Tag Archives: pakistan

Debate Du Jour

cbs-debate-screenshotAfter a long day of college football and poignant play-by-play announcer comments on the rape of children and the effect on Joe Paterno, an estimated 612 channel changes between games – each accompanied by a “where are my glasses moment,” an unrehearsed comedy segment using picture-in-picture mode on our not-wide-enough-screen-TV, and a frustrating trip to NetFlix “New Arrivals” which all pre-date the birth of the parents of our grand-children, we decided on a survivor show: the “CBS News/National Journal South Carolina Republican Debate.”

Eight candidates. Each seeking to find the heart of the Republican voter and ride their hate toward final victory in November to overthrow four long years under the iron-will of the Democrat (insert your preferred insult here) who has spent his entire time in office trying to undo the problems created by the last Republican vice-president and his henchman, George Bush.

Can Cain harass Bachmann saying “9-9-9” or by “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”? Can Perry remember what he’d forgotten? Can Huntsman get a question from the moderator? Can Santorum get past audience snickers? Can Newt be more sanctimonious? Can Bachmann think of anything new to say? Can Paul continue to sound sensible? Can Romney again calm the debate with the black hole of his personal charisma? And will they, one-by-one, convincingly kiss the “ring” of Jim DeMint? These were the questions we wanted answered.

The subject: national security and foreign policy. The entire debate, including commercials, was an hour and a half. You can watch it at CBS.com, read the transcript, their fact check or winners and losers. Here’s what I heard.

  • Bachmann, Huntsman and Santorum recognize that foreign policy is complicated and that it is dangerous to give simple answers to complicated questions.
  • Romney and Cain recognize that it is best not to answer questions, simple or otherwise, with specifics and that it is dangerous in politics to give answers, simple or otherwise.
  • Newt prefers to agree in general with other candidates so he’s not really on the record, while speaking as if he knows the inside jargon the others don’t.
  • Perry worked very hard this week and delivered a few carefully rehearsed lines reinforced by the extensive experience that he gained as governor of a state where he can see Mexico.
  • Paul spoke his mind clearly and saw no reason to give long answers to questions that were, inherently, absurd.

For specifics on issues, I carefully charted the candidates’ answers below. Enjoy:

Chart: How would you prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons?

Chart: Your appraisal of the combat situation in Afghanistan and how would you change it?

Chart: Sending troops into Pakistan?

Chart: Foreign Aid?

Chart: Thinking outside the box?

Chart: Listening to the right people before making a decision?

Chart: Torture?

Chart: Are we engaged in financial warefare with China?

Chart: Spending?

Chart: The Arab Spring?

Chart: Syria?

Chart: What about Gitmo?

Note: this post was updated on Monday, November 14, 2011 to correct a misspelled word in the torture chart.

The Timidity of Hope

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16, New International Version.

Obama - Hope With Blood on His HandsIt should be no surprise* that our President decided to continue the 10-years war. The choice to order more thousands of our brave men and women in uniform to give their lives, and many more maimed and permanently scarred, is consistent with his presidency, his campaign promises and his life’s story. It is his war now. The choice to accept tens of thousands more innocent civilian lives to be lost or ruined as collateral damage is one that weighed the risk of peace against the advice for war against the political climate in Washington at odds with the history of Afghanistan.

Why is ordering peace so hard? The needs here at home are evident. Most Americans want the war to end. The spun reason for the conflict has been achieved. Must we stay in Afghanistan to wage clandestine war in Pakistan? Are the bordering countries of China, India and Iran not strong enough to control their neighbor? Or is it some lingering fear and presumptive need to have our forces pre-positioned surrounding Iran? Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the presence of our forces surrounding Iran may make a future conflict more likely?

Our President does not have the audacity of hope that he once so successfully promoted. The lessons of Mohandas Gandhi, Thoreau and Dr. King have been lost in his parsing compromise. Violence begets violence. Peaceful civil disobedience takes too long (suggested search terms: bombing campaign Libya). Wars not paid for and fought without the draft with the drones seem so easy. Or, is it simply that no sitting President has ever lost reelection during wartime?

This President is a pragmatist. He didn’t fight for healthcare reform because of the 40-50 million Americans without health insurance. He fought for a bill, any bill, because the GAO told him that costs were out of control, and until healthcare was reformed, our country could not have a balanced budget.

He didn’t allow green initiatives to be included in the stimulus bill because it was right for our country or our planet. He did so because it could create jobs and would make members of the House, who actually believe, placated for a while.

He didn’t promote Wall Street reform because of the grotesque change in the distribution of income in our country, or the outrageous profits made from no-interest Fed money. He supported the reform bill, any bill, in an attempt to prevent another meltdown. He has since backed away from the reform and strong rules his administration gets to write, because the economy is stagnant and banks are tanking.

Obama is also likely to accept the Republican demands to undo three-generations of Democratic achievement on social policy – even without a tax increase on the wealthy or getting rid of needless, mindless subsidies for corporations – because failure to pass the debt extension could destabilize world financial markets. That, and keeping the Republicans on track to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid increases the likelihood of winning the next election and while providing the cover to undo any budget deal in the next Congress.

There was a time that I thought that Rahm Emanuel was the force that had him compromise his beliefs for a pragmatic government. I was wrong. Obama never believed.
_______
* In a previous story, I wrote that he would be out of all of wars by the election. I was surprised that things in Obama’s world changed so dramatically in such a short time.

Blood on His Hands

Blood on the hands of hope

He knew this day would come. He told us he was prepared for it. That he wouldn’t hesitate. This man who has spent his entire adult life in service. Who helped the downtrodden. Picked up the dispirited. Protect the rights and life of all. Didn’t. Whether the decision was active or passive, it was his. Just as if he had held, pointed and fired the gun. Bang. Bang. Twenty-one people dead. Three days into our idealism, surely he broke down in Michelle’s arms. I would have. Video games aren’t real. Predator drones are too real. The CIA surreal.

No comment from the White House. None from the Pentagon. Pakistan officials say the dead were pro-Tailban tribesman and Al-Queda militants. Evil doers and their families. Twenty-one mother’s children were executed by our new president without a trial, just a judge. They had no last wish. No moment to repent or seek forgiveness. No time to say goodbye to those who loved them. Or face bravely their fate in that last instant. Bang. Bang.

We knew this day would come. We should have been prepared for it. We believed he wouldn’t hesitate. It happened so soon that his soul would have to harden to live this life he has won. The blood is on our hands, too. Today, I mourn for all of us.