Posted tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Politics straight out of Toon Town

August 9, 2011

I’m reluctant to wade into the finger-pointing over who’s to blame for S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, but one thing President Barack Obama said rang true to me.

The president said S&P’s move was “not so much because they doubt our ability to pay our debt … but because after witnessing a month of wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, they doubted our political system’s ability to act.”

The sad fact is that after standing as a beacon of stability in the world for most of our history, we’re becoming a politically unstable nation, unable to handle the most basic functions of government in an orderly and effective manner.

Our political system is a complex array of checks and balances that depends on compromise to get things done. It’s virtually impossible for anybody to have everything their own way, and when the parties refuse to compromise, the system breaks down.

We’ve come to play it as a game of sticking the other guy with the blame, but the collapse of the stock market in the wake of the debt crisis shows that this “game” has very real consequences — not only for the high-rollers on Wall Street, but for ordinary folks within pensions and 401k’s whose retirement depends on stable markets.

Of most concern is that the major players don’t seem to have learned anything from the trauma they’ve caused us.

Political money and passion these days flow to the extremes, where compromise is reviled, and the two sides are already revving up a 2012 national political campaign likely to take cartoonish demonization to a new level.

With so many voters disgusted and disengaged, I’m not seeing a path back to political stability anytime soon.


Obama on the political rebound?

May 11, 2011

It’s amazing what a gutsy move to settle an old score can do for a president’s standing with voters.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating surged to 60 percent of voters in an Associated Press-GfK poll after the dramatic Navy Seals mission that killed Osama bin Laden, recovering from a low of 47 percent after last year’s Republican gains in midterm congressional elections and approaching his high of 64 percent after his election in 2008.

Bin Laden’s ability to elude U.S. pursuers after sponsoring the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks was a festering frustration for the American public, and bringing him to justice dramatically improved Obama’s marks on keeping the country safe, with 73 percent now saying they’re confident in his ability to handle the terrorist threat.

The surge of approval spilled over to domestic issues, with 52 percent now saying they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy despite the slow recovery from the recession and continuing high unemployment.

The raid that took down bin Laden in Pakistan came shortly after the president took the offensive against the “birther” conspiracy by releasing his Hawai‘i birth certificate and stepped up his aggressiveness in battling Republicans on issues from the budget to immigration reform.

Public opinion is fickle and his standing with voters could go south again just as fast as it rose if he ends up on the unflattering end of the next big story.

But the timing of the latest surge couldn’t be better for Obama as he launches his campaign for re-election in 2012 that many considered hopeless after Republicans took firm control of the House and made major gains in the Senate.

He’s clearly trying to follow the pattern set by Bill Clinton in 1996 when he fought off a popular belief that he’d become irrelevant by deftly handling a similar GOP takeover of the House and cruising to easy re-election against a weak Republican field.

If Obama goes into the 2012 election strong, it would bode well for Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate and have major implications in the Hawai‘i Senate race to replace the retiring Daniel Akaka.

“Birtherism” = racism

April 29, 2011

I suppose he had to do it, but it was nevertheless sad to see President Barack Obama give in to the malicious fringe of the American body politic and release original copies of his Hawai‘i birth certificate.

Obama proved he was a natural-born American three years ago when he released the computerized birth certificate that the state gives everybody born here, and it was offensive to see him still being hectored.

No other president has faced demands to produce any birth certificate, much less the original documents to back it up.

The only credible explanation for the unprecedented harassment is that Obama is our first black president and the first president born in our nation’s newest state, where the majority of the population is of minority descent.

We’ve tiptoed around the racism inherent in the birther movement for too long, and it’s time to call the practitioners of this low form of politics on it as they move on to picking at the president’s college records, Social Security number and toddler years in Indonesia.

I’ve been disappointed in the media’s reluctance to expose the racism in this non-issue and was pleased to see a new Associated Press story exploring birtherism from the black point of view. I recommend that you read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

Shortly after President Barack Obama declared himself an American-born citizen with papers to prove it, Baratunde Thurston declared himself a disgusted black man.

“I find it hard to summarize in mere words the amount of pain and rage this incident has caused,” Thurston said.

“This” would be the nation’s first black president standing in the White House, blue power suit and all, going on TV to debunk, in more detail than before, the persistent, he-ain’t-really-an-American rumors fanned anew by Donald Trump, the developer and might-be presidential candidate.

Many African-Americans responded to Wednesday’s scene with a large sigh. The rumors and the controversy had a particular, troubling resonance for them: They’ve seen, heard, lived, the legitimacy of black people being called into question so many times before that, they said, they weren’t shocked to see it happen to Obama over something as simple as a birth certificate.

But they were sad about it, too, seeing what they felt was a high-level manifestation of the idea that when a black person accomplishes something great there must be something wrong …

Rings true to me.

Sam Slom moves to the fringe

April 26, 2011

Sam Slom, the only remaining Republican in the state Senate, seems to be dipping his toes deeper and deeper into the “birther” conspiracy about President Barack Obama’s Hawai‘i birth.

Slom says he’s not a true “birther” because he personally believes Obama was born here, but increasingly he’s been feeding into the “questions” about Obama’s birth being raised by loose cannons on the GOP fringe such as Donald Trump.

In a radio interview on WABC in New York reported April 24 by WorldNetDaily, Slom said questions about the president’s birth remain “a legitimate issue.”

“My particular point of view – and why I haven’t identified myself as a ‘birther,’ per se – is that [Obama] probably was born [in Hawaii] and that the real issue is not the birth certificate, but what’s on the birth certificate,” Slom told (Aaron) Klein.

Asked what that could be, Slom said, “It could have to do with what his name is on the birth certificate, who is actually listed as his father, the citizenship of the father.”

He continued, “My belief is that there is a birth certificate, he was born here, but that there is information that for reasons known only to him he doesn’t want released. If it were just the birth certificate, that would be one thing, but it’s his school records, it’s employment records. … Why would anybody, let alone the president of the United States, spend millions of dollars in legal fees to keep that hidden?”

People in Hawai‘i — including most Republicans — know this is nonsense, and it’s difficult to imagine that having the highest ranking Republican in the state government spreading it is gaining the sputtering local GOP any credibility.

The state of Hawai‘i has given sworn certification that Obama was born here in the form of the same certificate of live birth that anybody requesting a Hawai‘i birth certificate receives. A Republican state administration and governor who campaigned for John McCain have vouched that there is nothing amiss in the president’s birth records. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has said it’s good enough for him.

It does no credit to Slom or his party to join in harassing a native son and our first black president about the circumstances of his birth in an insulting manner that no other president has ever had to deal with.


On a lighter note, thanks to Georgette Deemer for pointing out via Twitter a satirical piece from the Borowitz Report questioning whether Trump is as all-American as he claims:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – A threat to the fledgling presidential campaign of Donald Trump emerged today, as a group of activists charged that Mr. Trump is not eligible to hold the nation’s highest office because his hair does not originate from the U.S.

The group, who call themselves “Balders,” claim that the hair-like substance that crowns Mr. Trump’s head is from a foreign country, which would mean that the candidate is less than one hundred percent American.

Check it out. I have to admit it may be funnier than my “flASHback” line demanding to see the death certificate for the electrocuted mongoose Trump wears on his head.

Trump plays the chump on Obama’s birth

April 12, 2011

At first, it seemed that GOP presidential wannabe Donald Trump’s embrace of the birther movement might lend new credibility to those who dispute that President Barack Obama was born in Hawai‘i.

But Trump is turning out to be such a numbnut that he may end up discrediting the asinine notion once and for all to all but the most hardcore Obama haters who wouldn’t admit his U.S. birth if the state provided a video of him popping out of the womb with Diamond Head in the background.

Responsible conservatives like House Speaker John Boehner have distanced themselves from Trump and the birthers, saying there is no reason to doubt the validity of of the certification by the State of Hawai‘i — under a Republican governor who campaigned for John McCain — that Obama was born here.

In a new interview with MSNBC, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former state health director under Linda Lingle, repeated that she personally examined all documents related to Obama’s birth and there is no question they are valid.

Fukino said the certificate of live birth the president received and posted on the Internet in 2007 is the same birth certificate anybody born here gets from the state. She and a spokesman for the attorney general provided the best explanation I’ve seen of the state’s records system.

There are moves in several states attempting to force Obama to produce a “long-form” birth certificate to get on the ballot, but it’s doubtful that federal courts would refuse to recognize the certification already provided by the state, which would be tantamount to cutting Hawai‘i loose from the union.

Trump also drew the ire of Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, who disputes as “a naked lie in the name of the Lord” the mad mogul’s claim that Obama’s grandmother said the president was born in Kenya.

Onyango says when she was a child, she remembers the family in Kenya receiving a letter from Obama’s father announcing his son’s birth in Hawai‘i.

A sinking feeling about Libya

March 21, 2011

Who would have guessed that at the mid-term of an Obama administration that was elected partly out of public frustration with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would be embroiled in a third war in the Middle East?

Like the still smoldering conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-led attack on Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi appears to have no clear goals, exit strategy or link to our country’s national interests.

The administration says the primary objective is to protect civilians caught up in a civil conflict, but after President Barack Obama earlier expressed a desire for Gadhafi to leave, anything short of that could look like a failure.

Critics make a solid case that if we were going in, we should have done it a couple of weeks ago before Gadhafi reclaimed the upper hand from the rebels.

Now that we’re in, how long are we willing to stay if Gadhafi proves resilient? If the dictator falls, what role are we willing to play in Libya’s rebuilding? How do we justify squandering more of our national wealth blowing up and then reconstructing another Middle Eastern country while our own economy crumbles?

It’s difficult to detect enthusiasm for this new misadventure from any segment of the U.S. body politic; just disappointment that we can’t ever seem to learn from past mistakes.

Obama needs to get real on nuclear crisis

March 16, 2011

It’s highly disappointing that the best leadership President Barack Obama can display on the nuclear catastrophe in Japan is to offer boilerplate assurances about the safety of nuclear power when what we see on TV doesn’t look very safe at all.

The president said in TV interviews yesterday that U.S. nuclear facilities are safe and designed to withstand earthquakes.

Sometimes, I wish we could just pause and try to understand these disasters that befall us and what lessons we can learn from them without politicians trying to cut off meaningful discussion by running around making mindless defenses of their pet special interests before all the facts are even known.

In this case, it seems insanity not to take a moment to question whether we’re trying to harness a deadly power that simply cannot be safely harnessed for the long term. Systems are going to fail. People are going to screw up. Great earthquakes and other natural disasters are going to happen.

The scary thing is that Japan is one of the most technologically adept nations. There are countries building nuclear facilities for power and weapons that barely have the expertise to tie their technological shoelaces.

Obama blithely argued that all energy technologies have their dangers, pointing to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

With all due respect to the long-suffering Gulf Coast residents, if the worst happens at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex — full meltdown of the six reactors — it could cause a worldwide health, environmental and economic disaster that dwarfs the gulf oil spill.

The unprecedented catastrophe in Japan is providing valuable new information about the risk side of the nuclear power equation. To respond with political babble instead of thoughtful analysis is  irresponsible.

Abercrombie is all foot-in-mouth on Obama birth

January 28, 2011

President Barack Obama must be getting pretty steamed at Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his bumbling grandstand play that stirred up the Obama birth controversy all over again.

The non-issue had pretty much settled down with most reasonable Americans accepting that Obama is a U.S. citizen born in Hawai‘i — until Abercrombie announced with much fanfare that he’d use his new powers as governor to prove once and for all that Obama was born here.

That got the crazies stirred up anew, and when Abercrombie abandoned his effort after finding there was nothing more he could do to certify Obama’s birth beyond what the state had already done, it only amplified the cries of conspiracy.

In the latest bizarre twist, a “celebrity journalist” named Mike Evans, who claimed to be a friend of Abercrombie’s, said on a Minnesota radio station that the Hawai‘i governor told him he was unable to find Obama’s birth certificate despite an intensive search.

Evans later said he “mispoke,” hadn’t talked to Abercrombie and what he said wasn’t true, but not before the story was widely circulated in the national media, getting beyond the usual crackpots to guys with big audiences like Rush Limbaugh and Chris Matthews. Even our own state Sen. Sam Slom bit on the bogus story in his small business newsletter.

So now, because of Abercrombie, an issue that was all but dead will likely dog Obama into the 2012 election. Nice going, bearded one.

In his State of the State speech, Abercrombie told an amusing story about how as a young legislator he was outfoxed by veteran Kaua‘i Rep. Tony Kunimura.

After the Obama birth fiasco, the governor should now ask himself what Kunimura asked him then, “Did you learn anything, college boy?”

‘Birthers’ snipe at Boehner, Abercrombie

January 12, 2011

U.S. Rep. John Boehner is a hero of the Republican right as the new Speaker of the House, but he’s in a bit of hot water with the party’s “birther” fringe for refusing to join them in questioning President Barack Obama’s Hawai‘i  birth.

He’s said in recent interviews that he considers the issue settled, partly on the word of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, his former colleague in Congress.

“The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there,” the speaker told NBC. “That’s good enough for me.”

That drew the ire of the United States Justice Foundation, one of the leading birther groups, which credited Boehner for “his staunch patriotic, conservative stand,” but said he is  “TOTALLY WRONG” if he “actually believes liberal Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie when he says that Mr. Obama was actually born in Hawaii.”

The group suggested it won’t believe any documentation Abercrombie produces, alleging he is “a ‘fellow traveler’ (i.e., member) of the Marxist Democratic Socialist of America.  And, of course, so was Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.”

Birther groups are pushing for congressional hearings on the circumstances of Obama’s birth, and 12 Republicans have offered legislation expressing doubts about the president’s birthplace.

Despite his personal view that the issue is settled, Boehner said he’s not inclined to smack down those in his GOP caucus who think otherwise, saying, “It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.”

Obama birth flap born again after Abercrombie wades in

January 4, 2011

Talk about a story with legs. Items about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s vow before Christmas to prove once and for all that President Barack Obama was born here continue to pop up  in my daily Google feed of national news about Hawai‘i.

That’s some favor Abercrombie did his old pal; he took a non-issue that was as settled as it’s ever going to be and fired it up all over again.

There are basically two kinds of “birthers.” There are the lackwits who wouldn’t believe Abercrombie if he produced a video of the baby popping out of the womb with Diamond Head in the background.

Then there are the most unscrupulous of the political opportunists on the right, who are happy to exploit the lackwits’ lack of wits to sow doubts about the legitimacy of our first black president.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle already vouched for the validity of Obama’s Hawai‘i birth records. If the conspiracists won’t accept the word of a Republican who spent weeks stumping for John McCain and Sarah Palin, what in the world does Abercrombie think he can say or do to change their minds?

It seems to be a case where Obama’s need to give this nonsense a rest trumps our governor’s need to emote in the national media about his personal hurt over the doubters on the fringe.

%d bloggers like this: