A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Return of Obama the Campaigner

With the debate surrounding the economy and the upcoming budget negotiations, one thing has become readily apparent over the last month: President Obama has rediscovered his inner campaigner. Since he gave his budget address to Congress at the end of February, the President has gone into “campaign mode” meaning that he is doing a lot to get out in public and sell his plan. This includes numerous speeches, town hall meetings, a press conference and yes, even a late night talk show appearance.

In my last two posts, I focused on the voice of the Republican party (or lack thereof). If the Republicans are disorganized and bickering, they will not be able to get a clear message across to the American public. With President Obama’s recent media blitz, we are seeing the flip side of this situation. As I said previously, the Presidency has little actual constitutional power. The importance of the presidency is the very office itself and the ability of a president to articulate a clear vision for the country.

This is exactly what President Obama has been doing – articulating a clear direction that he wants to take the country. And right now the majority of Americans are willing to give him a chance to take the country there. As of the time I write this, Gallup has President Obama’s approval rating at 60%. (Click here for the daily tracking on his approval rating). Whether or not you agree with him, you have to give him credit for his ability to break down an issue and communicate it clearly to the American public. As I have said here before, President Obama is the best communicator to occupy the oval office since Ronald Reagan.

In the first month of his presidency, Obama was focused more on trying to work on Congress to have his stimulus plan passed. While the bill did pass, I think he learned an important lesson with the way some members of Congress beat him up. That lesson was that he was no longer a member of Congress and he needed to stop trying to negotiate like he was. This explains why he is approaching the budget process so differently. A president is at his most effective when he is trying to sell his plan to the American public. For this reason, look for the White House to keep President Obama in a perpetual “campaign mode” especially when it comes to domestic policy and the economy.

I also noticed something else interesting over the last week or so. Lately, President Obama seems to have a protégé who is also on a media blitz. That is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. After the AIG bonus story hit, there was increased criticism of the Secretary Geithner and some in Congress were even calling for his resignation even though he was only two months into the job. Let us remember that Secretary Geithner is not a natural politician like the President. He was an under secretary at treasury in the 1990s and then he was president of New York’s Federal Reserve Bank. While he has dealt with politicians in the past, he was not required to act like one. However, this past week he came out of his political shell and gave several speeches and made several appearances in support of the administration’s proposals. It seems to have helped the embattled Secretary as he has had much more positive press recently and has even earned the praise from some Republicans, like Senator John McCain.

The Treasury Secretary’s media blitz culminated today with his appearance on Meet the Press, where Geithner said, “[W]e're going to emerge stronger than this. When we get through this, people are going to care less about what they make, more about what they do, what they achieve with what they make, and that will help make this country stronger.” He went on to explain further, “I think people will be living within their means more, which is helpful.” Let’s hope that as both the President and Treasury Secretary stay in campaign mode that they continue to preach this message to the American public and eventually make living within our means a priority not just for American families but for the American government as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And the True Spokesperson for the Republican Party Should Be . . .

In my last post, I laid out the arguments for seven different individuals as to why they could be the spokesperson for the Republican Party. I also indicated the cases against these individuals. With the Republicans unveiling their “budget blueprint” today, it got me thinking that I had not weighed in on this issue yet.

I must say that with today’s announcement by Republicans of their budget plan, I am becoming less and less impressed with the party to which I have belonged for most of my adult life. The release made by Congressional Republicans was even criticized by Fox News for its lack of detail. In releasing this blueprint, House Minority Leader John Boehner said “The president came to Capitol Hill and laid out his blueprint for his budget during the State of the Union. He didn’t offer his details until days later. Today we are offering our blueprint.” While that is true, it almost appears as though the Republicans were not even planning on proposing an alternative budget until President Obama called them on it in his press conference Tuesday night.

It has been a month since President Obama went to Congress and presented his overview. Two days later he submitted his budget. In the four weeks since the President submitted his budget, the Republicans have done nothing but criticize it. Now the Republicans are asking for more time. What were they doing the whole month while they were criticizing the President’s budget? It’s almost as if the Republicans were going to be content in sitting back and criticizing while never being a contructive part of the conversation.

All this leads me back to the original purpose of this post. Who should speak for the Republicans? Based on the above statement, Congressman Boehner and those like him should not speak for the GOP. If you are only going to criticize and not put forth a real effort to solve this country’s problems, then you need sit down and shut up. In fact, that is the problem I have with most of the candidates on the list. Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have all been very content to sit back and criticize President Obama’s budget and economic plans. Until today’s feeble attempt, none of them had proposed any measures aimed at fixing the ailing economy. In addition, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin are not part of the federal government and therefore, have no ability to enact any proposals anyway.

All this leads me to who I believe should be the spokesman for the Republican party: John McCain. While Senator McCain has been critical of some of President Obama’s initiatives, he has also recognized the need for action and has been willing to listen to the Obama administration’s proposals. In speaking to the Heritage Foundation today, he praised Treasury Secretary Geithner for at least making some progress in dealing with the toxic assets in the financial industry.

Senator McCain also recognizes that the Republicans cannot simply be obstructionists. In that same speech to the Heritage Foundation, said the following: “As both a policy and political matter, it is vitally important that Republicans refrain from becoming or appearing to become the party that just says ‘no.’” The entire text of Senator McCain’s speech can be found at his Senate website. While it is loyal to Republican “talking points,” it is measured in its approach and looks to try and work with Democrats to accomplish initiatives where common ground can be found. It is this kind of common sense approach that we need to have in these difficult economic times. Now is not the time for us to simply attack the other party and hope we can wait for the next election. Americans want action and Senator McCain recognizes that. It is his considered approach and conciliatory message that the Republican party needs to embrace during this economic crisis.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will the True Spokesperson for the Republican Party Please Stand Up?

One of the difficulties for the political party which is out of the White House is that it does not have one unifying figure who can articulate that party’s position and vision. While the US Presidency does not have a lot of actual constitutional power, the ability of the President to use the “bully pulpit” gives him enormous power in the public policy debates that occur.

In recent weeks, there has been an increasing amount of attention placed on the role of Rush Limbaugh and his role as spokesman for the Republican Party. This got me to thinking: Who should be the spokesperson for the Republican Party? In this post, I will “make the case” for and against seven different individuals. I then ask you to vote for who you think the rightful spokesperson is (no pun intended). Later, I’ll share my opinion on the subject.

The Candidates:

Rush LimbaughCase For: How many reasons are there for Rush to be the spokesman for Republicans? Try 20 million reasons, as in 20 million listeners who allegedly tune in to listen to him. There is no question that he wields a great amount of influence. Conservatives dare not cross him for fear of getting on his bad side. For this reason, what he says, many times goes for Republicans. Case Against: Who elected him to anything? Other than his “bully pulpit” he has absolutely no authority.

Michael SteeleCase For: Unlike Rush Limbaugh, the RNC Chair has at least been elected as Chairman of the party, even if it was just by a handful of Republican insiders. However, as national chairman he certainly has the position from which he can legitimately claim to be the spokesman for the Republican party. Case Against: If you are like most Americans, you probably just responded, “Michael Who?” While his position makes him the most logical choice, that same position also puts him in a relatively obscure place.

Bobby JindalCase For: The Louisiana Governor did give the Republican response to President Obama’s budget address at the end of February, so apparently someone in the party thinks he is a spokesman. He has also already made a trip to Iowa fueling speculation that he is considering a run for president in 2012. Finally, since he is a governor, he is in the perfect position to rail against Washington politics. Case Against: If you saw his performance after President Obama’s budget address, you will understand why it was panned throughout the media. Even conservatives were saying it struck the wrong tone.

Sarah PalinCase For: As with Governor Jindal, she is a young Republican governor who can rail against the excess of Washington. Also like Governor Jindal, she too is seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2012. In addition, she was on a national ticket and has much more national exposure. Case Against: Does the name Tina Fey mean anything to you? While she certainly has the name recognition, that has not been a necessarily good thing for her. While she is adored among conservatives, the majority of Americans do not have a good opinion of her. Do you really want a spokesperson who your base admires but the rest of the country views as incompetent? Just ask President Bush how that worked out.

John McCainCase For: He was just the party’s standard bearer in the presidential election last year. He is also a little more moderate than some Republicans. In fact, he is the most moderate on this list. This allows him to be able to play deal maker with the Democrats when they are looking for bi-partisan support. In fact, President Obama has already reached out to him on issues like the troop withdraw from Iraq. Case Against: The Republican base has never fully embraced Senator McCain. They only did so grudgingly in 2008 as he was the anti-Obama. Many view him as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). How can someone be the spokesman if many in the party don’t trust him?

John BoehnerCase For: As the House Minority Leader, he was the one largely responsible for the unanimity among House Republicans in opposing the stimulus plan. He has certainly become one of the more visible opponents of President Obama’s agenda. Case Against: While he is in a great position to speak out against the President’s agenda, most Americans blame Republicans for the current mess and as such, he is viewed as part of the problem. Additionally, the majority of Americans do not know who he is. Finally, he is not really in a position to do anything except criticize the agenda. Since the Democrats have a comfortable majority in the House, Representative Boehner cannot do much except make sure the Republicans continue to vote against the Democrats.

Mitch McConnellCase For: The Senate Minority Leader certainly has more ability to oppose the Democratic agenda. Since the Republicans do have enough in numbers to mount a filibuster, that is something that Senator McConnell can use to back up his words. Case Against: Unfortunately for Senator McConnell, the Republican Senators are not nearly as cohesive as his House colleagues. This was seen in the stimulus plan when three Senate Republicans broke ranks to vote for the stimulus package. This means that Senator McConnell may threaten a filibuster on some piece of legislation, but he may not be able to deliver on that threat.

Well those are the candidates. Please vote for who you think should be the Republican spokesperson. Later, I’ll post who I think should be and who will be from this list. If you vote for other, please leave a comment as to who you think it should be. Thanks!!