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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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November 12, 2009
Just a year ago America elected its first black (actually, half black, half white) president.
I believe that a good many Americans who had not voted for Barack Obama because of their opposition to his liberal views still found real satisfaction in the dramatic evidence of the improvement of racial relations in this country—and I would argue vigorously with anyone who claims that Obama’s election to the highest office in this country was not dramatic evidence of such improvement.
I would also argue vigorously against the notion that Obama’s election marked the start of a new era in American social and political philosophy; i.e., an era in which the views of liberals like Obama would remake the face of America, with government playing an increasingly dominant role.
I believe that this was the desire, and the motivation, of Obama and his fellow liberals. But we are seeing increasing evidence that a “Yes, we can” effort to change American government and American society is not the likely result of having elected a bright, eloquent (some would say “glib”) speaker who took office without any significant leadership experience.
Even had Obama more logically decided to proceed at a slower pace in his first months in office, I don’t believe his liberal program for remaking America would have played well with the American public, especially with such a high profile, controversial liberal as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi so prominently identified with his cause.
One wonders whether Obama and his cult of followers realize the significance of the fact that in two respected national polls, only about 20% of the poll respondents recently said they considered themselves to be liberals. The overwhelming majority said they considered themselves as either conservatives or moderates.
This reflection of Americans’ political views has not, of course, slowed down the push by Obama and Pelosi and likeminded Democrats in Congress like Senator Barbara Boxer of California, in their push for enactment this year of a proposal designed to remake the health care system of America.
I believe there is general agreement that there are substantial health care improvements which need to be made, but there comes to mind the old adage about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (Incidentally, I am not impressed by the fact that the American Medical Association leadership says it is satisfied with the fundamental changes advocated by the Obama administration. Fewer than 20% of America’s doctors belong to the AMA.)
Why do I dwell on these issues at this time? Easy question. This month is the first anniversary of Obama’s election. And this month voters in New Jersey and Virginia replaced Democratic governors with Republican governors, despite Obama’s strong personal intervention in support of the Democratic incumbent in New Jersey.
I wonder if Obama and his liberal advisors have figured out that the presidential election a year ago was influenced by three predictably non-repetitive factors:
It was the first opportunity for Americans to elect a serious black contender for the presidency—a “first ever” election opportunity that won’t come again.
Second, Obama was running against a Republican ticket consisting of a septuagenarian, Senator John McCain, and a political lightweight—Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Third, the unreasoning liberal hatred of outgoing President George W. Bush was of substantial benefit to Obama’s candidacy. Obama capitalized on this hatred by appearing at times to be campaigning against Bush, not John McCain, but Bush will have been four years out of office by November, 2012.
It is, of course, too early to predict the long-term prospects for Obama, his policies and chances for re-election.
But this thought occurs: As you consider the bounce that those Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia did not receive from large numbers of voters who had supported Obama for president just a year ago, it appears Obama’s coattails may be much shorter than he and other liberals had anticipated.
Judging from the 220-215 vote by which the Obama/Pelosi medical care overhaul legislation was passed by the House of Representatives, one might ask whether Obama’s “Yes we can” agenda for reshaping America might more accurately be called a “Maybe we can’t” agenda.
Obama and his followers are representing themselves as elated over a victory (the margin of which was a bit less than ½ of 1%) in the House as the bill now moves to an even tougher test in the Senate.
Obama had gone personally to Capitol Hill to exhort the members of the House to “answer the call of history,” but 39 House Democrats apparently heard history calling for defeat of the controversial bill which, incidentally, would cost an estimated $1.2 trillion over a 10-year period.
* * *
I doubt that she will get away with it, but Nancy Pelosi, widely and properly regarded as consistently a liberal—on frequent occasion a far-out liberal—sounds as if she is trying to re-label liberals as “progressives.”
This attempted verbal sleight-of-hand showed up in a recent statement by Pelosi, scoffing at the idea that Congressional members on the left will yield on what they consider the gut issue of health care reform; i.e., a national health insurance system.
Literally laughing at a suggestion that those on the left will abandon the national health insurance option, Pelosi said: “Are you asking me, ‘Are the progressives going to take down universal, quality, affordable legal care for all Americans?’ I don’t think so.”
Presumably the “liberals” who want to change themselves into “progressives”—in name only, I’m sure—are influenced by such things as the recently reported results of a series of Gallup Polls which found that 40% of those polled regard their political views as conservative, up from 37% in poll responses in 2007 and 2008 and only about 20% regarded their views as liberal
A New York Times/CBS News Poll in September found 36% of those polled describing themselves as conservative and 39% as moderate. Twenty-one percent of those polled described themselves as liberal.
* * *
A recent column with a London dateline, written by the author of “Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire,” indicated the size of the task facing this country in what some people are referring to as “Obama’s war” in Afghanistan. The column started with a description of the report of a highly-decorated general who told his commander-in-chief the problems his army faced fighting in hills around Kabul in Afghanistan:
“There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another. Nevertheless, much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centers, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize.
“Our solders are not to blame. They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where insurgents can just disappear into the hills.”
The general went on to request additional troops and equipment, saying: “Without them, without a lot more men, this war will continue for a very, very long time.”
The general was Sergei Akhromeyev, a hero of the Leningrad siege in World War II, and he was trying to explain why a force of nearly 110,000 well-equipped soldiers from one of the world’s two superpowers was appearing to be annihilated by “a band of ‘terrorists,’” the columnist explained.
As had other invaders before them, the Soviets withdrew in humiliating defeat after bloody, frustrating years of trying to conquer Afghanistan.
There are basic differences, of course. We aren’t trying to conquer Afghanistan, but rather to help put down terroristic revolutionary forces and leave Afghanistan with a stable government which can help control or eliminate the terrorist training camps on either side of the border with Pakistan.
And in fairness to Obama, it was a war he inherited—not a war initiated by the United States alone but involving the United States as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But the Soviet experience does indicate the difficulty of achieving NATO’s and America’s objectives in Afghanistan.
* * *
Marian is minus one toe as you read this item today.
Marian and her doctor decided that removal of the toe seemed to be the best way to end a continuing painful infection resulting from an arthritic condition between the toes.
The decision prompted some lighthearted speculation as to what we should do with the amputated toe. Tongue firmly in cheek, I suggested the possibility of a sort of burial service in our backyard or cremation with the ashes scattered on the grass.
A friend told of us of a case of a woman who had her toe preserved in formaldehyde in a small vial where it could be displayed as sort of a conversation piece.
Marian rejected all of these possibilities and decided to let the University of Nebraska Medical Center dispose of it in whatever is the customary way.
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