How nice it was for the president early on when even some of his opponents congratulated him on his election, said that they were (at least momentarily) pleased that America showed it could elect a black man president, when his poll ratings were high, when he could face the press and even got a Nobel Prize (which he had the good sense to be embarrassed by). If I recall, by this time in their first or only term, every single president since Carter - I’m starting with my political consciousness - had problems by this time, so he shouldn’t feel alone.
The press is still overwhelmingly on his side. I watched a talk that Woodward and Bernstein gave to a group of press members on C-Span last week. They asked of the audience who voted for him (almost all of them raised their hands), and who would like to switch or was sorry - (almost no one raised their hand). But, despite that, even the NY Times is starting to ask questions about some things. And a word of displeasure from the Times has a far greater impact on him than Fox, Rush and the Wall Street Journal, put together, as the criticism is coming from his “team”.
Many of the high sounding promises of his campaign have been ignored (I’m actually glad for much of that), unemployment remains a major problem, Greece has illustrated for the world what happens when the philosophy is to spend your way out of all difficulties, the oil spill fiasco has been to some degree hung around his neck (that certainly isn’t his fault, but I suppose is a fair comeuppance for his blaming Katrina on Bush) and even some liberals are even asking the truly ridiculous question of whether he is showing enough rage.
That may all bring some glee to his enemies, but they must exercise some caution. Because it doesn’t mean at all he will fail to win next time – 2012 - as no doubt he is aware. Take our last three two term presidents. Reagan, Clinton and Bush II each had various difficulties early in their presidencies. Each took a beating in the first midterm election, but still won their second term. But, Carter and Bush I did not win again.
Why? Although it is a generalization, my belief is, the three successful incumbents were re-elected, not based on their competence or because they were beloved, but because the opposition put up a weak opponent – in all three cases, fairly uninspiring people – Mondale, Dole and Kerry. Personality trumps politics. All were considered, even by many of their supporters . . . boring (although Dole was actually quite funny – he seemed old and drab).
Where the newcomer was able to beat the incumbent, they had personality – Reagan and then Clinton. Even their opponents admitted that they had charisma. Newt Gingrich said that he couldn’t help but like Clinton personally and we all know about Tip O’Neill and Reagan. But, you can’t manufacture these candidates. Unfortunately for the Republicans, they don’t really seem to have anyone with the required charisma out there who really has a chance. I’m trying to figure out who they might actually nominate.
The closest they come to a personality that grabs attention is Sarah Palin, and even many Republicans realize that lots of independents will actually feel more comfortable with President Obama than they will with someone who just doesn’t seem capable of winning or running the office, even if they agree with her policy-wise more than him. And that would be even before the media turns their full anger on her (she was the most mistreated candidate I have ever seen, including Dan Quayle) should she actually win a nomination. But, it will not get that far. At least, I just don’t believe it.
Who is out there with the personality and the support to drub Obama? Right now, guys like Bobby Jindal and Tim Pawlenty just don’t seem to have it – personality I mean. McCain is obviously too old and we mostly have an unofficial one shot and you are out nomination rule anyway. Certainly Mayor Giuliani has personality (I personally don’t get it, but I realize that some others do), but I just don’t think he will run in an environment where social conservatives will shoot at him for some of his liberal views. Thompson is likeable but just didn’t inspire people. His book is not selling that well. Ron Paul isn’t personally exciting himself, but many people are excited by a lot of his ideas. However, I think he is too much of an outlier with some of his beliefs to really go far.
Yeah, there are governors like my state’s Bob McConnell who are relatively young, personable and energetic (yes, the one whose enemies call him Taliban Bob). But, he doesn’t seem like he is making any moves and I think he is aware of his negatives. So far, I don’t see anyone on the right like him who has the right combination of money, public notoriety or personality to consider a run. Obviously, late moves are possible – Presidents Obama and Carter, were examples of nobodies who became somebodies in one election cycle, but it is unlikely. I’ve reviewed all of the governors I can think of who might even possibly think of running and I don’t think any of them makes the personality cut. There is a possible governor, Marco Rubio, a conservative from Florida, who, if he wins, I think might have a shot some day, but I doubt he would try and pull an Obama and would instead wait until 2016. I can’t see Jeb Bush having a shot – too much family damage. Today I heard Governor Mitch Daniels described as a Republican front runner, and all I could think was that someone took a poll in Indiana.
That leaves, of known players, excluding the fringe, Mitt Romney, and
Of the two, I’d have to give Romney the early nod in terms of probability for the Republican nomination. Both have some conservative support (although also some ideological weaknesses from that viewpoint), but Romney has the wealth to carry on whereas Huckabee does not. Moreover, I don’t believe Huckabee’s time on FoxNews will make him seem more credible as a candidate. One, I’ve watched the show a couple of times and it just isn’t very entertaining in my opinion. Not like, say, The Factor or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck among conservatives bellweathers. Two, I believe going into entertainment makes people doubt your seriousness as a candidate. Reagan had long been in politics when he became president.
Besides, I don’t know that Huckabee is thinking of running again. Just a feeling.
I have my doubts about Mitt Romney. I think many people do. Instinctively, he has always struck me as a person who will tell you whatever you want to hear, a stereotype of a used car salesman coming to mind. Even some conservatives feel that way. But, I will keep an open mind about him. People change over time and I tend to forgive politicians for playing to different audiences as almost all of them seem to do it. And, of course, it is really early to make any predictions (although my predictions for the last election were very accurate until the end), so I will only suggest that he is my Republican front runner at the present time.
Whether Romney or not, whoever it is will have to concern him or herself with the philosophical split in the Republican Party, social conservatives/tea parties versus fiscal conservatives, which is much deeper than any divide that exists in the Democratic party. And, it is a much bigger problem than they like to admit. But, that is for another time.
Every presidency seems to have its political scandal. You think it is nothing and then it goes viral, to use an internet term. There are those working very hard to generate something out of the Sestak affair (I’m thinking of Sean Hannity, for one; he is a one man army when it comes to Sestak as he was when he was working against Obama in ’08, but he (and I) were very wrong in believing Jeremiah Wright would resurface as an issue during the main campaign).
If you aren’t up on it, here’s the skinny. Joe Sestak, a retired admiral and a present day congressman decided to run for the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat up this year. The White House felt it owed a favor to Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party for political reasons (it didn’t work) and supported him for the slot. Sestak publicly and repeatedly said that he was offered a job by the administration to back off, which would have left the Democratic field to Specter.
It caused a minor ruffle then, but eventually, people started saying – is that a crime? Now, not that most Republicans cared – they were still going to go after it, and not that most Democrats cared – nothing could have been done wrong as far as they were concerned. I’m just not sure. There are a few sections of the U.S. Code that make it a crime to offer a federal job for a political favor. Enough pressure was raised that the White House had to speak in response. And it was deliberate before it did so. And then . . . it didn’t say very much. And what it said didn’t make a lot of sense. That kind of makes me think there is more to it.
All we know now, after what appears to have been enough time to compare some notes and possibly the squaring of stories, that supposedly Bill Clinton called Sestak on Rahm Emanuel’s behalf and asked if he would consider not competing in exchange for a seat on an intelligence oversight commission that Sestak wasn’t even qualified to sit on right at the time due to his service in congress. According to Sestak, he declined and Clinton said he thought that’s what he’d say. We haven’t heard Rahm Emanuel speak to this nor really the president.
If there was nothing to the story, and the administration wanted to be honest, why doesn’t Mr. Emanuel speak to it directly and in detail? Who asked Clinton to do it? What was the conversation exactly? (Sestak says it lasted 30-60 seconds). Did President Obama know this was being done? Would he not have had to give a nod to it being done for it to have happened? If not, why wasn’t he told? Deniability?
Does it seem likely that someone would even consider asking someone who had a chance to be a senator if he’d rather sit on even some advisory commission that is just going to be ignored anyway? Who would think a senatorial candidate with a legitimate shot would even consider that? Personally, I don’t buy it, but that is speculation on my part.
Although I disfavor political witch hunting, such as the Clinton impeachment and the indictment of Tom Delay in Texas, a few years ago I wrote here that my belief that a crime had been committed with respect to the Valerie Plame affair (and at least I can say that I read the presidential orders and statutes involved) and that Scooter Libby did in fact commit perjury. He was basically convicted on the testimony of fellow Republicans. His clemency was one more example of politics trumping justice. The cover up by the White House was disturbing. In fact, the one person whose job it was at the White House to investigate this type of thing was ordered to do nothing (I watched his testimony – that’s what he said).
I also believed, although President Bush had every right to fire whatever U.S. attorneys he liked, Attorney General Gonzales, should have said to congress – in essence - it’s none of your business – we’ll fire who we want. But, he hemmed, hawed and lied (even a few Republican Judiciary Committee members said as much). However, the White House did such an effect job of stonewalling any investigation that it never went anywhere other than Libby’s prosecution and some people getting fired.
Now, it is Obama’s turn. Although it may seem like small potatoes to the White House right now, there should be a real investigation or he is just one more political president avoiding the truth coming out, in the tradition of the American Presidency since I remember (Carter excluded this time – he cooperated fully with his one big scandal). I believe the Justice Department could do a fair and professional job, but the unofficial rule against questioning the president early on should be thrown out the window immediately (it’s just a stupid rule – Reagan was already entering his senility when Schultz questioned him on Irangate), and President Obama should testify under oath. Why not? Is the president above the law? We always say no, but do we mean it?
And, if it turns out that a crime was committed, then we have to see where that leads, don’t we? Some will like it, some will hate it, but that’s the way it goes. Naturally, it isn’t going to happen unless the Republicans take over a house and have the opportunity to go after it.
You can read about most of the above in many places on the web. What I will add to the usual gibberish is a little discussion of the law. There are three sections of the U.S. Code being batted around. For those who care what the facts are, here is Title 18 section 600:
“Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment,
position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit,
provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of
Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such
benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any
political activity or for the support of or opposition to any
candidate or any political party in connection with any general or
special election to any political office, or in connection with any
primary election or political convention or caucus held to select
candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this
title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
I don’t see this applying. What Obama haters are either forgetting or leaving out when they mention this section as a possibility is actually a biggee - the advisory committee supposedly offered Sestak was created by presidential order and not one which was in whole or in part created by congressional act. Thus, it does not seem like this section could be used to prosecute anyone on the admitted acts. Different story if it turns out it was a different position offered than Mr. Sestak says.
Section 211 of Title 18 also probably doesn’t apply as it is solely directed against someone who “solicits or receives” the favor. But, Mr. Sestak neither received nor solicited an appointment from what we know.
The other section we’ve heard about is 595 of Title 18. This looks like the most likely avenue to me right now. It states that if you work for the government, you can’t use your official authority “for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate” for certain offices including the senate. Sounds like it works perfectly if they can tie anyone in the administration to it, but otherwise – not.
It seems to me that there should be an investigation because the story just doesn’t make sense. But, if they can find nothing else, it is not going very far. Of course, just as with Scooter Libby, if there has been a cover up, it can have devastating consequences.
Really it comes down to – are they telling the truth about the facts, and if they aren’t, can anyone prove it?
Like with most controversial things in life, those of us not blessed with certainty that those we support are always right will have to wonder what happened aboard the flotilla. Even with photographic or video evidence, you still don’t know for sure what is doctored or not and what you are not seeing that happened off camera or before. The videos I’ve seen look like the Israelis are dropping in and immediately being attacked. I’m told there are other videos the flotilla believes support their being attacked. However, others would certainly argue that commandos dropping onto a ship with guns is by itself an act of violence, and that tear gas was used before the commandos landed. Those on board might feel that they don’t have to wait until they are getting shot to react and no doubt all of us would feel that way if we were aboard. And, we don’t see what happened before the videos start.
In this instance, there is no need to wait until partisanship takes hold and clouds everything because with the Middle East, the propaganda and the extremism is automatic - pro-Israeli on one side and pro-Palestinian on the other.
I’m sure there are those who would suspect I am biased in Israel’s favor because of my Jewish heritage, and I would never be able to convince them otherwise, and I’m sure there are those who know me, who would believe my hesitancy in supporting some of Israel’s acts is due to the all to traditional Jewish self-loathing. I don’t anyone blame for thinking in this manner. This is our natural reaction to those who disagree with us – that it must be based on some personal prejudice, because otherwise we are sure EVERYONE sane would agree with us.
Certainly, I am guilty of the same thing. I know my knee jerk reaction is to believe that Jews tend to supports Israel due to their heritage and that Muslims tend to support Palestine because of theirs. It is hard for me to believe that isn’t correct. Both bias and the suspicion of bias are problems we will never avoid, and maybe we are not capable of it, at least in general. If we were, then there would be no need to have the concept of conflicts of interest.
Here’s why I am supportive of Israel with respect to their blockade and, probably with respect to this incident:
Israel is a country at war, not of its own making. It has been attacked or under threat of attack for over 60 years; its entire existence.
The inhabitants of Gaza have elected as their leaders a political party not only hostile to Israel, but which the United States, Israel and other countries have determined is a terrorist organization openly pledged to destroying Israel. The leaders of the West Bank are from a different political party which once unified Palestinians in their hostility to Israel and which also still officially questions its right to exist.
Israel has blockaded Gaza to protect itself from Gaza obtaining powerful weapons which would be used to kill Jews. You might not know, if you don’t spend any time on the issue, that Egypt is also blockading Gaza. You should read that again. Egypt feels threatened by Gaza and Hamas and is also blockading it (although they at least briefly opened the border in a limited fashion after this incident).
The West Bank is not so much a problem right now, from Israel’s point of view, but, again, only in comparison to Gaza and because of the big wall separating Israel from it. However, Gaza is still occasionally flinging missiles into Israel, even after being positively crushed last year for doing so.
There is no doubt that the international media and community is actively pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. No attack on Israel, no missiles, no kidnapping seems to most of the world justification for Israel’s actions. The fact that Israel tries to clear buildings before destroying them is ignored; the fact that they allow other nations overflight privileges for humanitarian purposes even when they are actively in combat, is ignored. The fact that Israel could easily utterly destroy the Palestinian lands and does not do so, even when attacked, is ignored.
Although I know the rest of the world claims that the United States media will not recognize journalism pointing to facts in the other direction, and that might have been true at one time, it is laughable in the age of the internet. I occasionally even look at Al Jazeera for their point of view. The BBC is on my tv. What is it you think we don’t know? Give me a particular.
Does anyone really think that if it was Hamas that had captured Israeli ships, that they would have brought immediate medical relief to those who were shot and would have let everyone go home afterwards? Do you think that they would have then passed all the materials on the ship to Palestine in the regular order of things once they inspected? If you think Hamas would have done any of those things, then I’m afraid I think you are delusional.
Are you aware that Israel sees to the arrival of many tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza every day? Are you aware that Israel tried to work with Turkey and the leaders of the flotilla to just go through channels and that the materials could be then delivered. Are you aware that Israel negotiated for hours to let them inspect the ship to make sure there were no weapons and only boarded once that failed.
This was a deliberate provocation, and an attempt to destroy the blockade by force of public opinion and at the cost of lives. Here’s a reaction from one of the groups which organized the flotilla, quoted in the New York Times: “On Tuesday in a bustling neighborhood in Istanbul, the Turkish organization was celebrating a strange success. ‘We became famous,’ said Omar Faruk, a board member of the group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, known by its Turkish initials, I.H.H. ‘We are very thankful to the Israeli authorities.’
Well, there’s someone who really cares about the lives lost.
I am not pleased with Turkey’s position in this. Turkey is a country which is in a decades long fight with the Kurdish people who want independence or even to maintain their identity. Their treatment of Kurds can be said to be quite similar to that of Israel’s towards the Palestinians. Yet, Turkey is outraged that Israel defends itself.
I wonder where Turkey’s outrage is about the three U.N. teenagers who are being held in Iran when they were hiking and crossed over the invisible border. Where’s the world’s outrage that Hizbollah and Gaza still hold Israelis as prisoners. I am not forgetting that Israel has many Palestinians held as prisoners or that Israel assassinates Palestinian leaders. If I did not believe Israel had a moral advantage I would think much as the rest of the world does.
I am mindful that Turkey is an ally of ours as well, but Israel has virtually always been a faithful ally, and sometimes even does for us what we ask, whereas I cannot forget that Turkey would not even let us invade Iraq – a Saddam Hussein led Iraq - through its country, which would have made the invasion faster and safer. And although Turkey has made overtures of friendship to Israel, this seems like a reversal of attitude.
I'm also not pleased with our position on it. President Obama should have come out on Israel’s side and respected their unique situation as a fortress. Although I am not one who is critical of him for not unconditionally supporting Israel, I think he failed this test. In fact, Iran has now offered to lead the flotilla and he is somewhat to blame. Had President Obama done the right thing - gone to its ally's aide, no such offer would have been contemplated. In fact, if Iran does lead the next flotilla, our Navy should be waiting for them in support of Israel. I felt the same way a couple of years ago when Iran grabbed some British soldiers.
Israel’s P.M., Netanyahu, ran for office as the Sharon of his time. We’ll see if he has the fortitude to keep this up. Another ship is due this week to try the same thing. More from other countries may be on the way. Frankly, if a ship with a European flagship, it will be difficult for Israel to pull this off. The only way it can be prevented, is with our support. I’m glad that Netanyahu has taken a tough stand on this and refused to apologize. I’m so tired of politicians apologizing when they have nothing to apologize for.
All this being said, I still think my ultimate solution would be the best one for Israel and Palestine, but the first part of my idea would be deemed a crazy idea by Israel and their hell or high water supporters and the second part seen as genocide by Palestinians and their supporters. But, at least read the next few paragraphs before castigating me.
Israel should evacuate the West Bank as it did Gaza. It should remove its settlers as it did in Gaza. Gaza and the West Bank should be free to organize any way they like. Jerusalem is a tougher problem and I leave it for another day (its not like I have to decide right away, because this is not happening, but it would have to be resolved at the same time).
Now, I’m sure that to many Israelis and supporters that sounds like surrender, but it’s not. It is what is going to happen anyway someday – it is pretty much what would have been agreed on during Clinton’s time in office if Arafat had a brain in his head, but it should happen on Israeli terms, not world community terms or Palestinian terms. They should do it because it is the right thing to do and is the only way to get peace short of genocide (which might ultimately end up meaning the end of Israel too).
Naturally, if that happened, Palestinians would celebrate the way they did when Israel demolished them in Gaza and the way Hizbollah did when Israel demolished them. Countries celebrate their independence whether they are in the right or wrong. Israel should send its congratulations, and not look while Palestinians act as if they just won the Olympic decathlon with the might of their own hands. There should be no restrictions on Gaza or the West Bank.
What does Israel get? Freedom from the unrewarding task on controlling people who don’t want to be control them, for one thing. As many of Israeli citizens, soldiers and administration know, controlling Palestine is deleterious to Israel’s own health. I’m not going to try to sell that, but go read what many Israeli’s say about it.
Right now, some of you are thinking, why should Israel do this – so Gaza can arm itself and fire rocket after rocket into Israel? No, that’s not it. Because, here’s the second part. For every rocket fired from Gaza one hundred should be returned. If Gaza fires 600 missiles, Israel should fire 6000. If the stakes are raised by the country of Palestine or Hizbollah, Israel should raise the stakes too. Remember, Lebanon is a sovereign country. So is Jordan and Syria and Egypt. All learned not to attack Israel. It doesn’t pay.
One or the other thing will happen. Hamas will learn to be civilized, or their will be a terrible war and Gaza will lose big time. By making them sovereign the stakes are upped to the degree that Hamas cannot afford to lose. And, sadly, Israel must shut its ears to what the world says about it at the point. Because, Israel would have already done whatever they could to save the Palestinian people short of their own national suicide. If France,or some other country wants to intervene to maintain peace, as it did in the Hizbollah war, it can put its own soldiers’ lives at stake, but it must understand that if they aren’t successful, they have put themselves in harm’s way and fault cannot be held against Israel when they get hurt.
I admit my bias in that Israel is our ally – lately, sometimes our only ally - has some type of democracy relative to the rest of the Middle East - unfortunately, one including apartheid, but mild compared to its neighbors - and seems to respect enlightenment values, which I believe might blossom for the entire region if given a chance.
But, all that is just my idea. It's not going to happen because then there might be peace. So, from Israel’s point of view, they had to stop the shipment, because otherwise, their blockade is at an end.
From the Palestinian point of view, the world press always seems to favor them when Israel defends itself, so they have every reason to hope for and even instigate violence. Hamas would happily sacrifice any number of children or so called, never mind actual peace workers for favorable press. They celebrate when people are killed and they feel that they can point at Israeli’s as the cause, or at least the immediate cause.
Listening to C-Span the morning following the battle, I got the sense that more listeners were calling in with pro-Palestinian positions than usual, a couple of them comparing Israel to South Africa and even Dachau. That doesn’t surprise me. America still has a pro-Israeli media so powerful that reporter Helen Thomas was forced to retire after making one anti-Israeli remark, even though she immediately apologized for it. But, this may be slowly changing. Some others will undoubtedly be swayed towards the Palestinians.
That's all folks. Next week, we need to get off these serious topics. I feel top ten lists coming on.