To the anti-union governors, the Tea Partyers, the whiner down the street who is convinced that everyone in the public sector enjoys a high salary and benefits for doing a cushy job, let us consider the government worker whose effort we have witnessed in the past week.
Let’s start with all the career intelligence staffers—and this includes those who worked under the Bush administration—who have been looking for clues for a decade to chase down and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. These include people who may have had small successes that led to last week’s big success. Or they may have had enormous successes we don’t even know about: Who can say how many major terrorist attacks our teams at the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the Pentagon have averted through good intelligence work? They can’t say. It would endanger their work. And when people complain about what they do—or don’t do—they just have to suck it up and keep quiet, lest they tip off terrorists.
There are some pretty high-level government workers to thank—President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. First, kudos to Obama for offering Clinton the job at State after a bruising and testy primary fight. Kudos to Clinton, as well, for accepting it. Being in government service, at any level, means setting aside personal gripes for the sake of the public. They both did that. And if Clinton had a problem with the United States going into Pakistan to get bin Laden—an idea she questioned during the primary campaign—she surely got over it, and presumably was deeply involved in the diplomatic gymnastics required before and after the raid.
And how about the Navy SEALs, who are, after all, government workers as well? They conducted a brilliant surgical strike on the most wanted man in the world, and we will likely never know their names, never be able to approach them on the street just to say thanks. They’re used to that; they are, I imagine, OK with that. Service isn’t about personal aggrandizement or fame. It’s about doing your job, sometimes anonymously.
And underneath these teams are the support staff who helped the intelligence workers and high-ranking officials and military people do their jobs. They, too, helped make this mission happen.
To the antigovernment forces who repeatedly ask the (hopefully) rhetorical question, “What good is government? Name me one government program that has worked.” Of course, we can start with roads and bridges, public libraries, Social Security, public education, and a raft of other items. But for those who can’t even see the value in those public works, we have the teams that worked for a decade, over two administrations, to get bin Laden. This is what your government does, and it was carried out by government workers. They deserve thanks—not derision.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and Worl Report, May 9, 2011
Conservatives have attempted to credit George W. Bush for President Barack Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden in various ways, from exaggerating the role of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” to praising Bush’s unsuccessful seven year attempt to do so.
Today, Ross Douthat offers the latest version of this argument: That killing Bin Laden constitutes “the most visible proof” so far of Bush-Obama continuity in matters of national security:
The death of Osama bin Laden, in a raid that operationalized Bush’s famous “dead or alive” dictum, offered the most visible proof of this continuity. But the more important evidence of the Bush-Obama convergence lay elsewhere, in developments from last week that didn’t merit screaming headlines, because they seemed routine rather than remarkable.
This is an odd formulation that ignores that the hunt for bin Laden predated the Bush administration — remember that conservatives accused President Bill Clinton of “wagging the dog” when authorizing missile strikes against al Qaeda in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yet Douthat does not praise Clinton in making this argument about “continuity,” because doing so would acknowledge that any president, regardless of party, would regard it as part of his duty to defend American citizens from terrorism.
While there are indeed many examples of Obama continuing Bush-era policies to the frustration of liberals, killing bin Laden is not one of them. Rather, Obama’s focus on bin Laden represents a departure from his predecessor, who had decided shortly after 9/11 that bin Laden was “just a person who’s been marginalized,” just a small part of a much larger battle. As Michael Hirsh wrote last week, Obama rejected the Bush approach that “conflated all terror threats from al-Qaida to Hamas to Hezbollah,” replacing it with “with a covert, laserlike focus on al-Qaida and its spawn.”
During the 2008 election, Bush mocked Obama for asserting he would target bin Laden if he was hiding in Pakistan. GOP presidential candidate John McCain attacked Obama as “confused and inexperienced” for saying so.” It is a bit rich to regard the results of an operation that Bush and McCain would have opposed as “continuity” with the prior administration. There are a number of disturbing continuities between Bush and Obama on national security, but the singular focus on bin Laden isn’t one of them.
What is notable however, is that the major distinction between Obama and Bush that has formed the basis of GOP criticism of Obama — the President’s rejection of torture — has proven so decisively wrongheaded. Conservatives attempting to attribute successfully killing bin Laden to torture are merely attempting to take credit for what President Bush pointedly failed to do. Far from yielding the necessary intelligence, the two al Qaeda suspects who were waterboarded pointedly resisted identifying the courier whose activities lead to the U.S. discovering Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The pro-torture argument ignores the obvious — that if torture was so effective, bin Laden would have been dead long ago. Bin Laden was found through years of painstaking intelligence gathering, not through the barbarous methods supported by many Bush apologists.
One cannot discount how shattering the Obama administration’s killing of Bin Laden has been to the self-image of conservatives who have convinced themselves of that the fight against al Qaeda hinges not just on torture, but on how many times the president says the word “terrorism,” or on Obama’s refusal to engage in juvenile expressions of American toughness.
While we’re far from the moment where terrorism ceases to be a threat, what torture apologists fear most now is a future in which al Qaeda is destroyed without the U.S. embracing the war-on-terror “dark side” that’s become central to their identity. Indeed, having rejected torture, Obama has nevertheless lead the country to its greatest victory in the fight against al Qaeda.
By: Adam Serwer, The Washington Post-The Plum Line, May 9, 2011
Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Missouri are advancing so-called right-to-work bills that would allow private-sector workers to opt out of joining unions, the latest such efforts to curb labor unions in the legislative season that in many states is now entering the home stretch.
The measures, if successful, would mark the first expansion in a decade of right-to-work laws, which are on the books in 22 states.
Lawmakers in New Hampshire, where Republicans took control of both chambers last fall, passed a right-to-work measure last week. Its success will hinge on whether the state House of Representatives has enough votes to override a promised veto by Democratic Gov. John Lynch. If the bill passes, New Hampshire would become the first right-to-work state in the Northeast, historically a union stronghold.
In Missouri, the sponsor of a state Senate right-to-work bill is trying to shape a compromise in the final days of the legislative session.
Right-to-work measures were proposed in 18 states this year, an unusually high number that labor experts attribute to state budget and economic woes, GOP gains in November and influence by tea-party groups that oppose unions’ political clout. Ohio and Wisconsin didn’t pass specific right-to-work legislation but did adopt laws allowing public-sector employees to opt out of paying dues. The laws generally are backed by business groups and Republicans, opposed by Democrats and denounced by labor.
Most of the bills proposed this year likely are not far enough along to pass before legislative sessions end. Others died during negotiations. In Indiana, for instance, where Democrats fled the state in part to protest such a measure, House Republicans abandoned the idea to get them back to the table.
Still, the large number of proposals demonstrate the growing momentum of the idea. Legislators in many states say they will take up similar measures next year.
Right-to-work legislation is typically among the most contentious. A key contributor to the states’ red ink, advocates say, is public-employee benefits and pensions set by generous union contracts. Additionally, advocates say, the slow economy and a desire to create jobs has revived the issue.
“The political equation has changed in a lot of states,” said Michael Eastman, executive director of labor policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Measures that may not have been possible two and four and six years ago now may be.”
But unions view such measures as a political attack, aimed at curbing their influence. The laws threaten unions because they permit workers to opt out of joining or paying dues in unionized workplaces. Dues are a key source of funds for political efforts, and higher numbers of workers give unions more clout during contract talks. Without right-to-work laws, workers covered by union contracts can be required to pay union dues.
The goal of right-to-work measures is to “weaken the labor movement in key states around the country,” said Mark MacKenzie, president of the AFL-CIO’s state federation in New Hampshire. “If you look at the map, it has nothing to do with protecting workers rights but taking over key areas of the country” for the 2012 presidential election.
Right-to-work laws were set by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. They have largely been enacted by states on the Great Plains and in the South. Those states, including Texas and North Carolina, tend to have the lowest unionization rates.
In March, right-to-work states had both the nation’s lowest U.S. unemployment rate, at 3.6% in North Dakota, and the highest, at 13.2% in Nevada, which still has a relatively large percentage of union members.
In Missouri, 9.9% of all workers belong to a union, and in New Hampshire 10.2% of workers do, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Missouri Sen. Luann Ridgeway, who sponsored that state’s right-to-work measure, said schemes to attract jobs with tax breaks haven’t worked. The bill has stalled in the Senate, but Ms. Ridgeway, a Republican, said she and her colleagues were weighing compromises, such as a voter referendum.
In New Hampshire, unions are lobbying the House, where Republicans have a 294-102 majority. The Senate passed the bill with a two-thirds majority needed to override the veto, but the House vote fell short of that mark.
Unions say they are uncertain about their chances. “I would say that we don’t have the votes right now,” said Dennis Caza, political coordinator for International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 633, in Manchester, N.H., which represents workers at United Parcel Service Inc. and Anheuser-Busch Cos., among other companies.
By: Kris Majer and Amy Merrick, The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2011