Thursday, May 10, 2007

An Offer We Cannot Refuse

Someone has finally breathed new life into the Bush administration, and it has come for a most unlikely source: the Department of Defense. At last, an indication that someone on the inside is thinking clearly, speaking their made, willing to be honest with the people who sign their paychecks.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made an offer that I don't think anyone can refuse. In his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday, Secretary Gates commented that if the new Iraq war funding bill proposed by House Democrats, which would end funding of the war in July, is passed, he would be so short on funds that he would likely be forced to close at least part of the Pentagon in August or September, that he could not even issue paychecks to some employees.


I think we have to take this offer, it might be the only one we get. The Iraq war has cost around $500 billion, (plus, of course, the 3,377 American troops killed and untold thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, many innocent bystanders) thus far (and could cost $1 trillion or even $2 trillion). Secretary Gates also just asked Congress to fund the Pentagon and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. Plus, I shouldn't have to mention that the Department of Defense has at the very least "augmented" the catastrophe in the Middle East if it is not the outright cause of the problems in the Middle East. This department has clearly been quite pricey for the shareholders, and I'm for as small a government as the next guy. Maybe shutting down for a month or two might do everybody a bit of good. Give everyone a chance to unwind, reflect, refocus and re-energize so they can start fresh in October and re-open (start?) the hunt for bin what's his face.

Secretary Gates, we humbly accept your offer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Time Is Now

Now is the time for Democrats to act. Now is the time for the Democrats to solidify themselves for years to come as the party of spine, the party of strong, committed decision-making, the party of honest assessment and perspective.

Many Republicans have begun to comment that they will have a decision on Iraq by “September.” September is four months away, four months more of decision-making time lost, of soldiers killed and maimed and families destroyed, four more months of a enormously unpopular and increasingly irrelevant president and minority in Congress setting the terms of the debate in this country. It is also four more months of this administration not only not being held accountable, but getting them closer to the date when they will never be held accountable.

A new strategy means making a new decision. When even President Bush decided a new strategy was needed, his decision was to offer more of the old strategy. He continues to do so. The President is the last person who wants to make a decision. He has offered every excuse in the book as to why no decision should be made. Republicans in Congress are equally happy to continue on the same path. If the 2008 elections rolled around with the same policy in place, there is still ample doubt in the minds of the electorate as to which party should be power. The Democrats have to be the party that finally makes a decision.

Setting aside the absurd Republican argument that timetables and benchmarks are “unpatriotic” and “don’t support the troops” and “embolden the enemy,” Democrats now have the opportunity to move forward, starting today, as the unambiguous, incontrovertible, indisputable, party of responsible, professional, mature, good governance. If they do not make the only decision, history will be no kinder to the Democrats as it will be to President Bush and his supporters.

The facts are in on Iraq (and have been for some years now). The United States military can do nothing more to support a stable progression toward self-rule in Iraq (to say nothing of the broader Middle East or the rest of the world for that matter, at least with the current administration in power). The choice the Democrats have to make is not whether to “pander” to the “radical left” or the “vehemently anti-war” wing of the party or to move toward the middle, where at least 60% of the country opposes the war. The choice the Democrats have to make is much larger. Will they continue to be the party that has enabled historic tragedy and immeasurable damage to the both the United States and the world?

Most Americans, and probably most citizens in most countries around the world, are still willing to restore American prestige and are ready to be led by the city on the hill once more. But Democrats must decisively embrace the opportunity they now have to end the war, not just before September, but before the end of this month. By May 31, Americans and the world must know definitively what the U.S. position in Iraq will be before President Bush is out of office.

The United States still can do substantial good in Iraq. It cannot do so with the current administration in charge. Americans are ready for decisive leadership. The Democrats can define themselves for many elections to come and they do not even have to make a choice. The choice has been made. The Democrats need to make it happen.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Oprah W

What would happen if Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee? More precisely, what would happen now that he officially has Oprah in his corner, a TV personality with greater market share than anyone on TV and someone who has never previously endorsed a candidate? Would a better world result?

Would there be a challenge to his appearance on her show as an immeasurable in-kind donation to his campaign? Probably. Would his opponent or opponents agree to appear on her show as well? Could they expect an equal opportunity to express their positions?

Imagine the slimey ads that will undoubtedly coat the airwaves about every supposed “dark” corner of his past and the sinister motives behind his positions. Oprah could devote show after show to debunking each and every detail in front of a spellbound national audience of millions, faithful minions willing to support her in nearly every cause. Can Oprah exploit the right wing noise machine for what it really is? Can Oprah fix political reporting in this country by forcing it to make real and honest assessments of the positions of candidates, rather than simply offering a medium for each side to air its views uncontested. The democratic process falters when non-partisan means each side gets equal airtime instead of each side being challenged equally.

I wonder what effect Oprah’s support will have on Obama’s positions, if any. How do they presently differ? Obama may not have to pander to the wants and needs of Oprah’s audience, and it is probably too diverse to find a message that speaks to all of them, except that Oprah’s fans do seek a better world for themselves and those around them, and if that is Obama’s vision, he may be our next president.