Bipartisan War: apparently it doesn’t matter who is in power

The news of the week: It begins with the horrible news out of Syria that the leader of that country gassed his own people with Sarin, a chemical weapon, and this included gassing and killing children. Assad has been a dictator for a long time, and as the Syrian Civil War has played out, it has cost the lives of over 100,000 people. That itself is a tragedy.

So our President declared he needed to act, he wanted a coalition of countries to go together and punish the Syrian government for what they have done. Sounds reasonable, right? And it would be, except for one thing. The country and the world, is war-weary. There have been conflicts and battle and terror basically non-stop since 9/11/01. And so countries have backed out, most notably the Brits, who declared in their Parliament that they would not take military action. So President Obama says he will go it alone, and he believes he has authority to act without Congressional approval. I can see where he thinks that, based on previous Presidents asserting their right over the military. But Congress started to talk. And talk. And talk. Demanding the President is required to seek out Congress for approval to use military force if the situation does not involve a direct imminent threat to the United States. So in an about face, the President holds a press conference where he declares he can do it if he wants to, but he will seek Congressional approval to “make us stronger”. It’s a nice phrase, but why seek it out at all? He didn’t speak of the Constitution, which is where the power is given to Congress. He spoke of a feeling. Odd phrase.

So because of this, there has been an interesting reaction. The Democratic talking points coming from the left, consists of David Axelrod and the rest saying “Congress is now the dog that has caught the car…”. They are gleeful that Congress has to “back up” its words towards the President. However, in my mind, this is not a Republican vs. Democrat debate. There are plenty of Democrats who are nervous about going to war again. And there are plenty of Republicans who are nervous as well. The other day I was watching a commentator on the left eviscerate someone from the GOP for saying he may oppose this, but he supported the war in Iraq. And I thought about this and decided, maybe he’s right. Or, perhaps that individual learned his lesson last time. Perhaps, he changed his mind and realizes the heavy toll two wars have played on our country. In politics, everyone is so jaded and no one is ever allowed to make a mistake. I find that to be a mistake in general and an unreasonable standard we hold politicians towards. If they change their minds frequently that’s one thing. But a measured change of opinion after being presented with mountains of evidence may simply be the right thing to do.

I have spoke freely to my friends and on my blogs about the fact that I as a citizen supported the initial military action after 9/11. Who didn’t? It was very few and far between honestly who did not(congress gave military authorization then too, from both sides of the aisle). But as the wars drudged on, as more and more soldiers came home wounded or dead, I began to feel differently. If we were going to completely conquer a country, why were our men and women being killed daily, for what purpose did this serve? So I vowed to never again “support war” blindly. There may be times in the future where intervening in a conflict is the right thing to do for our country. But I won’t take it lightly. And I believe there are many on both sides of the political aisle who are taking the role of Congress and the government more seriously when it comes to war. Remember, the Senate is controlled by the Democrats and the Republicans control the House, which is why I find the leftist gloating all the more strange. Congress and Congress alone should authorize military action, because the more and more power we give the Executive Branch, the less voice the people have. In many ways, the Congressional votes will be bipartisan. There will be many from both parties that support the resolution and many who oppose. It will truly be a bipartisan war.

Lots of people are claiming that if someone isn’t “for” this military action then they are “isolationists”. That is ridiculous. Because you don’t want to authorize military action towards a country that doesn’t currently hold a threat to us doesn’t make you an isolationist. It makes you cognizant of the fact that we can’t be the world’s policeman, we can’t solve every problem, and we can’t bully our way into every conflict. What Assad did was abhorrent. The world should find a way to punish him. Perhaps that way is the US providing military strikes and going it alone. Perhaps not. But we have to have an honest debate and way to do that is through Congress. And if Congress rejects it, then the President should go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan, because military strikes should be off the table. The President is not the absolute arbitrator of power, whether he or she is democrat or republican.

Boston: thoughts on a tragedy.

Some quick thoughts after an insane week of events in Boston…

First, tragedy. To see the victims’ pictures but realize that everyone else gets to move on with their lives except for them and their families, is a hard thing to think about. I can’t relate. How does one relate to pain like this? I don’t think one can. No amount of comforting words from friends or family, from the police or the President, can turn back time. All those groups still try to comfort though, and I can’t fault them for that.

Second: News travels so much faster on Twitter. Years ago it was the news organizations evening broadcast where you learned the details. Then it was CNN and the 24 hour news concept. Then the internet and sites like DrudgeReport sped it up even more, reacting quicker than the traditional news outlets. Now mobile web and Twitter blow even the quick response sites away.

Not all the information on Twitter is accurate though(that’s the understatement of the year). You have to sift through the obviously false. But it’s the Wild West of new communication. Everyday citizens just participating in the events, real time, true or false alike. I read someone’s tweet that said something to the effect of, “welcome to the future of news this week”. I think he’s right.

I find it disconcerting that immediately after the second bomber’s arrest tonight, that people ran into the streets to “cheer”. What are they cheering? The facts are that several people decided to commit murder and terror upon an event, a city, a nation. In the course of their actions, people died. Is it nervous energy? A celebration of first responders? Am I being too cynical? I just find it strange, I guess. It’s not the end of a long World War. It’s a loss of life from one citizen to another. We tend to suffer quickly and celebrate quickly and then are left with nothing afterwards.

One of the things that struck me is how certain national politicians immediately called for the murderer to not be given his Miranda Rights. Yet he’s a U.S. Citizen. In the name of “national security” they say. We seem quick to pronounce national security these days. Not always so quick to remember the Constitution and the rights given from it. Obviously I am not privy to information that these men have. But it seems quite apparent that his capture won’t yield active information in the interest of national security. It’s not an imminent threat like immediately after 9/11, or on a active battlefield.

I was worried about him surviving because frankly, we can’t agree on anything in this country. Personally I wish he had resisted and they could have shot the bastard and left no room to debate Miranda Rights and trials and what he says when. But the police did a great job doing the right thing by providing a him a choice, and showing restraint with the whole world watching, something we do in America.

Defending a murderer’s Constitutional Rights isn’t glamorous. And fellow citizens scoff at the “slippery slope” concept of rights. Time will tell I guess. In this case, I doubt harm could have come in reading him those rights. He will be found guilty, a United States citizen, guilty of committing murder of his fellow United States citizens. He took away the victims’ rights, so perhaps he isn’t entitled to his own. But, perhaps he is after all. The American spirit of decency and restraint has got us this far through our history.

I feel bad for our citizens who live a honest life and believe in their Muslim faith. Because this keeps happening. When people of faiths throughout history have committed murder in the name of their gods, it hurts those who wish to believe in peace. This isn’t the blog to get into the details of who, what, why, and when of religious or political fervor. Sometimes we tread too lightly as a nation to not hurt people’s feelings, ignoring some hard to swallow truths. In time, those truths need to be discussed. But in this moment, I just have a personal feeling that I feel bad for my muslim friends who just want to be the same as all of us.

I loved the scene from the Boston Bruins game the other night where the crowd all sang the Star Spangled Banner at the top of their lungs. I wish our country could indulge in these types of displays without tragedy being the catalyst.

To the many victims of the week’s events, may your recovery be swift. May you rest in peace. To the rest of us, hug the ones you love and be proud of the country you live in. It’s a great place even on a week like this.

Killing the political spirit one sarcastically written column at a time…

I read with interest yesterday that Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman changed his position on gay marriage, after learning that his son Will is gay. The reason why it was a big deal, was because Sen. Portman previously supported the federal Defense Of Marriage Act law, including through this past year’s Presidential election, where Portman was considered a possible Vice Presidential candidate to Mitt Romney. So liberals are howling on the left about how Portman didn’t have the courage to speak up about this before the election, since the Republican Party doesn’t support the right for gays to marry and he was considered for the ticket. However, I really think they are going about this all wrong(in this particular case, liberals). Here’s why:

Our political discourse thrives on conflict. The Constitution is designed to make change difficult. Many believe it’s vague on purpose, so as to allow change, but it is intentionally difficult to get everyone to agree with separate powers.  So in order to make sure that the change we want is worthwhile, it takes time. Now in today’s constant media barrage, it’s hard to be patient, especially something that personally affects someone’s rights. It’s why we see people arguing all the time on cable news, both sides being snarky towards one another, or just being plain rude on a daily basis. With social media and online resources so prevalent, everyone wants to shout out their ideas and anyone who disagrees with them is, in their minds, a horrible person. So back to those criticizing Portman. The reason why it’s senseless is because regardless of motives, isn’t a win a win? Isn’t someone changing an opinion to the side you support reason for celebration? Unless it’s in the middle of a campaign and done for only political purposes, I would tend to view it as a win when someone who previously was on the other side now supports your position. Was he late to this position? Probably. But obviously his transition from opposing to now publicly supporting it has been a long road in the making. He’s not currently running for office. When his son came out to him, it was a turning point in his thinking. 

But instead, on both sides, people tend to view a change of heart or position in such a skeptical way. Not just on this issue, but any issue. And if there are other people who want to support it and they see some of the previous supporters bash the newcomers, doesn’t that just discourage future converts? Instead, the initial reaction should be one of support and welcoming them to the fold. But in modern day America, our commentators just get more and more sarcastic, and this fuels the fire for their listeners and readers. Just read the comments at the bottom of news or opinion columns on any internet news site. it’s rough.

(for an example of this directly related to portman, click here …it’s the comments section that really blows my mind, the hate people write in there).

The less we find ourselves sarcastically diminishing each other, the easier it may be to convince others of our opinion. This is coming from an extremely sarcastic person such as myself. While I can be quick on my feet and cut someone down with a sarcastic comment, I find myself really holding back in that regard lately in certain situations. It can be funny, it can play to your fans or friends, but it also just turns people off. Working as a manager and having lots of employees, as I have grown in position and learned from my mistakes, I have started to try and corral that part of me in. To be a more effective leader, I need to continue to grow and develop, and this sometimes means realizing that you support a different position that you did previously.

As far as gay marriage goes, I have a bigger question. Why is the government involved in marriage in the first place? The reason is not that I support marriage so much as why does the government even have a say? If two people want to be together, who am I to say if its a straight couple or a gay couple? The government should simply recognize unions for rights and tax purposes between two people. Everything should be equal. If religious ceremonies want to follow a religious code and establish marriage between a man and woman, then I don’t have a problem with that either, since plenty of churches will decide they will support it too. This isn’t an issue that is going to sustain itself. It’s a generational issue. Young people on both sides of the political spectrum support gay marriage. I second that. All I want for my gay friends is the best in life. I want them to be happy and find the person who makes them happy and marry each other if they want. And there’s nothing sarcastic about that. 

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter” – George Washington

     This past week, Rand Paul stood in the U.S. Senate and conducted an old fashioned filibuster. He spoke for close to 13 hours. He didn’t sit down and he didn’t yield the floor. Many people used the same reference I thought of, that it was like the old black and white movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, where Jimmy Stewart stood until he could no longer stand and spoke until his voice was but a whisper. Luckily, I had seen that old movie, as kids we frequently watched old movies that Mom put on the VCR.  Senator Paul finally yielded the floor after midnight, some 12 hours and 56 minutes after he began. So why would his use of a Senate rule to talk for hours be important? Was it showmanship to just raise his own profile? Or something more?
     As we look at how news now flows, via 24 hour television channels, twitter, facebook and a host of other mediums. Paul’s story was still a big one for several days, but it won’t be in a few more. Something else will come along to distract us, as ideas no longer percolate and fester and stew until they become big ideas. Instead, they bubble up quickly, people offer a snap decision, post support on social media, and act like they have done something. But what Paul did yesterday was pretty remarkable. He spoke for hours upon hours about the Constitution. Our Constitution. The Constitution that gives us liberty and allows us to live such good lives in America. He didn’t resort to the usual filibuster tactics, such as reading from the dictionary. Strom Thurmond holds the filibuster record in the Senate of 24 hours straight, and he did things like read the voting laws of all 48 states (there weren’t 50 at the time). But Paul spoke on the context of liberty in our lives, and the importance of asserting the Constitution over anything else. He was able to speak clearly and forcefully about the advancement of technology in warfare i.e. drones, and what impact that could have for ordinary Americans. The fact that he spoke for that long about important topics is in itself remarkable. That he chose to do it oh a whim, is even more so.
     Also, Paul dominated Twitter. What Twitter has is the power to drive the news events of the day, and people decided it was important to chat about. #StandWithRand “trended” for much of the day, and in fact trended for three days. It’s rare on Twitter to have a topic trend for more than a couple of hours and is usually assigned to an event like the Super Bowl or the Oscars. But he dominated it because his message made sense: When will the government get up and say its illegal to kill an American citizen without due process? You would think this would be an easy answer for our President(regardless of party), members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and the citizens of our nation alike. But many remained silent. Twitter helped Paul spread this question and get people to actually watch C-SPAN to watch his speech. (Yes, I watched like 6 hours of this. I’m a nerd) Twitter helped Rand raise his profile and he took advantage of the moment. Where I think the idea really hit a nerve was the fact that many conservatives, liberals, libertarians all came together to support what he was speaking about. Finding common ground these days in politics has been a rare occurrence indeed.
     So Sen. Paul was able to convey his beliefs and convictions on this topic and not sound like a partisan goon when discussing it. Too often politicians cannot get up in front of a camera or the media without sounding like a hack, someone just toeing their party’s line about some topic. Paul frequently stated yesterday that this wasn’t a partisan issue, that it was a subject that needed to be spoke about because it’s important to Americans of every party. He said he would be protesting this if it were a Republican in the White House as well. I believe him. I believe he stands on his convictions. Is it a gimmick? Perhaps in time, Paul will be found out to be a phony or perhaps not. But for now, we should look at some of his recent speeches as the way we want our politicians to act.
     Finally, I have thought a lot lately about the future of our country. I don’t believe it’s an Republican versus Democrat thing. Rather, in my mind it’s people being complacent in politics versus being engaged. It’s a laziness and a thought that we will just end up okay because we are Americans versus proving ourselves each generation. It’s the thought of security versus your freedom. Events such as 9/11 and the Iraq war taught us that the issues and dangers facing us are more complex than we think. Good intentions, however good they may start out, can sometimes start us down a path that could restrict our rights. Many politicians have the best of intentions, even when the other side immediately accuses them of the opposite. In some cases they start to pull down the pillars of freedom, allowing someone with bad intentions in the future to take advantage of the nation. Some Americans will feel their elected officials are “good enough” to make the right decisions. But I choose to support Paul’s view on this, that I want the Constitution to protect my rights, not some politician who people feel makes good decisions. I chose to trust not a political party, but the ideas that founded us. The Constitution establishes for each of us the ability to live our lives free. But there is also the responsibility for us to actually live up to it and want to be free, to want to be self governed.
     As far as the reason Paul was speaking this week, the hypotheticals may indeed be extreme, as some who opposed him said. But they are worth talking about, because our citizens understanding of the Constitution will depend on our freedoms for future generations. Do I believe that President Obama is going to take a drone and drop it on a restaurant in Denver on a citizen? No. I don’t, nor do I believe Bush would have either. But as technology grows and becomes easier, do we give in to the temptations to make it easier to be safe, while forfeiting our freedoms? That’s the decisions we have to make as a nation, and we have to make them together. So when Democratic Senator Ron Wyden stepped to the floor to support Paul’s filibuster, he directly addressed the President and I think it sums everything up pretty well.
     “Mr. President, what it comes down to is every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”
     We need more passionate people with convictions getting involved in our nation’s future, or we may not have one worth fighting for.