Obama’s State of the Union Speech: Home Run or Strikeout?

President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Speech last night was yet another glowing example of his ability to outperform practically anyone who has ever delivered a speech in a public forum.  His skills as an orator are probably unmatched by anyone coming before him.  To some extent, that trait might have been the very thing that propelled him, first, to the democratic nomination for president, and then to a general election victory in 2008.

However, after being in office for a year, the record does not indicate that his words and his accomplishment are in lock-step.  In fact, the most important declared  goals vs. what has been achieved in his first year at US president tell a very different story.  It is therefore difficult to say at this point whether his speech did much to change the minds of those critical independent voters who got tired of waiting for the change they voted for to occur.

According to the CNN/Opinion Research poll numbers released after the speech, 48% felt “very positive” about what they heard the president say and 30 % felt “somewhat” positive about it.  Although the two add up to a 78% positive rating, a year ago the number of “very positive” listeners alone was 68%, or 20% more after Obama’s first address before congress.   That 20% deficit demonstrates that independent voters are shying away from the president and his domestic agenda after a year of endless partisan bickering in congress.

In reference to the extreme partisanship occurring on Capital Hill, Obama did say something pretty bold during his speech:

And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well.  Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

Those fighting words were directed at the GOP members of the US senate.  Since the beginning of Obama’s administration a year ago, the republicans in Congress have voted “no” unanimously (or nearly unanimously) on almost every bill in the president’s domestic agenda, including health care reform and the economic stimulus package.

With the election of republican Scott Brown last week, the democrats’ filibuster-proof supermajority in the senate is gone.  That means that as long as the GOP votes as a party block instead of individuals representing their individual states, they can essentially stop the senate from acting on the business of We, the PEOPLE!! dead in its tracks.

The tactic of seizing the moment to cast the spotlight on the opposition, as Obama did last night, is refreshing to say the least.  For too long this president has believed that if he just works hard on his agenda, everyone else will slowly but surely come to think as he does and believe in the domestic agenda he does.  That clearly has not worked.

Finally the gloves have come off and Obama is taking the political fight to the other side, who have never been reluctant to do the same.  The republicans are on notice that playtime is over and the fight will now be delivered to their doorstep.  If the Obama and the democrats had chosen to learn  and apply this lesson six months ago, Scott Brown might not have been elected to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat , and the democrats would still have hold of that 60-seat super-majority in the senate.

But on the other hand, as painful as it has been for the democrats, at least this has happened while there is still time to get the message and thus salvage their political existence.  Obama’s walk must now match his talk, because if he or it doesn’t, he’s facing a defeat for his party in 2010, and for himself in 2012.  The GOP has put out a mountain of lies about health care reform and other issues on the president’s domestic agenda.  They did so loudly and repeatedly until people started to believe them.  As long as Obama challenges these lies immediately, directly and continuously, regarding health care reform or any other issue, he will be okay and he will slowly regain the lost support of those independent voters who were instrumental with putting him into the White House to begin with.

We’ll be watching and frankly cheering for the president in the coming months.  And if the GOP still wants to continue in their roles as naysayers and obstructionists, we’ll be watching for that, too.

But will the majority of Americans watch carefully as well, or will they just believe the person who screams the loudest and the most?

Massachusetts to Democrats: Pay Attention…or Else!

In a dramatic political upset that was suspected only two weeks ago but should have been seen coming for almost two months, Massachusetts voters chose republican Scott Brown by a 52%-47% margin yesterday over democrat Martha Coakley.  Coakley is the Massachusetts State Attorney General who was considered to be the odds-on heir-apparent to the US senate seat held for 47 years by Ted Kennedy, and for seven years before that by his older brother, John F. Kennedy.

GOP pundits were quick to categorize this election as a referendum on President Barack Obama and the democrats in general, and health care reform in particular.

The White House responded that Coakley was simply a weak candidate who ran a lackluster campaign and made a ton of really bad mistakes which upset local citizens.  They claimed that her campaign manager didn’t pay attention to the strong and effective campaign being run by Scott Brown, neglecting to do adequate polling until just two weeks before the election.  The Coakley campaign staff blamed the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) for not supporting her strongly enough, early enough, and financially enough.

So which one was right?

The answer is:  All of them.

Coakley and her aides and staff believed that she would cruise into senate seat because it belonged to the democrats.  They also believed, as did the democrats at the national level, that it was impossible for a republican to win this senate seat in what is perhaps the most liberal state in the USA.  Coakley didn’t campaign very forcefully until two weeks before the election when polls indicated a rude surprise upset was in the making.

Scott Brown, on the other hand, ran a very effective campaign, consistently staying on the issues, and driving across Massachusetts in his pickup truck to meet with voters.  People were able to connect with him and with his message.

And then, of course, the GOP and big business played their respective roles like a fine Stradivarius violin.  The republicans kept up the hate & fear campaign against health care reform while the health insurance companies and related businesses pumped over US$10,000,000 into the Brown campaign. They fully realized that if he won, it would kill the democrats’ 60 -40 majority in the senate and allow the republicans to block any legislation proposed by democrats, including health care reform, with a filibuster.

But more than any other reason, this election was the democrats’ election to lose.  And they lost it.

One important reason is that people are still hurting from the economic downturn and resulting unemployment which started in December 2007 with the recession.  While the democrats were painfully developing their health care reform legislation, they didn’t accomplish much else.  New jobs were not created to point where they exceeded those lost.  Though all indicators are that the economy has turned the corner, that still has not translated into better conditions for the middle class.  Wall Street still hasn’t paid back all of the stimulus money, and yet Wall Street executives continue to receive huge bonuses.  The democrats have yet to pass legislation that would curb the Wall Street abuses that led to the recession in the first place.

And while the GOP has made a Olympic high art form of scaring the hell out of the American people with unending false and scary information regarding health care reform while slowing down the legislative process to the point where many people are just sick of it, the democrats have been absolutely AWFUL in correcting the record on reform and marketing it as a benefit, continuously or otherwise, to the American people.

Finally, President Obama promised during the presidential campaign to make government transparent for the American people, allowing them to be continuously informed of what the government of We, the PEOPLE was doing and why.  That simply has not happened.

Thus, the people of Massachusetts sent a clear message to the Obama Administration and the democrats, that they have got to change their methodology if they want to remain viable.  And their first lesson should come from the republicans who were considered to be moribund just one short year ago.

Yet, out of the last four off-season elections, the democrats have only managed to win a congressional seat in New York’s 23rd district, while the republicans have won the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, and now the US senate seat in Massachusetts.  That’s three out of four for the GOP.  Obviously, something they’re doing is working.

That something is their marketing.  They’re very, very good at selling sand to desert dwellers, ice to Eskimos, snake oil to health food enthusiasts and tobacco to cancer patients.  They do it by employing the same tactics used since forever by advertisers:  Making you live in fear life without it (or with it, as the case may be), and making you hate being without it (or with it, as the case may be).  They also made friends with entities that have a vested financial interest in the product and lots of money to finance the message over and over and over.

Politics is a dirty game and is won by the party that plays that game the best.  If the democrats want to be taken seriously and seen as the protectors of humanity they claim to be, they must learn to do what the the republicans do so well.  They must market themselves by repeating over and over that the GOP is the party from hell.  Instead of constantly being put on the defensive, they must attack as the presently GOP does.  They must repeat it over and over and over.  They must take the offensive and make the GOP continuously explain why they even bothered to get out of bed this morning.  “Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.  That, ladies and gentleman, is how you win elections.” (Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepard in the 1995 movie, The American President).

In other words, the democrats have to learn to play the GOP’s game.  Otherwise, our progeny might be reading about them in US history class along with the Tory and Whig parties.

Not Much To Write About….

Between Sarah Palin becoming a paid political analyst for Fox News which is like making the Pillsbury dough boy a nutritional analyst, Harry Reid’s poor choice of words over a year ago, the same-sex marriage ban challenge trial going on in federal court in San Francisco, and the closed-door negotiations to merge the House and Senate bills into one that president Obama can sign into law before his State of the Union speech in a few weeks, there’s not too much political news to write about this week.

Since We, the PEOPLE!!‘s first blog article two and a half years ago, this week could very well be the week the more meaty political news forgot to show up.  The news outlets are full of stories (as they should be) about the devastating earthquake in Haiti. which is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, It will need a lot of help recovering from this tragedy.  Everyone can do something, even it’s just a small amount of money or energy.  To choose the best way for you to assist, click HERE.

In the meantime, We, the PEOPLE!! will continue to monitor the news waves for juicy tidbits of significant political bull$#!t, and will comment on them as they arrive in all of their hate-mongering and/or fear-mongering glory.  However, expect us to interrupt regularly scheduled life-activities to announce the winner of the “first person to catch Sister Sarah’s first use of the pseudo-political term “golly-gee”” on Fox News.  Extra credit will be given for a YouTube video of the climatic moment.  And if you can catch her saying “Gosh Darn It”, the award will be even greater.

Sometimes it’s best to simply sit back and watch from the sidelines.  This week seems the perfect time to do that.  Next week, on the other hand, promises to be filled with much more to comment on, not the least of which just might be a threatened constitutional challenge from the GOP to the democrat’s health care reform bill.

Yep!  Along with wanting a constitutional amendment banning certain medical procedures, namely abortion, and another one banning certain freedoms of expression, such as burning a flag in protest (which would bestow upon an article of sewn cloth more rights then on the American citizen who sewed it), these folks also want to prevent health care reform by arguing that mandating the purchase of health insurance by all citizens is unconstitutional.  In other words, make poor people have to use extremely expensive emergency rooms which they can never afford anyway for their health care needs.  The rest of us pay for that now, anyway, through higher health insurance premiums.  And what’s wrong with that system??  Nothing, according to Rush, who spent some time in a hospital recently and said nothing needed to change!

Hey, here’s an idea:  How about a constitutional amendment banning stupidity from politics?

We’re watching….

Racial Profiling for Terrorists Doesn’t Work

The USA seems to be a constant repeat target for terrorist attacks.  As a result, the terrorists have accomplished at least one of their goals, which is to foment fear in the heart and minds of innocent people.

Since 9-11, this profound impact on the nation’s psyche has caused some obviously effective anti-terrorist measures to be implemented, primarily in the more visible areas of the lives of citizens.  Regulations that restrict who and what can fly on commercial passenger airlines are well known to almost everyone, as well as the tighter control of all forms of government identification such as passports and drivers’ licenses.

But there have been some very ineffective measures taken as well, and certain measures that should have occurred but haven’t.

Perhaps the most ineffective of all the post-9-11 changes was the assignment of a Director of National Intelligence to coordinate all intelligence gathering an analysis in the USA under one central point.  It was implemented shortly after 9-11 by the Bush administration.  While the concept of placing all intelligence gathering capabilities under one roof was very sound, its implementation evidently hasn’t eliminated the inter-service rivalry and ineffective or even non-existent sharing and cross-referencing of “intel” among the various agencies of the federal government, such as CIA, FBI, Secret Service, military intelligence organizations of the army, navy, air force and the various commands throughout the world.   In other words, as President Obama put it yesterday, the information about the failed Christmas day attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 was there in advance;  our intelligence structure simply failed to connect the dots.

There are those out there who would gladly give up your civil rights for their warm, fuzzy sense of security.  They insist that we should be physically/racially profiling every Arab-looking person trying to board a plane, whether internally in the USA, or externally for all flights coming into the USA.  They say this is the right thing to do, and critical to stopping any middle-eastern terrorist from attacking the USA (or any other country, for that matter).  They insist that the anti-racial-profiling folks are going to get us all killed.

What these emotionally driven folks don’t understand is that physical/racial profiling alone is simply discrimination, and does little to nothing to keep people safe.  White terrorists recruited by Al-Qaeda are just as likely to be the vehicles of terror on planes, ships, trucks, or in cities as any other people.  Profiling based upon physical/racial features alone simply doesn’t work.

Much more effective would be for the USA to take a lesson from the Israelis, whose national airline, El-Al, has never suffered a successful hijacking.  This is true despite the fact that Israel is probably the only country on earth that is more at threat from terrorists than the USA.  The reason for their success is that the Israelis have refined security to an extremely high and effective level, and they don’t do strictly physical/racial profiling.  What they are very, very good at is behavioral profiling, which includes pretty much the totality of how a person presents himself or herself.  It is exceedingly difficult to practice well, and cannot, by itself, be the sole determinant as to whether or not someone is a threat.  But somehow, the Israelis have become experts at it, and their record in avoiding hijackings speaks for itself.

Between behavioral profiling and assuring that all the intelligence gathering organizations in the USA and other friendly countries coordinate with each other and work in unison to share intelligence information in a timely and centralized manner, the entire world would be a much safer place than it is right now.  But it cannot stop there.  Nine years after 9-11, it is an incredible fact that most cargo entering the USA is still not inspected or even screened for possible radioactive materials that some lunatic could assemble in place into a rudimentary nuclear device, or even a “dirty” conventional bomb.

Furthermore, the controversy of electronic scanners that strip off your clothes, while understandable, is not being debated in the sunshine for some reason, most likely financial.  Many people don’t know that there actually are scanners available that eliminate skin from the scan screen, thus only displaying non-human material, such as explosives or weapons.  Of course, these “non-X-rated” scanners cost more.  After all, why spend extra money to get it right, if you can just get people to give up their rights??

Finally, every pilot and air traffic controller knows that anyone can take a private plane off from an uncontrolled airport with a load of…anything… and fly almost anywhere or into almost anything not in patrolled airspace.  That includes most cities and utilities.  Unfortunately, there are still gaps in US airspace surveillance and required electronic equipment in private planes operating outside controlled airspace that would greatly reduce that possibility.  But that requires money and stronger government regulation, something that the same people who support racial profiling are against.

Thankfully, however, it seems the Obama administration is committed to making changes to security policies based upon data and facts, versus emotion and shoot-from-the-hip reactions.  That is good, because it is more important to be carefully effective than carelessly demonstrative.

Clearly, the recent failures of the intelligence structure are going to be fixed.  Carefully.  Quietly.  Effectively.  The end result, which is the goal of intercepting threats before they are launched, is too important to play politics with.  One can only hope that the “other side of the aisle” does what democrats did with Bush and the republicans after 9-11…

Stand together.