By Rob L. Wagner
5 November 2012
IN 2004, naïve little me firmly believed that John Kerry would be elected president of the United States. I had such confidence that Americans would turn out a US president responsible for a two-front war that yielded little results, particularly failing to find weapons of mass destruction.
Oh, how wrong I was. President Bush was re-elected and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians paid the price with their lives. Afghanistan was ignored and its future was left for another president to sort out.
I lost faith in the American electorate. It sounds un-American, but I can’t explain it any other way. The American people had the golden opportunity to help reverse our poor global reputation, not to mention the strength that such a reputation carries in foreign policy. We squandered that opportunity. The conventional wisdom in 2004 was to allow the president to finish the business he started. He didn’t and it’s been a downhill slide ever since as the US continues to hold little sway in events that are shaping the Middle East today.
If conventional wisdom applies, then American voters should allow President Obama to finish the job he started: Supervise the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, find a way to eliminate terrorist threats without killing civilians in drone attacks and continue reviving the US economy, which will help lead to a worldwide economic recovery.
But Americans are fickle people. Obama didn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations. The Republican Party was — and remains — on a suicide mission to wreck the economy with its “no compromise” “no new taxes” and “big government be damned” ideology.
Republicans trashed the concept of compromise — forever the staple of effective governance — and brought the US government to the brink of financial disaster until cooler heads prevailed.
No new taxes really means increasing the Department of Defense budget without the revenue to support it. No new taxes means the wealthy continue to skate free of any responsibility to their neighbors or their country.
Dismantling big government was exposed as a specious argument following the Hurricane Sandy deadly impact on the northeast. Suddenly, Republicans recognized that big government agencies like FEMA are necessary to help states like New York and New Jersey recover. Before Sandy, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was all for giving FEMA responsibilities to states. Now he’s not so sure. Big government worked to bring aid to the victims of Sandy, and it will work to bring health care to millions of Americans as Obamacare was intended.
Certainly, Obama deserves the opportunity to finish what he started. But it’s telling that he has been under so much criticism for failing to engage the Republicans in Congress and the Senate when it was the Republicans that made it clear from the onset that they believed Obama’s presidency was illegitimate and they had no intention of cooperating. Adding to that are the Tea Party’s race-baiting tactics and socialist agenda allegations. We have voters who believe in such hooey because the extremists have been shouting it for so long and so loud.
So tomorrow we are faced with a presidential election with so much of America’s future at stake. A Romney victory essentially means a return to a Bush-era foreign policy: Russia is bad, the Middle East needs to be contained and Israel gets a blank check to do whatever it pleases. His foreign policy advisers are throwbacks to the now discredited neo-conservative circle that controlled the Bush administration: Eric Edelman, Michael Chertoff, Roger Zakheim and anti-Islam advocates John Bolton and Walid Phares.
A Romney victory means big business grows unchecked and the rich get richer. Never mind the trickle-down theory. It hasn’t even come close to working over 30 years now, but at least the Forbes 400 will remain happy.
If Obama is defeated, it won’t because he was a failed president, a 21st century Jimmy Carter who was out of his depth in the ruthless world of American politics. No, it will be hatred, racism and our unrealistic desire to elect another Kennedy that will bring America back to a Camelot that never existed. If Obama loses, it’s because the Republicans waged war on a president for no other reason that they didn’t like what he represented to them: The changing face of America that gave the disenfranchised and the people of color a leg up. The reins of power of the rich and white were slipping out of their hands.
Romney is a safe bet for many Americans. Unthreatening — at least domestically — and representative of the status quo circa 1959. But he’s a complete mystery when it comes to his intentions if he makes it to the White House.
Obama, though, has made it clear his plans for America. We can expect a slow and steady march to economic recovery with no half-baked quick-fix schemes, disengaging our military from Afghanistan and refusing to put boots on the ground on foreign soil. That alone makes him worthy of a second term.