Archive for November, 2009

What Great Leadership Job Looks Like

November 21, 2009

I think President Obama is doing a great job as president. In spite of all of the blather coming from the ultra right, Obama is a moderate and I like moderates. He is deliberative in his decisions. Those decisions take into consideration different points-of-view, including the most important point-of-view; that of history. He is conservative in changing long-held social norms, even those with which he disagrees.

You can tell Obama is a moderate because the ultra left has taken issue with his approach to “change we can believe in.” In a short opinion piece by Eugene Robinson [1], he indicates that he would like to see a tougher stance on Wall Street, an investigation of the Bush-era abuses and a more bold approach to universal health care, although Robinson goes on to acknowledge the substantive positive things that Obama has accomplished so far in the first year.

I saw an interview with Dan Savage. Dan is a progressive homosexual, who is a vocal advocate of gays rights. He is intelligent and witty, funny as hell, and I agree with most of his opinions. Dan Savage is mad as hell that Obama did not repeal the deeply flawed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule for gays in the military that was enacted during the Clinton Administration. President Obama indicated in an October 10, 2009 speech [3] that he would end the policy. As a moderate, deliberative thinking person, Obama has an appreciation that it’s not a good idea to create discord with the top military brass in the midst of the two wars that he inherited. By signaling that the policy with end, he gives those in the military who are homophobic time to adapt to the eventuality.

Bill Maher has been on a rant, too. I consistently agreed with Bill’s views when Bush was in office, but as our government took a leisurely walk to the left, Bill kept running. I find myself in agreement with his views much less than I used to. In a blog [4] entitled “Is this as Good as It Gets From Obama?” that was posted a few weeks ago, he expresses his profound disappointment with the administration’s policies. He waxes poetic about Roosevelt and the first 100 days of that administration. History suggests that lasting change in government happens with thoughtful, deliberative changes in policy that lead – but aren’t radically out-of-step with – general public opinion. The lunacy of the Bush Administration, like torture and unauthorized wiretapping became a thing of the past before Bush cleared his first pile of brush in Crawford.

Most Americans are upset at the bailout of the Wall Street firms. Me, too. The progressives want to see a wave of regulation and punitive legislation against Wall Street CEOs now. The left has correctly pointed out that financial regulation is essentially the same as it was when this crisis was created during the Bush Administration. I suspect that the President understands that capitalism is the basis of wealth in this country. It would be counter-productive to poke a sharp stick in the side of Wall Street as they struggle to recover. It would, at the very least, slow the recovery. I suspect we will see regulation once the economy stabilizes. A moderate approach will work best here, too. I expect that we will see the regulatory environment close to that at the end of the first Clinton Administration by this end of this administration.

Political capital is the currency in Washington. You choose your battles wisely and do your best to never lose. You spend capital frugally. That’s how to gain more political capital.

Obama seems to understand how to do that. I can’t say that I agree with every decision Obama has made, but I agree with the approach he has taken to every decision he has made.




[3] [4]



Over-Analysis Perhaps?

November 4, 2009

Much will be written in the blogosphere and newspapers and discussed on political television about the off-year elections that were held yesterday. It will be a referendum on this and a rebuke of that. The only thing certain is that the commentary will reflect the view of the commentator more than the reality of the situation. That doesn’t have to stop me from jumping in, though.

The most interesting to me was the race in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. It’s interesting because it seems to be a reflection of what is going on nationally with the Republican Party. Redistricting notwithstanding, it has been essentially Republican since the 1800s. The Republican establishment nominated Dede Scozzafava, who received the endorsement of stalwart Republicans Newt Gingrich and House Minority Leader John Boehner. Some conservatives, most notably Sarah Palin, didn’t think she was conservative enough and endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. There’s no question that Hoffman was conservative enough.

There’s been an undercurrent of this split between traditional conservatives in the Barry Goldwater tradition and what has become the more vocal and influential Christian conservatives in the party. We all know that national parties go though change, always reluctantly, and typically adapt to changing demographics, changing values and changing economic conditions. The most likely outcome is that the Republicans will find their way out of the wilderness, too. There’s one reason why they may not.


Prior to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, Christian conservatives didn’t play a large role in national politics. The issue of religion would arise at times, like the controversy over the Catholicism of John Kennedy, but it was not a major force. Although not a Christian conservative himself, Reagan saw the political value in that voting bloc and courted them. In the nearly thirty years since, they have gained political power and affected policy at the national level considerably. The problem isn’t so much their political views – although I take issue with most of them. The problem is that many Christian conservatives are also fundamentalist in their thinking. Fundamentalism is characterized by seeing the world in black and white. There are no shades of gray. To the fundamentalist thinker, there is no difference between compromise and capitulation.

There is a strong, motivated and vocal force within the Republican Party that is marked by political fundamentalism. Their goal is to be ideologically “pure”, although from my point-of-view, that ideology is poorly-defined and inconsistent. That fundamentalism is apparent in media figures like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but it is also apparent is de facto political leaders like Sarah Palin, Michael Steele and John Boehner, who conceded yesterday that he regrets his support for Scozzafava. I think this pervasive vein of fundamentalism is toxic to the Republican Party. To point, the Democrat won the New York 23rd District election yesterday. While I tend to not be alarmist in my thinking, it seems like the possibility of a permanent split in the Republican Party is more possible now than ever.

I hope it happens. The unfortunate side-effect is that it would empower the Democrats. Right now, they don’t need any more power. Our country works best when we have a balance of power with opposing sides working in good faith toward moderated political policies. If the political fundamentalists can break off into the Conservative Party, along with their man of the moment, Doug Hoffman, that would free up the Republicans to be the reasonable, loyal opposition.

Once the Republicans are free of the Christian conservatives, they can start to court the (small “l”) libertarians. Those libertarians want a smaller government intervention, but realize that some regulation is necessary. Those libertarians are deficit hawks who realize that short-term deficit spending is necessary on occasion, but shouldn’t be the modus operandi of Washington. They will concede that there needs to be a social safety net, but think welfare entitlements should not be a multi-generational way-of-life. Those libertarians realize that a healthy dose of free-market capitalism is the basic reason for America’s wealth, but realize government should endeavor to create policies of regulation that are minimal, but effective.

As soon as the Republicans can accomplish that, then I will start voting Republican.