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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Thanksgiving Madman

December 19, 2007


When is "Enough" Enough?

Another $70 billion, and all because the Congress doesn't want to be labeled, yet again, as not supporting the troops from high atop President bush's Bully Pulpit.

Welcome to hell!

And it is hell, not only for the troops, who are truly living through that very special hell known as a never-ending war, but for all of us who care right here at home. Another $70 billion to fund this bottomless pit known as the Iraq war - a war which the man who pushed us into and told us that it would be quick and cheap now says that it's perpetual.

Truly, this is George Bush's war.

Although President Bush had asked for nearly one-quarter of a trillion dollars in what the Bushies term "Emergency Funding" for his war, the Democrats in control have decided to stand firm and only give him an additional $70 billion... for now.

We all must be stupid or something!

The President and the likes of Fox News have convinced enough Americans to make it impossible for the Democrats to refuse to give the White House yet more of our hard-earned, middle-class tax dollars to keep no-bid contractors (and contributors to the Bush and GOP cause) in business so their wealthy investors can get even wealthier.

Bush wasn't kidding when he called them his "base" of "haves and have mores."

Our budget for the upcoming year will be $555 billion (over a half trillion dollars) to run our nation. But only $70 billion will be for the Iraq war. For a war that has cost the US middle-class around a half trillion dollars already, we have to ask when the monetary blood-letting will stop? To the Bushies, it's a rhetorical question.

And it's statements like this one from Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) that go unchallenged by the Democrats in the Upper Chamber of Congress that help keep our troops in Iraq, fighting a fight which no longer should be fought and dying for an undefined called.

Even those of us who have disagreed on this war have always agreed on one thing: Troops in the field will not be left without the resources they need,"

Faint praise for the Dems indeed, but McConnell and the President did get their wish - more money and no end in sight.

"We've held the line, achieved what everyone thought was the unachievable. We are very proud of this bill,"

And proud he should be. After all, the Bush and GOP "base" is getting their cash; the GOP get to keep their wedge issue; and the President gets to "Stay the Course" no matter how bad, how many lives are lost, or how much of our hard earned dollars are spent.

Yep... all is Right with the world, as long as they get their way.

And, make no mistake about it, it is THEIR way. While the American people, by a tw0-to-one margin, want this war to end and our troops to come home, they also want us to keep funding this war. You see, they bought that line by the Bushies that if you don't fund the war you don't support the troops, and no matter how many "I support the troops - Bring them home now" bumper stickers are sold and placed on Hybrid vehicles, that kind of sloganeering only works going from Right to Left. No one wants to be faced with this end of the argument: "Well, we can't bring them home now, so we have to fund them, right?"

The money at this point doesn't mean a thing anymore. One dollar is too much. This war perpetuated itself and its end will only come when we, as a nation, stand up and say "ENOUGH ALREADY!" But in a nation where your patriotism is worn on your lapel in the form of a flag and your actions are left unchallenged, that may never, ever happen.

Convince enough of the American people to pressure the rest and making money and keeping power is easy. It's the Bush way.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Only two weeks remain before the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd. The primary-season domino effect begins there, moves to New Hampshire and South Carolina, and will inevitably lead to one Democrat and one Republican candidate for president being chosen by Super Tuesday on February 5th. Those of us *not* in one of the early primary states will once again be denied the opportunity to help choose a candidate.

The whole primary scheme–particularly the white-and-conservative dominated Iowa and New Hampshire venues–needs overhauling, but that’s for off-season deliberation. Now we need to focus on who will actually secure the White House in 2008.

While the Republicans are busy fighting over who can be meaner to illegal immigrants, Democrats have to deal with race and gender politics.

The Republican Party has divested itself of women and blacks. Republican candidates have shown their disdain for black and women voters by failing to attend debates or forums. On the Democratic side, the two front-runners are a woman, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and an African-American, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

Clinton currently leads all candidates of either party overwhelmingly with a 53 percent national poll rate. Obama comes in at 23 percent. But in Iowa and New Hampshire, the numbers are very close, with both candidates hovering within a few points of each other.

Clinton had positioned herself as the candidate of experience and change, two claims which cannot be refuted. There would be no greater change in American politics than for the nation to finally enter the 21st century and elect a female president. Nearly every other major democracy in the world has done so. Women represent 54 percent of the American population, but fewer than 20 percent of our elected officials are women.

Despite running as the candidate of change, nothing about Obama actually represents change. His platform is wholly centrist and in some places–like health care–outright conservative. There is no place in his platform where one can point to anything startling or fresh. He is a politician, not a visionary.

Concerns about his inability to attract female or black voters led Oprah Winfrey, the most influential woman in America, to try to boost Obama’s poll numbers in a three-state, whirl-wind tour last weekend. Winfrey is credited with pushing Obama to run for president. Her tour with him last weekend brought thousands out to see her–and by extension, him. The hyperbole was certainly flowing when she spoke and likened Obama to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most revered African Americans in history.

But how much is hype and how much is real?

Many of us who heard Obama speak in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention were undeniably moved. I know I was. His speech was second only to former President Bill Clinton’s in oratory power, and he and Clinton overshadowed the rarely passionate John Kerry–the actual candidate. Obama’s stellar speech, and his subsequent autobiographies added to his charismatic aura.

Americans are wildly susceptible to charisma. In 2000, voters were saying that George Bush was the more “likable” candidate because Al Gore was “stiff.” Bush took the presidency and led the country to war and economic and social disaster. Gore went on to win the Nobel Prize for his tireless work on global warming.
“Likability” should not be a pre-eminent credential for being president. Yet pollsters persist in asking voters who they find the more “likable” candidate–Clinton or Obama.

Obama wins the polls on likeability, but Clinton wins–overwhelmingly–on experience.

Which brings us to the question of hype versus reality. There is no denying that Obama exudes charisma. But when one stops to dissect his message, things fall apart.
Because the mainstream media has accepted Clinton as the front-runner, the negative attention of the media has accrued to her. There has been endless examination of Clinton’s every move, but next to none of Obama.

Some reporters have just now begun to look into Obama’s record, as the examination of Clinton’s has been exhaustive and turned up nothing new nor damaging.
I began to be bothered by Obama’s lack of honesty when the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment was voted on. This bill certified the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was a terrorist group–which it is, as any of its victims will assert. It passed the Senate 76-22, with only two abstentions.

Clinton voted for the bill–a controversial vote which Obama flung at her later. Obama said it was an example of how Clinton sided with the Bush Administration. But in fact, it was Clinton who was not only the first to warn President Bush about taking any military action against Iran, but who, with Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), whose son is deployed to Iraq, co-authored a resolution to require Congressional authorization of any military action against Iran.

How did Obama vote on Kyl-Lieberman? He didn’t. (John McCain was the only other senator abstaining.) Like every other controversial vote in the past year, Obama abstained. In the case of the Kyl-Lieberman vote, however, he didn’t just abstain, he lied about why he didn’t vote. He said he didn’t know about the vote because he was campaigning. But he and Clinton were in the same state campaigning at the same time. She returned for the vote. He did not.

It’s easy to say where you stand on issues when you aren’t confronted by having to actually put that stand in the Congressional Record. While in the Illinois State legislature, Obama’s voting record read much like his current record in the Senate: no hard votes, many abstentions. Obama has been running largely on his stance that he was against the Iraq war from the start. But does his voting record reflect it now? Before he won his Senate seat, he waffled on the war, telling Meet the Press that since he wasn’t privy to intelligence, he couldn’t say what he would do. That was four months before he was elected

Now Obama asserts: “I was always against the war.”

Not quite. Those videotaped interviews on national television can be damning. His is.

Since Obama joined the Senate in January 2005, just two and a half years ago, Obama has barely spoken about Iraq, giving only one speech in the entire time he’s been in the Senate. In addition, the first time he mentioned Iraq, it was to oppose the proposed troop withdrawal plan from his fellow contender, Hillary Clinton.

Conversely, Clinton has given 17 speeches on Iraq in the Senate. She has co-authored two bills demanding a time line for troop withdrawal. In 2005, in a speech in the Senate, Clinton noted that President Bush's pledge to “stay until the job is done” was misguided, and gave Iraqis “an open-ended invitation not to take care of themselves.” She demanded a time line for withdrawal.

Obama casts himself as far different on Iraq than Clinton and trumpets that alleged difference in all his speeches. But the two have voted exactly the same on all but three votes. Obama abstained from voting for the time line for troop withdrawal twice and Obama also voted *for* the confirmation of Gen. George Casey as Chief of Staff for the Army, even after the Inspector General’s report ripped Casey as negligent.

Clinton noted that she voted against Casey’s confirmation because of his statements during his confirmation hearings that he was unaware of the myriad problems with equipment shortages which led to repeated casualties in combat, among other things, as reflected in he Inspector General’s report.

Obama said he voted for Casey because he didn’t think Casey should be “made a scapegoat for the war”–a tactic he has repeatedly used against Clinton, however. He ignored the Inspector General’s report.

These votes–and lack of same–put Obama to the right of Clinton, not to her left.

Clinton has taken a total of six trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, and gone outside the Green Zones, unlike fellow candidate John McCain who only left the Green Zone with 250 armed guards and Blackhawk helicopters. Obama has gone to Iraq once; he did not leave the Green Zone. When Clinton returned from her trips, she renewed her statements that the war had to end; McCain said it was safe. Obama said....nothing.

When the Republicans demanded a vote against the group Move.On after their ad campaign against Gen. David Petraeus, Clinton voted against the resolution. Obama, once again, abstained.

My concerns, and those, I believe, of all thinking voters, is with change in the White House. But it isn’t enough to just change the body in the Oval Office. We have to change attitude.

Much has been made of George Bush being, along with Ronald Reagan, the laziest of American presidents. Not only has he taken more vacation time than any other president except Reagan, including during the Katrina disaster, but he has had almost no follow-through on important issues effecting the nation. Only last month Bush realized that it might be important to address Middle East conflicts and held his first meetings ever to that effect.

No one can dispute how hard Clinton has worked as a politician and a senator. She was the first woman elected to the Senate from New York. One of the reasons she won her second term in a landslide was–according to New Yorkers who did not vote for her the first time, but did the second–was how hard she worked for her constituents. But Clinton’s work began decades before she was elected to the Senate, defying critics who called her unelectable
A decade ago, it was Clinton who helped craft the SCHIP plan now under attack from President Bush. In 1974, she was the researcher for the Watergate hearings which lead to Richard Nixon’s resignation. Over thirty years in public service, she has worked in numerous civil rights, women’s rights and children’s rights organizations. It was Clinton who brought the audience to its feet at the debate at Howard University, by raising one of her primary causes over the years: HIV/AIDS. She noted that if AIDS were the leading cause of death among whites as it is among blacks, it would be front page news. The ovation lasted two full minutes.

Clinton has been a member of seven committees in the Senate, including the prestigious Armed Services Committee, where she has been since 2003 and the Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

Obama is the chairman of the Subcommittee on European Affairs for the Senate Foreign Relations committee. According to the Congressional Quarterly, that subcommittee oversees “U.S. involvement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), relations with the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Matters relating to Greenland and the northern polar region are also the responsibility of this subcommittee.”

So it’s pretty important, given the falling value of the dollar and the melting polar ice caps. Yet in the year since he was chosen to head the subcommittee, Obama has failed to hold a single meeting.

How then can he claim this position as indicative of his foreign relations experience? Obama also claims interest in the environment, but did not attend the presidential forum debate in Los Angeles on the Environment and Global Warming. Clinton, Edwards and Kucinich did.

There are many comparisons to be made between Clinton and Obama. There’s no doubting Obama’s charisma–or his inexperience. But there’s also no doubting the stellar quality of Clinton’s 35 years in public service, regardless of whether one finds her charismatic or not.

The media has been quick to frame the battle between the two candidates in terms of race and gender, but the real issues are experience and follow-through. At present, Obama has shown himself to have little of either, while Clinton has proven herself to have a quantum level of both.

When Philadelphia’s Mayor-elect Michael Nutter endorsed Clinton last week–following Mayor Street’s earlier endorsement of her–he noted that her understanding of the needs faced by cities in America made her the only choice. Nutter and Street are African American, yet both endorsed Clinton, as have many old-guard civil rights leaders, like John Lewis, because of her experience and her lifetime of service in civil rights issues.

It is time for compassion, intellect, experience and follow-through in the White House. The only question remaining, is whether American voters will agree.

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-Noah Greenberg