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“Everyone Expects The President To Be A Magician”: Why President Obama Is Right On Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton surprised both Republicans and Democrats with her sharp criticism of President Obama over his foreign policy, calling it a “Don’t do stupid stuff” strategy that did not conform to the definition of a policy at all.

Her assessment has merit but is also unfair. America’s foreign policy is definitely scattershot but it is not the fault of the president. It is the fault of our culture. We are getting the foreign policy we have chosen.

On one hand, Americans are the most soft-hearted and empathetic people on earth, capable of feeling the pain of people an entire world away. And yet we also have a visceral hatred of war, preferring diplomacy to settle differences and sometimes even refusing to fight when it is the only way to prevent catastrophe. We do eventually wake up to reality but it is only after a massive humanitarian crisis such as the one now being witnessed in Iraq.

Our foreign policy, to put it succinctly, is reactive and not proactive and allows situations — whether it be the rise of Al Qaeda, Hassad’s regime in Syria, the pro-Russian movement in Ukraine, or ISIS in Iraq — to deteriorate until there is no option from a humanitarian perspective but to commit military resources to it. In the process, we often make a bigger mess than we started, such as we have made in Iraq and Afghanistan. We detest conflict and therefore fail to take action in time to prevent a full-scale disaster.

President Obama is simply meeting this mandate given to him by the American people. It is arguable, of course, that as the commander-in-chief he should lead and not follow, but this particular president has been hamstrung on both sides by the Republicans and the Democrats — each of whom have their own (sometimes hypocritical) belief system and agenda, and have been brutal in holding the President to it.

On the right, the GOP would love for him to launch as many wars as possible to support the defense industry and to appease the party’s hawkish foreign policy beliefs, but also routinely attack him on the budget deficit and the government’s inability to balance the books; and on the left, the Democrats demand that he not risk any U.S. lives but criticize his inability to save the lives of persecuted souls all over the globe. In other words, everyone expects the president to be a magician who can pursue a strong foreign policy and stand up for humanitarian causes without spending any money and without risking any American lives.

The White House’s reactive strategy, then, is a direct response to these contradictory pressures and the best that it can do to address world crises. If we really want a more comprehensive foreign policy and a longer-term strategy for the Middle East, Russia, North Korea, and other problem areas of the world, the American people first need to rethink their own attitudes towards international intervention and only then can their leader really do anything about it. We need to make up our minds — either we are willing to pursue a policy of preventing bloodshed across the world and make the personal financial and human sacrifice needed to do it, or we need to accept that we cannot save everyone and will have to accept the best that our government can do.

Peanut gallery criticism, which is what most of us offer, including at the moment Hillary Clinton, is disingenuous and counter-productive. It also sends a bad signal to the world that we don’t know what we are doing, which is not true. President Obama does know what he’s doing. The problem is that he just can’t do much more given the constraints he works under.

 

By: Sanjay Sanghoee, Political and Business Commentator; The Huffington Post Blog, August 11, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Watching A Bad Idea Backfire”: Republican Antics Are Killing The GOP Among Swing Voters

For the last several weeks, the more congressional Republicans talked about suing, and possibly impeaching, President Obama, the more Democrats smiled. Aaron Blake explained why: the Republican antics are “killing the GOP among swing voters.”

The McClatchy-Marist College poll shows political moderates oppose the impeachment of Obama 79 percent to 15 percent. That’s a stunning margin. And not only that, if the House GOP did initiate impeachment proceedings, moderates say it would turn them off so much that they would be pulled toward the Democrats. By 49-27, moderates say impeachment would make them more likely to vote Democratic than Republican in 2014.

But it’s not just impeachment. As we’ve noted before, the House GOP’s lawsuit against Obama’s use of executive orders is turning out to be a political loser too. In fact, it’s not much more popular than impeachment.

Americans say 58 percent to 34 percent that the GOP should not sue Obama, and moderates agree 67-22. Moderates also say by a 50-25 margin that the lawsuit makes them more likely to back Democrats in 2014.

Oops.

Congressional Republicans, by targeting the president so aggressively, probably assumed this would motivate the GOP base, if nothing else, but even that isn’t entirely going according to plan. Greg Sargent, looking at the same data, explained this morning, “The poll also finds that 88 percent of Democrats say the lawsuit would make them more likely to vote for their side, while 78 percent of Republicans say the same.it…. [T]his effort may scratch the hard-right GOP base’s impeachment itch, but it could end up motivating Democrats more.”

And yet, GOP officeholders and candidates still can’t help themselves.

Even as Republican leaders try to downplay their anti-Obama schemes, and dismiss impeachment rhetoric as a Democratic “scam,” the message doesn’t seem to have reached everyone in the party. Just yesterday, we heard more impeachment talk from a House GOP candidate

Matthew Corey, the Republican challenging Rep. John Larson (D-CT) in Connecticut, said Saturday that he believes President Obama should be impeached, according to the Bristol Press. Corey said that Obama has violated the constitutional provision that gives Congress “all legislative powers” and said the president has been “breaking the oath of office.” He also said he supported the House’s efforts to sue Obama for choosing “what parts of a law he wants to enforce.”

… and a current House GOP lawmaker.

Rep. Steve King called into Glenn Beck’s radio program this morning to discuss his confrontation last week with advocates of immigration reform. During the interview, King told Beck that it is vitally important for House Republicans to rein in President Obama for the remainder of his term so that he cannot destroy America before this nation can elect a new president “whom God will use to restore the soul of America.”

Saying that Republicans cannot “unilaterally disarm” by taking the threat of impeachment off the table, King declared that the GOP must work to “restrain this president so that he doesn’t do serious destructive damage to our constitution” in order to allow this nation to “limp our way through his terms of office.”

This sort of talk has practically become a daily occurrence. If the McClatchy-Marist data is correct, Democrats are likely hoping it doesn’t stop anytime soon.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s Exceptional About Ferguson, Missouri?”: Not The Heart Of The Crisis So Much As A Capillary That Finally Broke

“This whole area, this city is a racial powder keg,” one man at a protest in Ferguson, Missouri told the LA Times, two days after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. In an attempt to explain why the St. Louis suburb has been filled with demonstrators, showered in tear gas and rubber bullets, and patrolled by armored vehicles in the days since, reporters have unearthed a “history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement” that, editors of The New York Times wrote, “produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets.”

The racial disparities that define Ferguson are indeed shocking. More than two-thirds of the town’s residents are black, but almost all of the officials and police officers are white: the mayor and the police chief, five of six city council members, all but one of the members of the school board, 50 of 53 police officers.

Most of the time, those officers search and arrest people who don’t look like them. In 2013, 92 percent of searches and 86 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson involved black people. The skewed numbers don’t correspond at all to the levels of crime. While one out of every three whites was found carrying illegal weapons or drugs, only one in five blacks had contraband.

But is Ferguson really exceptional? The town is just north of one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country, St. Louis. Most cities in America, however, are still highly segregated when it comes to their black and white populations. The high percentage of black Ferguson residents below the poverty line—28 percent—is in fact consistent with the percentage of black Americans who live in poverty throughout the country. The point is not that Ferguson’s particular history and statistics don’t matter; rather, it is that whatever shock, outrage, and action they inspire should be amplified exponentially. It’s easier to accept ugliness, though, by pretending a mirror is a window to somewhere else.

The unequal application of the force of the law is also well documented across the country. Five times as many whites use illegal drugs as black Americans, and yet black people are sent to prison on drug charges at ten times the rate of whites. And disparity is evident in other police forces; for example, only 10 percent of the New York Police Department’s recruits in 2013 were black.

The whiteness of Ferguson’s political leadership is a national trait, too. Since Reconstruction, only four states have elected black senators: Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and New Jersey. Voters in 25 states still have never elected a black representative to the House.

We know also that the killing of a young, unarmed black person isn’t unique to Ferguson. It wasn’t unique to Sanford or Jacksonville; nor to Staten Island; Beavercreek, Ohio; Dearborn Heights, Michigan;  Pasadena, California; or any of the other cities that, as Jelani Cobb writes, now bleed together in “the race-tinged death story” that “has become a genre itself.”

There’s a crisis all right. But Ferguson is not its heart so much as a capillary finally burst. That many find the sadness and rage in Ferguson more needing of explanation than the militarized response is particularly telling.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty, Racial Segregation | , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s Wrong With The GOP’s ‘Hell No’ Faction”: They’re Draining The Vitality From America’s Democracy

Ah, August — that time of year when the going gets tough … and Congress gets going.

On vacation, that is. And, to be fair, maybe Congress needs a vacation. All the stress of not passing laws and constantly thwarting any attempt by President Obama to fix America’s problems seems to be straining their sanity.

For starters, if you thought that, surely, partisan posturing by far-right congresscritters couldn’t get any nuttier, you’d be wrong. Last month, the GOP claimed that all the talk about impeaching President Barack Obama is being led by — guess who? — Barack Obama!

If you’ll recall, the top Republican leader, John Boehner (having discovered that the larger public is appalled that his party would even consider wasting time on such extremist nonsense) tried to do a political backflip. Impeachment talk, he fumed, is “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.” No Republican lawmakers, he barked to the media, are even discussing it.

Boehner, Boehner, Boehner! Apparently he didn’t hear Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who’s No. 2 on his own GOP leadership team, tell Fox News that he refuses to rule out impeachment. Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan exult that “it would be a dream come true” to impeach Obama, and that he has pursued advice from experts on how to proceed. Or Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, saying flatly, “We need to bring impeachment hearings immediately.” How about Randy Weber of Texas, who put it unequivocally: “The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple.” And Georgia’s Jack Kingston confirmed that: “Not a day goes by when people don’t talk to us about impeachment.”

Still, Boehner did receive some backing on his claim that no one in the GOP has given a moment’s thought to impeachment. The always insightful Tea Party radio ranter Glenn Beck, for example, waded in with this question to his audience on a recent broadcast: “Have you spoken to one person (pushing such an idea)?” he demanded. “No one” has used the “I” word, he snapped. But, in fact, Beck does know one person who has: Himself! Also, Sarah Palin! And at least a dozen other likeminded sparklies on the way-out far-right horizon.

Right up to the time they departed Capitol Hill to enjoy vacations that will stretch through all of this month, much of September, and a good part of October, GOP howlers in Congress were pointing to several emergency issues that needed to be addressed — such as the humanitarian crisis of immigrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the growing crisis of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But … nothing. They simply adjourned and bolted off the job.

OK. They did do one thing. Incapable of legislating, they litigated. Boehner filed a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama, charging that he’s been governing unilaterally by issuing executive orders. But there are big problems with their suit.

One: Obama has issued far fewer executive orders than did his GOP predecessor, George W. Bush. Two: Their suit claims the president defied Congress by inadequately implementing the Obamacare health reform — but, hello? Republicans fought that reform tooth and nail and are still trying to stop it from being implemented, meaning they’re suing him for not doing something they don’t want done (another indicator that Congress does need to take an extended leave for mental health reasons). And three: As they vacated the Capitol, howling House leaders said that, in their absence, Obama should immediately deport the terrorized and traumatized migrant children who fled to the U.S. this summer from the gang violence and implacable poverty they faced in their Central America homes.

Again … Hello? The GOP’s call for deportations was a demand that — get this — the president should act unilaterally, by issuing an executive order.

These ideological zealots are nutty, but they’re clogging the roadway, preventing any of the progress that America desperately needs. As a result, not only is the public fed up with them but voter turnout is plummeting this year as people see that the “hell no” faction has turned democratic participation into a farce — so why bother?

Put away all hope for honesty or seriousness, ye who enter the nuthouse presently known as Boehner’s U.S. House of Representatives. Their antics could be laughed off — except that they’re draining the vitality from America’s democracy.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 13, 2014

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The South’s Lesson For The Tea Party”: Will They Reject The Siren Song Of Nativism And Populism?

Last week’s Republican primary in Tennessee resulted in a comfortable win for Senator Lamar Alexander over his Tea Party-backed challenger, State Assembly Representative Joe Carr. But make no mistake: The Tea Party is on a roll across the South, having mounted major primary challenges in Texas, Mississippi and South Carolina, and knocked out Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The movement’s success, with its dangerous froth of anti-Washington posturing and barely concealed racial animus, raises an important question for Southern voters: Will they remember their history well enough to reject the siren song of nativism and populism that has won over the region so often before?

We often think of the typical segregationist politician of yore as a genteel member of the white upper crust. But the more common mode was the fiery populist. Names like Thomas E. Watson of Georgia, “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman of South Carolina and James K. Vardaman and Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi may be obscure outside the South, but for most anyone brought up here, they loom large.

In the early 20th century, these men rose on an agrarian revolt against Big Business and government corruption. They used that energy, in turn, to disenfranchise and segregate blacks, whose loyalty to the pro-business Republican Party made them targets of these racist reformers.

Their activities spawned a second wave of Southern Democratic populists, who defied federal court orders and civil rights legislation during the 1960s, even as more moderate politicians were moving on. Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, among others, portrayed himself as a tribune of the working class while championing segregation.

It’s hard not to hear echoes of those eras today. Tea Party candidates have targeted federal taxes and spending, while attacking Chamber of Commerce interests and the leadership of the Republican Party. Racism has been replaced with nativism in their demands for immigration restrictions, but the animosity toward the “other” is the same. And there remains a whiff of the ancient fumes of bitter-end resistance: Chris McDaniel, a state senator who took Senator Thad Cochran into a runoff in Mississippi, still refuses to accept the validity of the election.

Mr. McDaniel had all the bona fides of an old-time demagogue. He was once a conservative radio talk show host who dabbled in ethnic innuendo. He made appearances before neo-Confederate organizations. When Mr. Cochran solicited votes in the runoff from black Mississippians, Mr. McDaniel’s supporters vowed to monitor polling places in black-majority precincts, a move reminiscent of old-fashioned Election Day intimidation.

Tea Party spokesmen, as well as the Republican establishment, complain that the movement was unfairly trumped by a race card. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster working for Mr. Alexander, says the movement isn’t racist, but rather it represents people “who are economically pressed, who feel betrayed, who feel leaders in Washington caused their housing values to decline, for their retirement accounts to plummet.”

But that’s precisely the point, and the hope, for those worried about the Tea Party insurgency. What looks like a mounting wave may have reached its crest this year, running up against the many Southerners — white and black, liberal and conservative — who know well how such passions were once perverted by demagogues.

It’s trite to recall William Faulkner’s line about the past not being the past, but Southerners do remember their history: A considerable body of literature about the populist rebellion was once required reading in college for a generation of Mississippians old enough to remember the second reactionary period 50 years ago.

In “The Mind of the South,” still in print seven decades after it was published, W. J. Cash wrote that populist forces in the region were driven by “the rage and frustration of men intolerably oppressed by conditions which they did not understand and which they could not control.” And A. D. Kirwan’s 1951 history, “Revolt of the Rednecks,” traced the political rise of the Mississippi racists Vardaman and Bilbo to the disillusionment of white farmers who felt “forgotten” and singled out by “an enemy class” of Wall Street speculators and railroad owners backed by big government. The economic struggle, Kirwan wrote, was “complicated by the Negro,” who became a victim of the politicians’ zeal to prevent blacks from holding any power.

Education became their whipping boy. A century ago, the first wave of populist demagogues withheld funds for poor, segregated schools and tried to purge college faculties of nonbelievers. The second wave, citing “states’ rights,” threatened to shut schools rather than integrate and denounced federal aid to education as a sinister investment. In the Cochran-McDaniel race, you could hear that same strain in Tea Party criticisms of the federal government, of federal aid to education and of the “establishment.”

Over a century ago, demagogues did more than anyone to impose the system of strict segregation that lasted until the 1960s. The second wave, though successful in some places, was turned back in others, by moderate, middle-class Southern whites who were tired of seeing their region isolated and stigmatized. With Mr. Cantor’s loss, Mr. Cochran’s narrow survival and Mr. Alexander’s clear victory, we are faced with an open, and very unsettling question: Which way will the South go this time?

 

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Racism, Tea Party, The South | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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