Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Democrat Schism, the DNC, and Trump

+Amazing World
I decided not to summarize the latest Democratic debate from last Saturday. I do think the Democratic race is fairly frozen, but there is definitely some friction between some Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters after the debate regarding the DNC data breach scandal. This, I believe, doesn’t benefit the Sanders campaign, whatsoever. 

I'll freely admit, the only supporters I refer to here are the ones that comment often, often vehemently, accuse vehemently, post previously refuted memes or other falsehoods, and do anything to defame Hillary Clinton, deflect, distract, and play victim when others are only having a discussion with them about specific points of disagreement.

Usually, these types accuse you of what they themselves are doing. 

I get being passionate about your candidate and vehemently defending your preferred candidate from attacks that aren't based on facts or in context. 

+Amazing World
What I don't get are the consistent and constant attacks of another candidate on baseless, unsubstantiated claims. That people attack Hillary Clinton often does not mean she's done anything wrong. It does mean she is a threat to the status quo, something that so many are desperate to maintain. So, since there’s no factual record of wrongdoing, the only tactic left to critics is creating a culture of conspiracy. 

This culture of conspiracy that exists on the far left and the far right is warping common discourse. Both want to dismiss and demean without proving anything. They want their way, they want it now, and they don’t care how or what they have to do in order to achieve that end. 

I think the latest real scandal from real wrongdoing by real campaign staff by the Sanders campaign and the reaction by some Sanders supporters is proof positive of everything I've just outlined. Somehow, for some it is a further indictment of Clinton’s wrongdoing even though her campaign has not done anything wrong. Somehow, it has made Sanders into the victim yet again. 

He's a victim of the media. Victim of the DNC. Victim of the campaign finance system. But, is there a conspiracy? 
+Amazing World

Certainly, the DNC has been mismanaged for years. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz has been one of the worst DNC Chairs in recent memory. She has completely wasted the Obama presidency. If 2010 and 2014 were not indictments of her failed leadership in state and local elections, certainly her behavior in this latest technology scandal involving the DNC should be enough to oust her. Will it happen before the 2016 election? Doubtful.
+Amazing World

And, yes, I'm over it today. I've just had it, and I mildly apologize. Lawrence O'Donnell flashed in the screen in between DVR spots yesterday land-blasting the Hillary campaign for their response to Trump's demand for an apology for the statement she made regarding ISIS using videos of Trump for recruitment. O’Donnell’s reasoning was that it was an opportunity to teach Trump supporters how to behave.

Are you friggin kidding me? They don't give a damn. They're not out to become enlightened.

That is what Trump is talking about when he talks about politically correct nonsense. The reality is that Trump comments are being used to recruit terrorists. Period. Those comments are being aired 24/7 on cable news outlets around the world and throughout the Muslim world. So, to somehow believe the American message of “we hate Muslims” from Trump's head isn't sinking into and radicalizing the psyche of Muslims against America today, you'd have to be an utter fool. 
+Amazing World

It’s views like O’Donnell’s and incompetence-without-accountability like Wasserman-Schultz’s that left unchecked has allowed the rise of this politically correct atmosphere that is deadly to both political discourse and success at the ballot box for a progressive reform agenda to ever become a reality again.

Trump has so much wrong, but he wraps a couple of correct principles in the familiar feel of anger, outrage, and hatred. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to defeat that message by being high-minded and being right. What’s necessary is a fighter that will take the fight and be relentless under extreme criticism. I only know one candidate that has that track record.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Republicans Fail to Dislodge Trump at Last 2015 Debate

+Wonderful Wildlife
Another set of Republican debates are in the books. 

The first debate was terribly managed and moderated, but that may have been due simply to the caliber of candidates. Of the four under car candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham was the only one that seemed to have a relevant reason to be running even though he has no support to continue running.

As far as the real Republican debate, it was a bit nauseating hearing about how each candidate was going to keep Americans safe and how President Obama and Secretary Clinton were to blame for ISIS and the recent wave of terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Of all the debates, I think this was just so one note that it’s really difficult to get into specifics from each candidate because they didn’t.
+Wonderful WildLife 

Senator Rand Paul certainly set himself apart from the rest of the field on every national security issue, highlighting the critical need to focus on the national debt. Certainly, the crowd in Las Vegas was excited by Paul’s exchanges. 

Despite that, the winner was clearly Donald Trump. He didn’t make any major blunders. He wrestled with a few candidates, but not in any way that was all that memorable. Governor Jeb Bush seemed more lively, aggressive, and delivered a stronger performance than at any other venue, but I doubt this will garner him much in the way of added support. 

Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both sparred a few times, and it appeared Cruz got the best of these encounters. As far as Carly Fiorina, she seemed to become so monotonous, as did Governor Chris Christie. By now, if you didn’t know that Christie was sworn in as a prosecutor the day before 9/11 and is very serious about national security and wants to talk directly to all voters, you’ve not been paying much attention. 
+Wonderful Wildlife

For as much as Governor John Kasich tried to make some remark that was memorable, he just couldn’t make a standalone mark that might help garner some support for his campaign. Oh, I nearly forgot Dr. Ben Carson. He nearly didn’t show up on the stage tonight. He certainly seemed to be better prepared on foreign policy and national security, which is particularly shocking considering he referred to Hamas as hummus earlier in the week.

Trump wins, Cruz second, Paul stood out as well. I would hope that some of these candidates would start dropping out soon, but that’s unlikely to happen with the possibility of a brokered convention in the offing. Personally, I doubt this debate will change the race whatsoever. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Americans Need a Wake-up Call on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

+Wonderful World
The losing ones in this war of words in America are not only the Syrian refugees but also the brave face of the American people. The fact that some have resorted to the counting of women and children in pictures instead of using actual facts is frankly painful. Oh, and those fearful Americans.

Under the current refugee resettlement program, it takes roughly two years for refugees to even begin traveling to America for resettlement. 

The UNHRC only sends a small number of refugees to America for consideration. Of those that are sent, the process is long and involves an extraordinary amount of scrutiny, background checks, interviews, and rechecks, to ensure that no terrorists or other bad actors make it into America in this way. 
+Wonderful World

That's why the numbers of those refugees caught and/or removed for terrorist-related activity out of about a whopping 785,000 is a massive number of THREE resettled refugees. If you increase this to other criminal or related activity that number leaps to about TWELVE.

We vet the hell out of these refugees before they ever set foot into America. If there is ever a question or concern about a refugee, they are not allowed to resettle here.

There is no reason for this level of fear from Syrian refugees by Americans. There absolutely isn't any reason for politicians and public officials in office stoking fear for political gain. 

+Wonderful World
I'm frankly tired of the politics of fear. Why are Americans so scared? What happened to all the guns and all the macho, bombastic talk? 

I guess once you toss out the facts, the logic, and definitely the reasoning, all you're left with is 'this mine! Not yours!' I think that is being far too nice of me. To hell with actually winning this ideological war against these violent jihadis. I guess it doesn't matter that these refugees are fleeing one of the groups we're fighting in that war. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Broken Two-Party System; Democratic Party Autopsy

+Amazing World 
Democrats have largely written off the ground game in local and state races. They don't engage in public discourse in rural America, the Midwest, the South, the Southwest, and basically anywhere else in America that it’s difficult. Democrats, in general, give up and only bother when it's a presidential year to get out the vote. This has been the fatal flaw of Democrats nationally for a generation. 

There really isn't much that can be done overnight or even over a couple of election cycles to fix the misinformation and messaging problems within the electorate. Every now and then, however, you get a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama that can communicate this positive message effectively, but the national party and local grass roots movement lags far behind, and really has completely failed at communicating or organizing behind any set of principles for any sustained period of time.
+Amazing World

For whatever reason, the intimidating climate that conservative Republicans have created, fostered, and groomed since the 80s and 90s maintains a level of control over the public square that few are or feel capable of breaking into in any kind of sustained way.  I know many people in these areas refuse to vote because they don't believe it matters. Their specific reasons may differ, but the general commonality is a disconnect between policies, politicians, and their individual lives.

Meanwhile, small groups of voters meet in seclusion talking about politics, disdain for the lack of local options, and complaints about big money in politics instead of actually doing something about it. Of course, it is difficult to organize with no larger organization to help guide you. And, I honestly don't buy this notion any longer that big money is solely or even primarily to blame in buying elections when participation in elections has been so low for so long.
+Amazing World

The reason why voter turnout is so depressed is simply because people don't believe it matters, while others who feel that it does but don't get out and vocalize and organize so that it actually does matter to more people do nothing but gossip and complain about how unfair the system is.

That's a very harsh and generalized view and diagnosis of the problems, but it fits the data and the history. 

Others argue that those that do vote simply don't vote for the 'right candidates.’ This is the mistake both Democrats and Republicans have made for decades. They believe, ‘I’m right,’ and that's all that's necessary. Facts do not matter. Logic and reasoning do not matter. Convincing anyone doesn’t matter. ‘I’m right, and you’re wrong.’
+Amazing World

What I've found in talking to actual voters across the country is that they believe the simplistic messages that Republicans have communicated over the last three or four decades because those messages make sense and have been told repeatedly by their grandparents, parents, churches, and community leaders. However, the cracks have begun to form within that coalition because the basic premises have all been proven false. Yet, the anger and outrage due to the lack of results has never been connected to those failed policies. 
+Amazing World

Instead of changing the policies, Republicans in the late 90s, early 2000s, and into this decade have fostered a political climate of deep partisanship, focusing the attention of their base on what divides the country through alienation and fear, too often through xenophobia or extreme Judeo-Christian values. Through over gerrymandering of their legislative districts, however, many of these Republicans have become beholden to the extreme fringes of their party.

Instead of giving up on the failed policies of the last few decades, the Republican base has given up on the establishment Republican candidates to lead them into the 2016 presidential race. This has never been more evident than an examination of the polling over the course of this year. 

+Amazing World
Democrats, on the other hand, have relied on being right or having facts but rarely having the stamina or fortitude to stand up for these facts or their policies where it may make a difference. They seem to abhor talking and discussing their policies and principles with those that disagree with them strongly. This isn't just about the politicians either. This actually is much more fundamental.

Democratic voters or those who agree with many policies that Democrats have passed or believe in have a terrible track record of not speaking their minds publicly, and when some do it can be in a highly disrespectful, demeaning way. Probably, this is in response to the extreme methods of intimidation that the right has used and perfected in the public square. For some reason the left has never been able to get away with the same tactics as the far right. 
+Amazing World

However, without a competing narrative, the intimidating and simplistic narrative of the far right in America has often won the day in these local and state races. Only where there's a solid, vocal grassroots effort that engages the public regularly will the Democrats ever begin to stem the tide of losing these local and state elections.

For instance, the Democrats ran away from the Obama agenda and the very policies they had passed after 2008. Consequently, they were utterly decimated in 2010 and 2014.

You have to not only stand for some principles, ideas, and policies, but you have to actually communicate, articulate, and be engaging with locals about those principles, ideas, and policies.

Simply put, it is impossible to change the system if you don't win elections. You can't win elections if you don't engage and inspire new voters that their participation is important and necessary to the process, regardless of their opinion. 
+Amazing World

You can't engage new voters if you don't relate to them where they are and in what they're doing. This is the essence of grassroots campaigning. It's also what's been missing on the local level for Democrats across a large swath of the country. Many local elections go uncontested, or worse unelectable candidates are on the ballot for statewide or federal races.

In order to convince people their vote and the candidate actually have a chance to win and be successful, these local and state parties have to get their acts together. That means opening mouths, ears, and minds, not being utterly dismissive of oppositional points of view, and actually working for every vote in every election.

It’s a sad day whenever I hear anyone say they feel their vote doesn't count or that this democratic process is all for nothing. This is America, and I will not give up on this country nor the promise of what this country was founded upon. The wish, the dream, the hope for a better tomorrow, united together, we walk forward together.

Monday, November 16, 2015

After Terrorist Attack, It Is An Ideological Fight We Face

+Wonderful World
Figuring out what to do in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack is difficult. People feel they need to do something.

I would much rather people change their profile pics to show support and solidarity with the French people than to spread hate-filled, divisive, frankly racist language directed toward Muslims in general or advocate for the immediate invasion of countries where ISIL fighters happen to currently reside. 

Despite the extremely long time that we've been facing this ideological fight against terrorism, we are only in the early stages of that fight. It's like a hydra because it is ideological. You can't just bomb an idea out of existence. It resides in the hearts and minds of people.
We've cut off the head of Al Qaeda a couple of times. Now we have ISIL. As a country and a world we've yet to really figure out how to actually fight or even diagnose the root causes of this ideology. In fact, many people within our country and within our government help feed and grow this ideology through their rhetoric based on hatred and fear. 

Until we examine the entire enemy of the ideology that we face, root, stem, fighters, leaders, and ideas, we will continue to throw away our blood and treasure.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Post-Paris Attack Debate a Wash

+Wonderful Wildlife
The challenge for a debate in so close proximity to such a profound and impactful event as the Paris attacks presented a challenge for not only the candidates, but also the moderators and I would imagine for the audience as well. I also find it very surprising that less then 24 hours later, multiple polling has somehow been administered regarding this Saturday evening democratic debate which I’m sure had substandard ratings. I find all of those polls highly suspect and the veracity of any outcomes in doubt as a result.

That being said, I’m going to quickly do an overview of this debate. I felt all of the candidates had moments of incoherence. I believe there was a general lack of focus and attention by each candidate at different moments. Each had some shining moments and each made statements or answers that may have been seen by some as unforced errors, overly combative, or terribly nuanced.
+Wonderful Wildlife

Sanders seemed especially incoherent and out of touch on the fight against ISIL/ISIS, painting the issue in terms of climate change. At times, he seemed to be overly fidgety at his podium. Bernie Sanders was given many opportunities to be specific about his criticisms regarding the record of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy regarding Iraq and Syria as well as donations to her campaign from Wall Street. He failed to ever add any specificity in any way that was memorable.

+Wonderful Wildlife
Clinton’s responses to those donor questions, however, were highly memorable, as she framed them as challenges to her personal integrity. She seemed quite combative and defensive about this personal attack, as she saw it, and explained in some detail how she was the Senator from New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks which were near Wall Street. I think the explanation makes sense to me because of my exploration and research of this issue previously, but I think for voters who are more concerned about Wall Street and big money in politics, this will come across as a wash, or worse, just more excuses for taking Wall Street donations.

Martin O’Malley’s big moment was at the beginning when he highlighted the missing element in the fight against ISIL was our lack of human intelligence, instead relying too heavily on technology. I believe this may actually gain him a minimum of credibility. This is a worthwhile point to make. However, they’re beginning to discover that technology is at the heart of the new communication tools that ISIL is using to coordinate attacks.
+Wonderful Wildlife

On domestic issues, there was a clear differential between Sanders and Clinton on minimum wage. Sanders wants a national minimum wage of $15. Clinton is unwilling to go beyond $12 nationally, instead leaving that up to local jurisdictions to go higher as to not create undue burdens on small businesses and rural communities. I’m not sure if she was able to best articulate that during the debate, however. O’Malley did press Clinton on this issue, making sure that minimum wage moving forward must be linked to costs.

Sanders did make an honest gaffe, though, in regard to taxation under his administration. He said he would not increase taxes up to the 90% rate as was done under President Eisenhower. I believe this may have ended his independent and centrist democratic support in the primary. It absolutely did so during a general election. 

O’Malley continued to make the case that he had actually achieved much during his executive years running Maryland. Remembering any of the specifics of what those achievements actually were seems difficult.
+Wonderful Wildlife

As these debates continue to roll out, it becomes apparent that Clinton’s support is relatively strong and stable within the Democrat party. She is able to handle these debate formats with relative ease. However, she’s not facing opponents that seem apt to attack her directly. Although they appear initially to make statements that do attack her, when actually pressed to be specific with a criticism of Clinton, the responses are vacuous at best. Sanders seems to make himself less and less a threat to Clinton in each of these encounters. O’Malley, however, becomes more likable and connected to nuances within the Democratic base. This just doesn’t translate to gaining much support away from either Sanders or Clinton.
+Wonderful Wildlife

Certainly after the Paris attacks, there is a general consensus that Democrats feel most comfortable with Clinton over either Sanders or O’Malley. I think what I’ve really began to realize over the last two months is that Sanders has some of the right populist messages for the far left of the Democrat party. He just might not be the right messenger for this moment. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris Attacks; Opportunity, Pitfalls, & Solidarity

+Amazing World 
In the wake of the November 13th, 2015 Paris attacks, there is an outpouring of compassion, outrage, fear, confusion, and for the moment, solidarity. Many in America and throughout the western world are calling for an all out ground war. An all out war will not rid the world of ISIL/ISIS or terrorism. In fact, it would likely increase terrorism and recruitment for it. 

Over reaction to these attacks is as big of a mistake as is under reaction.


Currently, the U.S. and her allies are attacking the problem with modest successes. Regional ground forces, like the Kurds in northern Iraq, are finally taking advantage of our coordinated air and limited ground support campaign. The recent successes are certainly overshadowed by the Paris attacks.

Invading countries again makes zero sense. Perhaps, some people want more American soldiers’ blood to be spilt and trillions of American dollars to be spent across this region yet again, but we simply don’t have the money to spend without specific, achievable, quantifiable goals. Arguably, the net gain from such actions would be negligible. The most probable outcome would be a massive loss in blood and treasure with only minor tactical victories, leaving strategic victories ambiguous and fleeting. 

People who challenge these views should read the Art of War or take some courses in strategy or tactics, or read history. In war one always strive to not have the fight that your enemy wants to have with you. That's an imbecile's war; i.e. USSR in Afghanistan, USA in Vietnam & Iraq. 

Sometimes, the longer view is much more preferable but much more difficult to picture in the aftermath of tragedy.

Drawing the enemy out can be as painful as it is tragic. However, it exposes them for what they are . . . terrorists hellbent on death and destruction. Denying them any high moral ground aids in denying them safe havens and allows natural hostile reactions to their terror to grow and persevere.  

The worst action we could ever have would be to play the terrorists’ game. They want to suck us into a ground war that would result in endless warfare, bloodshed, and propaganda for their recruitment of more suicide bombers.

We're not governed, currently and thankfully, by those that are apt to fall for these traps. However, an attack against any of our NATO allies is an attack that we must respond to with strength, force, and solidarity. 

Measuring our response in the most appropriate and effective way to not just this moment but in sync with our current and ongoing actions is vital in defeating ISIL/ISIS and violent extremism in the long term. Falling back on failed plans of the recent past would be a mistake as well. 

Knowing the difference . . . difficult indeed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Republican Debate Sharpens Messages, Divisions Form

+Wonderful Wildlife
Another Republican set of debates has come and gone. The rules have changed, Senator Graham and Governor Pataki weren’t even invited, Governors Christie and Huckabee took their place in the little debate, and the actual debate seemed more manageable as a result. In general, this format, rules, venue, and set of moderators seemed to make the candidates feel more at ease and able to communicate their talking points than during any of the previous debates. 

The little debate winner was clearly Senator Rick Santorum. Despite the downgrades and the departures, Christie and Huckabee seemed unable to capitalize on a smaller group of opponents. Instead, Santorum was more clearly able to differentiate himself from all three with the absence of Graham. The other interesting note was the peculiar way in which Christie bombarded and dissed democrats and Hillary Clinton in nearly every answer. Then, in his closing statement he said that Clinton couldn’t possibly bring the country together because she jokingly had said Republicans were her enemy as an answer during a previous debate.
+Wonderful Wildlife

The larger debate was energetic, combative at times, and showed the divisions within the field along the lines of taxes, foreign policy, immigration, and experience. The clear winners were Trump and Rubio with Carson and Cruz close behind, not on substance, necessarily, but on style, consistency, and ability to connect with the Republican base today.

Kasich and Paul also made progress in taking aim at some of the frontrunners’ false claims on specific issues. Bush, again, seemed to fall flat, nearly incoherent on some issues, and unable to breakthrough on any issue that could resonate with the base. Fiorina also may have made some inroads on specific issues regarding taxes and experience. However, there doesn’t seem to be much room for her to grow her support in this field.
+Wonderful Wildlife

Trump possibly won the debate just by standing firm on his core issue of immigration and sounding sensible on foreign policy and taxes. However, he has a tendency to overreact emotionally when challenged. He had a very childish reaction to Kasich swatting down one of his jabs as well as a snide comment to Fiorina interrupting others when nearly every candidate had done so. Doubtful Trump will experience any negatives from such reactions. 

Rubio, despite a solid performance, at times seemed to stumble over his words and thoughts. There’s just a general sense of a lack of experience surrounding him. His generational arguments for his candidacy are compelling. However, Paul’s reality check on his proposals for lowering taxes and increasing defense spending without increasing deficits and debts was a very intense moment within the debate. Paul certainly has begun to find his voice in this field. With a smaller slate of candidates on the bigger stage, it’s easier for him to work in this libertarian message and ideals. It may not be a winning message, though, with the broader Republican base.
+Wonderful Wildlife

The immigration issue still shows an intense divide within the field. Trump and Cruz were in lock step with Kasich being backed up by Bush on the practical side of the equation. This fault line within the party will be one of the most curious to watch work itself out through the primary season. Kasich, by far, has the better confidence and message on immigration than Bush.

+Wonderful Wildlife
Ted Cruz just might be the dark horse in this field. He seems to be sitting there taking advantage at opportune moments. It’s striking to me to acknowledge his political wisdom of the fringes. I don’t think in any way he has a chance to win a general election ever, but he just might have a chance to win the Republican primary. He, above all others in this field, has not been making massive mistakes to upset the base. He has aligned himself in such a way to absorb and accumulate supporters that fall away from the current leaders and from those below him as they melt away. His McCarthy-esque style is very difficult to stomach, some of his artful language about his own history is equally difficult, but he is most poised to rise in the polls as others fall. 
+Wonderful Wildlife

Dr. Ben Carson is also an interesting candidate and not one to discount. I think his performance will likely ease any issues that may have arisen over the last week. Certainly, his ideas about foreign policy if you read them in a transcript would make many cringe, but for some people these ideas make sense, as do most of his ideas. Whenever someone appears likable, under attack, well intentioned, and just doing the best they can, some Americans tend to give that person the benefit of the doubt, especially if they believe that they share principles with that person. That is absolutely the case with Dr. Carson. 

I noticed when Dr. Carson was discussing himself and the issues with the press he has had over the last few weeks that he was rolling on the balls of his feet. I believe others may have noted this as well, but it’s a tendency of someone that is narcissistic and childlike, telling a story about their greatness. This is just my own observations and interpretation of his physical behavior. 
+Wonderful Wildlife

I believe that any Democrat who thinks this Republican field isn’t serious are frankly fooling themselves. This is a serious field that is sharpening their messages and the skills to communicate those messages to voters. Also, this Republican field is incredibly fluid. These polls aren’t indicative of hardened, absolute support. It is indicative of support that is leaning toward supporting one or more types of candidates. There are simply too many candidates and too many divisions within the Republican electorate for anyone to accurately predict where this field will be after the holidays are over. 
+Wonderful Wildlife

On a side note, it is astounding to me that the vast majority if not all of these Republican candidates still are suggesting tax cuts for the wealthy as a way to generate higher wages for the middle class and the working classes of America. This has never ever worked in America or anywhere that I’m aware of. None of these candidates (except Governor Pataki) are in favor of increasing the minimum wage nationally. Who actually knows if this would help or hurt the economy. There are methods to increase minimum wage in such a way that doesn’t have to hurt small businesses, though. I’m just shocked that no one in this field is discussing that as a possibility. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Maintaining Troops in Afghanistan: A Veteran's Day Tribute

On this Veteran’s Day, we have troops in Afghanistan in the longest American land war ever waged. There are definite risks for these remaining troops, but there are always risks for our troops, even on bases in America. That is one of the reasons we celebrate and honor our veterans, and I would hope not just on Veteran’s Day. They sacrifice a great deal, and not just in placing their lives on the line for the protection of us all. 

At this point, there is simply no comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam. We're heading toward levels of about 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan. 

What are the benefits, then? Are there any? Why are we there? Just try and answer those questions. 

  • The Afghans want us to be there. 
  • The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and now ISIL/ISIS are present in country.
  • The strategic location of Afghanistan within its regional neighborhood has significant advantages for our national security.
It is without any doubt that the Taliban is not going anywhere. It is debatable that if we did leave that Al Qaeda and ISIL/ISIS after we do, but I think history isn't kind to that debate point. So, national security interests seem to align with maintaining at least a continued minimal presence in order to mitigate and disrupt efforts for these groups to set up safe havens and terrorist camps throughout the region. 

Possibly a more compelling reason to remain is the plight of the Afghan people, especially women and children. Without our continued hands-on support, the Afghan government and military would simply collapse leading to a vacuum. I think history is also very unkind to creating this sort of vacuum, especially when weighed with risks to our troops which we can largely mitigate with proper troop levels and support. 

Another very compelling reason is the overall strategic location of having a base of operations in which we can gather intelligence, launch attacks, and provide stability to a highly unstable, unpredictable neighborhood.

What is in the neighborhood? What are other dangerous potentialities and actors in the neighborhood?
We've made successful covert operations into Pakistan, killing Osama bin Laden, for an example. Pakistan is a nuclear power that is amazingly distrustful, paranoid possibly, of its neighbors. It's an often wavering ally in our fight against these violent extremists. 

Pakistan isn't the only important neighbor of Afghanistan. Iran being to its west is also something to definitely consider before making any decision to prematurely leave. Russia, China, and India are all nearby nuclear powers as well. 

Certainly, the issue of maintaining troops in the Afghanistan and South Asia theater is a complicated and dangerous one. It absolutely is a controversial one. The history of American bases in hot zones is as intricate as it is critical toward maintaining regional peace in areas like the Korean peninsula and Europe. Costs and risks may both ultimately be prohibitive, but the benefits may outweigh both in the short term. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Candidate Forum a Win for Democrats, Maddow

The Democrats' First in the South Candidate Forum, hosted by Rachel Maddow, was a very different format than any of the other candidate formats so far this season. It had the potential for falling off the rails quite easily, as it was a one-on-one between each candidate and Maddow surrounded by South Carolina voters. However, Maddow managed each specialized engagement well enough, actually garnering some new information from each candidate.

In general, the only loser in this forum were the Republicans. Each candidate was serious, engaged and engaging, and seemed at least somewhat more capable and likable than we’ve been given the chance in any of the other candidate/debate formats. Primarily, this forum was a vessel designed for voters to get to know better Senator Bernie Sanders, and more importantly, Governor Martin O’Malley. Secretary Hillary Clinton, being perceived to be the most known candidate, had the opportunity to reinforce, further energize, and begin rebuilding her relationship with some voters. 

Sanders, for all of his vigor, passion, and obvious energized backing of a historic 750,000 donors, has not been able to make any inroads with minority voters. This was yet another opportunity for him to broaden and brighten his message, reach more diverse populations, and recapture some of the energy that his campaign has lost with the resurgence of the Clinton campaign.

I do disagree with critics, though, that he wasn't specific in some of his answers, as he was regarding his vote to allow guns in checked luggage on Amtrak, which Maddow challenged him quite effectively to specify. He actually had sold me on his entire gun violence voting record until he doubled down on his shouting comments regarding advocates on the issue. This is extremely incongruent of Bernie. His criticism of Hillary about guns when juxtaposed with his own passions about issues and how he delivers these during his stump speeches and sit-down interviews just doesn’t make any sense. And, this is really what he reiterated during most of this forum, yet again. Consistency is great, but monotony at some point becomes stale.

Beyond that, he's not become any more or less specific on how and what he would do to actually tackle campaign finance reform that differentiates himself from Hillary, other than not allowing Super PACs  for his candidacy, handicapping his campaign in the process.

Also, he's not offered anything near the specificity and breadth of policies that Clinton has offered for the broader economy. He's just repeated this same angry mantra of big business, big money, and that somehow these tentacles are all over everyone, except himself, of course.

He does call for an increase in the minimum wage much higher than Hillary does, free college tuition for all, and the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. These are his differentiated positions that have some specificity regarding the what, but the how, however, is left for us to figure out. 

He also has very vague foreign policy positions, all predicated on his handful of 'courageous' votes on these issues from his safe Senate seat in rural Vermont. Certainly, there’s no criticism for voting on the right side of history, especially after history has begun weighing in on these issues. However, that isn’t a foreign policy strategy. Most of his foreign policy hinges on other countries doing the right thing, and, I gather, other countries not doing the wrong thing, like Russia, Iran, China, and others.

Sanders does rile up the audience whenever he talks about taking on government. His anti-establishment, taking on the big money, big business, Wall Street message certainly drives the excitement behind his campaign. Does this message have enough to win enough primary voters then win 270 electoral votes for the general?

Clinton had a completely different energy and atmosphere during the forum. She was upbeat and seemingly optimistic. She began by giving credit to President Obama for saving the country and the economy from crisis. She then talked about doing more.

Her entire message seems directed toward all of America, which she referenced as ‘the struggling, the striving, and the successful.’ Maddow pressed her on being able to adequately represent the interests of the American people versus Wall Street and the thriving tech industry, considering the donations and speaking fees she received from them over the course of her career. Clinton claimed that anyone who thinks she could be influenced by others in that way doesn’t know her very well, which critics weren’t buying. 

Clinton was also pressed about her comments regarding the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act during President Clinton’s presidency. She had said it was to protect the gay community from a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage back in the 90s. She defended those remarks saying she had definitely had private conversations about that possibility, which was reinforced by all the state amendments banning gay marriage that went forward after DOMA. She reiterated that the fight for GBLT rights was far from over, and that she would continue to fight for those rights.

Some Democrats, wary of a potentially more hawkish Clinton presidency, may or may not have had their fears eased when she stated she wouldn’t be any more aggressive than Obama has been. 

Clearly, Clinton has a demeanor that unsettles some on the far left because she has moderated, nuanced positions. She, after all, was the chief diplomat for America. I doubt Clinton’s forum performance gained her any new supporters, but it probably reinforced and strengthened her current support and gains she had made after the first debate.

As far as O’Malley, he had the most to gain from this sort of forum. It was the first opportunity for many to get to know him and see him. At first, he appeared a little uncomfortable. The best part of his forum performance was his passion about the military and when he introduced the idea of a War Tax. He was very likable, seemed knowledgable enough, but lacked any major breakthrough moment. 

The best part of the debate was actually Maddow. She was obviously well prepared and had a plan to challenge each candidate on specific issues. My only criticism of the forum would be in its brevity. Sanders seemed most apt to return to his stump speech than the other candidates, but that’s when he seems most natural. That may spell trouble for his longterm viability and adaptability. Clinton only dodged some of the envelope questions, which seemed somehow different then the other two candidates’ questions. Of course, it was somewhat random, but asking any of these candidates to pick a Republican for a running mate seems odd to me.

Above all, this was a win for the Democrat Party. The demeanor, the discussion regarding the failures of the party nationally and locally is vital for both parties to have. What motivates potential voters to not become more involved? These are questions both parties need to answer. I hope the Republican Party can have a more substantive debate next week. A smaller group of candidates may yield better results.