Posted tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Democrats go mindless on taxes

December 9, 2010

While local Democrats celebrate their near sweep in the recent election, their counterparts in Washington are proving the old Will Rogers line: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Congressional Democrats have made jokes of themselves by bashing their own president for cutting a necessary deal with Republicans to preserve tax cuts for the middle class and secure benefits for the unemployed in exchange for also temporarily extending tax cuts for the wealthy.

They get their butts kicked in the election and they respond by fighting with each other instead of the other side.

We should remember that President Barack Obama had to negotiate a compromise with Republicans only because Democratic lawmakers, who control both houses, couldn’t deliver the votes to support the bill they and Obama wanted to end the tax cuts for the wealthy.

If you don’t have the votes for the deal you want, you negotiate the best deal you can get, and that’s what Obama did. If the Democrats’ prospects improve, they can fight it again when the tax cuts expire in two years — and between now and then, they can do all the railing they want to hold Republicans accountable for pandering to the rich.

What’s the point of a protracted fight the Democrats can’t currently win that only sticks it to middle-class taxpayers and the unemployed? If the Democrats don’t have the votes now, winning the fight only diminishes come January when the GOP takes over the House and picks up seats in the Senate.

Since when is it weakness to pursue responsible compromise when you lack the votes to have it all your own way?

Our own Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka had it right when they said they’ll will support Obama’s compromise to help working families despite their strong reservations about extending tax cuts for the wealthy, which Inouye said will cause him to  “hold my nose.”

Akaka said, “Working families in Hawai‘i need our help to put food on the table. They will spend the money locally and help our economy. I simply cannot allow these middle-class tax cuts to expire or abandon the unemployed during these tough times.”

Obama must transform the debate

November 12, 2010

Neil Abercrombie learned a lot from the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign in fashioning his Hawai‘i gubernatorial campaign theme of hope and change.

Now there’s something Obama could learn from the Abercrombie campaign as he deals with the Republican resurgence in Congress and prepares to run for a second term in two years.

Abercrombie won by surprisingly wide margins against Mufi Hannemann in the primary and James “Duke” Aiona in the general election by claiming the high road from the start of the campaign and never wavering from the course.

When an opponent took a below-the-belt shot at him, Abercrombie would respond by lecturing, “This is not how a governor acts.” He got in plenty of his own shots, of course, but he drew a line and never sank below it.

Voters who were turned off by the negativity that inundated the airwaves this election season responded to his message.

Obama could benefit politically and do the country a favor by making a similar aggressive claim to the high road.

With the standoff between Obama and the Republicans, there’s not going to be a lot of policy transformation in the next two years. But he could do something about transforming the poisonous political tone of polarization, demonization and name-calling by making civility, decency and common respect the issue.

To this point, the president has mostly shrugged it off as the opposition has rudely shouted him down, refused him the respect traditionally given the presidency and spread lies about his birth and religious beliefs.

Maybe it’s time for him to take to the presidential bully pulpit with some stern lectures about how this isn’t the way a civil society acts.

There are partisans Obama will never reach, but he might be surprised by the response of the more reasonably minded who are tired of the toxic politics.

It’s just not a sustainable future for our country to have our people divided in half with each side refusing to cede any legitimacy to the other.

Begging for Barack

October 29, 2010

E-mail can be either highly entertaining or mind-numbing around election time, depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person.

I’ve been getting so much e-mail from Joe Biden lately that he’s starting to address me by my first name.

In what apparently is his last and final offer, the vice president’s latest missive hits me up for $3 (I shook my iPad and no zeroes fell out) to support President Barack Obama’s agenda. Is he kidding? For that kind of money, you’d think he’d call me Mr. Shapiro.

“Dig deep, David,” he implores. “There’s only one way to wake up the morning after an election — with no regrets.”

I’m afraid I started having regrets a long time before election day. Does this strike anybody else as more like panhandling than politicking?

***

To pick on Republicans a little, I got another email, indirectly, from H. William Burgess, the attorney who’s led local conservative opposition to the Akaka bill for native Hawaiian recognition.

He’s threatening to withhold his coveted endorsement from Republican gubernatorial candidate James “Duke” Aiona and congressional candidate Charles Djou unless they withdraw their support for the Akaka bill.

He’s asking friends to send short e-mails to the candidates backing his position and suggested some wording. One of his suggestions, in a “corrected” version of the email, no less: “Ask the people first before before considering the Alala bill.”

I suppose  that’s one way of saying he thinks the legislation is for the birds.

If I send $3, will the the Aiona and Djou campaigns tell me how many folks actually sent them e-mails with the typo pasted in?

Local Democrats weigh the Obama factor

October 20, 2010

Hawai‘i  Democrats are placing a heavy bet that President Barack Obama’s popularity remains considerably higher in his native state than in the rest of the country, where his fortunes are clearly sagging.

While Democrats in other states run from the president, local candidates continue to embrace him.

A large part of Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Charles Djou is built around supporting Obama’s stimulus program, health care reforms and tax proposals that Djou and the Republicans have denounced as costly failures.

Democratic candidate for governor Neil Abercrombie was ebullient when he received the president’s formal endorsement this week, saying, “I treasure President Obama’s friendship and I’m happy to have his endorsement. If I’m elected Governor, our people will benefit from his commitment to Hawaii, the place of his birth.”

One top Democrat told me he didn’t believe a poll showing Abercrombie and Republican Duke Aiona in a dead heat because the poll had Obama’s local approval at barely 50 percent, which he thought was too low and demonstrated a Republican tilt to the survey.

My gut feeling is that while Obama’s local approval has dropped from the 71.5 percent of the vote the got against McCain here in 2008, it’s probably still high enough to be a net plus for the Democrats.

Can the same be said for Democratic candidates supported by our senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye? I look at that a little bit in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Inouye might have a job for life, but it is not a royal appointment.”

Enough GOP demagoguery on NYC mosque

August 19, 2010

I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but I’m glad Hawai’i Republicans — especially U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and state chairman Jonah Ka’auwai — haven’t joined in the GOP’s Muslim bashing over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 ground zero in New York City.

After President Barack Obama supported the right of American Muslims to practice their religion just like anybody else, Republican congressional candidates around the country rolled out what AP called a “boilerplate attack” accusing Obama of being insensitive to the families of the 9/11 victims, who are divided on the issue.

It’s the worst kind of political pandering that refuses to recognize a difference between law-abiding American Muslims and radical terrorists — just as some in our country once refused to differentiate Japanese Americans from those who bombed Pearl Harbor.

Some of the most incendiary rhetoric has come from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has said among other things: ”There should be no mosque near ground zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. … America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.”

Is he seriously suggesting that we should live under the rules of the Saudi constitution rather than the U.S. Constitution and that it’s going to destroy our civilization to practice the religious freedom our country was founded on?

If the Republicans say it’s an issue of sensitivity, why not apply that to what comes out of their mouths?

I certainly don’t expect Hawai’i Republicans to leap to Obama’s defense on the issue — even top Democrats have kept their distance — but I hope they continue to respect our state’s religious diversity and refrain from joining in the demagoguery.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit it right when he said that freedom of religion applies to all: “We would betray our values — and play into our enemies’ hands — if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”

For a cool-headed look at some of issues in the mosque controversy, see this AP fact check.

Spare us the chest-thumping on Iraq

August 2, 2010

President Barack Obama is trumpeting this month’s withdrawal of the last U.S. combat troops from Iraq — 50,000 “transitional” troops will remain — as a campaign promise kept.

I’m sorry, but there’s nothing to trumpet about this miserable war, which after eight years has left us with nearly 6,000 U.S. military and civilian deaths, more than 70,000 Americans wounded and many times more Iraqi casualties.

Our country has spent $737 billion, and for what? For nothing.

If anything, Iraq has less long-term stability than when we started the bombing and we’ll leave the country with as much or more potential for breeding terrorism.

The government we sponsored in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein has been chronically unable to get its act together, and Iraqi deaths from war-related violence were at least 356 in July, the highest since last year. The suffering of these people will continue long after we’re gone — perhaps even more so than before we arrived.

So no political boasts, please. Tell me we’ve learned some kind of lesson about the futility of ham-handed attempts at nation-building in cultures we don’t understand and where we’re not welcome.

Can we call Afghanistan a quagmire yet?

July 4, 2010

I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever see another Fourth of July that doesn’t feature a general promising what seems to be an increasingly elusive victory in the nearly 9-year-old war in Afghanistan.

This year it was Gen. David Petraeus pledging “we are in this to win,” as he took over command of the war following President Barack Obama’s parting of ways with Gen. Stanley McChrystal for poor-mouthing the administration.

The problem is that the victory Petraeus speaks of is getting difficult to define as the Afghan government remains shaky, the Taliban gains strength despite our years of sacrifice and U.S. public support for the war wanes.

Here’s how Petraeus describes the task: “We must demonstrate to the Afghan people — and to the world — that al-Qaida and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.”

In practical terms, this seems to mean propping up a hopelessly corrupt Kabul regime that is only suspicious of us against a repressive rival that is openly hostile to our efforts to enforce our will in a part of the world we don’t understand and where we’re not welcome.

It’s highly unlikely that the regime will find its legs in time to meet Obama’s July 2011 goal to start withdrawing U.S. forces in a war that he’s too eagerly made his own after inheriting it from George W. Bush.

It was ironic that as a sign of progress, Petraeus noted that 7 million Afghan children are in school compared with fewer than 1 million a decade ago.

That’s nice for them, but improving public education in Afghanistan wasn’t the reason we went to war, and you’ve got to wonder how much the billions we’ve spent could have helped our own miserably lagging public schools.


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