Day: January 23, 2011

Speculation About Who Will Replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates Later In 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, first appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, and agreeing to stay on when President Barack Obama asked him to do so for the country, clearly is leaving the government sometime this year.

The appointment of his successor will be crucial, not only involving the war in Afghanistan, and the continuing troop presence in Iraq, but also the issue of Pentagon spending.

So the question arises who should be replacing Gates, and two candidates come to the forefront, although obviously a less political choice could come from within the defense establishment or the Obama administration.

The two “political” choices that come to mind are former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who was against the war in Iraq, and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who has been a “hawk” on both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has announced he will not be seeking another term in the Senate in 2012.

It seems to the author that Hagel is the better choice, but Lieberman also carries a lot of weight in the Senate and the defense establishment.

It all comes down to whether Lieberman is willing to consider alternatives to his hawkish attitude if he becomes part of the Obama team, and is willing to leave the Senate before the 2012 election. Being so independent and stubborn can be both a positive and a negative, depending on the circumstances.

It is ironic that a Republican such as Hagel, seen as more “dovish” generally, but also a Vietnam war veteran, would probably have more opposition in the Senate confirmation process, but would probably fit in better with the President, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and other top Obama Administration figures in the so called “war room”.

Again, it may be that neither will be selected, or even want the position of Secretary of Defense, but either, if chosen, would have a dramatic effect on the budget and the war planning that always goes on in the Pentagon, as well as the political fortunes of the Obama re-election effort!

Two Presidential Speeches 50 Years Ago: A One Time Transformative Historical Moment!

Fifty years ago this week, we saw one President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, leave office after eight years, and deliver the best, most dramatic Farewell Address since George Washington gave the first one in 1796, and only coming close to being matched by President Jimmy Carter when he left office thirty years ago and warned of nuclear proliferation and the dangers to our environment that must be dealt with long term.

We also saw the incoming President, John F. Kennedy, give, arguably, the third best Inaugural Address in American history, before or since, trailing only behind Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address in 1865 and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address in 1933.

Eisenhower warned against the growing power of the Military-Industrial complex, an issue that President Barack Obama must deal with in his Presidency, as we talk about cutting the budget, and have a bloated defense budget that does not fit the world we live in, which is no longer a Cold War world, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Republican appointee of George W. Bush kept on by President Obama, well recognizes as he calls for budget cuts.

Kennedy spoke to our better nature in his Inaugural Address just a few days later, fifty years ago, and asked us to work for our nation’s success, rather than ask what our country can do for us alone. He appealed to us to stop being selfish and self centered, a point well taken as we look to the future, and the thought of sacrifice, including paying more taxes if we are fortunate enough to be successful, and recognizing that we are all in the economic and social crisis we face together. We must refuse to allow those who wish to divide us to continue to enrich themselves as they poison our radio, television and cable waves with their divisive rhetoric and propaganda, really the promotion of the Big Lie technique, that the more one says something as fact, the more people who are gullible and lacking in knowledge, will believe it.

We were fortunate to have these two Presidents shape an historical moment fifty years ago, and we need to learn from what they said in their oratory, and pledge ourselves to the transformation of the nation, so that it is indeed a “government of, by, and for the people”, not just the wealthy and privileged elite who have no concern but their own aggrandizement!

The US Senate: Facing Possible Major Turnover In 2012

The US Senate saw a major turnover in 2010, with sixteen new Senators being added to the body, 13 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Also, four incumbents lost their seats.

Now as 2012 comes on, 22 Democrats and only 11 Republicans face the challenge of running for re-election, and already three members have decided to retire–Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Jim Webb of Virginia, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, all Democrats, and Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Ensign of Nevada, and Richard Lugar of Indiana all face major challenges from the opposition party, as well as the Tea Party purists who seem to be out to defeat several Republican Senators, including Hatch, Lugar, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

The Senate may be seen as a glorious and prestigious body that no one would want to leave by choice, but the struggle to win elections and hold on to seats is becoming more and more taxing, emotionally and financially, as the country becomes more divided by vitriolic opposition, so it would not be surprising if more than the three who have announced they are retiring end up leaving the hallowed body, considered the greatest legislative body and debating society in the world!