Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reasons why Republican fears about Obama are unfounded and why Democrats need to temper expectations

Overview

During the campaign I really grew tired of hearing all the Republican predictions of the end of civilization in the event of an Obama victory, AND I also was displeased with what some Democrats were expecting if Obama won and the Dems kept control of Congress. This post will attempt to explain why both sides now should just take some time to think things through and adjust accordingly. To me what is rather funny is that the same reasons as to why Republicans' fears are unfounded are the same reasons why Democrats must temper their expectations. To illustrate this, I will first address the one Republican concern that I think was at least semi-reasonable.

Electing Obama would put Democrats totally in charge of the federal government.

One common concern I heard from Republicans as the election drew closer (and Obama's lead in the polls grew larger) was the prospect of having Democrats control both Congress and the Executive branch. What this really boiled down to was a concern that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would then run the country. I considered this to be a legitimate, but unlikely, concern. Even I would not want Pelosi and Reid running the country, but I never thought that would happen. One way that could happen is for Obama to be submissive to Pelosi and Reid, and I just do not see nor ever have seen that happening. Everything I saw from him in the long campaign showed me that he was not going to be pushed or pressured into following someone else's agenda, but rather that he would call the shots. If anyone out there saw something different, fell free to share. Otherwise, I'll stick to my conclusion that Pelosi and Reid will not be bossing Obama around.

Another way this concern could become reality is if Obama's policy goals are identical to those of Pelosi and Reid. Again, I do not see that as likely. I reiterate what I said in ...and now for the Democrats: "Given that (Obama's) main objective appears to be...a change (in the process and procedure)[.] If I am correct, my prediction that there will not be wholesale policy change will also likely be correct, meaning that the far-left views of Pelosi and (possibly) Reid will not come to be implemented.

What this means for Republicans is that you should not obsess over Pelosi and Reid taking over the government. What this means for Democrats is that you should not expect the federal govrnment to become far left wing, ultra liberal.

Now let's get to one specific Republican fear...

An Obama administration will be anti-Israel.

As Joe the Plumber put it, some Republicans felt that electing Obama would mean "death for Israel." Even if that extreme view was not widely held, many Republicans were convinced that an Obama administration would be anti-Israel (and, of course, that was in part due to the "fact" that Obama is Muslim). When Shepard Smith of Fox freakin' News refutes such an idea, you would think that might carry some weight with Republicans, but for those who still have doubts, just take a look at the first person Obama chose for his administration. The first position he filled was White House Chief of Staff, the one person that will have constant access to the President and have the job of implementing his agenda. That job now belongs to Rahm Emanuel, Congressman from Illinois. Emanuel is Jewish. And here are some more facts I found in this article. His father emigrated to America from Israel, and his father was part of the pre-Israel Jewish underground led by Menachem Begin (which was fighting against the British and Arabs). In 1933 his uncle, Emanuel Auerbach, was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Jerusalem, and the family changed its last name to his first, as a tribute. Rahm and his brothers attended summer camp in Israel. And in 1991 he volunteered "for a few weeks in a program run by the Israeli army where civilians could help the Israel Defense Force with support work on an army base." Now if Obama was so anti-Israel, why would he select Rahm Emanuel to be White House Chief of Staff?

And then there's another thing Obama did that would not seem to fit the profile of someone who is anti-Israel, namely insisting that Senate Democrats keep Joe Lieberman in the Dem caucus and let him remain as Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, which is a topic unto itself.

Obama's actions toward Lieberman should quell Republican concerns AND temper Democrats' expectations.

I have to say that I don't like Joe Lieberman. I used to, but not anymore. On matters of national security--particularly the Iraq war--I generally disagree with him. I think he has turned into a bitter, cranky old man who lapses into childish behavior. And then there's the matter of what I found to be his loathsome behavior in campaigning against Obama. For those who might have forgotten, Lieberman went along with and reiterated the GOP talking points that Obama is in league with terrorists, that Obama endangered our troops, and that Obama hasn't always put the country first. And he did some of that as a speaker at the Republican National Convention! Why the hell should he be allowed to stay in the Democratic caucus, and why should he be allowed to retain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee?

Indeed, most Democrats wanted Lieberman tossed out on his sorry ass. At the very least, they wanted him stripped of his plum position as head of the Homeland Security Committee--and they said so publicly. For instance, Patrick Leahy, one of the senior-most Dems in the Senate, said the following:
I'm one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did. I felt some of the attacks that he was involved in against Senator Obama...went way beyond the pale. I thought they were not fair, I thought they were not legitimate, I thought they perpetuated some of these horrible myths that were being run about Senator Obama.
And even Harry Reid wanted to put the screws to Lieberman. As reported by the AP, "Reid...was initially inclined to strip him of the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship[.]" After the whole affair was resolved, Reid said "I pretty well understand anger. I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was."

And in spite of everything, Barack Obama wanted to keep Lieberman in the Democratic caucus and allow Lieberman to keep his prized chairmanship. Indeed, it was pretty much Obama's wishes that kept Lieberman in the Dem caucus and preserved his chairmanship. As Sen. Tom Carper put it, "The Senate Democratic caucus has decided that if President-elect Barack Obama can forgive, so can we. If Barack can move on, so can we." Howard Dean, DNC chairman, put the matter more succinctly when he said that the Senate had acted "in the spirit of unification, which is what the President-elect wanted. He called the shots, and that's fine."

So, the Lieberman affair provides evidence that indeed Obama is primarily committed to bringing about the change in process and procedure as I have described. It also shows that Democrats should not focus on revenge. And it also shows that Obama, not Harry Reid, is going to be the one to "call the shots," which supports my conclusions in the second section of this post.

Another example of Obama's efforts to work with Republicans--Robert Gates

It looks like Obama is going to keep current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in that position. Personally, I think this is a good move because I think Gates has done a good job--especially since he had to deal with the abject mess left by Rumskull, Wolfowitless, Feith, and the rest of those neocon criminal assholes. As the Washington Post analyzed this choice,
Gates is well respected on Capitol Hill and within the military as a non-ideological, decisive leader willing to consider alternative views. He is credited with putting the Defense Department back on an even keel after the turbulent years under Donald H. Rumsfeld and with helping revise the Bush administration's failing policy in Iraq. Gates served for a time on the Iraq Study Group, which issued recommendations in fall 2006 on how to revise the U.S. war strategy, including a call to explore "constructive engagement" with Iran and Syria.
Gates is a Republican and a current member of the Bush administration. How's that for "reaching across the aisle"?

Conclusion

There are other examples , but I think the above analysis shows that the fears of Republicans are largely unfounded AND that Obama is going to try to get Democrats to work with Republicans, which means that Democrats should not expect massive changes to very liberal policies.

Will Obama stay true to what I consider to be his vision of change? I don't know, and if he does not, I will be concerned. However, his actions so far indicate that he will stick to and implement that vision, and that's a good thing.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Ray said...

I haven't read your post yet, but have to reply with this while fresh in my mind. If the Democrats try to confiscate our 401k accounts forcing us to use Government Retirement Accounts (GRA's)Obama will sink lower than Bush.

11/27/2008 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

OK, now I've read your post and though I generally agree with your points - it didn't make me angry like you predicted in your previous post - I do take some exception. Surprised?

Here is an interesting take by a British pundit, Melanie Phillips. I will say that I generally agree with what she writes, so that immediately will raise red flags with you. http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3039656/carpe-diem-or-can-we-all-relax-now.thtml

Some quotes.

"On my recent travels in America, I met two types of Republicans: those possessed by the most profound, gut-wrenching fear of the supreme danger that President-elect Obama represented for their country and the world, and those who believed that he was merely a cynical opportunist who had used radical politics as a means of achieving power..."

"Emanuel’s parentage is irrelevant. ...he was not only a player in the catastrophic Oslo appeasement process but also supported the informal ‘Geneva initiative’ which even doveish Israelis condemned as a suicide note for Israel."

"What is much more likely is that Hillary, a professed defender of Israel, would be used (as would, to a lesser extent, Rahm Emanuel) to provide deniable cover for Obama as his administration forces Israel to cut its own throat -- "

"It has been widely reported that Obama has been consulting the former Republican National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, ... Scowcroft is linked to a number of like-minded Republicans Obama is thought to be considering bringing into his administration..."

"A few days ago, Scowcroft and Carter’s former NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski (an open enemy of Israel and another of Obama's advisers) penned a significant op-ed in the Washington Post. This appeared to be a first draft of the Obama plan to force Israel back into its 1948 ‘Auschwitz’ borders and bring a Palestinian state into being..."

And most disconcerting....

"There are other unsettling indications that Obama may already be running a shadow foreign policy. Robert Malley, one of Clinton’s Oslo negotiators, is one of America's most outspoken apologists for Palestinian terrorism against Israel and claims that Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian attacks against Israel are all Israel's fault. The Obama campaign distanced itself from Malley last May after the Times reported that he was meeting regularly with Hamas leaders. But a few days after Obama’s election, Malley travelled to Syria, ostensibly under the aegis of the appeasement-minded International Crisis Group. Yet one of his aides told FrontPage Magazine that acting on Obama’s instructions, Malley traveled to Cairo and Damascus to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s President Assad that ‘the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.’ And as Caroline Glick reported, Hamas terror operative Ahmad Youssef told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that in the months leading up to his election, Obama's advisers held steady contacts with the leaders of the terror group in Gaza, and had asked that Hamas keep the meetings secret in order not to harm Obama's chances of being elected."

Those with whom Obama has associated with in the past tend to be anti-Israel. So, the concern that he will throw Israel under the bus is a valid concern. Of course, many would say, "so what".

Needless to say, I am skeptical. I have asked before, which Obama will we get, the radical leftist based on his record or the centrist he is trying be now? I posed this question on an HR forum and was directly accused of being a racist. I do fear what he may do to this country, but I hope I am wrong. And if I am wrong and the sky has not proverbially fallen in 4 years, he may well serve a second term and be very successful.

11/27/2008 9:35 AM  
Blogger WCharles said...

"Needless to say, I am skeptical. I have asked before, which Obama will we get, the radical leftist based on his record or the centrist he is trying be now?"

Although I would word the question a little differently, this is basically the major question.

As for Emanuel, I heard a radio show in which Arab journalists were very concerned about Emanuel being chief of staff.

I guess things depend in part on one's perspective, eh?

And if Obama was really going to be anti-Israel, why keep Lieberman in such a prominent position instead of marginalizing him?

As for Phillips, using terms like "Auschwitz borders"--when the editorial she references does not use that term--and "this time trailing clouds of Iranian plutonium" do nothing to aid the discussion.

And, by the way, someone calling you a racist in general and specifically because of what you asked on the HR forum is ridiculous and also does nothing to aid the discussion.

11/27/2008 11:47 AM  
Blogger WCharles said...

"If the Democrats try to confiscate our 401k accounts forcing us to use Government Retirement Accounts (GRA's)Obama will sink lower than Bush."

I am with you on this.

I discussed this topic via email with some of my libertarian friends. I noted initially that "I think there is one less-than-noble reason why this (I hope) will not come to pass, namely if the Dems do this they will be voted out of power in Congress in 2010 and out of the White House in 2012. I would think that most of them would see this and act out of self interest in order to stay in office."

One of my friends commented that "I'll cash mine in and pay the taxes and penalty before I would hand it all over to the government. I have the feeling Swiss and offshore bank accounts may become popular." Someone else replied that "This has been a rather common response." My first response was "And of course would defeat most of the seeming objectives of such a dumb ass plan." I subsequently provided a little more explanation: "And what I meant to say in my previous reply is that this is a natural and completely predictable response, meaning that any moron should be able to see that this plan will not produce the intended results."

And then I finished up with this: "It is one thing to tell people 'we are going to do things with the money you make in the future' (as in higher taxes), and a COMPLETELY different thing to say 'we are going to take the money you already have and have invested.'"

11/27/2008 12:01 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

And on a different note, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

11/27/2008 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

And a happy Thanksgiving to you. And in the interest of the constant pursuit of common ground... go Seahawks!!!

11/27/2008 2:52 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

It's getting toward the end of the 3rd, and I wish the Seahawks would score much more. I'm happy that Romo has 2 TD passes and that 1 went to Witten (fantasy football deal), but I wish the Seahawks would win.

And to further our constant pursuit of common ground...go Giants!

11/27/2008 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

The turkey and trimmings were excellent. Apple pie and pumpkin pie. The football was as bankrupt as the economy.

11/27/2008 7:23 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

The football was not very good, but this is the last week of the regular season in my fantasy league, and I need a win to win my division and get a first round bye in the playoffs. I started Romo, Witten, and LenDale White. Since my league is a scoring-only league, the 6 TDs I got from those three players made me happy.

11/27/2008 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

So, picking Romo to score in your fantasy league but at the same time rooting for the Cowboys opponents to win, isn't that a little like a Republican voting for Obaman? A contradiction?

11/28/2008 8:06 AM  
Blogger WCharles said...

And to yet again further our constant pursuit of common ground, I will refrain from making a smart ass reply to your "contradiction" scenario. ;-) Instead, I stick to fantasy football...

Long term participation in fantasy football messes with you head, man. LOL! Years ago I pretty much stopped caring about the outcome of NFL games because all I cared about was finding out who scored. One year the best QB available to me was Joe Thiesmann--one of the players I disliked the most on the team I hated the most--and yet I was cheering my heart out for him every week.

11/28/2008 12:42 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

Here's some links about Emanuel that address my question of "I guess things depend in part on one's perspective, eh?" Before listing the links and some excerpts, I will say--as I have said before--I am no expert on Israeli politics and the various differences between Jews when it comes to the issue of Israel. All I am trying to do here is show that there is a variety of opinions about Rahm Emanuel.

Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9939.shtml
This is an editorial from a pro-Palestinian media outlet. Here are some highlights:

"Emanuel is Obama's first high-level appointment and it's one likely to disappoint those who hoped the president-elect would break with the George W. Bush Administration's pro-Israel policies."

"In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. "We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror," Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders "was clearly justified as an application of Israel's right to self-defense" ("Pelosi supports Israel's attacks on Hamas group," San Francisco Chronicle, 14 June 2003)."

"In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments "totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies" in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel's bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims."

"Emanuel has also used his position to explicitly push Israel's interests in normalizing relations with Arab states and isolating Hamas."

"Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told Fox News that picking Emanuel is 'just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the US-Israel relationship ... that was never true.'"

U.S. Jews laud Obama pick of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1035128.html
An article (and video) from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper (which describes itself as "an independent daily newspaper with a broadly liberal outlook"). Some highlights:

"'Rep. Emanuel is also a good friend of Israel, coming from good Irgun stock, davening at an Orthodox synagogue, and sending his children to Jewish day schools,' Daroff concluded."

"Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), echoed Daroff's approval, saying in a statement Thursday that 'Obama made an outstanding selection. Emanuel has been a forceful and effective leader within the Democratic Party. His voting record and leadership in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship are outstanding.'"

"'Emanuel has deep Jewish roots and strong ties to the Jewish community. Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, has a proven commitment to Israel's security and served as civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf War of 1991,' the statement continued."

Rahm Emanuel and Israel
http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/10246
Blog entry on the site of the magazine Foreign Policy.

"It was inevitable that the world would eventually realize the unhappy fact that President-elect Barack Obama will not represent a complete break with the past 60 years of American diplomacy. By tapping Rahm Emanuel, a fierce partisan of Israel who volunteered as a mechanic in northern Israel during the first Gulf War, it is fair to say that process has already begun."

Rahm Emanuel and Israel
http://jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/11/rahm_emanuel_and_israel.php
Blog post by Jeffrey Goldberg.

"This choice makes the entire "Does Obama secretly hate Israel?" conversation seem a bit ridiculous (Though the vast majority of Jewish voters seemed to have figured that out by the election). Rahm did not, despite the rumors, serve in the Israeli Army, but he is deeply and emotionally committed to Israel and its safety. We've talked about the issue a dozen times; it's something he thinks about constantly, and his appointment gives me further reason to believe that the Obama Administration will not wait seven years to address the Israeli-Arab crisis."

11/28/2008 1:55 PM  
Blogger WCharles said...

And one last link that is very instructive:

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/11/14/spotlight_on_rahm_emanuel/

This details Emanuel's record in Congress, and the comments will give some idea of just how complicated the Israeli-Palestinian issue is in general and in this country in particular.

11/28/2008 1:57 PM  

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