Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Ask but I'll tell you about Civil Rights

In the never-ending fight to guarantee Civil Rights for all mankind, the United States has scored another knockout blow with the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy ending years of legalized and systemic discrimination against gay men and women serving openly in the US military. There will come a day when we look back on this huge step forward and wonder "What was the big deal anyway ?" much as we (at least MOST of us) now look at the Right to Vote and other inalienable rights for African Americans and women. With this monumental achievement by President Obama and the US Congress, the nation is saying that when it comes to doing your country the great honor of military service it matters not what race you are, what sex you are, or what sex you prefer to have sex with.

As the US stays actively engaged in 2 official wars and military operations in several other countries while facing an inherent resource shortage, it is unconscionable to think service men and women would be dismissed from military service simply for "who they think is cute". Besides the obvious homophobia buried in their souls, those in favor of maintaining this discriminatory policy tend to believe that allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces would disrupt cohesion of military units. I say that if you are a US soldier and who your fellow soldiers choose to sleep with disrupts your focus and your ability to serve, then you don't need to be a US soldier.

During the Vietnam War in the 60s at the height of the Civil Rights movement, I am CERTAIN that there were several US soldiers who probably weren't exactly thrilled about being in a foxhole with black soldiers. However, with that military sense of purpose and duty, whether or not you'd have a guy over for dinner has very little to do with fulfilling the mission that you have been commanded to achieve. Military service men and women are probably more resilient and disciplined than your average citizen. The mission will carry on just the same as it did before the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

It was the great Dr. Martin Luther King who stated that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Injustice to gays serving in the military is a threat not only to them but is a threat to society at large. You may not be in the military and you may not be gay but wherever injustice and discrimination exist, we ALL have an obligation to speak up. After all, you never know when injustice and discrimination will end up at your front door. In that hour of need, you'll certainly want others speaking up for you. The following famous statement in reference to the silence of the German people as Nazis rose to power, speaks to the importance of fighting for equality and justice regardless of whether or not you believe it DIRECTLY affects you.

First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me; by that time no one was left to speak up.
Reflect on these thoughts as you consider what the repeal of "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" truly means.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Democratic Cannibals

In the latest Washington D.C. political drama, Republicans obstructed and blocked the Democrats from extending the Bush Tax Cuts for those making $250K and below which accounts for 98% of the US population. Republicans opposed this measure so as to guarantee that the richest 2% of this nation were included in this provision, further adding BILLIONS to the deficit that they claim to care so much about. In light of Republicans refusal to budge on this policy decision, President Obama reluctantly negotiated and struck a deal with the GOP resulting in everyone INCLUDING the richest 2% of Americans keeping their tax cuts originally enacted by "Dubya" back in 2001 which contributed mightily to flipping the Clinton Surplus into the Bush Deficit . And here's where the REAL drama begins.

Republicans blocked Democrats policy objectives so CLEARLY liberal Bloggers, TV Analysts, and Talk Radio hosts would spew the full wrath of their venom on Obstructionist Republicans, right ? WRONG !! They are Democrats !! They instead choose to attack their own !! From sea to shining sea, across all liberal radio, TV, newspaper, and web sources, their very own President Obama was attacked as "spineless", "weak", a "sellout" and various other rants that would have you question whether you are watching MSNBC or Fox, listening to Keith Olbermann or Rush Limbaugh. On the day that the Republicans blocked not only the $250K but also the $1Million and under tax cut, casual passing mention was made by most liberal media sources of the fact that the Republicans ONCE AGAIN played the role of the "Just Say No" party who continue to place politics and party above country. However, on the day that Obama did the dreaded "C" word and "Compromised" with Republicans, the liberal media LITERALLY went left.

Although I agree with the idealist Democratic position on this tax cut issue, one that is also shared by President Obama, ideological idealism unfortunately must meet against the formidable force of political reality. Simply speaking, the ideal Democratic position required 60 votes in the Senate to pass that bill but after all votes were accounted for, Democrats could only muster up 53 votes, NONE of which included a SINGLE Republican. Without the Great Obama Compromise, when the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day 2011 and the ballons dropped and champagne bottles popped , millions of families would have awaken from their hangover to realize that their extended unemployment benefit checks had disappeared and ALL employed people would've realized that their paychecks were a lot smaller due to increased tax rates. A deal with the Republican devil had to be made or the nation as a whole would've suffered greatly in light of the obvious political realities.

Quite frankly, the Democrats anger is misplaced, mistaken, and misdirected. Republicans were the ones willing to flip off the unemployed and raise everyone's taxes, be damned the consequences, in order that the richest 2% maintain their tax cuts. Obama chose to protect the fate of the unemployed and those who could least afford a tax increase rather than engaging in a political street fight on an ideological position and remaining politically popular with the left-wing. Democrats being Democrats, however, chose to instead cannibalize their own and attack the leader of their Party and the nation's President seeming as uncompromising as the far right. In a political climate that features Republicans unwilling to work with Democrats on ANYTHING for the good of the country, the Obama Administration has a monumental task in front of them to help the country rebound from horrific economic conditions. With the far left liberal wing of the Democratic party now ALSO on the attack, the political conditions have just gotten that much worse.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swinging from the Left

As a Democratic President going up against a Republican party firmly rooted in political obstructionism, Barack Obama undoubtedly expected to face a tough fight coming from the ideological right. I doubt, however, that he saw or expected as tough a fight coming from his left. As anyone who has ever been in a fight will tell you, it's the punch that you do NOT see that will lay you flat on your backside. President Obama is facing an increasingly combative and feisty opposition coming from the very far left of his own Democratic party that could prove to be very destructive to the party in future elections.

For a President that ran as a left-leaning ideological moderate and pragmatist rather than a stubbornly ideological far-left partisan, Obama finds himself in the unenviable position of being too liberal for the right-wing and too centrist for the left-wing. For far-left uncompromising ideologues such as Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, anything short of the most liberal stance on all policy issues seems to be viewed as complete and utter failure, caving, and capitulating. Tune in to any 5-minute appearance by Adam as a guest analyst on any of the cable shows, and you  are likely to hear the word "FIGHT" repeated at least 25 times. Mr. Green has even gone so far as to produce and broadcast a campaign-style "attack ad" against President Obama for not holding on to liberal positions. For many liberals such as Adam, it seems as if a staunch and stubbornly ideological "fight" is the ultimate prize regardless of whether "compromise" on ideological positions brings forth a much more desirable result for the nation as a whole.

Being a pragmatist who is willing to compromise on most issues to move his agenda forward is precisely why Obama faces increasingly harsh opposition from the far left. In a desire to checkoff policy objectives and move on to the next battle, he often chooses negotiation, deal-making and compromise over fierce partisan battles which further infuriates the left. Rightly or wrongly, Obama seems to operate on the notion that "if I have the votes for my position in Congress, then I'll fight for it. If I don't have the votes, then I'll compromise to get it done". In the healthcare debate and most recently in the Bush Tax Cut debate, Obama made the politically unpopular decision to compromise on the favored position of the left in order to search for a middle ground that could secure the necessary congressional votes. The question is, however, "At what cost ?".

President Obama has a historic number of legislative accomplishments thus far in his presidency but his willingness to compromise on positions held near and dear to the far-left has put him at odds with this very important component of his political base. Liberal talk show hosts such as Ed Schultz routinely throw around terms such as "spineless" and "weak" in describing the President and seem to swing as hard as the most rabid right-wing lunatics when things don't go precisely their way. What Obama has to bank on is that his manner of governing will gain him more independents and moderates than the left swinging ideologues that he undoubtedly loses with each compromise. A risky political calculation indeed that I certainly hope works out.