Barack Obama: A Qualified Wild Duck Endorsement

Check out this February Sequestration update:
Let it occur. But shift tough decisions to Obama

It is with mixed feelings that Wild Ducks endorse Barack Obama for a second term as US president. Here is our armchair analysis of his good points, bad points and a few that are not-too-good/not-too-bad or unclear…

The Good

  • Character: Barack Obama is an ethical man. He is honest, trustworthy and cares about protecting the vulnerable. Despite his ascent into the upper class, he is class-agnostic; a rare quality in politics. “Character Counts”, a catch phrase of past elections, is often twisted by the far right. But as sentiments go, it fits.
  • Pro Choice: No matter how divisive the issue, reproductive decisions should never be fettered by legislation. It is not a communal issue. It is private & personal. Obama understands this.
  • Gay & Lesbian Rights: Barack Obama is the first president willing to recognize the rights of homosexuals (supporting the right to marry, repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell). Sexual orientation is not a conscious choice. Gay citizens are what they are. Even if it involved choice, it is clearly a personal issue and should not be the target of statutory discrimination. We must get past a tendency to project moral and religious beliefs upon our neighbors. Obama has set a new course for tolerance and acceptance in all sectors of society and at great personal risk.
  • Human Rights: Obama falls on the side of human rights and dignity, even when it is difficult (torture, sweatshops, prison labor, etc.)
  • Mixing religion into affairs of state: Obama understands that governments should be agnostic.
  • Consistency: In this area, Obama presents a clear contrast to Mitt Romney.
  • Health / Obamacare: I have never delighted in socializing any aspect of the economy, nor forcing Americans to purchase anything. Let’s face it: Forced health premiums are a tax, no matter how you sugar coat it. But with this life & death issue, I don’t see how we can avoid socialized health care. It works in Massachusetts and it is preposterous that Romney now distances himself from that program.
  • Military: Obama strives for peace, but uses force where necessary. He has not failed us.
  • Military: Obama understands that it cannot be viewed as the driving sector for the entire economy. Romney wants too much military. And he cloaks it with the unfounded fear of a weak America.
  • Environment: Despite assurances that the US will source more oil & coal, Obama certainly understands global warming, erosion, and pollution better than Mitt Romney.
  • Risk: Obama has never been risk averse. (Possible exception: His failure to stand up to teachers unions). He faced great risk taking on the economic stimulus, gay marriage and health care despite the potential for popular backlash.
  • US Stature: I vehemently disagree with Romney’s characterization of Obama’s “Apology Tour”. Obama wasn’t apologizing. He addresses the very accurate perception that America is arrogant and tends to use military might to unilaterally push economic or social policy abroad. He has not yet had much success in this area. But I give him points for moving in this direction.
  • He is as American as apple pie: Donald Trump is downright daffy.  [Scroll down]…

On Donald Trump: “This all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya.”

The Bad & The Questionable

Barack Obama has established trust and executive credibility beyond doubt. But, with four years to demonstrate progress and competence, he has been weak in two critical areas: Domestic economy and improved employment. A president wields significant influence regarding the role of government in free markets. As unemployment barely falls back to the same 7.9% of his first-term oath, one wonders if Obama could not have pulled harder to get a rabbit out of the hat. He has failed to show aggressive action on the real, underlying engine of a robust economy: private sector jobs and exports.

Moreover, Wild Ducks disagree with the fundamental basis of his economic doctrine:

  • Government’s role in capital markets: Obama tries to pick winning technologies for public investment and he propped up auto manufacturers and banks. Although some of these ‘bets’ may have paid off, it is not clear that the US economy would have been worse in the absence of direct intervention.
  • Taxes: Obama has acquired a reputation for being a socialist. It is not an unfair label. Wild Ducks are concerned that Obama exhibits a lack of capitalistic perspective. Most citizens accept the obligation of a public safety net for those who are out of a job, out of luck or desperate. It’s one thing to use public funds, but it’s another thing, altogether, to tax disproportionately. He disparages those who build businesses and as a result achieve wealth. He has a penchant to use taxes for redistribution and to tinker with private enterprise and free markets. He unabashedly rallies to his base with fervent cries to soak-the-rich. Just listen to him rail against anyone who owns or flies on an executive jet.
  • Failure to take on the national debt: As the nation moved past the initial economic stimulus, Obama had no grand scheme to address the elephant in the closet. He missed an opportunity for a broad based assault on the biggest threat to prosperity in the new century. This one issue could prematurely stifle a great nation. It is likely to loom over our children’s generation as the most damning setback to lifestyle and financial security.
  • Jobs: In this area, Obama has some progress, but not enough. Despite gradual economic recovery, employment is not rising quick enough to save homes, save marriages, and save nest eggs. Of course, the national debt, a skilled work force and education go hand in hand.
  • Questionable support for Israel: Israel is a critical, strategic ally and a worldwide engine of science, technology and capital growth. The people of Israel share our ideals. Most Americans care that Israel remain safe within its borders.
    In March 2012, Obama assured Benjamin Netanyahu “America will always have Israel’s back.” But the promise rings hollow. Obama’s positive sentiments are countered by callous action. Many mixed signals here… Obama has snubbed Israel on at least two occasions. His public pressure on delicate political and security issues has emboldened Palestinians.
  • Nuclear Iran: Obama is uncertain or unclear in articulating a hard line against a nuclear armed Iran. Regardless of US-Israeli relations or the price of oil, Obama should have drawn a “red line” at the United Nations meeting in September, rather than forcing Benjamin Netanyahu to make things clear.

    US fails to draw a line. Bibi makes it clear.

    Obama concedes that Iran has acquired nuclear technology, has built or refined components of a weapon, and that they have the capacity to assemble these pieces. Yet, he claims that Iran does not present a risk to regional peace, because there is no evidence that they have obtained a delivery vehicle. The reasoning is naïve and reckless. Iran is a led by religious zealots who spew hate and constantly threaten to obliterate their neighbor.

The Not so Bad / Not so Good & The Unknown

  • Education: Too much is unknown. During the Clinton era, this was Hillary’s hot button. But we didn’t see compelling policy directives from Obama during his first term. If it does not surface during a 2nd term, we will be disappointed. One can only hope that Obama pushes for expansion of the charter school model and a “de-fanging” of teachers unions. These unions are pro-Obama. This could be attributed to Romney’s unpopular statement about class size. (He doesn’t feel that it impacts the quality of education). In fact, union agenda is often at odds with a quality education. The good news is based on first-hand experience: An education system does not require wads of fresh cash. It can be built around the provably successful charter school model. Obama may have been reluctant to advocate for charter schools during his first term, because it would gut his union support. In a second term, he needn’t appease a constituency that exists only to secure the jobs of burned out incumbents. It is our hope that Obama musters his Mojo and his well-deserved reputation for standing up to special interests.
  • NASA: A tough one. Under both Bush & Obama, the space agency was severely defunded. Yet, private programs are beginning to fill gaps. We don’t know Obama’s impact on facilitating private efforts or how much the nation can put into NASA. For now, Wild Ducks give Obama a “Pass”, but acknowledge that his broad impact is yet unknown.

What about Romney?

If there is a sufficient demand, AWildDuck will create a similar Pro/Con list for Mitt Romney. But we confess that it will be difficult. Romney’s major “PRO” is the fact that he has business experience and certainly has a more innate belief in unfettered, capitalist market mechanisms. But it would be very hard to ascertain his position on many social and government issues. In our opinion, he waffles like Aunt Jemima. While this may sound biased and trite, consider two striking examples:

  • Mitt Romney claims that he would not limit a woman’s freedom of reproductive choice, yet in the same week, he assured conservative media pundits that he will sign any anti-abortion law that crosses his desk.
  • Romney criticizes a national health care program modeled almost entirely on his own initiative as governor of Massachusetts. A fact made even more absurd by the fact that the program is a success. Why is Romney so against it for other states? How can he take credit for one while disparaging the other with gusto?

In our opinion, Romney distorts Obama’s record to suit his message. Obama does this too, but Romney has elevated the distortion to an art form. Our main problem with Romney is that he is disingenuous.

Ducks side with Barack Obama on 83% of issues and with Mitt Romney on 57% of issues—weighted for each issue by importance to the respondent. With whom do you side? Take this quick, non-partisan survey. The results may surprise you!

I’m Ellery Davies, and I approved this message.

Sarah Palin’s America: All too clear

In May 2010, Jon Stewart of The Huffington Post analyzed a Sarah Palin video to better understand how she defines “Real America” and who she considers a real American.

From the Daily Show (Huffington Post)
Jon Stewart on Sarah Palin’s definition of a “Real America”

Here at AWildDuck, we love characters like Sarah Palin — as folksy as Perot and as clueless as Quayle. One needn’t be a comedian or a liberal commentator to make light of this woman. Swimsuit model, marksman and aerial hunter of bear & caribou, she provides a mountain of fodder for satire and editorials. Her glib and feisty sarcasm serves her well. I trust that these quips are original and I think that they are quite clever.

Sarah Palin relaxes in the Governor’s office

We don’t know yet if Palin will enter the presidential race, but wouldn’t it be scary if a majority of Americans take her seriously? Don’t laugh! It happened with Bush Jr and almost happened with Quayle; a proverbial heartbeat away from leading the free world.

With apologies to Mr. Stewart, I’ll add AWildDuck observation to his stand up analysis.

At first, I took it in stride when hearing Sarah Palin explain that small towns in Midwest and mountain states are the  “Real America”, After all, she was playing to her base and it certainly includes small towns and rural Americans. Of course, whenever you connect with one group, you may inadvertently slight anyone who is separate from your target audience. But Palin doesn’t just slight by omission. She really wants to redefine America into a very narrow and xenophobic society…

Palin tries and succeeds to connect with small town Americans, some Christians — especially those with a “my ancestors-arrived-before yours” mindset. She also connects well with gun rights advocates and rednecks. But in connecting with these people, she ostracizes other patriotic Americans (and even many Christians) with her anti-urban, anti-immigrant, anti Hollywood, anti Democratic, and generally intolerant view of our multicultural society.

Get over it, Sarah! America is a melting pot, and our immigrants bolster our collective achievements. Your narrow, intolerant view is not representative of a “united” country.

Before watching Jon Stewart’s commentary, I would have only realized that Palin was slighting Democrats and anyone who accepts the multicultural melting pot that our big cities have become. But with the benefit of this analysis, I realize that she is both ignorant and intolerant. She plays to central Iowa and Nebraska, because she feels that these rural farm lands have not yet been “polluted” by Jews, Africans, Latinos, and Asians. Her thinly veiled statements of love for “Real Americans” sugar coat a core of racism and hate.

And what about her Tea Party? Their political goals lie to the far right, but are credible and have broad support: Budget cuts, strong military, personal responsibility, and limited government. But just as with their bunk mates at Fox News and the Christian Coalition, prominent party spokespeople have a dim view of social freedoms. They have no respect for individual choice, individual privacy and tolerance.

Like many Americans, my ancestors were white and European. Yet, I hope that other “majority” Americans will recognize intolerance in a dress. The thought of Sarah Palin in a position of command frightens me. This woman is a danger to our future.

– Ellery Davies

Ellery contributes occasional political and social commentary to selected web sites.
He often responds to readers.