media platform is nearly as tall as the president's, and he is using it right now to outflank him on the "corporate responsibility" issue. His speech to the National Press Club and his appearance on "Meet the Press" give him a chance to list the sweeping reforms he favors: truly independent corporate boards, free of personal and financial connections with management; the counting of executive stock options as salary, thus making them subject to income tax; a ban on corporate consulting by accounting firms; an independent federal agency to oversee the accounting industry; a renewed distinction (first written into law after the Depression) between stock brokering and investment banking.”[v] McCain is minimally influenced by corporate hierarchies, a model for Politicians and the opposite of George Bush.
War on Iraq
Over the past year and a half, our nation has been in a state of war. Many questions have been raised questioning the validity of motives, and the shifting position of the Bush administration. It is possible to write endless amounts of analysis on this conflict so focus will be kept on the administration’s justification.
With the war on terror crippling the nation of Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden hiding like a rodent, Bush’s attention turned to Iraq. Reports of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction became the headline and the implication of their desire to use it against us. Bush immediately stormed to the UN to demand weapons inspectors to search and destroy Saddam’s WMD program. Hans Blix was sent to the scene to evaluate the situation with his team of UN specialist. Reports continued to file in concerning Iraq’s resistance to the inspectors. Unfortunately, the inspectors own comments contradicted the media’s interpretation.
Bush’s insistence that Iraq was a threat to our nation motivated an appeal to congress seeking authority to use force if Iraq did not cooperate. CNN reports, “In a major victory for the White House, the Senate early Friday voted 77-23 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to give up weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions.”[vi] Unfortunately, Bush didn’t understand the “if” part of the Senate resolution.
Five months after the resolution was passed, The United States attacked Iraq. The president addressed the nation with these words of support, “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”[vii] This statement has proven to be the exact opposite of what has occurred. No WMD have been found, friends and allies are non-existent (see “Coalition of the Willing”), and the purpose of the US is less then sure…it has actually changed numerous times.
Since weapons inspectors entered Saddam’s régime, interesting exchanges have taken place. Iraq challenged Bush’s accusations, "If the American administration is interested in inspecting these sites, then they're welcome to come over and have a look for themselves." The White House immediately rejected the offer, saying the matter is up to the United Nations, not Iraq.[viii] However, when the decision to go to war was being debated by the White House, The United Nations was left out. Hans Blix also spoke out about the insistence of going to war, “The invasion of Iraq was planned a long time in advance, and the United States and Britain are not primarily concerned with finding any banned weapons of mass destruction…you ask yourself a lot of questions when you see the things they did to try and demonstrate that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons, like the fake contract with Niger.” Blix continued, “[The war] is a very high price to pay in terms of human lives and the destruction of a country when the threat of weapons proliferation could have been contained by UN inspections.”[ix] The US government was revolted by Blix comments and even went to the extent to tap his phones. When Dr. Blix discovered his, “phone calls were tapped each time he flew into Iraq and his hotel in Baghdad,”[x] he demanded transcripts of his bugged talks to verify that the US would not twist his words. Even, “a former US intelligence officer who saw much of the Iraq material told the ABC that the United States Government treated Dr Blix as though he was in "league with Saddam Hussein".[xi]
Who else has reported that there are no weapons of mass destruction and have resigned due to intelligence breakdowns? David Kay, who led the government's efforts to find evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs until he resigned…said the C.I.A. and other agencies failed to recognize that Iraq had all but abandoned its efforts to produce large quantities of chemical or biological weapons after the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991.[xii] Kay also discussed the satellite images as, “crack cocaine for the C.I.A…They could see something from a satellite or other technical intelligence, and then direct the inspectors to go look at it."[xiii]
When decisions were made to attack Iraq, many Americans relied on the voice of Colin Powell, a trusted United States politician. However, the findings of the bipartisan senate intelligence committee released last week paints an extraordinary picture. Days before Powell was to address the UN, dozens of misleading and speculative facts were challenged by the State Department.[xiv] Even after lengthy debates, Powell “ultimately presented material that was in dispute among State Department experts.” Powell’s February 5th speech to the UN was created by the CIA at the request of the White House. This presentation to the UN was, “the Bush administration's most compelling case by one of its most credible spokesmen that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein was necessary…the speech has become a central moment in the lead-up to war.”[xv]
“It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong, and in some cases deliberately misleading, and for that I am disappointed and I regret it."
– Colin Powell.[xvi]
It has become a widely accepted fact that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction which has even been acknowledged by Bush. So instead of admitting the many deceptions involved with the preemptive strike, Bush changed the entire justification for the war. Liberation was the word of choice for our commanding leader. One has to ask themselves if Bush tried to start this conflict with liberation in mind, if we would have lost 1000 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. If this war is truly about liberating individuals from wicked governments, one has to ask if Cuba, North Korea, or another dictator-run nation will be next and the price involved.
Half way through the war in Iraq, Bush realized that money was running short and went to the congress for another 87 billion. Many members in the Senate rewrote the bill reversing tax cuts for the rich to pay for the unforeseen costs. Bush, not wanting to reverse the cuts, sent the bill back to the Senate. The bill passed (Republican majority in the Senate) but not without fierce debates from members of the congress. Poor pre and post war planning was costing Americans the lives of their soldiers and their hard earned income. Bush was unwilling to pull money from those benefiting the most from the conflict. Senator Kennedy reminded President Bush, “Many of us have opposed the rush to war. But the Bush Administration cannot have it both ways. It can't be wartime for middle America, and peacetime for the rich.”[xvii]
Collation of the Willing
If there has ever been a more laughable phrase designed to invoke union, it is “The Coalition of the Willing.” Upon pronouncing backing for the US led invasion on Iraq, Bush’s administration comforts the American people with this phrase on a daily basis. After researching exactly who the coalition of the willing is, it is fair to believe we are flying solo.
There are over 47 nations listed as part of the coalition against Iraq. Half of which, 99% of Americans could not find on a map. Of the 47 nations only eleven (wait! Spain backed out…make that ten…) countries have provided troupes. Of those ten nations, only two have provided more then 3,000 troupes, The United States and The United Kingdom.[xviii] The United States also has sent six times the number of soldiers of The United Kingdom. Who really is the Coalition of the Willing? Us.
Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, “There must have been shock in Baghdad and awe in Paris last week when the White House announced the news that Palau had joined the "coalition of the willing." Palau, an island group of nearly 20,000 souls in the North Pacific, has much to contribute. It has some of the world's best scuba diving, delectable coconuts and tapioca. One thing Palau cannot contribute, however, is military support: It does not have a military.”[xix] Even Morocco has offered to contribute. Morocco's weekly al Usbu' al-Siyassi claimed that Morocco has offered 2,000 monkeys to help detonate land mines.[xx]
Bush uses manipulative phrases to create the idea that we are not challenging Iraq alone; however, nothing could be further from the truth. We have generated a pre-emptive strike without proper justification. In the course of our rash decision we have alienated various allies. Our president has ventured from post 9-11, where the world was unified fighting terror in Afghanistan, to fighting an enemy who has no proven ties to Al Queda or threatens the United States.
No Child Left Behind
One of the greatest disappointments with the Bush administration is the empty legislation of the enacted No Child Left Behind Act. The passed program was designed to require schools, teachers, students, and parents to achieve more than ever before. Some of the goals included that schools must have a qualified teacher in every classroom within four years. All children must make progress on reading and math achievement every year. All limited English proficient students must make progress on learning the English language and academics every year. Bush campaigned on this promise, to focus on the education of our children. However, when budget decisions were to be discussed, not only did Bush cut funding for schools, he also cut spending for No Child Left Behind. Members of the Senate released this statement in response to the decisions of our President, “There is no room for school reform in a budget that is monopolized by more and more tax breaks for the super-wealthy.”[xxi]
"The president's first education budget after he signed his much-touted No Child Left Behind Act proposed $22.2 billion, a cut of more than $90 million below the previous year and more than $7 billion less than Congress had authorized. They need to change the name of the law to the Quite a Few Children Left Behind Act."[xxii] With college costs rising 20 % in the last three years, Bush’s budget proposed no increases for the Pell grant. Education cannot survive without funding, and the nation cannot survive without education.
Gay Marriage Amendment
Perhaps this amendment should be called the polarizing amendment. In an election year in which each candidate talks about bringing the two Americas together, the Gay Marriage Amendment was designed to do the exact opposite. A tactical strategy designed to alienate his opponents, George Bush pursued support for this amendment in order to gain moderate voters. If Bush was serious about the sanctity of Marriage he would drop his running mate and focus on state courts.
In a heated debate during the 2000 elections with VP candidate Joe Lieberman (who is against gay marriage) Dick Cheney spoke out criticizing such an idea. His view was that the decision should be left up to the states as he appeared sympathetic to gay unions. However, Last month he “said he would support ‘whatever decision’ Bush makes.” Why the apparent flip-flop. Cheney’s daughter, Mary, is an open lesbian. It’s interesting to watch Cheney sell his daughter out for Republican votes.[xxiii]
Why is it impossible for a Gay marriage amendment to pass? Never in the history of the United States has an amendment passed limiting rights of the citizens. In order for the constitution to be altered, thee-quarters of all states have to back it, as well as two-thirds majority in both the house and senate. While some might argue that this is obtainable, it should be remembered that Republicans, not Democrats, are split on the subject. In last week’s Senate vote to move the amendment forward this year, it was blocked due to a few prominent Republican Senators voting against it. Interestingly enough, a few Democratic Senators did not even bother showing up to the voting knowing the split between the GOP party.[xxiv]
The real question that should be asked is: do we really know what banning Gay Marriage does? Does it prohibit Gay couples from adopting children? No, this is already legal and this amendment would not reverse this. Does it prohibit Gay couple from sharing medical benefits? No, most companies have changed the wording on forms from “spouse” to “partner”. Does it stop Gay couples from living together? No. OK, so what then are we fighting about? The benefit that a legal marriage would provide for the gay couple involves transferring assets upon death and taxes. Now you need to ask yourself, is letting less then 1% of the people not marry worth dividing this great nation?
Microsoft, Ashcroft, and Bush
For the past decade the software giant, Microsoft, has been building a small empire. Their operating systems are the standard for 90 % of PC based hardware. They have been observed by the government for many years protecting the competition from crippling monopolistic activity. It is interesting to see the history and the amazing change in total donations over the past decade to political candidates (See Below Chart[xxv]).
In 1998 a civil lawsuit was brought forward against Microsoft challenging its business practices regarding the production of browser software. With the Clinton Administration leading the charge Microsoft was facing stiff penalties, possibly company division, to control their domination of the software industry. Microsoft’s strategy? Give millions of dollars to get their man in office. To the delight of Microsoft, Bush’s Attorney General Nominee John Ashcroft was no stranger to this software giant. Ashcroft’s personal joint committee received tens of thousands of dollars from Microsoft. A watchdog organization, Open Secrets reports, “Microsoft, of course, is hoping the new attorney general drops the justice department’s antitrust suit against the company.”[xxvi]
After the White House became occupied, the first item of business was budget cuts. What was one of the first cuts to be administered? The prosecution team for Microsoft. With no money directed to the lawsuit, Microsoft escaped with a slap on the hand and no federal intervention into their activities.
|Election Cycle||Total Contributions||Contributions from Individuals||Contributions from PACs||Soft Money Contributions (Individuals)||Soft Money Contributions (Organization)|
Over the course of this election, Vice President Cheney said Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry "has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all” and said the senator from Massachusetts “promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within his first 100 days in office.” President Bush's campaign began airing an ad saying Kerry would scrap wiretaps that are needed to hunt terrorists. Bush campaign also charged in a memo sent to reporters and through surrogates that Kerry wants to raise the gasoline tax by 50 cents. Later Kerry was greeted by another Bush ad alleging that Kerry now opposes education changes that he supported in 2001. The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.[xxvii]
History remembers Bush as no stranger using negative ads to destroy his competitor’s credibility. This administration uses such attacks largely to excuse themselves from answering the real questions that need to be resolved. Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, explains, “instead of offering his own agenda, Bush has poured tens of millions dollars into television ads attacking Kerry, a strategy they believe was successful in casting Kerry as a flip-flopper.”[xxviii] Patricia Wilson, a Reuters reporter, comments “the better-financed Bush campaign's $80 million advertising effort to portray him as an irresolute Northeastern liberal who flip-flops on important issues like the Iraq War.”[xxix]
Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total.[xxx] “The balance of misleading claims tips to Bush, in part because the Kerry team has been more careful."[xxxi]
Bush’s strategy requires Americans to be gullible constituents. It is time to start asking the harder questions of accomplishments and plans for the next four years. We as citizens of the United States require direction and a governing purpose. Last years humorous State of the Union Address is an excellent example of what these past four years have been like. Beside the blatant distortion of pre-war intelligence, Bush used the phases “I have proposed” or “I have sent to the Congress” throughout the duration of his speech. The past three years Bush continues to “send” but never seems to “pass” his promises to the America. Even if he is able to push his agenda through the Republican Congress, he quickly cuts budgets like No Child Left Behind.
Bush’s Military Service
Recently United States Senator Max Cleland challenged George Bush’s service within the National Guard. Senator Cleland revived the discussion of Bush’s non-service speculation as no documents have been found to show he reported for duty as ordered in Alabama in 1972. Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey also stated, “it's a matter of character that Bush avoided duty overseas by joining the Texas Air National Guard.”[xxxii]
The Washington Post writes, “It was May 27, 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Bush was 12 days away from losing his student deferment from the draft at a time when Americans were dying in combat at the rate of 350 a week. The unit Bush wanted to join offered him the chance to fulfill his military commitment at a base in Texas. It was seen as an escape route from Vietnam by many men his age, and usually had a long waiting list.” Through political connections, Bush was able to grab one of four available slots for the year.[xxxiii]
The Bush White House has cut funds for veterans[xxxiv] at the same time they are attacking the patriotism of leaders like Max Cleland.[xxxv] In order to undermine the credibility of Cleland, political allies of the Bush Administration stated, ”Cleland lost three limbs in an accident during a routine noncombatant mission where he was about to drink beer with friends.” Distorting the truth has become an art form for friends of Bush. In reality “Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam when a grenade accidentally detonated after he and another soldier jumped off a helicopter in a combat zone.”[xxxvi] Interestingly enough, comments like these are what motivated Senator Kerry’s wife to remove herself from the Republican Party.
Contrast these events with Senator Kerry’s: “I signed up for the Navy right out of college – 1966. I had a sense of responsibility to serve -- Lyndon Johnson had asked for more troops and I thought I'd be a part of that. I also very specifically remember not wanting to go to grad school just to avoid serving, I wanted to one day go to grad school on my own terms instead.”[xxxvii]
Instead of flying dangerous missions from Texas to Florida as did Bush, Kerry spent time cruising South Pacific. “I think anyone who has been in combat believes at some point they're not going to make it - there's a moment when you're knocked out or you feel a bullet cut through your flesh - or you spot an ambush.”[xxxviii] Here is a man who voluntarily responded to the government’s need for soldiers yet all we discuss is His protesting of the war. It should be remembered that if anybody has the right to question motives, it should be the man who put his life in jeopardy for the cause.
"Funny, isn't it? When Bill Clinton was running against Republican war veterans in 1992 and 1996, the most important thing to GOP propagandists and politicians was that Clinton didn't fight in Vietnam. Now that Republican candidates who didn't fight in Vietnam face a Democrat who did -- and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts while he was there -- the Republican machine wants to change the subject."[xxxix]
Americans fall into the trap identifying President Bush as the only individual who could wage the war on terror. The destruction of the trade towers and thousands of lives lost continues to pull at my emotions as I read various accounts. After the tragedy of 9-11 incredible bipartisan support was felt throughout the nation. Every complaint against the current administration was forgotten and the President was given a chance to shine. Sometimes I wonder if a president who perhaps had experienced the stresses of war would have been quicker to respond then trying to figure out what happened next in a children's book. Molly Ivins, a savvy Texas political reporter, commented that Bush has no foreign policy experience whatsoever and is completely stymied by the entire perception. Can you imagine if John McCain or Bob Dole were president? What about Max Cleland or John Kerry?
 http://www.gwu.edu/~action/primrepsum.html. Arizona, New Hampshire, Michigan
 Newsweek. McCain Remains Bush’s Top Nemesis. July 10, 2002.
 http://www.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/10/11/iraq.us/. Senate Approves Iraq War Resolution.
 http://www.truthout.com/docs_03/041203A.shtml. Hans Blix: War Planned 'Long in Advance'
 http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1082671.htm. Blix wants transcripts of bugged talks. April 7, 2004.
 James Risen. Ex-Inspector Says C.I.A. Missed Disarray in Iraqi Arms Program. NY Times. January 26, 2004.
 Greg Miller. Flaws Cited in Powell's U.N. Speech on Iraq. LA Times. June 15, 2004.
 Seattle Times. Powell says his Assertions Were Wrong. May 17, 2004
 http://www.areporter.com/sys-tmpl/thecoalitionofthewilling/. Constantine von Hoffman.
 Washington Post. White House Notebook.: Many Are Willing, But Few Are Able. March 25, 2003.
 Ivans, Molly. A Few Words From Our President. February 6, 2003.
 Newsweek. Something About Mary. February 23, 2004.
 Associated Press. David Espo. Gay Marriage Opponents Pin Hopes on House. July 15, 2004 http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040715/ap_on_go_co/gay_marriage_38
 Center for Responsive Politics. Campaign Finance Records. Opensecrets.org
 Milbank, Dana. From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity. May 31, 2004. Washington Post
 Balz, Dan. President is Still Mum on Second Term. Washington Post. July 18, 2004
 Wilson, Patricia. Kerry Rises from Political Ashes to Face Bush. Reuters. July 18, 2004
 The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.
 University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an authority on political communication.
 George Lardner Jr. At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard. The Washington Post. July 28, 1999.
 http://www.usmilitarysupport.org. Interview with John Kerry.
 E. J. Dionne Jr. Stooping Low to Smear Kerry. Washington Post. April 27, 2004
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -FDR
With the 2004 presidential election come and gone, many citizens will tune out the various debates that our lawmakers continue to engage in. Both sides will retire to their blue and red corners of this polarized nation with a sigh of relief, the red for their victory, the blue for their participation in the democratic process. The red will declare that moral values of the voters will continue to hold this country together, while the blue argues this very subject tears this land apart. Both sides are blinded by the hypocrisy of their own parties as they view their prospective leaders as figures of deity.
In retrospect of last month's elections, voters returned President Bush to the White House due to his moral agenda. Depending on the media outlet, the win came through miniscule proportions or a cataclysmic majority. At any rate, President Bush will unveil his outline for the upcoming years and this author is skeptical that those same moral issues the won him the white house will be anywhere near his agenda. Why is this? Americans, as a whole, skate the lines of morality. When America went home for Thanksgiving, Desperate Housewives was the highest rated show (27.2 million viewers). In the back corners of society, pornography is the most lucrative media industry in the country. Divorce rate is an astounding 50%, and is it even possible to track infidelity numbers?
Look at morality amongst our leaders. Bill Clinton tarnished every positive decision made in office by succumbing to moral temptation. Mayor Giuliani will forever be remembered as a hero of 9/11, but his infidelity decisions will forever be on his constituents mind, What about the New Jersey governor who had an extra-marital affair with another man? Two of the largest media personalities, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, have also taken heat for their moral choices. And the list goes on…
Some thoughts on the issues:
Abortion is one topic which stirs strong confrontation between both parties. Republicans look at the argument as right vs. wrong, as Democrats view it as a challenge of government-protected rights. Republicans argue that abortion destroys life while Democrats believe that government-regulated abortion destroys civil liberties. Now Republicans would like to believe that Democrats support this malice practice, while Democrats cry that Republicans are undermining the constitution. The most interesting part of these perspectives is that both sides believe their opponent is closer to the extreme. For instance, a small percentage of Democrats actually support this inhumane practice, while the majority believes this is an issue of government influence. This is why they are labeled pro-choice instead of pro-abortion. Looking from the other side, Democrats try to label Republicans as a majority who want to challenge constitutional rights, when in reality they believe that abortion is an immoral act. Both parties use extreme stances to justify why the opposing party is out of the mainstream, when in reality, their implications only identify small percentages.
Another issue is Gay marriage. Republicans would like to believe that Democrats support gay marriage when polling demonstrates over and over again, that the majority opposes the practice. Again the issue revolves around government's responsibility within personal arenas. Should a gay individual have access to the same privileges as heterosexual citizens of the United States? Democrats group the Republicans as religious zealots who demonstrate little tolerance to diversity. Yet Republicans widely accept diverse groups, and believe that gay marriage should not receive marital benefits due to the lack of family experience. Republicans like to believe that Democrats are morally inept, while Democrats like to believe that Republicans are ignorant.
Perhaps this is where the hypocrisy sets in:
If one was to ask a pro-choice Democrat why they follow such a belief, their response would be to the tune of protecting civil liberties. Ask that same Democrat concerning civil liberties of the embryo, and their response is strained. They will protest time and time again regarding the woman's right, but do not spend an ounce of effort regarding the unborn's rights.
Ask a Republican why they oppose abortion and their response will most likely depict a graphic reconstruction of the inhuman procedure. They also will counter with discussions of morals and ethics regarding the unborn. Ask that same Republican if the government should take responsibility of uninsured toddlers, abused infants, or homeless children and their response will be less then adequate. Republicans will fight tooth and nail to outlaw abortion, but when that child comes into the world, responsibility is waived.
The same hypocrisy can be witnessed in homosexual rights. The Democratic left desires to legalize civil unions or gay marriage. The same individuals will also point to the destruction of the family as one of the challenges of moral America. However, they fail to recognize the connection between the two. The conservative right is equal in their belief that the family unit is being challenged. However, with their fight to deny the rights of marriage to gay couples in full swing, the real destroyer of family is left to expand. Moderate Republicans (the staunch conservatives refuse to tamper with the constitution) seek to outlaw such a union by amending the constitution, yet they do not fight with the same vigor regarding adultery. Who can argue that infidelity is a far greater threat to moral America then gay marriage? Why not petition with the same tenacity toward an amendment outlawing adultery? Seems ridiculous, right? Possibly. But the point could be made.
One of the more fascinating platforms which divides the two parties, can actually be viewed as a contradiction to both. Gun control: government regulation or absence? In following the basic stances on abortion, gay marriage, and personal platforms regarding less government, it is surprising that Democrats are more prone to support gun control. Republicans on the other hand, who so adamantly support government intervention in personal platforms, cry foul when legislation approaches their perception of the second amendment. Democrats might argue that firearms infringe on the constitution's guarantee for life, liberty, and happiness. They also might justify the limiting of arms as a necessary enactment for protecting personal rights. After all, anyone assaulted with a firearm loses their personal liberties. However, it appears contradictory as to when government intervention is appropriate.
Firearms also present a moral dilemma to the conservative right. This past year the assault weapons ban, supported by 70% of Americans and a large percentage of NRA members, expired with little action from the Republican House or the President. On the eve of the expiration over 5,000 police officers from around the country traveled to capital hill to protest the lack of effort from lawmakers. The ban was also backed by every major police organization across the United States, but to no avail. With the power of the NRA lobbyist controlling a major resource, the expiration of the ban brought twenty million dollars of campaign money to various Republican races across the country. The Republican Right refuses to understand moderation in this particular example.
According to the definition, "moral" relates to principles of right and wrong in behavior. As we look though this country with partisan eyes we selectively engage in our own "moral" battles. For the Republican side, the battle revolves around the black and white disregarding the more challenging problems. The Democrats are the exact opposite, focussing on the complex and graying the black and white. Social programs are perfect examples of these accusations. Throughout the 2004 campaign John Kerry spent incredible resources addressing the lack of medical attention in this country for children. Even with good intentions Kerry could not communicate specific details in accomplishing his proposals, or his suggestions seemed fiscally irresponsible. The majority agrees that taking care of the poor is America's moral responsibility, but Kerry's solutions are too complex or expensive, which in turn makes them unreasonable. President Bush, on the other hand, also solidified these accusations by refusing to even present a solution.
What is more interesting about Medicaid and poverty issues is the divide that comes with stated political philosophies. The blue states are labeled as big government and excess spenders of America's tax money. The Republican base also believes that the Democrat's practice of handouts to the poor hinders the motivation of the impoverish. The Democratic base describes the Republican's small government as self-serving. The irony of these two statements is apparent after studying the 2002 census reports. The states with the highest percentage of citizens without healthcare are New Mexico, Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Louisiana; all red states. The states with the lowest are New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Iowa; all blue. The states with the highest poverty percentages are Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Alabama; all red. The lowest are New Hampshire, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey; all blue. Even more interesting, in averaging 10 surveys (see attached) ranging from education, to teenage pregnancies, to crime rates, to federal aid per capita, the top five states are Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin; all blue. The bottom of these averages are Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma; all red.
What this data implies is the two divides are not catering to their particular needs. It can be assumed (given California and New York alone) that the blue states generate the largest percentage of the federal income tax receipts, with the least per capita need of federal aid. With the difference between the two parties being the theoretical size of government, it is amazing the positioning of the blue and red states. Red states vote for candidates who support smaller government, and blue states vote just the opposite, defying the best economic interests of both.
Throughout this election the war on terror overshadowed the ongoing debate concerning the reform of socialistic programs. Yet the social programs we refuse to address, most directly affect the soldiers keeping our country safe. It is no secret that the largest percentage of military personnel originates from America's poorest communities. Recruiters refuse to enter upscale neighborhoods as such trips would prove unsuccessful. Ask a lawmaker if they have ever been directly affected by welfare or Medicaid and a story might be generated concerning a distant relative. Ask that same representative how many family members or neighbors they know in IRAQ and a distant corner house might be referenced. These policymakers maintain the same moral responsibility to the hidden parts of the United States, and citizens need to push accountability.
As this country tries to tear down the polarizing wall generated through partisan politics, we need to understand that each side has not escaped moral challenges. America will not progress as a divided nation anchored by two extremes. Citizens and lawmakers need to unify and work though social and personal perspectives, and strive for the common good of man, not the slim majority.
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