Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why I’ve Finally Had It with This President

One word sums it up

I watched a really good movie this weekend, Sole Survivor.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s based on the true story of a team of Navy SEALS—who are among the very best this nation has to offer—sent on a mission to kill or capture a terrorist commander in Afghanistan, one who had been responsible for the deaths of dozens of Americans.  The mission led to the most intense firefight in SEAL history, ultimately killing three of the four team members.  A helicopter full of servicemen who tried to rescue them also was lost to enemy fire.  The film does a tremendous job of portraying the heroism and sacrifice of these remarkable Americans.  In the end you’re left to wonder where our country gets such people, and what motivates them to do what they do in defense of our still-great nation.

That question has never been more important than it is now, in the aftermath of the Obama administration’s Bergdahl trade.  We gave up five terrorist commanders—just like the one those SEALS died trying capture—in trade for a U.S. prisoner of war.  But it wasn’t just any prisoner of war.  This one had disappeared from his post after leaving a note stating his disillusionment with the war in Afghanistan.  This suggests that he’s either a deserter or, worse, a defector and thus a traitor.  Desertion in a time of war is still a capital crime.  To celebrate the trade of five long-bearded Pashto-speaking terrorists for this specimen, our president appeared in the Rose Garden alongside a long-bearded Pashto-speaking man, the former prisoner’s father, who proceeded to demonstrate his linguistic prowess by giving part of his speech in the same language used by the Taliban—you know, those people who helped Osama bin Laden carry out the most devastating attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.  U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called this a “very happy day.”

This glorious celebration left me more politically disgusted and angry than I’ve been in many years.  In the immediate aftermath of the trade, I somewhat flippantly told friends that I cannot support the administration’s terrorists-for-traitors program.  On further thought, I recognize the necessity of getting the man back.  We can’t leave any soldier on the battlefield, not even one like Bergdahl.  But it was not a “happy day.”  Far from it.  It was a major defeat for America, and a sad day for every U.S. serviceman or woman who’s ever fought to capture or kill the kind of vermin we just put back into circulation—the kind of vermin whose mission in life it is to kill Americans, and who undoubtedly will do so again. 

Perhaps the president didn’t realize how his Rose Garden victory lap would look to the rest of the nation.  But that’s why he has a PR staff.  The Rose Garden appearance was more than simply tone-deaf; it was a sign of administration incompetence.  Hagel’s characterization of the event was incompetent.  National Security Adviser Susan Rice stated publicly that Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction.”  That was incompetent.  This was the same Rice who tried to convince the nation that the Benghazi terrorist attack was no such thing, and was merely about an offensive video.  That was incompetent.

Until now, I’ve been reticent to publicly criticize this president.  For one, others were doing just fine with that.  For another, I was no fan of the man he replaced.  Like many, I believed—or at least was prepared to believe—in the “hope” slogan of Obama’s 2008 campaign.  But even as more and more bungling surfaced, I refrained from direct attacks on the president in part out of fear of being branded as a racist.  You see it in Facebook and other comment threads all the time.  “Why are people so quick to criticize this particular president?” one person might ask.  “I’d say the reason is obvious,” another will answer, sometimes leaving it at that with a wink, nod, and nudge, and sometimes not.

But now I’ve had it.  This is about competence. And it's about honesty and the arrogance of power, all of which are issues in this administration.  Examples:

Our Open Border
Immigration is a complex issue.  I have a hard time making up my mind exactly where I stand on it.  My heart certainly goes out to separated or distressed families.  And for the most part immigrants are honorable people who just want to come here, work, and strive for the same better life that you and I have.  Yet I am not comfortable with the idea of simply opening up our borders and waving everyone on in, which would swamp us with an endless tide of refugees.  There is a lot of misery across the globe.  We can't solve the world's problems by offering to let everyone who's in a bad place come live with us.  To do so would make us that bad place.

In any case, I do think that whatever we do as a nation, we should do it as a nation, through the democratic process.  This president announced his intention to use executive fiat to work around Congress, and then proceeded to do so, relaxing immigration restrictions across the board.   

What happens if you stop enforcing a law?  People ignore the law, of course.  Logically, one might assume that relaxing immigration enforcement would lead to a new wave of illegal immigration, perhaps even rising to levels that could create a major humanitarian crisis.  Surprise, surprise, and shock of shocks, we have now arrived at that point.  In Texas so many illegal immigrants, primarily children, are flooding across the border that they’ve completely overwhelmed the system.  The response?  The administration is giving huge numbers of the immigrants plane and bus tickets to wherever they want to go, in return for the promise from the migrants that they’ll check in with immigration officials once they arrive at their U.S. destination, which of course they'll do since they have so much respect for U.S. immigration law.

This administration failed to foresee and prepare itself for the fact that its relaxed policies would encourage a new wave of illegal immigration.  Incompetence.  It took no steps to prepare the proper facilities even after noting three years ago that a surge of unaccompanied minors and crossers from Central America had begun.  Rank incompetence.

Now, what kind of effect do you think the catch-and-release program will have on other potential immigrants who are thinking about making the same trek?  The open border crowd has won this one, and they’ve done it without the formality of having to go through a democratic process.  That is not how the system is supposed to work.  Any voter who wanted a voice in this process by way of their elected representatives has just been disenfranchised.

And by the way, when asked to explain what’s going on, ICE officials have declined to comment.  As a journalist, I ran into this same stiff-arm response from the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly.  This is the historic transparency Mr. Obama promised us?  More dishonesty.

The Veterans Administration Debacle
The VA lied repeatedly about its waiting lists, delaying doctor’s appointments for veterans, some of whom subsequently died.  It’s a national disgrace.  The warning signs were abundant, up to and including very specific whistleblower testimony to Congress that this was going on.  But the administration did not act.  That was incompetent.

The Affordable Care Act
The American people were sold a bill of goods, passing this measure on a foundation of assurances that turned out to be untrue.  Some of us got more “misinformation” afterwards.  I’ve documented elsewhere on this blog my travails with trying to keep my doctor, and thanks to better-late-than-never reporting by the AP, we now know that I am not alone. 

After winning the ACA fight, the administration's promised startup was a colossal disaster.  This was an exercise in incompetence on a massive scale.  There’s that word again. 

I agree we needed to do something to provide health care to Americans.  It should not have been too much to demand honesty and competence in the process.  But apparently it was.

The Deficit
This president is spending this country into an early grave.  It’s very true that his predecessors started us down this path, and that Congress, including both parties, are co-conspirators.  But President Obama put the journey into high gear.  Some of the money has gone to a good purpose.  But we also bought people cars.  Yet now we’re out of money to build highways for them to run on.  The outrage over the profligate and ill-strategized spending helped further divide the nation, among other things spawning the Tea Party movement. 

The stakes are incredibly high.  See my short story Encounter at McZhang’s for one vision of what America’s future could look like if we continue down this road—and it’s one of the better scenarios.  If you liked the recent riots in Greece over that country’s budget collapse and its subsequent austerity measures, you’ll love what could lie ahead for our country if we don’t get our house in order.  But right now our train is headed straight for the gorge at full speed, and we blew right past the “Bridge Out Ahead” signs several miles back.

This administration has declared war on fossil fuels, on the Americans who work in those industries, and on anyone who pays a utility bill.  President Obama has adamantly and unreasonably opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.  Last week the administration announced major new restrictions on coal that are guaranteed to drive up power costs for the average American.  Much of this is in the name of global warming.  

Global warming is a fact, and people who deny it are in the same league as idiots who insist the Earth is flat.  But here’s what the “green” politicians are not telling you.  If you read the fine print in what scientists are saying about global warming, you’ll find the damage was already done well before Al Gore and others starting banging their pots and pans.  Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for a very long time.  To have a real effect, humanity would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.  Given mankind’s population explosion, this goal is probably impossible to reach.  But even if we were to succeed in doing it today, based on our best scientific knowledge temperatures and ocean levels would continue to rise for centuries.  And for this, we’re willing to wreck our economy today?  It makes no sense. 

And aren’t we overdue for another Ice Age?  The area where New York City now lies was under a thick sheet of ice as recently as ten millennia ago—and sea levels were 350 feet lower than they are today.  And by the way, why did the last Ice Age end?  Answer:  global warming, which accelerated 10,000 years ago.  And it was also at that time when sea levels began their rise.  Don’t believe me? Look it up. 

For anyone to think that mankind can control this kind of thing is hubris on a massive scale.  But the bill we’ll pay for trying is due and payable today.  You'll be digging into your pockets to cough up your share.  Soon.

What now?
I like a lot of things about this president, chiefly his compassion for the least advantaged amongst us, and his unwillingness to rush headlong into new wars—virtues the Republican Party would do well to embrace.  But I can’t support him.  There’s just too much incompetence, arrogance and dishonesty in his administration.   To put it bluntly, these folks don’t know what they’re doing.  

So what now?

It’s a conundrum.  My politics traditionally have been middle of the road.  I’m too conservative (not wishing to give my money to undeserving people) for the Democrats and too liberal (believing, for instance, in gay rights and also abortion rights within limits) for the Republicans.  But this does not put me in the minority.  Independents now make up the largest bloc of voters in my state, Arizona.  We’re ready to go with any candidate or party that makes sense to us.  That is a tremendous opportunity for both parties. 

Someone ought to wake up to that.  The time will never be better than it is right now.

Post Script:  this entry popped to the top of my most-read list almost as soon as I posted it.  Clearly it struck a nerve.   It's since been updated many times.  You can find all of my blatherings about politics here.

My well-reviewed novel Messages, a TV news exposé and crime drama, is written largely in this style.  And I invite you to subscribe to this blog.

©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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