Levees Not War
National Security Begins at Home

Posts Tagged ‘barack obama’

Congress, Now Is the Time to Vote “Hell No”

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NoWar

Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Not out of indifference to the plight of the Syrian people, and not from an automatic rejection of any and all military action, but rather out of grave concern about the uncontrollable consequences that a U.S. missile strike upon Syria could trigger—such as, quite possibly, a war between Iran and Israel—we urge the members of Congress to vote No—even “Hell No,” if you like—on President Obama’s request to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime in Syria.

Although this blog has long supported Barack Obama for president, and we are pleased that John Kerry, whom we supported (and campaigned for) for president in 2004, is secretary of state; although we generally trust their judgment in both domestic and international affairs; and even though we’ve been thankful for the judicious restraint that Obama has shown until now during the Syrian civil war, and we’re grateful that this past weekend he averted what appeared a rush to arms and decided to seek congressional authorization—

Despite the foregoing, this is one vote we want Obama to lose.

See Where Senators Stand  |  Contact Congress  |  Contact White House

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They Can’t Tell Us How This Would End

US-SYRIA-CONFLICT-CONGRESSAfter a day of testimony by Secretary of State Kerry, Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, on Tuesday night the Senate Foreign Relations committee worked out a resolution that would set a 60-day limit on military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible. In the House, Democratic representatives introduced a resolution that would limit any military action to no more than 60 days. The Army Times reports that the House resolution “also specifically prohibits any American forces on the ground in Syria and restricts the president from repeating the use of force beyond the initial punitive strikes unless Obama certifies to Congress that the Syrian forces have repeated their use of chemical weapons.”

[ Update: On Weds., Sept. 4, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 10–7, with nay votes from both parties, to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime. The full Senate is expected to vote next week. ]

The United States is seriously considering unilateral military strikes against a nation whose chief ally and arms supplier is Russia? Against a nation that says If you fire on us, we’ll fire on Israel? (Syria has already been in wars with Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982.)

But let’s think about this a moment.

If the U.S. fires on Syria—a deliberate escalation of a highly complicated civil war—how could the U.S. keep the conflict from escalating further?

If the U.S. attacks Syria, can we be assured that Assad will not use chemical weapons again? The U.S. claims that he flouted international law once; why not again?

And if Assad were to use chemical weapons again, what would the U.S. do then? Escalate in order to not “lose face”?

And, just supposing the U.S. were to be opening confidential, “back-channel” talks with representatives of the newly elected moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, as perhaps we might be, what effect might American missiles on Damascus have on those talks?

The British parliament voted last week against participating in military action against Assad, sidelining our usual closest ally. If the U.S. Congress votes no, will Obama say, as Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I get it,” and desist from a military strike?

Does the Obama administration really think it is wise, or even sane, for the U.S. to “go it alone” if necessary and use cruise missiles against yet another Arab nation? We know that military force against Arab nations only validates anti-Western propaganda, fuels al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, and increases the likelihood of terrorist retribution here in the U.S., in London, and elsewhere in the West.

If it is true that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians—U.S. officials say that more than 1,400 were killed in an attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, and keep mentioning some 400 children among them—then that is indeed a sickening atrocity, but still, we do not agree that that requires unilateral action by the U.S. (The UN chemical weapons inspectors are expected to produce a report in late September.)

Syria is simply too dangerous, too interconnected with live wires and explosives—what’s called in international diplomacy a mare’s nest, a snake pit, or a death trap, among other technical terms. Look at the neighborhood: Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Too many things could go wrong. Let’s not, for God’s sake, go there.

And, as we have said over and over from the very first days of Levees Not War (in 2005), the U.S. simply cannot afford endless war and habitual reliance on military solutions to crises overseas, but instead must redirect its resources to rebuilding our own crumbling national infrastructure and to augmenting social services, including jobs programs, education, unemployment relief, and health care. National security begins at home.

 

syria.map

Work through the United Nations

A complex and dangerous situation like this, one that requires fact-finding and deliberation and negotiation by a council of nations, is what the United Nations was founded to handle. If would-be interventionists are frustrated that the UN Security Council’s member nations Russia and China would not go along with Washington’s view that “something must be done” and would use their veto in the Security Council, that does not give Washington the right to bypass the UN.

(Russian president Vladimir Putin has told the Associated Press that Russia might vote for a UN resolution on punitive force against Syria if it is proved that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. In the same interview, he warned that the West should not take “one-sided” action against Syria, that is, without the backing of the UN Security Council.)

The Arab League has called on the UN and the international community to take “necessary measures,” though the League did not specify what those measures might be. The secretary general of the Arab League did say, however, that there should be no military action without backing from the United Nations.

Some 100,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, which began with a pro-democracy uprising in March 2011. Some two million Syrians have been forced to flee to other countries. (Click here for a BBC News timeline of the Syrian civil war.)

Yale Law School professors Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro write in a New York Times op-ed that the choice of military force or nothing at all is “a false one.”

Most of international law relies not on force for its enforcement, but on the collective power of nations to deprive states of the benefits of membership in a system of states. Mr. Obama can cut off any remaining government contracts with foreign companies that do business with Mr. Assad’s regime. He can work with Congress to do much more for Syrian rebels and refugees—including providing antidotes to nerve agents, which are in short supply. He can use his rhetorical power to shame and pressure Russia and China.

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“Real Men Go to Tehran”

It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea. 

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come” (New York Times, 3/18/03)

What concerns us is not only the concerns raised above or the prospect of yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East, but also the fact that neoconservatives and other hawks have been salivating for a war against Iran, and Syria could be an entry into just that. In early May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Rachel Maddow that the same folks who brought us the Iraq war are pushing for a fight with Iran, and they see Syria as a backdoor entry into that war.

I think as Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. I see us walking down the same road with the same characters singing in the choir, the same people off the same sheet of music with a few changes trying to get us into war with Iran. The new momentum with respect to Syria is not just because of the brutal civil war there, it’s also because of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain from my party and Bob Menendez from the Democratic party would like to use Syria as a back door to get us in a war with Iran. It’s another catastrophe brewing . . .

See “Syria Seen as a Backdoor to War with Iran” (LNW 5/2/13).

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Recommended Reading:

belle-syria-008-450x270New York Times updates on Syria

BBC News: Syrian civil war timeline and Syria profile

Jeffrey Frank at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Eisenhower 1954, Obama 2013: Echoes of Vietnam in Syria

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Kerry and the Senators: Unanswered Questions

Steve Coll at The New Yorker (9/9/13): “Crossing the Line: How Should Obama Respond to Syria?

On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t OptionalNYT op-ed by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Natasha Lennard at Salon (9/4/13): RAND study finds that to destroy Syria chemical weapons, “boots on the ground” would be needed

New York Times editorial (9/3/13): “Debating the Case for Force

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (9/1/13): “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Syria Mess

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal (Washington Monthly): “The Road to War with Iran Runs Through Syria

Washington Post map of likely strike targets in Syria

Levees Not War (6/14/13): “Here We Go Again

Think Progress (4/29/13): “What You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note (8/20/12): “Syrian Conflict Not Just a Battle Against Assad

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Obama Wins More Time to Repair, Lead America Forward

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Solid Victories for Progressive, Liberal Candidates, Reforms

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

“The task of perfecting our union moves forward”

“I have never been more hopeful about America. . . . I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. . . . 

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. . . . We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

Barack Obama, Chicago, Nov. 6, 2012

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“[H]ere is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens . . . who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. . . . I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. . . . The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address (1937)

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This Is Our Idea of “Morning in America”

Last night Barack Obama became only the second Democratic president since FDR (in 1936) to win a second term with more than 50 percent of the vote in both his elections.

In our humble opinion, a win for the Democrats is a win for the American people. Of course not every American person sees it that way, but when illness or disaster strikes, or food needs inspecting, or voting rights need protecting, it’s best to have a government managed by the party that fought for and established Medicare, Social Security, FEMA, the Voting Rights Act, and so on. The party that believes government can and should be a force for the public good. Not the only solution, but indispensable and more reliable than the profit sector.

And it is a good thing for the 47 percent (indeed, the 99 percent) that the man who said “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” is not going to be the next president of the United States. We do want to say, however, that Gov. Romney, after waiting nearly an hour and a half before calling the president to concede (Karl Rove live on Fox was not ready to give up on Ohio), gave an admirably gracious and dignified concession speech to his supporters in Boston (see photo below).

From the East Coast to the West, across the Rust Belt and Midwest, and in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, President Obama held ground he won in 2008. With a weak economy—nearly drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub by Republicans intent on strangling Obama’s every initiative—and under relentless attack from hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads by “dark money” conservative interests, he lost only two states he’d won in 2008: North Carolina and Indiana. The critical battleground states of Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada stayed blue. (See maps below). As of this writing the president’s electoral vote margin is about 100 (303 to 206), and his popular vote margin is roughly 3 million: 60.4 million to Romney’s 57.6 million. Florida is still counting.

Professor Warren Goes to Capitol Hill

Besides our elation with the president’s victory, in this year of a “war on women”—or at least appallingly callous attitudes and legislative hostility—we are delighted to welcome new senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.Dak.), and Mazie K. Hirono (Hawaii), and congratulate senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on their reelection. (More about women’s wins here and here.) The Senate races are not all decided, but the Democrats have gained at least one seat, and currently have a 55–45 majority, with Maine’s newly elected independent Angus King likely to caucus with the Dems. With more progressives in his ranks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking again about filibuster reform. Yes, please!

One of the best things about Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate is that, being so knowledgeable about financial institutions and law, and so committed to reform on behalf of protecting those who are not investment bankers, she will keep the discussion on a more serious and fact-based plane. It is especially sweet that the incumbent she defeated 54% to 46%, Scott Brown, was the senator most lavishly funded by Wall Street contributors. One of the MSNBC people last night (Chris Matthews?) said that Warren is the most intellectually substantive person elected to the U.S. Senate since the late Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). Not only that, but she’ll put a lot of energy and momentum into Wall Street and consumer protection reform, which has really only begun. Now Jon Stewart will really want to make out with her.

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Fun in Philly: Getting Out the Vote, Door to Door

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Volunteering Relieves Election Anxiety

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

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Everyone knows the best cure for blues or worries is work. In the same way, the best antidote for election anxiety is volunteering and going door to door, making phone calls from a roomful of other volunteers. Yes-We-Can hope loves company. Above all, get out and do something. Action is empowering: too busy to worry, you feel less anxious. Working with others, you feel a part of something bigger: a good cause, the good fight.

And so, on Saturday morning on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan we boarded an Obama bus for Philadelphia, one of several carrying hundreds of Obama-Biden campaign volunteers from New York City into Pennsylvania. Our bus, with only one or two empty seats, brought about 25 of us to the Obama for America field office in the Ogontz neighborhood of northwest Philadelphia (staffed by friendly Lynn, above, among others) and the other 25 went to Cheltenham Township.

On a sunny, beautiful clear afternoon, we set out in teams of two each, with clipboards and maps and lists of Obama supporters or previous voters, with about 75 or more doorbells to ring and people to talk to. We were supplied with packets of Commit to Vote cards and small brochures about Obama-Biden’s commitment to a strong middle class—“building an economy from the middle class out”—and the importance of voting, with the date Nov. 6 prominent on the front.

Be Sure to Vote, and Please Volunteer If You Can

The objectives in this African-American neighborhood—as in every community in every state—were (1) to ask if President Obama can count on your support on November 6 (in this neighborhood, the answer was Yes He Can), and (2) to encourage supporters to get involved and volunteer a few hours or more for the campaign. Most everyone said they would be voting. We also asked the residents to tell their friends and family to be sure to get out and vote. Many yards and windows held Obama-Biden signs and even more for state representative Dwight Evans and Barack Obama (see below). We made sure they knew where the polling place was—they all knew where to go—and emphasized that it was not necessary to show an I.D. to vote. (The state supreme court recently ruled against the Pennsylvania state legislature’s recent law requiring voter I.D., but the court unhelpfully decided that polling place workers could ask to see an I.D. Most of the people we spoke with had been following the news and were aware that they did not need to bring an I.D., though more than a few said they would bring a driver’s license or other I.D. with them anyway.)

Because of the nice weather—and because more than a few people have to work on Saturdays—many were not at home. By our count, we knocked on 93 doors and spoke with about 40 voters, all of whom said they supported the president “strongly” and promised they would vote. Though a few were wary about opening the door, most were pleased to be visited and to be asked for their vote.

20th Street, Ogontz neighborhood, northwest Philadelphia

 

We kept noticing as we talked to people in this neighborhood the pride they feel in “our president,” and kept contrasting that with the attitude toward this community, if any at all, from the Republican party. This is a solidly middle-class neighborhood of mostly homeowners, well-kept gardens and neat front yards. How well will this community fare if yet another Republican administration cutting taxes on the wealthy and forcing austerity on everyone else takes power in the White House and drives its agenda through Congress? Does Mitt Romney even know these good people exist? They are all too aware of him and what he would mean for them and their families.

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On the way back to New York, one of the group leaders told us that the hundreds of volunteers on this one day alone reached tens of thousands of households, and that impact is magnified as the people contacted spread the word and urge friends and family to vote. He invited volunteers to step up to the wireless microphone and tell stories about their experiences. One said that she and her group stopped in for lunch at a neighborhood restaurant. They were the only white people in the place, but were welcome all the same. When the restaurant owner learned that they were Obama campaign volunteers, she refused to take their money. “You all are working for us; we just want to say thank you.” Another told of a college professor in her seventies who rolled down her car window and said, “Anything you can do to keep those [expletive deleted]’s out of the White House is just fine with me.”

We’ll be back on the beat in the coming weekends. The contact with voters is warming, affirming, makes you feel good.  You discover new parts of America and see with your own eyes what a difference an administration makes. Will there be investment and development in these communities, or neglect? Hope and pride, or something not so good?

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Our Barack Is Back—and We’ve Got His Back

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Clearly Obama

President Obama listens as the human Etch A Sketch changes positions yet again during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Oct. 16, 2012.

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. . . when [Romney] said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility—think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives, veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country, students . . . , soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income. . . .  

And when my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a GI Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country, and I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years. —President Barack Obama, closing remarks of 2nd presidential debate, Oct. 16, 2012

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We’ll spare you from a detailed review of President Obama’s performance in Tuesday night’s debate, about which many others have written eloquently (see below), but we are more than delighted to see again the tough, focused fighter his supporters sorely missed in Round One. We’ll just say we loved the way the president skipped the niceties and went directly on the attack:

Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector; that’s been his philosophy as govqernor; that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money. 

That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle-class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess, and the last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.

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Reserved Professor Obama Misses Opportunities, and Slippery Romney Takes ’Em

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Is President Overconfident? (He Shouldn’t Be.)

We want to put down a few first impressions about last night’s first presidential debate before we look at what anyone else has said.

Mitt Romney performed with more energy and desire to win than did President Obama. Romney dissembled, evaded, distorted, and denied truths, as we would expect, but he showed admirable aggressiveness—fire in the belly. He cavalierly blew through the time limits like a rich glutton who feels entitled to eat all the food in a restaurant just because he can afford it all, and to hell with the other customers. But he was there to win, and, setting aside accuracy, honesty, and specificity, maybe he deserved to (last night—not on November 6!).

Skipping many opportunities to attack Romney, the president acted as though he’s above going on the offensive. He failed to point out Romney’s dismal job-creation record as governor of Massachusetts and his impressive job-destruction record at Bain Capital. Unbelievably, Obama neglected to charge that a candidate who has written off 47 percent of the American public cannot care too much about creating jobs and improving opportunities for the American people. The president was far too slow to bring up the name Paul Ryan, who embodies the harshness of G.O.P. budget priorities—a huge missed opportunity. He never once mentioned the 100% obstruction of the Republicans in Congress, not even when Romney faulted him for pushing through a health care reform bill that had no G.O.P. support. How could Obama not say this? When they talked about the budget and taxes, he was too courteous to mention that super-rich Romney has hidden his own tax payments from the public (and possibly from the U.S. Treasury) like no candidate in recent memory.

We sure hope President Obama doesn’t think he’s got this election in the bag, after seeing all the favorable polls in recent weeks.

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Democrats Grow a Backbone

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

John Kerry, Deval Patrick, and Other DNC Highlights

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My message is this—it is time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting—quit waiting, quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman will be. We are Americans. We shape our own future. —Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

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Before the energetic and well-run Democratic National Convention recedes into the mists of time, overtaken by the 24-hour news cycles and flocks of tweets and counter-tweets, we wanted to point to a few moments from the big show that we think are worth remembering. In these speeches (and there were many others we missed) are some inspiring messages we hope will be carried and used on the way to reelecting President Obama. They’ll also prove useful in the struggles that are sure to continue after the election.

We were delighted with the courageous, fiesty tone in this convention. This time around the Dems weren’t inoffensively “playing it safe” as they so often do. In Charlotte the DNC was facing issues head-on, taking a stand for what we believe in, with such passionate and sharp-focused speakers as Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren.  As Charles M. Blow observed, “The Democrats came to the party ready for a fight” (“The Defiant Ones,” NYT 9/6/12).

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John Kerry’s Heavy Artillery

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“So here’s the choice in 2012. Mitt Romney: out of touch at home, out of his depth abroad and out of the mainstream. Or Barack Obama: a president who is giving new life and truth to America’s indispensable role in the world . . .”

“We’ve all learned Mitt Romney doesn’t know much about foreign policy. But he has all ‘neocon advisors’ who know all the wrong things about foreign policy. He would rely on them—after all, he’s the great outsourcer.”

Senator John Kerry was given a prominent speaking position Thursday night, and several days later is still featured on the front page of the convention web site (“Showing a fire indicative of a man resolute in his beliefs . . .”). “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off than he was four years ago.” Kerry used heavy artillery against Mitt Romney on foreign policy, for saying Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe” and for not even mentioning the war in Afghanistan in his RNC acceptance speech. • Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton has made it known that she will be stepping down from the State Department after the election. We hope that Senator Kerry’s prime-time address, with a relatively generous allotment of time, is a sign that the 2004 presidential candidate and chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is at the top of the president’s list to replace Hillary. We wish he had been this tough in 2004!

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Video tribute to Edward Kennedy

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See also:

David Corn, “A Tale of Two Conventions.” The nation is deeply divided, but the gatherings in Charlotte and Tampa show how starkly dissimilar the Democratic and Republican visions of the American experience are.

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Forward: Four More Years for Mr. President

Friday, September 7th, 2012

“When you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”

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“. . . the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change. You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that . . .

If you turn away now—if you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen . . .

I ask you tonight for your vote. If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. . . . if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.”

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Last night in Charlotte, confidently but with some humility and acknowledgment of shortcomings, President Barack Obama asked the American people for more time to continue the job, and we strongly agree he should be reelected.

His accomplishments—domestic and foreign, social and economic—are impressive, especially considering the implacable opposition of the Republicans in Congress, in state legislatures, and the Tea Party and conservative PACs and media around the nation. Despite his repeated efforts to work with them—despite his concessions in the stimulus and health care reform bills, for example—Republicans have spurned him and have given him maybe a total of three votes. He has kept his promises and he has kept his cool—almost a superhuman cool, in fact. He has earned our votes for another term. Did you know that under Obama’s presidency, even in these difficult economic conditions, more jobs have been created (4+ million) than during the previous president’s entire eight years?

And, this has to be said, the alternative is too horrifying to contemplate, but the more you think about it, the more seriously we should take the prospect of a Romney-Ryan administration: a recipe for disaster of every description, social and economic and diplomatic; backward thinking; callous disregard of the middle class and the poor; attention only to the needs of the already wealthy and powerful. (Do we really want an administration whose campaign pollster says, at an RNC breakfast sponsored by ABC News and Yahoo News, “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers”?)

Although this blog has sometimes been critical of President Obama—not so much for having the wrong policies but for not pushing hard enough for his good policies—we enthusiastically urge our readers and everyone else, too, not only to vote for Obama-Biden 2012 but to actively work for their reelection. As in 2004 and 2008, we will be joining volunteers en route to get out the vote in Pennsylvania, a state whose urban voters are likely to be disenfranchised in large numbers by restrictive new legislation making it more difficult to vote, thanks to a Republican-controlled state legislature and a Republican governor.

Please sign up with Obama-Biden today, or contact your local Democratic Party headquarters, and help with the campaign. You can make phone calls from home, help to contact voters in swing states, write letters to the editors of your local papers, and more! Two months. Let’s keep the good man on the job.

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Also, check out Daily Kos’s “Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: A passionate defense of one term, a vision forward for a second one” for a sampling of newspapers’ responses around the U.S.A.

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The Big Hug

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

 Clinton Wows Dems, Urges 2nd Term for Obama

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In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection . . . went something like this: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

Listen to me now. No president, no president—not me, not any of my predecessors—no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.

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For 45 minutes last night in Charlotte, Bill Clinton explained in plain language why Barack Obama should be reelected—what he has accomplished against nearly impossible odds—and why the Republican attacks against Obama and the Democrats are not to be believed. Following strong speeches by women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren, Clinton drew sharp, clear distinctions between the Democrats and the GOP: “We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’”

In what Talking Points Memo calls an “explano-smackdown,” Clinton methodically took head-on and demolished the GOP’s main lines of attack on President Obama. He set the record straight on the Recovery Act (stimulus); the Affordable Care Act; the so-called $716 million ”robbing” of Medicare; the auto industry restructuring; job creation; the smear that Obama is weakening work requirements in the welfare reform bill; and the federal debt. As Slate’s John Dickerson notes, “Clinton’s speech had several parts: an answer to the question ‘Are you better off?,’ a shaming of the modern GOP with the example set by past Republican presidents, and a deeper attempt to tie Obama’s policies to bedrock American values, a job Michelle Obama had begun the night before.”

Charles Blow of the New York Times observes, “the masterful Bill Clinton wrapped the evening up as only he could: delivering a wonky speech with the passion of a southern preacher and keeping the crowd rapt the whole way through.” Clinton also answered quite convincingly, repeatedly, the question “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?” One of our favorite comments was a tweet by Ben Greenman, an editor at The New Yorker, posted on DailyKos: ”Bill Clinton should be the Secretary of Explaining Things.”

There were so many lines to love in Bill Clinton’s speech last night. And his were not the sniping personal-attack zingers that swarmed like mosquitoes in Tampa—they delighted because they were true, based in fact. And he had facts by the handful (transcript here).

The Quotable Explainer in Chief

We are here to nominate a president . . . I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.

We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.”

So who’s right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what’s the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two. [confirmed by PolitiFact]

Now, . . . there’s a reason for this. It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination, and ignorance restrict growth.

What works in the real world is cooperation, business and government, foundations and universities. Ask the mayors who are here. Los Angeles is getting green and Chicago is getting an infrastructure bank because Republicans and Democrats are working together to get it. They didn’t check their brains at the door. They didn’t stop disagreeing. But their purpose was to get something done.

Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true. Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget! You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did. . . .

In 2010, as the president’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around. The Recovery Act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes—let me say this again—cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. And in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about 4.5 million private-sector jobs. We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another job score. President Obama: plus 4.5 million. Congressional Republicans: zero. . . .

We all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save G.M. and Chrysler. So here’s another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? Here—here’s another job score. Obama: 250,000. Romney: zero.

 

Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.

Don’t you ever forget, when you hear them talking about this, that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office, in the 12 years before I took office . . . and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left, because it defied arithmetic.

We simply can’t afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle-down.

My fellow Americans, all of us in this grand hall and everybody watching at home, when we vote in this election, we’ll be deciding what kind of country we want to live in. If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

If you want—if you want America—if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures [applause] just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority, and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.

“For the last five minutes of the speech, everyone in the auditorium stood to let his words fall on their faces,” writes Slate’s John Dickerson. And, as Clinton ended his remarks to joyous applause, from within the Time Warner Cable Arena and beyond (didn’t we hear shouts of “four more hours!”?), Barack Obama walked onstage. Clinton gave a slight bow as the president approached, and they embraced, then turned to face the energized crowd, partners joined in a common cause for a stronger, more perfect union.

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We have been yearning and starving for years to hear this kind of spirited and hard-hitting defense of Democratic priorities and this president’s efforts. It’s not as though Obama has not spoken up for himself—he just hasn’t done it enough, and not with the warmth and good cheer and mastery of the podium that Bill Clinton brings. And, too, it makes a difference when the defense and the case for Four More Years is coming from a popular two-term president of a more-than-successful economy who also endured obstructionism and even impeachment from the opposition party. There is a hard-earned authoritativeness in Clinton’s voice, and the people were lovin’ it. We just pray that millions of independents and those elusive white male voters remember the Better Times of the late 1990s and vote as directed by the Big Dog.

Clinton’s arguments were all the more persuasive, observes The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, because Clinton and Obama are not personally close. Everyone knows this. But their “fraught history,” he says,

“makes [Clinton] the ideal spokesman to appeal to those skeptical former Obama voters that his campaign is trying to win back. . . .  it was exactly their lack of personal chemistry and failure to become ‘close friends’ that gave Clinton’s speech its lift. A subtext of the address was that, just like Bill Clinton, wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney. When the two Presidents came together and hugged after the speech was (finally) over, the distance between them made their embrace all the more powerful.”

For more about the warming relationship between Obama and Clinton, read Ryan Lizza’s “Let’s Be Friends” (New Yorker 9/10/12).

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