Not Since Ulysses S. Grant has a president first elected in a year ending in “8” served two full terms in the White House.
Archives for April 4, 2009
Sometimes when, on this blog, I fault the leading advocates of gay marriage for failing to make a case for the social change they’re trying to effect, a critic will wonder if I think same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their unions are similarly clueless about the meaning of their relationships.
And yet, more often than not, it is those very couples who understand what the more vocal proponents of state recognition of same-sex unions neglect or refuse to point out.Â Indeed, it is largely because of such couples that I voted against Proposition 8 even as I couldn’t stand the mean-spirited rhetoric of many opponents of the proposition.
To be sure, there are notable exceptions to this practice, men and women like Jonathan Rauch who are able to articulate what marriage is for.
But, I’ve said this before.
So, let me wonder yet again at the refusal of all too many advocates of gay marriage to articulate the social benefits of extending the privilege of state recognition of marriage to same-sex couples, explaining why (to borrow from the subtitle to Jonathan’s book, gay marriage is “Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.“Â I do believe that refusal is linked to their preference for turning to appointed judges rather than elected legislators (or those who elect them) to effect the change they seek.
In courts, they only need make a legal argument and not a social one.Â Why then do they wish to reduce marriage to a “civil rights’ issue and downplay its social aspects?
At the very time they downplay these aspects, many of those who seek the privileges the state offers by recognizing their unions understand them very well.Â And maybe, just maybe if the leading advocates of gay marriage could articulate in the public square what these individuals understand in their private lives, they might not need to push their agenda through the courts, but would find a more receptive audience among those elected to make our laws.
It seems to be the standard Democratic practice now to blame the economic crisis on George W. Bush as if Democrats’ hands were perfectly clean and they had done everything possible to prevent this from happening.Â Last month, the President said he “inherited” the budget deficit at the same time he was making plans to leave his successor an even bigger deficit.
Now, his fellow Democrat Harry Reid has called the recent Senate passage of the president’s budget is “a critical step” in the direction of cleaning “up the mess we inherited.”Â Well, it’s a mess Harry Reid inherited from himself given that he began his tenure as Senate Majority Leader well over two years ago.
Wonder what he did it that time to forestall the current crisis.Â He held a leadership position in one of the three branches of the federal government, the branch with the power over the federal purse strings.Â He was in a position to prevent this from happening.
In short, even before he took the reins in the Senate, Mr. Reid had the power to take action to avert this crisis.Â Instead of using his position to effect reform, he used it to block it.
Indeed, in the two years prior to taking charge in the Senate, as the leader of the opposition, he did everything in his power to obstruct Republican reforms.Â He didn’t want them to see any succees. He did nothing to discourage his Democratic colleagues, notably Connecticut’s Chris Dodd, from thwarting legislation then-President Bush and Republicans proposed to reform the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
He inherited a mess that he helped create.Â This mess is as much his as it is the former President’s and the budget he and his Senate Democrats just approved will only serve to aggravate matters.
In writing about the president’s remarks in Strasbourg, most conservative bloggers have (with good reason) faulted him for labeling American “arrogant” and for apologizing for the liberation of Iraq. ( I too had fun with the first comment.) It’s clear he was taking shots at his predecessor, borrowing from the standard arsenal of liberal rhetoric and ideas to do so.
Indeed, it seemed there were a number of such cheap shots shattered throughout the speech, particularly his reference to emerging “from an era marked by irresponsibility.”*
Let’s hope his successor shows him greater deference four years hence.
Despite the pettiness of parts of his speech, there were some moments when he seemed to be using his popularity abroad to good effect.Â He took on European anti-Americanism:
But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.
I wish the president has built on this, addressing some of the points Jean-FranÃ§ois Revel made in his book Anti-Americanism.Â European anti-Americanism is a serious problem and it precedes George W. Bush.Â (I lived there before he took office and experienced it firsthand.)
Still, it’s important that he said it.Â Let’s hope Europeans take his words to heart and examine their attitudes.
It wasn’t just in addressing European anti-Americanism where the president made some strong points.Â He underscored the importance of the war in Afghanistan:
I understand that there is doubt about this war in Europe. There’s doubt at times even in the United States. But know this: The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. We were attacked by an al Qaeda network that killed thousands on American soil, including French and Germans. Along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, those terrorists are still plotting today. And they’re — if there is another al Qaeda attack, it is just as likely, if not more, that it will be here in Europe in a European city.
The American President thus reminded his European audience of something many of them would rather forget: they face an ever increasing risk of a terror attack.
Despite the potshots at his predecessor, President Obama, in Strasbourg, did say some things which needed to be said to our European allies.Â Let’s hope they listen.
So many topics, so little time.Â Â Have at it today on the subjects of your choice.Â
Just be civil and smart about it.
Yesterday when “climbing” the Stairmaster, they had MSNBC on at my gym.Â I had quite a laught watching Chris Matthews.Â He was talking about the President’s European trip.Â And while he didn’t quite get a thrill up his leg, I was wondering if they kept drool buckets on hand at MSNBC.
He reported the trip much as Soviet television must have reported a Brezhnev trip to North America back in Communism’s heyday.Â Mathews just couldn’t praise him enough.Â And then he brought on two panelists to discuss the speech, Richard Wolfe, the network’s political analyst and E. Steven Collins, a radio talk show host.
The primary difference between the two panelists was the words they used to praise the president’s trip and to distinguish him from his predecessor.Â Contrast their shared political sentiments with those of most two-person panels on FoxNews (excluding Hannity’s show).Â That news network almost always pairs ideological adversaries, Republican with Democrat, conservative with liberal, Bush-supporter with Bush-critic, Obama-critic with Obama-supporter.
It was in watching FoxNews that I grew to respect such Democrats as Bill Richardson, Susan Estrich and Geraldine Ferraro for their sober commentary and intelligent criticism of Republicans.Â They eschewed ad hominem and often made thoughtful arguments for liberal candidates and ideas.
And yet, the left accuses that more balanced network of being biased.
As I laughed at Matthews’s sycophancy, I wondered at his fellow MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann’s anger, how each of us reacted differently to his political adversaries.Â And struck me how frequently conservative media personalities (including bloggers) use humor to respond to liberals whereas our left-wing counterparts respond with wrath.Â (This is not to say that there are not angry conservatives, there are.Â It’s just that there’s a lot more humor on our side.)
This is another reason why I think Rachel Maddow will do very well.Â From the times I’ve watched her, she strikes me as someone having fun while making fun of her adversaries.Â She thus stands in marked contrast to the man who precedes her in the MSNBC lineup.