Archive for the ‘2016 Presidential race’ category

Ready, Set, Fire, Aim

January 16, 2017

With only a few days left before President-elect Trump becomes President Trump, the feeling is like the calm before the storm. On Friday, January 20th, 2017, the Republican Party gets a full house and a friendly President to boot. The GOP wish is to undo the last 8 years and make the future like the past, the distant past. The public has been advised “to fasten their seat belts” and watch our elected leaders make things happen beginning on the very first day.

Hmmm.

We can remove some mystery about any consequences from GOP actions. There will be massive reductions in taxes paid by the top 1%. Even the irresponsible repeal of Obamacare is at its core a tax cut for the wealthy.

Corporate tax rate reduction unless accompanied with elimination of business tax deductions, exemptions, and loopholes will accrue more money for the wealthy. And eliminating the myriad of regulations which we are told are hamstringing our economy, will put even more money in the wealthiest’s pockets.

So for at least some Americans, January 20th should be a red letter day.

Every action has a reaction too. Repeal of Obamacare will immediately beg the question what happens to those insured by the Affordable Care Act? The GOP will attempt to keep enough of current Obamacare recipients covered that they can look the camera in the eye and say, “see we replace Obamacare with patient centered, not Washington centered healthcare”.

But two facts will emerge. (1) The GOP will have to find money to cover whatever parts of the ACA it puts forward as “patient centered care” and will most likely hide their healthcare subsidies. With no new taxes, the healthcare costs will go straight to the national debt.  The GOP will adamantly deny this with a look of sincerity.

And, (2) The number of people covered will shrink as will the quality of their coverage.  The “free” market will offer reduced coverage to those unable to pay the going price for standard coverage. Those impacted the most will be the most vulnerable and, not surprisingly, those least able to garner public sympathy.

This is a pretty sad commentary on the Grand Old Party.

But there’s more.    IMO, Trump will support juicing the economy with tax cuts and government spending so that his prediction of greater economic growth can materialize. Trump, however, will run into opposition from fiscal conservatives who want to see the debt decreased, not increased. Trump, the deal maker, will step forward offering to trade his support for much of the GOP agenda, despite his own preferences, in return for support of new spending.  You scratch my back, I will scratch yours. Hmmm.

With “Ready, Set, Fire, Aim”, Republicans will run unnecessary risks. Unintended consequences and collateral damage are almost assured with current GOP plans. As the first 100 days domestic casualties begin to mount up, voters view of President Trump will become tarnished.  At that point, President Trump will make sure everyone knows he favored this or that, and instead those in Congress, much over rated, all talk and no action did not follow his advise and are to blame. Hmmm.

Most of the Republican game plan will hurt small groups… initially. For example, the 20 million ACA subscribers pale in comparison to the greater 340 million US population. Increasing the Federal Debt won’t impact anyone at first. The subsequent risk, however, is the building pressure to reduce other Government spending… like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and a myriad of social safety network programs. And as these messy regulations are revoked, freeing up America’s great capitalist engine and creating jobs on every corner, conditions for another financial meltdown, run away inflation, and renewed disillusionment with Washington will gratuitously appear.

President Trump has an initial White House lease for 1461 days. It would be a shame for the Trump Administration to let hubris in the first 100 days help destroy the next 1361.

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Politics Due Process?

August 24, 2016

Abu Zubaydah appeared before a US Government hearing at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and asked to be released. Zubaydah has been at Guantanamo since 2006 after first being detained by the US in 2002. Described as a high official in al Qaeda, Zubaydah has never been charged nor has he had a “day in court” in the 14 years since his arrest.

Zubaydah’s Alice in Wonderland experience, of course, is similar to most other Guantanamo detainees. The US has found it easier to detain and lock suspect terrorists up in Guantanamo and near impossible to process the detainees in a legitimately recognized judicial system.

The way into Guantanamo was straight forward, the way out was an unfathomable maze.

Zubaydah’s plight again shines a light upon the narrow thinking right and the wobbly kneed left. At stake is the reputation, if not the future health of America’s judicial system, a tradition of “innocent until proven guilty”. Guantanamo stands with the best of third world countries judicial practices.

Where has the left political world been? Why have they not demanded that Guantanamo detainees be brought to the US and processed under established civil courts?

The standard reply is that the detainees represent the worst of the worst and keeping them out of the US is a step in assuring US citizens’ safety. This answer of course is patently bogus given that the likes of Ted Kaczynski (the uni-bomber) are safely held in Super-Max prisons for years. So, what is the reason?

IMO, the answer lies in domestic politics. George W Bush’s Administration opened this can of worms when it apprehended al Qaeda operatives, tortured them for intelligence reasons, and tossed them into a detention center outside the jurisdiction of US Courts. Later the Administration even paid “bounties” to foreign countries if they turned over “suspicious” individuals to US authorities. These suspicious individuals were shortly transported to Guantanamo.  The Bush “hawks” had never thought the matter through because they were so tough on terrorists and quite frankly, they could do it.

So, where is the politics.

Domestically, the Republican Party had hijacked the “law and order” and “national security” labels for political purposes.  The GOP could not reconsider and allow the public to think Guantanamo was mistake (for fear losing political face).

Democrats, cowardly chose to say “me too” on national security and felt boxed being unable to claim national security and then support closing Guantanamo.

The GOP controlled Congress even went to the extent of denying any funds to close Guantanamo and open already existing but empty super-max facilities in the US. (Talk about digging a hole and pulling the dirt in on top of you.)

At present, in order to release a detainee from Guantanamo, the Secretary of Defense must assure Congress that the detainee represents no further risk to US interests. The argument is no longer about justifying “indefinite detainment”, but about presumed guilt and without any judicial process.

Hmmm. It seems our current lot of political leaders were absent when their law schools taught about “due process”.

Longing For The Cold War Days

June 22, 2015

The Cold War was certainly high stakes times. With nukes pointed at each other, Russia and the West (read USA) were poised at any minute to destroy each other. Never the less, somehow the world survived.

For Americans the Soviet Union was the home of all bad guys while the white hats resided in the West. Capitalism was good, Communism was bad. Even though the stakes were high, it didn’t take geniuses to figure a foreign policy and get the Country’s support.  It was the best of times for politicians too, for in foreign affairs they could never be wrong.

The US like most Countries operate day to day upon the backs of its bureaucracies. The State Department, Defense, Treasury, Interior, and all the others are largely staffed by long term civil servants. The advantages are supposed to be political neutrality and long term competence. Things change, however.  The world today challenges our bureaucracies with multi-polar alliances and the fact that no one wears a totally white hat and even the bad guys don’t wear black hats all the time.

This nuanced reality will test the current Administration as well as those that follow. While recent history asked that the US lead and others follow, today’s economic as well as political realities do not present as easy a set of facts upon which the US can set a foreign policy.

One reason it is difficult for the US to assert a moral leadership is that our recent track record has not been lily white. And other Countries know that. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the death penalty, and drone collateral deaths all make others question American leadership.

An even more serious question is upon which national interests should American leadership be based. Should we be for championing free markets, Democracies, or human rights? Or, should we be more focused upon trade and especially for methods to boost exports and provide access to oil and rare earths? Or, are we comfortable enough in our own skin that we can retreat to isolationist thoughts and only worry about true threats to our American soil?

It is very difficult once one has been the leader to step back and play a secondary role. What CEOs or orchestra conductors do you know who stepped back from the number one position and then continued to work as a member of the supporting team?

So listen for our Presidential hopefuls to speak out on foreign and domestic policy and careful try to understand what they are proposing. Do they already have a set of national interests they will construct their policies to meet? The claims of regaining America’s leadership role is hooey. Leading in an outdated method against goals which are unrealistic is a prescription for getting lost.

Most likely no politician is going to say, “if elected I will perform a top to bottom review of the State Department and realign where necessary the current talent in order to better match up with the world’s realities”.  Government does not need to be cut, it needs to be rejuvenated.

Imagine telling other Countries to follow the US while the country’s education system is falling in world ranking, or when the US infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes, or into the reality that upward mobility is falling behind much of Europe. And,  strangely we do.

There are many ways the US can foster soft ideas we claim to hold dear.  The US can economically reinforce Counties which adopt progressive human rights agendas, or ones that open their electoral process to more democratic methods. Foreign policy needs a clear set of national priorities and interests we wish to protect.

Leadership as most Americans imagine, requires up to date thinking and much more “do as I do, not as I say” than we are used to seeing.

Let’s see what the 2016 hopefuls say.

Jeb’s Last Stand?

October 27, 2014

On a Sunday talk show yesterday, Jeb Bush’s son, George, said he thought his father was gearing up for a run for President in 2016. George said his father was still assessing the decision but in all probability would decide to run. Hmmm.

As the only potential moderate GOP candidate, Jeb represents a threat to the GOP kooky conservative right. Jeb is articulate and fluent in Spanish. What could the right object to? Maybe it is that Jeb is articulate and fluent in Spanish?

There are certainly other GOP potential candidates. Governor Rick Perry has Democrats quietly hoping he steps forward. Governor Chris Christie appears poised to enter the contest with his new svelte figure. Christie has already shown his bully side and will have a hard time winning over primary voters. Governor Scott Walker and former Governor Tim Pawlenty are standing ready but lack the big stage credentials. And there is Representative Paul Ryan who is not a kook but has tied himself to a very conservative budget which will provide Democrats with red meat. Hmmm.

In this context Jeb Bush looks reasonable.

Jeb’s path forward is not a bed of roses, however. He is George W’s brother and will have a tough road to justify “W’s” 8 years. Jeb, himself, has danced a little too close to the religious fringe (remember Karen Ann Quinlan?). Jeb projects the impression of parsing his words so as to be perfectly (and politically) correct. This does not strike the most authentic of images.

More than anything, Jeb needs to think seriously about being the third Bush to occupy the White House. Jeb might be eminently more qualified than “W”, but needs to find the capacity to be comfortable with that knowledge without trying to make the run.

If Jeb does declare, and if he is nominated, most likely he will run against Hillary Clinton. In such a circumstance, Jeb will be in the position to have to speak against women seeking high office. This gender position, IMO, is actually opposite to Jeb’s real views. I suspect this conflict will show through during the campaign… to Jeb’s detriment.