Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration

I was very impressed with President Barack Obama's inaugural address. In fact, after having read it in its entirety, I was even more impressed. While I know I am going to disagree on some policy decisions that he will advocate and no doubt sign or decree into law, I completely embrace the ideology he expressed. Having a president who seems to truly 'get it'... In all honesty, it just seems too good to be true.

This was the first inauguration that I've taken an interest in. Usually they come and go with little concern from me. Just another politician, more of the same. This time I was very interested in what the President had to say. I feel more positive and more trusting about Barack Obama than I have any other president in my lifetime, by far, and really more than any other politician. I feel more patriotic than I've probably ever felt, as well.

I had few disappointments with the event overall. One of those was the flub of the oath. I admit that at first I thought Obama had made the mistake, and, I must also admit that I found myself skeptical when some media outlets put the blame on Chief Justice John Roberts. Of course, President Obama did cut the Chief Justice short after "I Barack Hussein Obama...", but having inquired further I found that it was indeed Chief Justice Roberts who goofed by omitting "faithfully" prior to "execute" and instead tacking "faithfully" on at the end of the sentence. The hesitation of Obama when this happened lead me to believe he drew a blank on what to say. Actually, after having reviewed the video, it appears to me that he was giving Chief Justice Roberts a chance to rephrase it correctly.

Another disappointment was in the speech when he thanked former President Bush for his "service" to the country. He didn't have to go on the offensive, of course, that would be tacky. However, in my opinion no credit should have been given to George W. Bush because he doesn't deserve any. He has not, save a few minor exceptions perhaps, made positive advancements for the country, the world. Quite the contrary, he's undermined the nation's values, and compromised national and world security.

Last but not least, my biggest disappointment actually began with the beginning of the event itself — Pastor Rick Warren's invocation. I didn't watch it. I still haven't seen it nor read a transcript. I had no desire to listen to what the man had to say. I don't think he should have been given such an honor. A man who holds such anti-homosexual prejudices does not deserve respect or legitimacy. To me, this was the equivalent of honoring an advocate for segregation or someone who publicly opposes interracial marriage. Anyone who compares same-sex marriage to polygamy or pederasty as moral equivalency is a bigot and should have no place at the table in a civilized society.

Speaking of which. While I realize the context isn't the same, I especially appreciated this line from President Obama:
"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

The same goes for those who seek to advance their agendas by imposing intolerance & hate against homosexuals and denying us our right to equality.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Real change has come...

So tomorrow is the big day. Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States of America. As someone who supported Mr. Obama both in the primaries & general election, and also as someone who has despised President George W. Bush & nearly everything he's done to this country over the past 8 years, I'm far more enthusiastic about this inauguration than I have been about any other in my life.

Even I will admit that the hype over Mr. Obama's election as president is a bit ridiculous, this largely due to 24/7 sensationalist media & a desperate appetite among the populace for an end to the Bush morass. Still though, this truly is a momentous time in American history. With Obama the United States will have its first President with African heritage. The first black family to reside in a White House which was built partly by slave-labor. Of course, this is also a pivotal time in our history. We are at a crossroads, perhaps more so than at any other time. Our country is facing massive economic turmoil, our prestige in the world has been severely tarnished, our relevancy greatly diminished, threats to our national security, and really the security of world peace overall is perhaps more grave than ever before. Of course, all of this means this is also a time of great potential, especially considering that in President Obama we will have a man who has not only promised something distinctly different than what we've had time & again over many decades, but who truly seems to possess the intellect, the desire & the ability to deliver on many of those promises.

George Bush ran as a "uniter". In actuality he divided the country — the only unity, mostly agreement on how disastrous his presidency has been. I truly believe that in most respects this country has not been so polarized since the Civil War. Ironic, then, that Mr. Obama is often compared so often to President Lincoln. And in many ironic ways, it fits. Lincoln was a Senator from Illinois, he freed African-American slaves, he was a man from humble beginnings, tall & lanky. Mr. Obama, of course, former Senator of Illinois, partly African-American, also a man of humble birth, tall & lanky, and he's gone out of his way at times to create more similarities, like emulating Lincoln's so-called "Team of Rivals" cabinet, to take a symbolic train ride from Illinois to Washington as Lincoln did, and electing to be sworn in on the very bible that Lincoln himself was sworn in with.

I find it very refreshing that not only will we not have a Bush or Clinton running the White House {save for Hillary as Secretary of State}, but also that we won't have a privileged elitist, either. Contrary to how conservatives choose to dishonestly frame Mr. Obama, largely, I suspect, out of partisanship & resentment to his being a man with an obvious intellect, the man is not an elitist. He doesn't come from wealth. No blue blood here. His family is not tied to politics. He doesn't have generations of ivy league behind him. No Skull & Bones fraternity. He will not be yet another Freemason in the White House. Though Christian, he wasn't actually indoctrinated as such during childhood. Even his parents represent something completely taboo a mere two generations ago. Much mockery has been made of his motto of "change", but more so than any other president, he does represent major change.

Other than the superficial, characteristics of personality, heritage, background, his promises to be a presidency with a great deal of ideological change over what we've endured for several decades. He seems to be idealistic & pragmatic rolled into one. I like that.
I like that a lot, actually. Perhaps because I can relate to that.

Clearly he is left-leaning in regards to many issues, which I also like. But, of course, I also don't conform to the stereotypical ideology of modern-day liberalism. Not at all. Sure, I'm a firm believer in a near absolute protection of free speech, separation of church & state, and while I have ethical qualms about abortion I believe the procedure should be legal.
Certainly no socialist, I'm also not a "free markets" kind of guy. To me, wealth doesn't trickle down, it flows up. You can call it Marxist "spread the wealth" isolationist protectionism if you want to, but I'm all for tearing up NAFTA/CAFTA, instituting Fair Trade policies, living wages & ensuring the wealthy pay THEIR share of taxes.

I'm all for same-sex marriage, partly because I believe in genuine equality, egalitarianism, the principles set forth in the 14th Amendment — due process & equal protection of the laws — but as a homosexual, to have access to the same rights & privileges that my heterosexual peers do is important to me, too. Besides, I might want to tie the knot someday.

Now, when it comes to collectivism, bigger & more intrusive government, however, I'm extremely leery.
Yes, I think we need government investment in new technologies, re-building infrastructure, switching the country to renewable energy & some limited regulation of markets. But universal health care? I'm nervous about the government managing something so massive & personal. Government has a tendency to create inefficient, bloated bureaucracies that cost far too much & accomplish far too little. As far as I'm concerned, health care should be made affordable perhaps through government-regulation of prices, because whether insurance companies & employers go bankrupt or the government does, neither is an acceptable outcome.

I'd like to see everyone give up smoking & eat healthier — voluntarily. I don't go along with the nanny-state mentality of taxing tobacco & "junk" food, government bans on smoking in all public places {including the sidewalk}. I don't agree with the concept of imposing new taxes on items on the basis they will create a new revenue stream whilst "nudging" people to consume less of the item, i.e. taxing tobacco, "junk" food, gasoline.

Unlike the typical "liberal" I make a clear distinction between opposing illegal immigration and opposing immigration. I'm strongly opposed to the former, but supportive of the latter. This in no way makes me a xenophobe. Gun control? I think we need to enforce the laws we have & the 2nd amendment is not merely a guarantee of a National Guard...

So, naturally, I welcome Barack Obama & his political ideology in many ways. But I'm certainly not going to agree with him on everything. Not even close. I'm not impressed with some of his cabinet picks, I'm concerned that he will be overly supportive of Israel & Rick Warren's being chosen to give the invocation at his inauguration was an insult to those homosexuals who supported him. Still, it would appear that both liberal Democrats & fiscally conservative Republicans believe that an Obama administration will bring back big-government socialism. He's certainly not going to shrink the size of government, but I do think he will be more pragmatic than either side is willing to admit right now. This, along with perhaps fostering some genuine unity for a change, is just what this country needs right now.

For the first time ever, as inauguration day comes tomorrow & the swearing in takes place, I will be watching. Like so many folks, I'm thrilled to turn the page on the disastrously incompetent presidency of George "Dubya" Bush. And I'm definitely excited and {cautiously} optimistic about the change that's coming — something new; something better.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Correcting the obsolete

Great article with some fascinating information about The Presidency, as well as some excellent suggestions on improving the office: