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“Stop Undermining The President!”: I Am Glad We Have Barack Obama As Our President At This Time In Our History

For a short time after September 11, 2001 anyone who dared to criticize then President Bush was called an unpatriotic traitor. Remember the Dixie Chicks?

But today when international crises occur those same folks pushing that patriotic fervor are quick to find fault with our current Commander in Chief. Whatever happened to putting our country first? It seems to me any global unrest becomes an excuse to bash our President for political purposes.

Take this recent shooting down of Malaysian domestic Flight 17 over the Ukraine. President Obama addressed the disaster the day it happened at an event in Delaware but he was criticized by pundits at Fox News and right wing radio for continuing his speech about building infrastructure. A case could be made that the President wanted to promote calm and business as usual on the home front. On the same day he spoke on the phone with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, who later put the blame on Ukraine.

The next day our President labeled it an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and a “global tragedy” and asked for a ceasefire between Russia and the Ukraine and called for an international investigation into the incident. He also spoke on the phone to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razale, and Prime Minister Marke Rutte of the Netherlands over the course of the past two days.

In other words, he took the appropriate steps and actions to lead and stay on top of this international crisis. Yet, Senator John McCain pointed fingers at President Obama for not supplying weapons to Ukraine to help fight off the Russian rebels accused of this dastardly deed (whether it was an accident or not.) In fact, President Obama just two days ago announced even tougher sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine. So he has been taking actions, just not the military ones that war hawks McCain and others in the GOP have been pushing.

Then the Fox pundits, Sean Hannity in particular, compared this situation to President Reagan‘s reaction to a downed Korean passenger airliner by the Soviet Union in 1983. Yes, President Reagan, great actor that he was, condemned it in strong words, but it took him four days to do it and then he never took any action after that. Plus, it was a totally different world then. We were in a Cold War with the Soviets and things are much more complicated today with all of the unrest in the Middle East.

The conservative pundits will never talk about the Iranian passenger plane Air 655 that we shot down by accident in 1988 under President Reagan’s watch. The United States never apologized for it, paid $61 million for the 290 victims’ families, and no one was fired or held accountable for it. Talk about ironic hypocrisy by those who are so outraged by this.

I, for one, am getting tired of hearing about how “weak” our President is regarding foreign policy. Isn’t it possible that calling him that undermines our country and our reputation in the world? He is not weak. He is not John Wayne (emulated by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush) but rather Cool Hand Luke. He thinks before he acts. He doesn’t shoot from the hip. He takes his time and consults his advisors and looks at the big picture of any long term effects his decisions may create. This may infuriate the action hero testosterone crowd but I think it is the better approach.

Sure, there are statements and mistakes the President made that he would like to take back like the “red line” in Syria, providing more security in Benghazi, and domestically the “you didn’t build that” (although that was taken outside of context), and “if you like your plan you can keep it” (which I think he really believed.)

But the vitriol and hatred lashed out against our leader is very disturbing and maddening. Many of it is based on lies told against him by his opponents (remember the so-called “apology tour” and “death panels” and the debacle over his birth certificate?)

A Facebook friend accused President Obama of raising his middle finger to Republicans from the beginning. I had to straighten him out by pointing out that right after Obama was inaugurated he invited the GOP over to the White House for a Super Bowl party, he played golf with Speaker of the House John Boehner after the 2010 election, he said in his address to the American people “even if you didn’t vote for me, I am your President too.” He wanted to unite the country. Remember his 2004 Democratic Convention speech about the red and blue states and how we are the United States?

It was the Republicans who turned against him from the beginning. The first day of his Presidency they had a meeting to devise a plan to defeat him. The Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said his number one priority was to make Barack Obama a one-term president (we all know how that turned out.) Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said in the midst of our Great Recession “I hope he fails.”

You can only extend the hand of friendship and have it rebuffed so many times until you get the message that it is pointless. And I’m not saying it’s racial although there may be elements of that. The GOP did the same thing to President Bill Clinton, leading numerous dead-end investigations until they latched onto the Monica Lewinsky scandal and actually impeached him in the House of Representatives.

The irony is that the oppositions’ constant barrages have actually strengthened the President. I have never heard him speak with more fire than after Boehner announced the GOP were going to sue him. He has become immune to the chatter on the right and has taken up this latest attack as a battle cry for him to “do his job” for the country as Congress has become the least productive branch of government in history.

President Obama has finally gotten the message that FDR, LBJ, Bill Clinton and even Ronald Reagan learned. You can’t please the opposing party so you have to stick to your principles and do what you feel is right for the country.

I don’t know if other Americans are sick of all of this infighting but I have reached my boiling point. I am seriously considering banning Fox News from my channel surfing as it just irritates the heck out of me.

I just wish we as a nation would get behind our President at times of international crises. Maybe that will happen after the mid-term elections, but I am not holding my breath. In the meantime, I am glad we have Barack Obama as our president at this time in our history. We need his calm, cool, clear headed approach to leadership at this time of unprecedented international turmoil. And if enough of us just get behind him, maybe we can once again become the “United States of America.”

 

By: Joan E. Dowlin, The Huffington Post Blog, July 19, 20

 

 

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Faith-Based Fanatics”: The Ancient Struggle Of My God Versus Your God Is At The Root Of Dozens Of Atrocities

He’s had a busy summer. As God only knows, he was summoned to slaughter in the Holy Land, asked to end the killings of Muslims by Buddhist monks in Myanmar, and played both sides again in the 1,400-year-old dispute over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad.

In between, not much down time. Yes, the World Cup was fun, and God chose to mess with His Holinesses, pitting the team from Pope Francis’s Argentina against Germany, home of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Well played, even if the better pope lost.

At least Rick Perry was not his usual time-suck. The governor proclaimed three days of prayer to end the Texas drought in 2011, saying, “I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this.’ ” The drought got worse. Two years ago, Perry said that God had not “changed his mind” about same-sex marriage. But the states have. Since Perry became a spokesman for the deity, the map of legalized gay marriage in America has expanded by 50 percent.

Still, these are pillow feathers in a world weighted down with misery. God is on a rampage in 2014, a bit like the Old Testament scourge who gave direct instructions to people to kill one another.

It’s not true that all wars are fought in the name of religion, as some atheists assert. Of 1,723 armed conflicts documented in the three-volume “Encyclopedia of Wars,” only 123, or less than 7 percent, involved a religious cause. Hitler’s genocide, Stalin’s bloody purges and Pol Pot’s mass murders certainly make the case that state-sanctioned killings do not need the invocation of a higher power to succeed.

But this year, the ancient struggle of My God versus Your God is at the root of dozens of atrocities, giving pause to the optimists among us (myself included) who believe that while the arc of enlightenment is long, it still bends toward the better.

In the name of God and hate, Sunnis are killing Shiites in Iraq, and vice versa. A jihadist militia, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, boasts of beheading other Muslims while ordering women to essentially live in caves, faces covered, minds closed. The two sides of a single faith have been sorting it out in that blood-caked land, with long periods of peace, since the year 632. Don’t expect it to end soon. A majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are peaceful, but a Pew Survey found that 40 percent of Sunnis do not think Shiites are proper Muslims.

Elsewhere, a handful of failed states are seeing carnage over some variant of the seventh-century dispute. And the rage that moved Hamas to lob rockets on birthday parties in Tel Aviv, and Israelis to kill children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza, has its roots in the spiritual superiority of extremists on both sides.

The most horrific of the religion-inspired zealots may be Boko Haram in Nigeria. As is well known thanks to a feel-good and largely useless Twitter campaign, 250 girls were kidnapped by these gangsters for the crime of attending school. Boko Haram’s God tells them to sell the girls into slavery.

The current intra-religious fights are not to be confused with people who fly airplanes into buildings, or shoot up innocents while shouting “God is great.” But those killers most assuredly believed that their reward for murder is heaven.

Of late, God has taken a long break from Ireland, such a small country for such a big fight between worshipers under the same cross. There, the animus is not so much theological as it is historical. If the curious Muslim is wondering why Protestants and Catholics can’t just get along on that lovely island, take a look at the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century, when about 20 percent of the population of present-day Germany fell to clashes between the two branches of Christianity.

Violent Buddhist mobs (yes, it sounds oxymoronic) are responsible for a spate of recent attacks against Muslims in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, leaving more than 200 dead and close to 150,000 homeless. The clashes prompted the Dalai Lama to make an urgent appeal to end the bloodshed. “Buddha preaches love and compassion,” he said.

And so do Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The problem is that people of faith often become fanatics of faith. Reason and force are useless against aspiring martyrs.

In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.

 

By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, July 18, 2014

July 20, 2014 Posted by | Religion, Faith | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Right’s Ahistorical Look At Global Turmoil”: According To John McCain, We Haven’t Invaded Enough Countries

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made yet another Sunday-show appearance yesterday and offered some historical perspective that stood out as interesting. Asked about the disagreement over foreign policy between Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), McCain replied:

“So I’m not particularly interested in getting between Senator Paul and Governor Perry, but I do believe that the things we’re seeing in the world today, in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime, is a direct result of an absence of American leadership.”

Now, for McCain, the “absence of American leadership” roughly translates to “we’re not engaged militarily in enough foreign countries,” so this is obviously easy to dismiss.

But to believe the world is in “greater turmoil” than at any time in McCain’s lifetime is an amazing claim. I suppose there’s some subjectivity to this – one observer’s turmoil may be another’s unrest – but John McCain was born in 1936.

I mention this because his lifetime includes the entirety of World War II and the beginning, middle, and end of the Cold War. McCain wants to talk about global “turmoil”? We can have a spirited chat about Hitler taking swaths of Europe while Japan invaded China. That’s “turmoil.” By comparison, today’s global stage is almost tranquil.

McCain added in the same interview, “I would argue that given conditions in the Middle East, this might be more dangerous than any time in the past.”

Really? Any time? Conditions are more dangerous now than during any Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian revolution, the Egyptian revolutions, every Islamic uprising and civil war of the 1970s, and the rise of al Qaeda?

This is not to say the Middle East is a model of stability right now, but to say that it’s “more dangerous” than at “any time in the past” is a little over the top.

Let’s also note that McCain has made curious historical arguments like these before. In 2008, at the height of his presidential campaign, the senator said the conflict between Russia and Georgia was the first “serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War” – overlooking 9/11, both wars in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, two conflicts in the Balkans, multiple crises in Israel, Darfur, and the rise of a nuclear North Korea, among other things.

But it seems this general train of thought is nevertheless common. The Wall Street Journal reports today:

A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe, from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South China Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U.S. global power seems increasingly tenuous. […]

The chaos has meant that the Obama administration finds itself in the middle of a second term reacting to rather than directing world events.

Remind me, when was this era in which U.S. officials were capable of “directing world events”? Here’s a hint: there was no such era. This is an ahistorical Republican talking point working its way into a purported news story.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, John McCain, Right Wing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republicans Rant But Offer No Solutions”: There’s A Contest Among Republicans To See Who Can Be More Shameless And Irresponsible

Apparently there’s a contest among Republicans to see who can be more shameless and irresponsible in criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy. So far, Chris Christie is winning.

The New Jersey governor alleged Saturday that “the unrest you see in the Middle East is caused in some measure — not completely, but in some measure — by the fact that this president has not acted in a decisive, consistent way.”

If you disregard the rantings of unserious provocateurs such as Sarah Palin, Christie’s attack represents a new low. He accuses the president of the United States of actually being responsible “in some measure” for violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, dictators and rebels — conflicts and antagonisms that began, I seem to recall, well before Obama took office in January 2009.

One might assume that Christie offered specific ideas about what Obama should be doing differently. Nope.

The president should be “trying to bring stability to that region by having America be a forceful voice in favor of a democracy like Israel and be condemning, in the strongest terms and in actions, the things that are being done by Hamas against Israel.” All of which Obama has already done.

Asked whether Obama should take some kind of military action in the region, Christie answered, “I’m not going to give opinions on that. I’m not the president.”

Very helpful, Governor. Please return to your intensive study of traffic patterns on the George Washington Bridge.

Other Republicans who, like Christie, are running for president offer equally vague and useless criticisms of Obama’s policies in the Middle East and around the world. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s going for the bookish intellectual look these days — he has started wearing glasses and stopped wearing cowboy boots — wrote an op-ed in The Post on Saturday accusing Obama of “confused leadership and passivity” that “enabled groups such as the Islamic State to grow.”

What exactly, in Perry’s view, did Obama do wrong? We’ll never know, I guess, because “the window to shape events for the better passed years ago.” It would have been helpful had Perry let us know at the time he saw that window passing, or perhaps closing, or something.

Perry does suggest there is still time for the United States to provide “meaningful assistance” in Iraq and Syria, including “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sharing and airstrikes.” But he neglects to specify whom we should meaningfully assist: one of the also-ran rebel groups in Syria, the sectarian Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, the Islamic theocracy in Iran . . .

In fairness, Perry’s prime target wasn’t Obama. He was aiming at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose “isolationist” policies Perry sees as a potentially grave threat to our national security. The fact that Paul also poses a potentially grave threat to Perry’s presidential ambitions — he leads most polls for the GOP nomination — is pure coincidence, I’m sure.

Paul responded Monday with an op-ed in Politico, saying of Perry that “apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly.” He notes that during the 2012 campaign, Perry advocated sending troops “back into Iraq” to counter the growing influence of Iran — but now seems to advocate helping Iran against the Islamic State extremists.

In the Politico piece, Paul refrains from gratuitous criticism of Obama. But in a National Review essay this month, Paul blasted the White House for urging Israel to show “restraint” in responding to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Paul called for a cutoff of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. He should be smart enough to understand that this would only strengthen the position of Hamas. But perhaps his real aim is to dispel the notion that he is insufficiently pro-Israel.

The Republican critique of Obama’s foreign policy that has achieved the most traction — undeservedly so, in my view — comes from a non-candidate: Mitt Romney. The basic thrust: “I told you so.”

But what was Romney so right about, except the blindingly obvious? That a large, permanent U.S. residual force in Iraq could have prevented the gains by the Islamic State? Of course, but the American public didn’t support keeping troops there and the Iraqi government said no. That it would be better if the “moderate” rebels were winning in Syria? Certainly, but shaping the outcome of that multi-sided civil war would require a robust intervention.

People who see easy options really should have their eyes checked.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 14, 2014

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Absence Of His Convictions”: The Tough-Talking Chris Christie Suddenly Seems Rather Shy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held a wide-ranging press conference yesterday at an event in Tennessee, inexplicably calling the Affordable Care Act a “failure” despite all the evidence to the contrary, and blaming violence in Israel on the Obama administration for reasons that don’t make sense.

But those rhetorical shots were easy, and the fact that there were wide-ranging questions doesn’t necessarily mean there were wide-ranging answers. Time’s Zeke Miller reported that Christie is “making moves to prepare for a presidential run,” but the governor does not “answer questions like a presidential candidate.”

Sometimes the straight-talking governor of New Jersey doesn’t talk all that straight. Gov. Chris Christie casts himself as a decider, steering his state through rough economic waters, while setting himself up for a run for the White House. At the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville on Saturday, Christie lambasted the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and its inability to negotiate with Congress.

But he skipped as many issues as he took on. Just what he would do when faced with some of the nation’s hardest policy challenges remains unclear.

Should lawmakers raise the gas tax to pay for transportation projects? Christie didn’t want to give an opinion. Should unaccompanied minors from Central America be sent back? Christie said he’s “not going to get into all that.” Should the U.S. intervene militarily against Hamas? Christie dodged that, too.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it keeps happening. Christie presents himself as a bold trailblazer, ready to lead his party and his nation, but when asked for his opinions on current events, suddenly the tough-talking governor seems rather shy.

Two weeks ago, for example, Christie was asked for his opinion on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby/contraception ruling. He refused to give an opinion either way. It followed an interview in which Christie refused to give an opinion on immigration reform, declining to even reiterate support for public remarks he’s already made.

Before that, when the U.S. policy in Syria reached a crisis point, Christie refused to take a stand on that, too.

In an interview earlier this month, the New Jersey Republican actually took some pride in his ability to dodge questions, saying it’s the mark of “a good leader.”

It’s actually the opposite. Good leaders generally aren’t afraid to answer questions about current events, afraid of what one constituency or another might say in response. As we talked about at the time, Christie used to present himself as a no-nonsense straight talker, afraid of nothing and no one. Now the prospect of sharing his take on the major issues of the day makes him uncomfortable.

Is this really the “brand” Christie wants to cultivate in advance of a national campaign?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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