Monday, September 5, 2011

Yeah, I am back again. But this may be the only one for a while.

Reading blogs today I found a reference to a blog post at DailyKos from 2005. Now I normally don't read much at the big orange anymore because I just can't stomach most of what I see there.

That's actually why I had stopped for so long. The negativity out here is awful and I had to get away from it for a while. I am very tired of the so called emoprogs bashing the President for everything he does. Tired of the blame Obama first crowd and all the others who just seem to never be able to give him credit for what he does.

Anyway.. enough about me. Some of the blogs are better than others, we all know that, and I have been trying to stay with them. The People's View is one that I enjoy the most. They always have a reasoned discussion for everything and seem to find the good in things. Today was no exception.

The blog post they referenced was written by a Senator from Illinois explaining his vote against John Roberts and some other things he felt he needed to defend. Just so you won't have to give them a click, I will post it here.
I read with interest your recent discussion regarding my comments on the floor(1, 2, 3) during the debate on John Roberts' nomination. I don't get a chance to follow blog traffic as regularly as I would like, and rarely get the time to participate in the discussions. I thought this might be a good opportunity to offer some thoughts about not only judicial confirmations, but how to bring about meaningful change in this country.

Maybe some of you believe I could have made my general point more artfully, but it's precisely because many of these groups are friends and supporters that I felt it necessary to speak my mind.

There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency and the Senate. And I don't believe we get there by vilifying good allies, with a lifetime record of battling for progressive causes, over one vote or position. I am convinced that, our mutual frustrations and strongly-held beliefs notwithstanding, the strategy driving much of Democratic advocacy, and the tone of much of our rhetoric, is an impediment to creating a workable progressive majority in this country.

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

It's this non-ideological lens through which much of the country viewed Judge Roberts' confirmation hearings. A majority of folks, including a number of Democrats and Independents, don't think that John Roberts is an ideologue bent on overturning every vestige of civil rights and civil liberties protections in our possession. Instead, they have good reason to believe he is a conservative judge who is (like it or not) within the mainstream of American jurisprudence, a judge appointed by a conservative president who could have done much worse (and probably, I fear, may do worse with the next nominee). While they hope Roberts doesn't swing the court too sharply to the right, a majority of Americans think that the President should probably get the benefit of the doubt on a clearly qualified nominee.

A plausible argument can be made that too much is at stake here and now, in terms of privacy issues, civil rights, and civil liberties, to give John Roberts the benefit of the doubt. That certainly was the operating assumption of the advocacy groups involved in the nomination battle.

I shared enough of these concerns that I voted against Roberts on the floor this morning. But short of mounting an all-out filibuster -- a quixotic fight I would not have supported; a fight I believe Democrats would have lost both in the Senate and in the court of public opinion; a fight that would have been difficult for Democratic senators defending seats in states like North Dakota and Nebraska that are essential for Democrats to hold if we hope to recapture the majority; and a fight that would have effectively signaled an unwillingness on the part of Democrats to confirm any Bush nominee, an unwillingness which I believe would have set a dangerous precedent for future administrations -- blocking Roberts was not a realistic option.

In such circumstances, attacks on Pat Leahy, Russ Feingold and the other Democrats who, after careful consideration, voted for Roberts make no sense. Russ Feingold, the only Democrat to vote not only against war in Iraq but also against the Patriot Act, doesn't become complicit in the erosion of civil liberties simply because he chooses to abide by a deeply held and legitimate view that a President, having won a popular election, is entitled to some benefit of the doubt when it comes to judicial appointments. Like it or not, that view has pretty strong support in the Constitution's design.

The same principle holds with respect to issues other than judicial nominations. My colleague from Illinois, Dick Durbin, spoke out forcefully - and voted against - the Iraqi invasion. He isn't somehow transformed into a "war supporter" - as I've heard some anti-war activists suggest - just because he hasn't called for an immediate withdrawal of American troops. He may be simply trying to figure out, as I am, how to ensure that U.S. troop withdrawals occur in such a way that we avoid all-out Iraqi civil war, chaos in the Middle East, and much more costly and deadly interventions down the road. A pro-choice Democrat doesn't become anti-choice because he or she isn't absolutely convinced that a twelve-year-old girl should be able to get an operation without a parent being notified. A pro-civil rights Democrat doesn't become complicit in an anti-civil rights agenda because he or she questions the efficacy of certain affirmative action programs. And a pro-union Democrat doesn't become anti-union if he or she makes a determination that on balance, CAFTA will help American workers more than it will harm them.

Or to make the point differently: How can we ask Republican senators to resist pressure from their right wing and vote against flawed appointees like John Bolton, if we engage in similar rhetoric against Democrats who dissent from our own party line? How can we expect Republican moderates who are concerned about the nation's fiscal meltdown to ignore Grover Norquist's threats if we make similar threats to those who buck our party orthodoxy?

I am not drawing a facile equivalence here between progressive advocacy groups and right-wing advocacy groups. The consequences of their ideas are vastly different. Fighting on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable is not the same as fighting for homophobia and Halliburton. But to the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, "true" progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive "checklist," then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems. We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted.

Beyond that, by applying such tests, we are hamstringing our ability to build a majority. We won't be able to transform the country with such a polarized electorate. Because the truth of the matter is this: Most of the issues this country faces are hard. They require tough choices, and they require sacrifice. The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress may have made the problems worse, but they won't go away after President Bush is gone. Unless we are open to new ideas, and not just new packaging, we won't change enough hearts and minds to initiate a serious energy or fiscal policy that calls for serious sacrifice. We won't have the popular support to craft a foreign policy that meets the challenges of globalization or terrorism while avoiding isolationism and protecting civil liberties. We certainly won't have a mandate to overhaul a health care policy that overcomes all the entrenched interests that are the legacy of a jerry-rigged health care system. And we won't have the broad political support, or the effective strategies, required to lift large numbers of our fellow citizens out of numbing poverty.

The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives' job. After all, it's easy to articulate a belligerent foreign policy based solely on unilateral military action, a policy that sounds tough and acts dumb; it's harder to craft a foreign policy that's tough and smart. It's easy to dismantle government safety nets; it's harder to transform those safety nets so that they work for people and can be paid for. It's easy to embrace a theological absolutism; it's harder to find the right balance between the legitimate role of faith in our lives and the demands of our civic religion. But that's our job. And I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist." In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark. Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

Finally, I am not arguing that we "unilaterally disarm" in the face of Republican attacks, or bite our tongue when this Administration screws up. Whenever they are wrong, inept, or dishonest, we should say so clearly and repeatedly; and whenever they gear up their attack machine, we should respond quickly and forcefully. I am suggesting that the tone we take matters, and that truth, as best we know it, be the hallmark of our response.

My dear friend Paul Simon used to consistently win the votes of much more conservative voters in Southern Illinois because he had mastered the art of "disagreeing without being disagreeable," and they trusted him to tell the truth. Similarly, one of Paul Wellstone's greatest strengths was his ability to deliver a scathing rebuke of the Republicans without ever losing his sense of humor and affability. In fact, I would argue that the most powerful voices of change in the country, from Lincoln to King, have been those who can speak with the utmost conviction about the great issues of the day without ever belittling those who opposed them, and without denying the limits of their own perspectives.

In that spirit, let me end by saying I don't pretend to have all the answers to the challenges we face, and I look forward to periodic conversations with all of you in the months and years to come. I trust that you will continue to let me and other Democrats know when you believe we are screwing up. And I, in turn, will always try and show you the respect and candor one owes his friends and allies.

As you have probably guessed by now, this was written by Sen. Barack Obama. One of the main things that drew my attention is highlighted and I think it is something we need to think hard about. It is so true and so very fitting to today's crowd.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The President's WEEKLY ADDRESS: “It’s Time Washington Acted as Responsibly as Our Families Do”

From the White House blog:

President Obama used his weekly address to preview his budget saying that it will help the government live within its means, while still investing in the future. In addition to stripping out waste, his budget includes a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years—even for programs he cares deeply about—which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade. And, it will make investments in the future, by supporting what will do the most to grow the economy in the years to come. This means investing in things like infrastructure, research, and education.

This sounds much better than what I have been hearing from the GOPers... At least this makes sense and will help move the country forward and create jobs.

As I have seen all over, Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The President's Weekly Address: Winning the Future through American Innovation

From the White House blog:

The President discusses the labs at Penn State as an example of how American innovation, particularly in infrastructure and energy, can create jobs and win the future for America.

Once again, the President is pushing the Green jobs and technology that can help us move forward. Explaining how innovation and technology is what we need in the country to grow the economy and create jobs.

This is so important and is a must do... We need to continue to push this and support the President by helping in anyway we can.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The President's Weekly Address: Out-Innovating, Out-Educating & Out-Building Our Competitors

From the White House blog:

In this week’s address, President Obama called Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wisconsin an example of how America can win the future by being the best place on Earth to do business. Orion was able to open with the help of small business loans and incentives that are creating demand for clean energy technologies. By sparking innovation and spurring new products and technologies, America will unleash the talent and ingenuity of American workers and businesses, which will lead to new, good jobs.

A while back, I stated clean energy was our way forward and was our "to the moon" moment. Or as the President said in his STOU Tuesday night, this is our "Sputnik moment". I think this is the future and we should all embrace it.

Let's just hope the rest of the country gets behind this too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The President's Weekly Address: "We Can Out-Compete Any Other Nation"

From the White House blog:

President Obama discusses the steps he is taking to make America competitive in the short and long terms, and why he chose GE CEO Jeff Immelt to head up the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

I have read some reports that there was confusion why the president choose Immelt to lead this new board. But my thoughts are this... Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Immelt has been critical of the President in the past and this way, it is nullified.

We don't need someone to bash the Administration all over, we need someone with constructive ideas and innovation to keep the forward momentum going. Immelt may be just the person to do this. He is pushing green technology, green jobs and such at GE, why not use him to push other companies into doing the same thing.

Those are my thoughts anyway. Let me hear yours.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The President's Weekly Address: President Obama: "Before We are Democrats or Republicans, We are Americans"

From the White House blog:

In this week’s address, President Obama said that once business resumes in Washington, he looks forward to working with members of both parties to meet the challenges facing the country. By working together in a spirit of common cause, the President and members of Congress can face these challenges in a way worthy of the voters who sent them to Washington.

I hope we can all remember to be at least civil to each other in the time going forward. Even if the ones on the right don't want to be civil, we must set the example.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The President's Weekly Address: Tax Cuts Kicking In

From the White House blog:

The President touts the new benefits coming from the tax cut compromise for any business large or small, tens of millions of workers and families, and the economy itself.

In his weekly address, President Obama looked forward to how the tax cut package he signed into law in December will benefit millions of Americans in the new year. For one year, any business, large or small, can write off the full cost of most of their capital investments. The payroll tax cut will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family – 155 million workers will see larger paychecks because of that tax cut. Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. And eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit. Independent experts have concluded that the tax cut package should significantly accelerate the pace of the recovery.

This is good news about the jobs this week, however we can't depend on the numbers continuing this way. I think that's why the President isn't shouting louder about this. We all know the numbers fluctuate from week to week and month to month. But this is good news. The trend is still upward and that's the main thing. We are making progress and we have to keep the forward momentum going.

Even though the tax cut package was so hated by those on the left, it is a good thing for the middle class and I am sure the President will keep his word on fighting against the upper class cuts in 2 years. We have to work and make sure he has a Congress behind him when he is re-elected. That's our goal for the next 2 years.

I still have faith and confidence in our President and hope that others will see he is the man for the job and is doing the very best he can. Even if we don't always like the process, he is getting things done.