Month: December 2008

The Senate in Turmoil as 2009 Begins

As we enter 2009 tomorrow, the United States Senate is in turmoil, as it is now clear that there will only be 98 Senators when  the Senate convenes early next week.

The bold, defiant action of Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, under arrest on charges of trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, and facing impeachment charges by the Illinois legislature, to go ahead and nominate former state Attorney General Roland Burris to that seat, despite all the Democrats in  the present Senate and President Elect Obama making clear that no one appointed by Blagojevich would be seated, is an unprecedented situation with no easy solution short term. The fact that Burris is also African American and would be the only one in the Senate just complicates the issue further, bringing in the race card.

Additionally, the Minnesota Senate race between Senator Norm Coleman and Al Franken is still unresolved and looks as if it is headed for court after an official result is announced early next week, with Franken unoffically ahead by only 49 votes. 

These two seats might not be filled for several months at this rate, and additionally, Colorado and New York face governors appointing new senators to replace Ken Salazar and Hillary Clinton once they are confirmed as members of President Obama’s cabinet.  Meanwhile, both incumbents will still have the ability to vote on early actions that might be taken by Congress before Obama’s inauguration.

One can only hope that the Senate’s mess will be resolved sooner rather than later!

Caroline Kennedy and the Senate

The original appeal of Caroline Kennedy becoming a US Senator by appointment in New York has lost its glamor as it becomes obvious that Ms.  Kennedy has proved to be quite inept in public since her interest in the position became known a few weeks ago.

Ms. Kennedy has stumbled in making her views known, has seen uncomfortable in her few public appearances and interviews with the print media, and has demonstrated her basic shyness.  Her use of the term "you know" has become comedic and one has to wonder if she could uphold her seat in a primary or election coming up in 2010 and again in 2012, despite her ability to raise money and the fame of her last name.

While Ms. Kennedy is obviously very bright and intelligent, one has to wonder if she really is the best candidate for the Senate for the future of New York.  I have to think that Andrew Cuomo, son of the former governor, Attorney General of the state, and former cabinet member under Bill Clinton, might indeed be the better choice of Governor David Paterson.  Also, there are several Congresswomen interested in the seat who have more background in public life than Ms. Kennedy.

Under the circumstances, Governor Paterson should carefully reconsider the tendency, at least in public discourse by others, to imply that Caroline Kennedy is the best choice.  The seat should not be awarded based on emotion and history but on true qualifications.

“Barack the Magic Negro” and the Republican Party future

Rush Limbaugh, and some GOP leaders, including the person applying for GOP Chairman who released it, demonstrated extremely bad taste when they decided to release a parody of "Puff the Magic Dragon" in the name of "Barack the Magic Negro".

At a time when the Republican party has reached its low point since the mid 1970s, it is not helpful for them to decide to use humor regarding race and utilizing the old word "Negro", which has been out of use to refer to African Americans since the late 1960s.  It shows, at the least, insensitivity, and the most, open racism. 

The only way the Republican party can recover in the short and long run is by opening itself to new groups it has long ignored.  Right now, the GOP seems to represent only white, older, evangelical, southern and Appalachian voters.  It tends to antagonize African Americans, Hispanics, women, Northeast, Pacific Coast, Upper Midwest, more educated, younger and new voters. 

If the Republicans do not change their tune, they will remain in the political wilderness for a long time.  Republicans across the country need to condemn this tactic, repudiate that candidate for GOP leadership, and break their ties with Rush Limbaugh and other talk show hosts who poison the atmosphere of American political life!

Obama and the Lincoln Bible

It will be an historic moment when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the first African American President of the United States on January 20, and it is now made even more historic by the fact that he will be sworn in with his hand on the Abraham Lincoln Bible, which has never been used since Lincoln’s time for the inauguration of any other President.

Obama is looked to as a transformational President, just as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt were in earlier equivalent moments of crisis.  It is profoundly hoped that Obama will fulfill the need for great presidential leadership as we face the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The fact that Obama began his presidential campaign in the Illinois State Capitol of Springfield where Lincoln once served, and is now using the Lincoln Bible for his inauguration, is inspirational and all Americans need to pray for his success in the White House, as his fortune will have a tremendous impact on the present generation of Americans and in the long term history of the United States.

The Unrepentant Dick Cheney

Here we are with about one month to go to the inauguration, and Vice President Dick Cheney is defiant and unrepentant about his views, behavior and actions as Vice President of the United States for the past eight years.

Even President Bush is willing to admit that some of the actions of his administration have not worked out and to show a human side by belatedly admitting errors.  But Cheney continues to assert that he has no regrets about anything, and states that it was perfectly fine to use curse language against his critics, and to back waterboarding as appropriate to get information, and that we would have gone into Iraq no matter whether it was known that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Cheney shows a level of arrogance unusual in American history, at least in a public forum.  One can be thankful that he never had to take over the powers of the Presidency, although he is certainly responsible for bad advice to Bush and advocated the most extensive use of Presidential power without congressional or court backing in modern history. 

Cheney has been rated by many as the worst Vice President in American history, not on the basis of competence or intellect, but simply on his wildly abusive interpretation of his role and of the President’s authority, something even formerly close friends and aides in the first Bush Administration, when he was a much milder and more moderate Secretary of Defense, have expressed with shock and disbelief.

It seems to me that, due to his unrepentant nature and unwillingness to admit errors, Dick Cheney should face the bar of justice and be investigated for what many see as criminal behavior while in office.  The future Vice President, Joe Biden, will thankfully restore the dignity and respect that the office needs, and still at the same time, will play a significant role in policy making and advice to President Obama.

The Obama Cabinet is Completed

The Obama cabinet is now complete, and it is obviously a centrist, well balanced group.  It includes people of experience and talent and accomplishment, and also reflects diversity.

There are three women in the cabinet, along with three Hispanics, two Asian Americans, one African American, and two Republicans.  Additionally, there are excellent selections for the National Security Adviser, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, United Nations Ambassador, White House Press Secretary, White House Counsel, Office of Management and Budget Director, Director of the National Economic Council, Chief of Staff and various Science appointments.

Obama has also selected four of his presidential rivals–Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack–for his cabinet and he has shown willingness to include people who will challenge him and offer him varying alternatives on economic, social and foreign policy.  This is all to the good, and bodes well for the success of the Obama Presidency!

Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Senate seat

It is obvious that embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois will not resign and is very willing to bottleneck Illinois state government while federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursues the case against him and while the Illinois legislature moves forward on  a possible impeachment.

His public statement on Friday revealed nothing other than the fact he will continue to fight to his "last breath".  This means that the Illinois Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of President Elect Barack Obama will not be filled any time soon.  Basically, the Senate seat is being held hostage and the state of Illinois will therefore, likely, have a vacant Senate seat when the new Congress opens on January 6.

This is an intolerable situation that, unfortunately, has no short term solution, and  is to be regarded with great regret.  Hopefully, it will not drag on for months and deny Illinoisans their proper representation.  The Illinois legislature needs to be prompt in its action against this renegade governor!

The Crazy Minnesota Senate Race

The Minnesota Senate race between Senator Norm Coleman (R) and former talk show host and comedian Al Franken (D) has still not been decided six and a half weeks after the elections.

Out of nearly three million votes, Coleman held a lead of about 200 votes for a long time, but now Franken has surged ahead to about an equal lead, and there are observers who think the race will not be decided by January 6, when the new Congress convenes.  There may be lawsuits, and meanwhile, a possible temporary appointment of an interim senator by Governor Tim Pawlenty. 

This mess was created because of the decision of interim Senator Dean Barkley (I), appointed as a replacement for Senator Paul Wellstone who died in a plane crash in 2002, and only served about six weeks in office, to seek the seat as an independent candidate.  He won about 15 percent of the vote and the result is this unbelieveably close contest between the two major contenders.  It could rival the closest election ever, a four vote lead in  New Hampshire in 1974.  It could be that the Senate will refuse to seat either candidate and force a new election, a runoff of these two candidates, with no one else allowed on the ballot.

When one looks at the crazy way many people filled out their paper ballots, it creates controversy as to intent of those voters and makes one really wonder why it is that the simple act of voting is so difficult for ordinary citizens to fathom.  It does not, certainly, promote the belief that many voters have the judgment to follow simple directions and do their duty as citizens in a proper way!

Geraldine Ferraro and Caroline Kennedy

Former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of New York, the Vice Presidential nominee who ran with Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential election, has made controversy again.

Ferraro was a strong critic of Barack Obama during the Presidential campaign, being a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, which was her right.  But she utilized nasty tactics that bordered on racism, in the minds of many observers.  She was no help to Hillary Clinton, actually in many ways undermining her candidacy and proving to be a sore loser when her candidate did not win the nomination.

Now Ferraro has made clear her opposition to Caroline Kennedy’s possible appointment to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, an appointment to be decided by Governor David Paterson.  Ferraro claims that Caroline Kennedy has no experience to serve in the Senate, as if Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy had any equivalent experience before they became senators. 

It is obvious this is simply Ferraro’s way of getting revenge, because Caroline Kennedy had the gall to endorse Barack Obama early in the presidential campaign.  This is unbecoming of Ferraro, who again displays what I have long believed.  That is, Ferraro was insufficiently experienced to be Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984 and hurt him much like Sarah Palin hurt the campaign of John McCain.  She stands out as the only poor choice for a running mate that any Democratic nominee for President has ever picked.  Who is she to talk about qualifications if she looks in the mirror, heh?  :(

Obama and Science, Technology. Energy, and the Environment

One of the most encouraging aspects of the upcoming Obama Administration is its move toward recognizing the importance of appointing influential scientists who promote the return of science and technology to the forefront of our government after eight years of allowing religious zealots to rule the day and work against the science and technology communities.  Additionally, Obama understands the importance of utilizing alternative sources of energy and the promotion of environmental causes as espoused by Nobel Prize winner and former Vice President Al Gore.

The age of know nothingism, in which Christianity was allowed to trump science, thankfully, is ending, and it can only mean progress for the future of our country and planet.  It is very refreshing that we have an intelligent president about to take office, who has the proper understanding of the long range effect of science, technology, energy and the environment.  May he succeed in transforming our role and making us a leader again in these areas so crucial to the future of the nation and the world!