Thursday, September 28, 2006

The President is Incompetent

I almost titled this blog "The President is a Fool", but then I remembered that pejoratives get in the way of understanding. It's much more productive to deal with facts...and the facts clearly indicate that our current president, George W. Bush, is simply incompetent. Many of us suspected very early that GWB was a dim bulb and easily manipulated, but in the year 2000 we had little idea of how seriously his incompetence could harm the United States. We now are beginning to get a broad understanding of how these many sins of comission and omission will affect this country in the years to come.

The war in Iraq will go down as Bush's most important failure. Successful warriors know that the choice of a battleground has much to do with success or failure. Bush's choice of Iraq, which was surrounded by our enemies and had no consistent culture to rally around, has led to a stalemated conflict where our enemies have all the advantages...time, virtually unlimited manpower, concealment within the indigenous population, and outside technical and financial support. We can't "win" in the traditional sense, but our enemies win because we spend $8 billion per month to continue the fight - $8 billion that we borrow from our children and grandchildren, thus weakening our country's home base for the long term. We should have initiated conflicts only where we could assure victory, thus demoralizing our enemies. Instead, we have fought in a place where our enemies feel successful and they gain support as a result. As Colin Powell said, "You conquer it, you own it." Iraq is a tar baby, and unfortunately, George Bush stepped into it voluntarily.

The Bush administration's fiscal policies are the next most important failure. Our nation's future obligations to its citizens and foreign creditors cannot be met without dramatic changes in our entitlement programs and our management of current accounts like the federal deficit and the foreign trade deficit. The United States is in far worse economic condition than it was six years ago, even though the stock markets have risen. The risk to our nation increases substantially every year that action is not taken. Even though GWB has acknowledged much of what is said above on this topic, he has done nothing. He will be blamed by future generations for their pain.

If the presidency is a "bully pulpit", then the message from GWB has consistently been "come and be stupid with me." There was no call to arms to reduce consumption of, or substitute for, the oil that we depend on our enemies to provide us. Instead, he told us to drill in Anwar, a place where there is a pitifully small amount of oil - as if it could save us from our long term problem with oil supplies. Similarly, on the other side of the energy coin - global warming - he has failed to recognize the threat and mobilize our population and other governments to deal with it seriously. When it comes to the big issues, GWB is nowhere to be found!

I could go on and on about stem cell research, education, corruption (never mentioned by our illustrious president), church and state issues, and the silliness of many of our internal security initiatives. Leadership has been absent, as it was in Katrina.

You have to wonder how a country with so many brilliant and charismatic citizens could elect one of its dullest minds to its highest office. That's democracy, I guess. The good news is that we can recognize our mistake and do much better starting in November!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Musings of a Protester

Last Friday I did something new - I participated in an organized political protest. The general objective of the protest was to counterbalance the media impact of Dick "VP of Torture and Misinformation" Cheney's visit to Rochester. It turned out that Cheney raised $180,000 for Randy Kuhl's congressional race, and the protest turned out 200 or so people who taunted the fund raiser attendees and chanted a variety of slogans while being carefully watched by a phalanx of burly police officers and who knows who else.

I carried a "Massa for Congress" sign through the streets of Rochester, and I chanted the chants while smiling at the well-heeled prospective beneficiaries of Republican largesse, who will certainly pad their wallets if Kuhl gets re-elected. But somehow I did not fit into the group that surrounded me - me in my khaki's and turtleneck and rain parka. The others looked like protesters from the 60's - wild young people with mohawks, older guys with beards wearing jeans and t-shirts, "Raging Grannies" in old fashioned clothes and make-up, gay and lesbian activists, advocates for the disabled, people protesting the Medicare drug "donut hole". It seems that regular people do not protest, regardless of how vehement they might feel about someone as outrageous as Dick Cheney. I was disappointed.

I met a lady who had retired before I did from the same company. She was very sweet, but she wasn't too clear on why she was there. When I asked her, she said something like "I go to protests." Apparently there are generic protesters who enjoy the energy emitted from groups of marching, chanting people.

There is a creepy feeling associated with being closely observed by police while you exercise your constitutional rights, and I felt it keenly. Also, people with cameras were filming us, and my picture will probably get entered into some kind of "enemies" database. I guess being known as an enemy of Dick Cheney is an honor of some kind...makes me feel like a distant cousin of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I suppose. Somebody's got to say "no" when the government starts torturing people and limiting their civil rights. Last week it was me.

So, I doubt that the motley 199 plus me protesters had much impact - Cheney raised almost $1,000 for each one of us. But it was kind of fun to engage in the kind of protest that once started the American revolution - people in the streets, demanding justice. Hopefully, come November, America will be at least a little teensy bit more peaceful as a result.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Optimism About the Election

As I walked the Appalachian Trail this spring in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I often worried that the excesses of the Bush presidency would continue until he left office in early 2009.

Despite the fallout of the multiple congressional scandals, the Terri Schaivo travesty, Bush's obvious sell-outs to his greedy rich constituents, the stem cell rejections, and the free-fall of his Iraq strategy, there seemed like nothing could stand in the way of Bush and his do-nothing pals in congress. But a new breeze is blowing, and perhaps the November elections will begin a new chapter in our country's governance.

Today marked the revolt of Senate republicans over Bush's proposed trashing of the Geneva Conventions. By a large margin, the Committee sent the full Senate a much-modified version of Bush's bill. It will be very hard for the president to overcome the objections of John Warner, John McCain, Colin Powell, and General Vessey to the bill he put forward. This outright rejection of torture marks a return to the American ideals we thought our government was pursuing all along - until we found out different!

In my own congressional district a Democrat upstart, Eric Massa, is waging a strong campaign against the incumbent Republican, Randy Kuhl. Massa's impeccable military credentials, international experience, and personal integrity make him a formidable opponent for the Kuhl, a small-town political hack who grew up in the corrupt NY state senate. Massa seems to be the kind of guy whose leadership skills will immediately stand out in the House, and he'll be pushing for solutions to the country's big problems. I'm doing all I can to support him, even though I remain an Eisenhower republican.

Our not-straight-shooting vice president, Dick Cheney, soon will be visiting Rochester, NY, to raise some money for Kuhl. I plan to picket the hotel where he'll be selling photo op's for $1,000. This man has done more to harm the United States than anyone in recent history, and he needs to be repudiated at every opportunity.

So maybe the democrats will win the House in November, and we'll be back to divided government. For some reason, the checks and balances of divided government often seem to result in productive compromises. If Bush wants to save his presidential legacy, perhaps the loss of the House will turn out to be his greatest opportunity. Optimism is an American trait, yes?