Obama killing foes with kindness, firmness…

January 27, 2009
(Copyright 2009)
Barack Obama just keeps getting better every day. I think we are in good hands with this new president.
Today he reached out to House and Senate Republicans in his $850 billion stimulus package even though he didn’t have to, seeing as the Democrats control both houses.
But the president seems to be making good on his promise for a new bipartisan or post-partisan approach to Washington politics.
For my part, I think the Republicans are frustrated because President Obama isn’t fighting fair — he’s being too nice, too congenial, too reasonable.
But don’t get me wrong, we need the loyal opposition, one that unfortunately was AWOL for much of the former  administration.
I’m blogging from my oldest daughter’s home in Roseville, Ca., which is — sorry Rosevillians — kind of like greater Sacramento. For those of you who don’t know, I’m out of Redding, Ca., which is at the northern end of California’s giant interior valley, known as the Central Valley.

(A Home Depot store in Roseville, it was announced on the radio as we drove toward town, is going out of business, resulting in even higher unemployment for the area already hit hard by the bust in the housing market. Meanwhile, in Redding the local paper seems to be running stories every day about local businesses going under. One day recently the whole front page was devoted to store closures.)

At any rate, as my wife and I neared Roseville yesterday I began picking up a Sacramento radio station and listened to their local talk guy who in the afternoons does his rendition of Rush Limburger (I know not his real name, but I refuse to use his actual name) politics. The talk guy’s name is Tom Sullivan (his real name). He is a curious guy, obviously more cerebral and reasonable when he wants to be than Limburger, but nevertheless hard right wing.

I want to say more about Mr. Sullivan‘s style, but before I do, I just want to note that he seems perplexed on how to stand in the current Obama thing. By politics he has to be against Obama. Even though the Republicans always harp on the idea that a patriotic citizen must support the president when their guy is in office, they change their tune when they are out of power.

Yesterday Sullivan was commenting on the fact that the Obama administration wants to let California have more stringent auto emission standards than the federal government. By politics Mr. Sullivan is predisposed to oppose that. Anything that the automakers don’t want should not be allowed because they are business people and if they say it is bad for business then it is bad for America.

But Mr. Sullivan, unlike Limburger, sometimes reveals his own thoughtfulness. He admitted that he was conflicted. He knew that California’s already high anti-pollution standards have actually helped the environment, helped to reduce smog in the LA basin and that is a good thing. He did object, though, to auto makers having to potentially face 50 (number of states) different standards for the production of their products. And that last part seems a reasonable concern. But the fact that Mr. Sullivan would admit that there is some merit to protecting or improving the environment is interesting.

Also, I get the idea that Mr. Sullivan and other hard line Republicans know that extraordinary measures need to be taken to deal with our current financial calamity, so much so that even their boy, George W., moved the whole nation toward socialism in his final desperate days in office. But they want this new socialism to only help businesses, kind of a business-socialism, with public debt to provide private profits.

Well, I’m going a little too far in trying to explain Mr. Sullivan’s feelings because I have not listened to him much for the past few years. I used to live in this area and listened to him regularly. I also listened to Limburger — kind of for entertainment, kind of to see what the belligerent hard right was thinking or what line they were taking. There were times I had to turn Limburger off and vow to never listen to his vitriol and mean-spiritedness again — then I would go back occasionally. And to be fair, at first I appreciated Limburger for some of the hypocrisy on the part of the left that he gleefully pointed out — he never seemed to see it on his side , though.

And now back to Mr. Sullivan. When he first came on the air — maybe 15 years ago — I don’t know precisely when, he just did a talk show on investments — him being a kind of stock broker investment adviser kind of guy. Then he began to comment on local politics, with that golly gee whiz approach — is that the way they do it? He seemed to be somewhat of a neophyte to the workings of government. But he was a quick study and obviously bright and articulate, for real, rather than pseudo bright and articulate as Limburger, who incidentally started out at the same radio station as Mr. Sullivan.

At first, Mr. Sullivan was refreshing to listen to, because even though he took the conservative line, he was able to for discussion purposes frame the argument of the other side in a totally reasonable way. But I think he learned that his ratings improved when he dropped all pretense of seeing the other side, or of even being middle of the road, and simply spouted the intolerant and close-mined Limburger approach. He was not as fun to listen to anymore, but I think his ratings soared. Actually I don’t know, but I have to assume so, because he is still on the air.

Mr. Sullivan once considered running for congress, but told his listeners he decided against it because he would have to spend all his time campaigning and fundraising (congressmen have two-year terms) and he would have to do too much compromising. If I wanted to make a snide remark here, I could say that it is far easier to spout off hard line positions than to come up with solutions and work for the good of everyone. But, really, I guess I should respect his decision. I think he found he would have to take too much time away from his investments and that he would not be able to provide whatever he provides his listeners with. He wanted to stay wealthy (which he reportedly is) and be able to continue as a spokesman for his so-called conservative ideology.

I did get laughs at times when he was still in his see both sides mode and some of his Rush Limburger fan listeners would call in and sound perplexed and worried that he was taking the wrong side.

What ticks me off the most about Rush Limburger is that all he does is preach to his own choir, with everyone competing to be the ultimate sycophant, which they call ditto-heads. No thinking required. “I agree with you Rush. Dittos”.

To be fair, what little left-wing radio (and I hate to use that term because it connotes communist, but you have to use some term) I have heard (there isn’t much) it is often the same. Reasonable discussion with both sides aired and discussion in the middle does not seem to produce ratings (too dull, I suppose).

And back to Mr. Sullivan. I wished I could have pulled his signal in over the past year or past several months as our economic system shaped mostly by the neo conservative politics lo these past many years, and even going clear back to Reagan, has led us to near ruin. I know that he was always the apologist for big business when I listened to him. If it made money it had to be right. He was a huge defender of multi million dollar bonuses for executives because you have to provide top pay for top talent. Now that it has been proved that those getting that top pay either did not know what they were doing or were simply crooks, I don’t know what his explanation is.

Back to President Obama. I also applaud him for making overtures to the Muslim world, saying we are not their enemies, that we are willing to get along, but that we will also defend ourselves.

So far, the president is killing them (Muslims and Republican foes) with kindness, but offering firmness, as well.

And so far, the new president does seem to be taking a new post-partisan approach that seems to be rankling both some Democrats and for sure a lot of Republicans.

I want the loyal opposition to keep at it.

I also want some progress and feel that there just might be.

While certainly the president is correct in cautioning that progress may be slow, The American people need to keep their leaders’ feet to the fire and demand that some amount of progress be made and swiftly.

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Is experience really what’s needed???

August 29, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

Is experience what we really want to lead this nation now?

Qualifications sure. But we have all kinds of experienced folks in the government and look where we are: economic chaos, war (maybe unnecessary war at that), threats of war (especially from a resurgence in the rivalry for world power from Russia (and don’t forget the Chinese juggernaut and of course continuing Islamic extremist terrorism).

We are literally going broke on an individual by individual scale and a national scale (yes, of course there are always those smart and fortunate enough to be untouched, that was so even in the Great Depression, but you know what I mean), and the present government seems powerless and even unwilling to do anything, save bail out Wall Street.

This has to be the strangest and most important presidential election in this 59-year-old’s lifetime.

You have Democrats threatening to vote Republican and some Republicans indicating they’d just as soon vote Democrat.

Despite basic differences in governmental philosophy between Republicans and Democrats, it seems to me that both candidates and parties are converging to some extent on the issues, not totally, of course.

Many Republicans are perplexed with McCain’s surprise announcement that he chose a woman, Sarah Palin, fomer beauty queen and stay-at-home mom, but now first-term Alaska governor, for his running mate (vice presidential spot). Democrats are quick to point out she would be a heart beat away from the presidency with no real experience on the national scale.

But, without knowing much about her, I would point out that she is governor of a state of the United States. What qualifications do you really have to have? And look where experience (and maybe with Bush, lack of experience at first, but plenty now) has gotten us.

(By the way, Time online has a good article on Palin at http://www.time.com)

Without going over the issues point by point, the fundamental difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that the Republicans like to look at government as something to back up business interests and in so doing promote a robust economy that supposedly benefits all, but gives commerce a free rein, with only minimal control (generalizing for sure).

The Democrats, since Franklin Roosevelt, see a government that takes a more activist role in the lives of the general public, protecting them somewhat from the uncertainty and risks of economic cycles and looks after the general welfare – working together for the common good.

The Democrats push a lot of civil rights legislation (used to be primarily for blacks, now it’s gone into protection of homosexual rights and of women’s rights, immigration rights? ) and they are heavily into pushing some form of universal health care.

(And if I could just interrupt my own blog here. Why does universal health care seem like such a threat to so many? I’ve worked all my life and have paid a heck of a lot of health care premiums, still do, but if I can’t pay them anymore and want to get in on a universal system, does that threaten you who can pay? Certainly I would support a reform that lets everyone stay on their own plan if they have one and like it, but helps those in need. Yes, we all know that there will always be freeloaders in society who never do contribute but want to get in on help. So do we deny everyone for the sins of some? Thanks, I needed that.)

The Republicans even lean toward the Democrats in some of these social issues, but for the most part they contend that government should not go too far in legislating on social issues. However, the Republicans have taken up the mantle of ultra-conservatives and want to go heavily into legislating on what they see as moral issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research. Back before the civil rights bills were passed in the 60s, conservative icon Barry Goldwater said: “you can’t legislate morality” (he was speaking against civil rights legislation). But the more modern conservatives seem to be big on legislating morality as they see it. They don’t mind government intrusion into personal lives.

I actually think that if this race stays close as it is now, you will see Barack Obama move toward McCain on some issues and you will see McCain move toward Obama on some issues (they already have a little at least).

It could be that both parties and both candidates are responding to the voters who want their government to do something constructive.

If  Mrs. Palin lives up to her purported conservative, but maverick (and is that a contradiction in terms?) image, we might really be moving into a post-partisan period… maybe.

Even Barack Obama could lead us into a post-partisan period … I think it could happen.

I know, for conservatives he did sound quite socialist the other night, but like it or not, we have used quite a bit of socialism in this country for a long time. Look what happened when Bush tried to mess with Social Security.

The preceding can be considered a true blog, not an essay as I often try to write. I just wanted to put some thoughts out into the blogoshere.

Oh, and so there you have it. We have Obama, who could be president, with questionable experience, and Palin, who could be a heart beat away from the presidency, with zero experience, as it is usually defined in terms of the presidency.

Seems like experience has been somewhat removed from the issues.

Certainly Obama aims to push much harder on issues of social reform. Both Obama and McCain vow to push hard on the energy crisis and energy independence, if in slightly different ways, and both want to wrap up the warfare in the Middle East, Iraq especially. McCain gives the impression, though, that the stay would be longer there. And something said by Palin seemed to suggest McCain is itching to go into Iran. Obama wants to wrap up Iraq, but push harder in Afghanistan. Of course Obama is pro-choice (abortion rights) and McCain is not. Both men claim to follow the Christian faith, but McCain has pretty much vowed to support what one might call Christian fundamentalism (if only for political purposes).

Time to stop this blog. Thanks.