The president rightly rebuked the GOP presidential contenders for "casualness" in regard to a potential war with Iran, says Susan Barnes-Gelt in the March round of Head On TV debates. No, replies John Andrews, Obama merely hopes to distract from his own failed policy on Tehran's nuclear aspirations. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Hickenlooper's leadership style, liberal antipathy to the automobile, a tourism tax giveaway, and the presidential race. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997, with Centennial Institute sponsorship since 2009. Here are all five scripts for March:
1. NEARING WAR WITH IRAN?
Susan: "When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war. This is not a game. And there's nothing casual about it." That’s the President’s response to the recklessness of the GOP presidential wannabe’s urging war with Iran.
John: Steadily, steadily, the fanatical regime in Tehran moves closer to possessing the nuclear weapons with which it hopes to exterminate Israel and devastate America. Obama would rather scold the opposition party for sounding the alarm than forge an effective policy himself. He missed a chance to remove the regime years ago.
Susan: A nuclear holocaust is a zero sum game for Israel, Iran, the U.S. and the planet. Consider recent events in Afghanistan – a mentally deranged soldier killed kids, women, fathers – terminating any prospects of earning the trust of the people. The human cost of war is far too great.
John: I understand your feelings. But we don’t just need emotions, we need solutions. This weak, naïve, self-absorbed man who happens to be president is day by day increasing the risk of a big conflict by failing to confront and squeeze Iran in smaller ways. Israel must be protected. Obama must go.
2. HICK LEADS FROM BEHIND
John: Much like Barack Obama, John Hickenlooper is long on style and short on substance. Obama’s famous copout of “leading from behind” now has its Colorado counterpart in Hick’s statewide tour of townhall meetings, the TBD Project. He claims that stands for “To Be Determined.” I suspect it means “Taxed by Democrats.”
Susan: The person who thought up TBD as the brand for the Guv’s priority setting initiative, ought to be fired. Am I naïve to believe it’s the Governor’s role to set the state’s direction? Aren’t campaigns about taking the public’s temperature? TBD is a
Totally Bad Decision.
John: Hickenlooper’s townhall tour aims to manufacture a consensus for raising taxes, but people won’t buy it. Neither the governor nor the legislature is getting any traction at present. The alpha dogs in Colorado right now are activist judges – blowing up school finance, slapping down vouchers, and snarling at TABOR.
Susan: No the problem is the lack of leadership and stewardship of this great but fragile western state. Shame on the legislature for funding wealthy developers instead of education, transportation and infrastructure. Shame on us for electing people we like instead of leaders who might make a difference.
3. OBAMA IN TROUBLE
Susan: Can it get any worse for the GOP? Mitt Romney’s failure to condemn Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut was beyond the pale. Romney’s response, “It’s not the language I would have used” later saying it wasn’t his business? Shame on you, Willard Mitt.
John: Coarse language from left and right is as old as politics. It’s deplorable, but totally irrelevant to who should be the next president. Obama’s numbers are falling. His energy policy has doubled gas prices. His health care takeover is hugely unpopular. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul could all beat him.
Susan: John, no one’s approval ratings are lower than Willard Mitt’s. Even moderate Republicans – that endangered species – are looking for the not-Mitt option. It’s a long way to Tampa and this slugfest among wacked pundits and eager-to-please, candidates spells trouble for the R’s in November.
John: The one in trouble is Barack Obama. Presidents who don’t get the job done are shown the door. It’s the American way. Ask Jimmy Carter. They want a leader who is proud of America and believes in Americans as a free people. People have had it with Obama’s excuses and arrogance.
4. STOP THE TOURISM TAX GIVEAWAY
Susan: In 2009 Colorado Concern, a private business group, sponsored legislation creating a state sales tax subsidy, benefitting their members’ interest in building a NASCAR tract east of DIA - a victory of influence over intelligence. When the racetrack died, the giveaway should have been buried.
John: Aurora, Estes Park, Glendale, Pueblo, Douglas County, and Montrose County are pleading with a state board to subsidize tourism for two of them and not the other four. $50 million a year is the prize. Government playing favorites among competing localities and businesses this way is an awful idea.
Susan: Under any circumstance, the state has no business using tax increment financing to pay for assets that benefit a private developer and only a private developer.
Urban renewal tools are just that – mechanisms to revitalize obsolete, dilapidated urban property. Not a way to reduce risk for influentials and campaign contributors.
John: I hate to agree, Susan, but amen. For me as a Republican and you as a Democrat to unite against this tourism tax giveaway, both believing in integrity in government, illustrates how the two-party system can sometimes let the people down when powerful inside players rig the game. It’s a shame.
5. LESS RAIL, MORE BUSES
John: Liberals will tell you they don’t like the automobile. They object to the personal freedom it confers. Yet they also object to high gas prices. What a delicious contradiction. A related contradiction is the money liberals continue throwing at light rail despite its negligible ridership. Bus rapid transit is far superior.
Susan: Wow! John, after 8 years of jousting with me, you’re beginning to sound like a progressive! Of course, bus-rapid-transit is the most efficient way to build mass transit. Dedicated lanes, mixed-use transit stops and cool-looking buses are the logical answer for regions as spread out as ours.
John: Progressive? No, I’m a regressive. I’d like to run the movie back to 2004 and let people vote again on the tax hike we now is far too small to build out the Fastracks fantasy train that few commuters use. Going forward, though, let’s agree – less rail, more buses.
Susan: The real problem is the lack of civic and political direction guiding RTD staff and directors. Mass transit needs to be part of a regional land use transportation network, connecting people with places, jobs and one another. Absent a comprehensive approach, we’ve all missed the bus.
Poor Bubba. Not only is he exposed as Obama’s messenger boy in the sleazy Sestak affair, but now friends report he is absolutely livid over the devastating portrayal of him in the new HBO drama “The Special Relationship” in which Dennis Quaid’s spot on Clinton tries hiding behind every international institution- U.N., NATO, EU – to avoid a decision on the Kosovo genocide until he is shamed into action by a decisive and principled Tony Blair.
This fact based revelation of Clinton’s proclivity for appeasing dictators- in this case the murderous Serbian Milosovic- eerily parallels Jimmy Carter’s contemplated sell-out of West German and South Korean freedom in response to rampant Soviet aggressiveness until a leaked White House document (Presidential Review Memorandum-10) caused a Congressional uproar that sent Peanut Man ducking for cover.
Clinton and Carter however were minor leaguers compared to their ideological descendent Barack Obama who has taken appeasement to unimagined new heights. Just a glance at current headlines suggests just how much damage this multitasking appeaser can do in a very short time.
Iran – Americans were incredulous when Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad arrogantly announced he would no longer discuss his nuclear program until the United States agreed to discuss giving up its own nuclear weapons. Now just a few months later the United States voted with Iran to hold a United Nations conference on a “Nuclear Free Middle East”. The wording of the resolution however makes clear that the real problem is not Iran getting nuclear weapons but Israel having them.
Korea – When a North Korean submarine sent forty-six South Korean sailors to a watery grave the United States promptly demanded that “something be done” – by someone else. Hillary Clinton spoke ominously of a “possible U.N. resolution” and swiftly high tailed it to Beijing to petition the Chinese for help. China as is their recent habit simply said “No” and declared that things should be resolved by the two Koreas “without outside interference”. Happy to cede this wobbly stage to Hillary, Obama much preferred acting tough with British Petroleum than with North Korea’s lunatic dictator Kim Jong-Il.
Mexico – Just so we won’t think Obama only apologizes for the U.S. when abroad, he stood beside visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the White House and decried Arizona’s “misguided” illegal alien control law. To add insult to injury Calderon the next day had the temerity to stand before a joint session of the U.S. Congress and add his own denunciation of Arizona while omitting to mention Mexico’s far more draconian treatment of illegal aliens. For this shocking breach of diplomatic protocol Calderon received a standing ovation from Democratic lawmakers.
To round out the picture that same week Assistant Secretary of State Richard Posner- former head of an Open Borders advocacy group- told visiting Chinese officials that “abuses” like the Arizona law demonstrated that China wasn’t the only country guilty of human rights violations.
Syria – Touting the virtues of “engagement” with this charter member of the “Axis of Evil” Obama appointed a U.S, Ambassador to Damascus for the first time in five years at the very same time Syrian dictator Bashar Assad was busy shipping advanced rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv to the Lebanese terrorists of Hezbollah.
Israel – As if the above item wasn’t enough to justify Israeli citizens booing Rahm Emanual in Jerusalem just days later when a Hamas affiliate in a purposeful provocation attempted to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza Obama promptly expressed his “regrets” and joined the usual leftist suspects at the U.N. in calling for an investigation.
What’s next- a joint Obama-Chavez family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard? What will it take to make the mainstream media see that for Obama and the Democrats “engagement” is simply a synonym for “appeasement”? Is it not obvious that this serial apologizing and appeasing has gained us absolutely nothing by way of gratitude or cooperation, but has instead earned us what such weakness has always merited: contempt and ever bolder provocations?
Americans, however, should not view this sorry record as random blundering, or simple incompetence. What we are seeing is a consistent, carefully thought out realization of a long held Progressive/Liberal vision of the way the world ought to be: All global problems- legal, political, or military- should be handled in a collectivist manner by the long yearned for World Government. Liberals have long understood that reasons of short term political safety precluded openly advocating this vision, but any objective analysis of the historical and intellectual underpinnings of the Progressive Movement show that such is their goal.
In keeping with this vision, Progressives have always given the highest priority to the “transformation” ( a favorite Obama word) of American society as a necessary precondition for the New World Order. The United States historically as a sovereign independent country pursuing its own national interests is seen as a Bad Thing – spawn of war, racism, imperialism etc- and a major obstacle to the evolution of the Better World to Come.
Thus appeasement abroad is no more an aberration than the entire Obama domestic program of fast-tracking America toward dramatically expanded government, ever shrinking private sector, wealth redistribution, and the conversion of the population from freedom loving entrepreneurial individuals into a collectivist mass of dependents.
Recall those words of long ago: “None So Blind as Those Who Will Not See."
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner (1997-2007). Hiss columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) WASHINGTON, JAN. 17 - When judgment is rendered on the success or failure of U.S. foreign policy in 2010 the verdict will depend more than anything on the outcome of our confrontation with Iran. The threat to U.S. global interests from Iran is immense, but so too is the opportunity for a historic and transformational advancement of those interests. Converging circumstances in both Washington and Teheran strongly suggest that a decisive turning point is at hand. The sudden leap of Yemen onto the front pages of U.S. newspapers has underlined how far reaching are the dangers Iran poses for the United States and its allies. Both the Bush and Obama administrations chose to narrow the focus on Iran to that country’s nuclear ambitions correctly seeing that issue as the most critical and most likely to rally international support.
The fact that Iran by supplying sophisticated weaponry to its proxies in both Iraq and Afghanistan is killing American soldiers has been downplayed by both administrations. The fact that murderous violence aimed at Israel and the United States in Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Yemen has been powerfully fueled by Teheran’s money and fanatical ideology has similarly been acknowledged but in a very low key.
Both Bush and Obama repeatedly denounced the wickedness of al-Qaeda but failed to connect the dots regarding the obvious implications of the religious zealotry and violent strategies that are common to Bin-Laden and the Iranian mullahs e.g. pathological hatred of Israel, predilection for blowing people up, and determination to take the battle to the heartland of the Great Satan America.
Bush’s Iran strategy was to isolate and not talk to them. Obama reversed field and opted for engagement. Both approaches utterly failed to modify Iranian objectives; Teheran’s response to both isolation and engagement has been a mix of arrogance, insult, and continued bad behavior culminating most recently in Ahmadinejad’s bombastic demand that Israel and America give up their own nuclear weapons as a precondition for any Iranian response.
Obama’s oft declared end of year deadline for positive Iranian response has come and gone. He now must be prepared to implement those “serious consequences” he has long spoken of. This will not be easy, particularly in light of China’s recent declared intention of using its veto to block sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.
Given the U.N’s almost limitless capacity for procrastination Obama’s best hope for support lies with the European Union, but despite encouraging rhetoric from Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy, action from that multi-lateral body is far from certain.
In the end Obama must consider an approach he has long decried: unilateral United States action.
So, amidst these growing threats, where is the grand opportunity?
It principally lies in the very realistic chance of achieving “regime change” in Iran by boldly siding with the growing opposition in that country. Once they merely sought honest elections. Now clearly their goal is the overthrow of the dictatorship. The Iranian people- now chanting in street demonstrations “Obama, are you with us or them?” – are the most educated and sophisticated populace between Israel and India and as they showed in 1979 they have the capacity to bring down an intolerable regime.
In his Nobel Address President Obama eloquently stated some realities that much of the world sometimes forgets. He said that evil exists, and that peaceful means would not have stopped Hitler and will not stop al- Qaeda. He reminded his audience that American power had for half a century been the principal guarantor of their freedom, and while collective security is always preferred, sometimes one nation i.e. the United Stated must act alone.
Many saw President Obama’s speech as a justification of his Afghan escalation, but he was also laying down a marker for Iran and clearly signaling that he was ready for a major course correction is his own approach to world affairs.
Absent a pathologically hostile regime in Iran, U.S. foreign policy challenges from Pakistan to Israel dramatically shift in our favor, the entire Middle East is transformed, and U.S. global influence, and the cause of freedom reaches a pinnacle unmatched since the Second World War.
Heady stuff. Not easy, not certain, but once again History offers America an opportunity to be the great catalyst for human progress.
Centennial Fellow Bill Moloney was Colorado Education Commissioner, 1997-2007. His columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.