B After The Fact

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Can't Spell Obama Without A Big "O" (Part 2)

I am blogging while watching the debate in Ohio.

The candidates debated health insurance for 17 minutes. They would have gone longer, but Brian Williams cut them off. I’m not sure why.

Senator Clinton keeps raising the point that you can’t have universal health care without forcing everyone to participate. If, as the more liberal party, you don’t start with universal health care, you won’t get the support you need. Senator Clinton said what if FDR had called social security “voluntary”. What if President Johnson made Medicare “voluntary”.

Senator Obama said you can’t impose insurance on people who can’t afford it. In Massachusetts, the Senator says, people are fined for not having insurance. So they pay the fine, and still don’t have insurance.

Senator Clinton then said that the people who did not get insurance were young, and thought they were invincible.

Senator Obama said that under his plan, young, invincible people were covered by their parents until they were 25.

There has been a variation of this exchange in all the debates I have watched. (I have not watched them all.)


I think the entire campaign is in this exchange, and in one other comment that Obama made during an interview.

Obama said that Reagan was a transforming President and Bill Clinton was not.


I’m 49 years old. I sort of remember LBJ being President. I remember watching some of the VietnamWar on television. I lived in a section of New York City with an extreme 1960s-type racial tension.

I certainly don’t remember the details about who said what during the Medicare debate.

So how old do you have to be to respond to Hillary Clinton’s reference to LBJ, let alone her reference to FDR?

How young do you have to be to think, as Barack Obama does, that 25 year olds are no longer young? How young do you have to be to be grateful that Senator Obama is not going to make you support the health insurance pool until the day of your first catastrophic accident?

The notion that Social Security and Medicare were somehow the subject of a nation-wide debate, and that the people in favor of expansive government services won the debate, is inconceivable to anyone whose memory starts with Ronald Reagan. The fact that these systems have basically worked – Social Security for 70 years and Medicare for 40 years -- is seen as something out of Harry Potter, and not the day-to-day reality of the situation. And like all magic, not only can it be gone tomorrow, but you have to plan on it being gone tomorrow. At least that’s what Obama has basically said about both issues.


In the post-Reagan world, government is smaller and smaller – a throwback to 18th and 19th century Europe – where the sole point of government was to protect the powerful few from the powerless many. Under this model, government is so incompetent that even the things that we all agree it should do – like fight wars or keep the levies working – needs to be contracted out to private companies. And when those private companies loot and steal from the people with both hands, and leave a shoddy product behind – well, everyone has to make a profit.

One of the primary things that I see in Obama’s support is a whole generation – anyone who thinks of Reagan or the Bushes or Clinton as their first President -- that takes this limited view of a crippled, incompetent government for granted.


When Hillary talks about change, she is looking at the triumph of liberalism in the 50s and the 60s, and the 40-year struggle to preserve those victories. Hillary’s notion of what it is possible for government to do is extremely optimistic. She is trying to get the government back to where it once was, and maybe we can continue from there.

When Obama talks about change -- and getting away from the battles of the past – it is Obama, and not Hillary, who is saying “get real” – not just to Hillary, but to all of us graying Boomers -- admit that the heyday of the government helping people is over. Reagan won, and we liberals still have refused to get the word – and it’s already 28 years later. Our delusions of grandeur are gumming up the works.

Senator Obama is saying that we have to let go of the stalemate being caused by the dreams of Hillary Clinton – and the people who think like her – the dream of getting back to the 1960s. Then, maybe if the people can start the discussion - not by trying to resurrect FDR and LBJ, but simply by seeking to answer Reagan and Bush -- we can get somewhere -- not very far -- but somewhere.

After all these years of stalemate, Obama offers these little steps up as change.

And Obama is right to do so.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Red Mind In A Blue State

Last Saturday night, Tony Iovino a/k/a "A Red Mind In A Blue State" was honored as Citizen of the Year in his home town. I was delighted to be there to see it.

The presenters spoke of all the many volunteer positions that Tony has held in his town. Many of these positions require the special legal expertise that Tony brings to the table. Other positions require the ability to lead people with different agendas and different viewpoints to a common goal, another special talent that Tony has shown for all of the (xx) years that I have known him -- from the time that he was the President of our high school class -- and I am sure long before that.

The bio in the program talked about Tony’s visionary thinking, and how lucky the town was to have it. The truth is that in God’s world, leadership ability, talent and vision are not given out equally.

However, what most impressed everyone is not Tony’s willingness to volunteer his unique abilities, but the willingness of someone with Tony’s talents to volunteer his time and energy to do the things that anyone could do, but no one else bothers to do – like make the pancakes for the fund-raising Super Bowl breakfast.

In accepting the honor, Tony spoke of the importance of supporting local business, so that local business is there to support the community in times of need. Tony also stressed that his work is impossible without the love, support and the participation of every member of his family.

Congratulations, Tony.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Some Presidents Day Trivia -- Two Term Limits

Another reason I support Hillary is that I was deprived, by the foolish 22nd Amendment, of the right to vote for Bill Clinton for a 3rd term.

The 22nd Amendment -- a 2-term limit for Presidents (but not for Dick Cheney) --- was passed in 1951.


The 22nd Amendment has served its intended purpose. It has prevented a single individual from dominating Presidential politics. It has also made it harder for a political party to win 3 straight Presidential elections.


Of the 33 Presidents elected prior to the passage of the 22nd Amendment in 1951 -- 10 Presidents were re-elected:


Franklin D. Roosevelt

Out of those 10 Presidents who were re-elected, and did not (or could not) seek a third term -- the President who followed them was of the same party in 9 of the 10 cases. In other words, all of those parties were given a "third" term.

The 10th instance was Woodrow Wilson -- Democrat. In the election of 1920, Calvin Coolidge, Republican Senator of Ohio beat James Cox -- Democratic Governor from Ohio.

(George Washington, of course, voluntarily left office after 2 terms, creating a precedent that Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Grant and Wilson followed. (Neither Lincoln nor McKinley completed their 2nd terms. FDR was reelected for a third term and did not complete his 4th term.)


Since the passage of the 22nd Amendment in 1951, 5 Presidents were re-elected:

George W. Bush.

Only Ronald Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, was of the same party.

Eisenhower (R) was suceeded by Kennedy (D)

Nixon (R) did not complete his 2nd term, and the next election was won by Carter (D)

Clinton (D) was succeeded by George W. Bush (R)


George W. Bush's re-election in 2004 marked the first time in American History that a re-elected President of one party (Clinton) was followed in office by a re-elected President of another party (Bush).

Democrat Republicans -- won 7 straight elections -- Jefferson (1800,1804) Madison (1808, 1812), Monroe (1816, 1820) J.Q. Adams (1824). The Election of 1800 and the Election of 1824 both were decided by the House of Representatives.

Repblicans --- won 6 straight elections -- Lincoln (1860, 1864), Grant (1868, 1872), Hayes (1876), Garfield (1880). In the Election of 1876, it appeared that the Democratic candidate had won Florida, and therefore won the election. However, a committee of Congress was formed to examine disputed results, and decided to give the Florida votes to the Republican.

Democrats -- won 5 straight elections -- FDR (1932, 1936, 1940, 1944) Truman(1948).

Republicans -- won 4 straight elections -- McKinley (1896, 1900), Theodore Roosevelt (1904), Taft (1908).


It appears that in the Election of 2008, two incumbent Senators will be running against each other. That has never happened before.

You Can't Spell Obama without a Big O (Part 1)

I have long said I support Hillary. I agree with her on the issues, and I particularly agree with her on issues where she differs with Obama. 5 in particular -- the War, Education, Health Care, the Environment and Social Security.

On two of those issues -- the Environment and Social Security, I think we will discover that Obama is not only to the right of Hillary Clinton, but to the right of John McCain.

On the environment, and global warming, and that set of issues, it is even possible that Obama is to the right of George W. Bush.

On education, I am married to a teacher, my cousins are teachers, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are teachers, I have relatives who are school psychologists, and on and on -- so I have a vested interest in it. I will save for another day my substantive arguments about why I think the "blame the teachers union for our failures in education" argument is a lot of hooey.

Suffice it to say, that on Social Security and Education and Health Insurance, Obama has been spouting the conservative Republican line since he was an embryo.

On the War, I believe Hillary's Senate record has been right, and that Obama's has been wrong. It is true -- as Bubba tried to say, but surprisingly quite didn't know how to -- that both Senators have misstated their records throughout the campaign.

It doesn't matter.

Hillary will not take the political hit required to leave Iraq. She will be able to say that the circumstances in 2009 are different from the circumstances now. During a war, circumstances are changing all the time.

Obama has continually said that "I want us to be as careful getting out, as we were careless getting in." Not the sign of a man planning on leaving Iraq anytime soon. Plus, of course, Obama has not ruled out going into Pakistan. President Bush has made a point to mention that as well. Bush thinks that the voters will be scared of going into Pakistan to wipe out Al Qaeda. I'm not so sure.

The only person who can get us out of Iraq quickly is McCain. McCain can come into office and say that after reviewing the super-duper, top secret, for Dick Cheney's eyes only, intelligence, that we should leave immediately. I doubt he would do that, but he could. And the American people would say OK.


Similarly, McCain is the only one who could admit that if we are going to meet our national security obligations properly, and maintain any chance at all of government of the people, by the people and for the people, we need a draft.

The Rumsfeld alternative -- the one that says that we don't need a draft to fight a war -- we merely farm it all out to outside contractors -- means that the core function of government -- the decision to make war or peace -- is no longer in the hands of the people. It is in the hands of the outside contractors.

It is unclear to what extent tactics and military strategy are being dictated by the outside contractors. Maybe Henry Waxman -- who chairs the House committee with the appropriate oversight jurisdiction --- can stop bothering Roger Clemens for a day or two to look into it.

(I digress)


Why is Hillary in so much trouble?

Have the times changed on Hillary, and on a lot of us who support her?

A 60-year old Democratic Senator from a major state, a liberal in the current setting, but not really in the historical setting. A professional politician, in both the good and bad sense of the word. A person who has spent a career in public service, paid dues and to whom a lot of favors were owed.

Except that it is a man. Or it is a woman who isn't Hillary Clinton.

Can any person, with that sort of resume, wrest the Democratic nomination from Barack Obama in 2008?

More to follow.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Abraham Lincoln in New York City -- February 27, 1860

I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we. …

But he has no right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the false belief that "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" were of the same opinion - thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this day sincerely believes "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," used and applied principles, in other cases, which ought to have led them to understand that a proper division of local from federal authority or some part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so. But he should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of declaring that, in his opinion, he understands their principles better than they did themselves; and especially should he not shirk that responsibility by asserting that they "understood the question just as well, and even better, than we do now." …

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"…

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us. …


Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this? ...

If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively.

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

I wrote about this speech the night Barack Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

The entire Cooper Union speech is here .

Happy Birthday Abe!

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