Arrogance and Irony…

A situation occurred today that involved Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney that should have amounted to nothing, but instead became instant headlines. Today, when Mr. Romney was speaking at a town hall meeting in Howard, Wisconsin, he was asked a question by Bret Hatch, a 28 year old fervent Ron Paul supporter about Mormonism (Mr. Romney’s religion). The Paul supporter read a passage from one of the Standard Works of Mormonism called the “Pearl of Great Price” that supposedly condemns interracial marriages and then asked Mr. Romney if he felt the same way.  Now, we all know the motive behind the Paul supporter’s question; to publicly embarrass the inevitable nominee by taking a controversial portion of the text of his religion and try to get him to decry it in public.

Mr. Romney immediately cut off Mr. Hatch and said “I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view. But if you have a question, I’ll be happy to answer your question.” Mr. Hatch then proceeded with his nonsensical question if Mr. Romney disapproved of interracial marriages (and children of the product of an interracial marriage), to which Mr. Romney sternly replied “no.” Now, Mr. Romney did end up discussing his religion moments later when asked a question about his ability to connect and relate to average Americans. He alluded to his past experiences as a pastor of his congregation in Boston to exemplify his ability to sympathize and empathize with people dealing with the various travails of their personal lives.  Despite his deeply personal answer to the question, the media naturally fixated on how he contradicted himself. While he probably should have told Mr. Hatch that he would refuse a discussion on random sections from publications about his religion instead of flat out denying a discussion on religion, it still shows that what Mr. Hatch was trying to do was counter-productive and inutile.

Now, I’m sure Mr. Hatch wouldn’t like it if someone belligerently questioned him about his views on race since he is supporting a candidate (Mr. Paul) who owned a newsletter that wrote hateful things about blacks, Jews and gay people. He would likely suggest that he supports Mr. Paul for his libertarian principles and may not even know about his involvement with the controversial newsletters. The same can be said of Mr. Romney. Mr. Romney has never given any indication that he would disprove of interracial marriages, not to mention that Mr. Romney’s father was born in Mexico and married a white woman. All of this pertinent information was entirely omitted in nearly every story that covered what happened today. Instead of pointing out how foolish the question was to begin with, the media latched on to the fact that Romney said he didn’t want to discuss his religion and then used his experiences as a pastor to answer a different question moments later.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Mormons of today are racist. Yes, there was a time when Mormons did not allow black people into their church, but this was over 30 years ago and the Church of the Latter-day Saints Church has since welcomed people of all ethnicities. Meanwhile, Ron Paul still maintains that he would have voted no on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that the Civil War was not necessary. The fact is Mr. Hatch asked Mr. Romney a baseless question about race in an attempt to bait him and at the same time supports a candidate who has quite a history of making racially inflammatory remarks. That’s more ironic than Rush Limbaugh asking Newt Gingrich why he doesn’t believe in the words “’till death do us part.”

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Huge Defeat for Santorum Likely Tomorrow…

Tomorrow night voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C. will head to the polls and vote in their respective Republican Primaries. As it stands right now, CNN estimates that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is well ahead with 571 delegates, with former Senator Rick Santorum trailing behind at 264 delegates. As for the bottom tier candidates, former Speaker Newt Gingrich stands at 137 delegates and Representative Ron Paul is in last place with 71. The amount of delegates up for grabs is 42 in Wisconsin, 37 in Maryland and 19 in Washington D.C. If the polls are right, Mr. Romney could end tomorrow night well past the halfway point of 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination and make the inevitable outcome even more apparent than it already is.

According to the latest polls, Mr. Romney is ahead in all three states and is almost definitely expected to win by large margins in at least two of the three primaries tomorrow, Maryland and Washington D.C. In Wisconsin, the vote is a little closer, with the latest PPP poll showing Mr. Romney ahead of Mr. Santorum by 7 points. The general consensuses is that Wisconsin is the most important race of the three since not only are the most amount of delegates are at stake, but also because it is a Midwestern state, and Mr. Romney desperately needs more voters in this part of the country to start warming up to him. Similarly, if Mr. Santorum wants to remain relevant in the race and salvage himself from a night of devastating losses in Maryland and D.C., he has to hope that blue-collar voters in the Western and Northern parts of the state override his losses in the more affluent suburbs of Milwaukee, which are heavily likely to favor Mr. Romney. If Mr. Santorum does end up losing all three races tomorrow, he can only look forward to another series of impending devastating losses later this month on April 24th in New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut. He is even having trouble maintaining the lead in his own home state of Pennsylvania (which will also be holding its primary on the 24th), as the latest Frank & Marshall College poll puts him only two points ahead of Mr. Romney. All of this spells deep trouble for Mr. Santorum’s campaign.

However, yesterday on “Fox News Sunday” Mr. Santorum told Chris Wallace that he would not drop out even if he does lose all three races tomorrow, promising to further prolong the path to the nomination. Mr. Gingrich also claimed he would definitely continue despite any lack of enthusiasm for his campaign and the heavy amounts of restructuring (i.e. firing one-third of its staff) it underwent last week. But as the Washington establishment chorus of support for Mr. Romney grows even more clamorous (Mr. Romney earned three pivotal endorsements last week: Representative Paul Ryan, Senator Marco Rubio and former President George H.W. Bush), the urge to begin to finalize the nomination process has become all the more prominent. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday that he “think[s] the chances are overwhelming that [Romney] will be our nominee.” Although he did not outright endorse the former Governor, his sentiments have been echoed by other important Republican Party figures such as South Carolina Senator Jim Demint.

To be sure, there is still a possibility that Mr. Santorum can pull of a victory in Wisconsin tomorrow. There have been many occasions where polls were taken just days before the primaries for states like Mississippi and Alabama that predicted a likely win for Mr. Romney. As we saw, Mr. Romney ended up losing because the polls didn’t account for all the rural support that pushed Mr. Santorum to victory in both primaries (and others preceding them). He could also benefit from low voter turn out, which has been a frequent occurrence in this primary season. But while Wisconsin resides in a territory that typically prefers Mr. Santorum (the Midwest), it’s still a blue state with a lot of moderate and independent leaning GOP voters who will almost certainly gravitate towards Mr. Romney. Moreover, the polls show Mr. Romney doing well with conservative and religious voters alike. Mr. Romney also earned the endorsements of two significant Wisconsin GOP figures: The aforementioned Paul Ryan and current Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson (both of whom pulled a hilarious April fool’s day prank on the former Governor yesterday).

Overall, Mr. Santorum definitely has his work cut out for him, especially if he loses all three primaries tomorrow. If that outcome does come to fruition, Mr. Santorum is unlikely to pick up any delegates because all three primaries are winner-take-all. Mr. Santorum is currently rebelling against increasing amounts of pressure for him to drop out of the race, and losing all three primaries tomorrow would only intensify Republican’s desire to bring an end to the primary race. Of course, it is unlikely that Mr. Santorum will claim defeat and pack it in anytime soon since he expects to win big next month in the Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina primaries. But Mr. Santorum’s biggest concern right now should be making sure he wins in Pennsylvania on the 24th. A loss in his home state to Mr. Romney would be utterly humiliating and disastrous for his campaign. Even Mr. Gingrich won his home state of Georgia handily last month on Super Tuesday. Mr. Santorum may be able to get away with accusing random pollsters of being surrogates for the Democratic Party now, but if he can’t turn the tides towards his favor in the next three weeks, it would be absolutely pointless for him (and Mr. Gingrich) not to concede and admit defeat.

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Mr. President, please don’t give in on missile defense…

President Obama was recently caught on a “hot mic” conversing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, saying “[o]n all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space… [t]his is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” The START treaty that was signed with Russia in April of 2010 requires the United States to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers in our inventory by half. This decision garnered tons of controversy at the time since there was no guarantee Russia would be required to comply as well. Now, the feeling that we are playing with fire again by the President’s insistence that we also attempt to reduce our missile defense systems as well is all too familiar. Not only should this give Americans more of a reason to reconsider electing the President for a second term, we should also realize that while the days of the Cold War are over, Russia is not a country we should be making a missile defense treaty with.

Most in the conservative community (and those in the center like me) were quite taken aback by what transpired at the Nuclear Summit in Seoul, South Korea. Not that President Obama was caught again saying something irresponsible for all the press (and later the world) to hear, but that he is planning on attempting a missile defense treaty with Russia at all. The President’s view that this is a stepping stone to accomplish his dream of ridding the world of stockpiles of nuclear weapons is certainly understandable, and even Ronald Reagan has been quoted saying the world would be safer without them in his memoirs. But, the difference is that it isn’t the 1980’s anymore, and we’re not the only country with nuclear weaponry now. Entering a nuclear or missile defense treaty with a country like Russia is capricious, counter-productive and most of all, impractical. It is not “smart power” to engage in a treaty with a country like Russia when they are guilty of trading with countries like Syria and Iran, even selling weapons to the former. Not to mention, Russia (along with China) has acted as a consistent blockade when the United Nations pursued sanctions on Iran and Syria. Let’s also not forget that after the Russian “elections” were held earlier this year, protesters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were beaten mercilessly in the streets.  We also know the Russian government is extremely corrupt and uses excessive force to break into the homes of public dissenters and lock them up in  jail.

Now, our relationship with Russia is not entirely bad. They do let us use the port in Vladivostok to supply weapons and other necessary items to our troops in Afghanistan. Also, in 2009, Russia (and even China) did participate in supporting new U.N. sanctions on North Korea when Kim Jong-il’s regime announced they were conducting a new nuclear test. Therefore, President Obama is correct to not label Russia as an enemy, at least not in the same sense that Iran is. However, some analysts continue to stress how troubling it is that we are thinking on reducing our missile defense systems in an effort to appeal to a country that conducts business with the world’s worst actors. The way I see it, we already have about as much cooperation as we’re going to get from Russia. Reducing our missile defense systems at the expense of further perturbing our actual democratic allies in Georgia and Poland sounds completely incongruous and could end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, the President should carefully think about whether his outreach to Russia is in the best interest of the United States. While it is noble to pursue a goal like ridding the world of nuclear weapons, it is those weapons that make the United States the feared and respected superpower that it is.

Our missile defense systems, much like our nuclear weapons stockpile, are a sign of awesome international power and were installed to make our allies feel safer. We possess that power not only because of our sophisticated technology but also because throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, no other country has done as much to attenuate pernicious threats like fascism, communism and global terrorism. Let’s not risk giving up any our power in an attempt to please a country like Russia. Russia will not change into a more democratic society anytime soon, and while they are not one of our primary enemies at the moment, we ought not to forget that they still do business with them.

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Bill Frist for Vice President…

I could not be happier that the former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney will be the inevitable Republican nominee for President. He is smart, capable, eloquent and has a wonderful family including his wife, the gracious and beautiful Ann Romney. While Mr. Romney is far from perfect and has his fair share of deficiencies that will make it tough to beat President Obama in the fall, he is by far the best choice we have and I predict he will do everything in his power to win. As I previously wrote, Mr. Romney has a lot to do to improve his campaign and make himself more palatable to voters. The one thing that could easily improve his prospects in the fall would be to choose a running mate who is competent, experienced and as dashingly handsome as he is. Personally, I think there is no better choice for a running mate than the former Senator of Tennessee, Bill Frist.

Mr. Frist was the Senate Majority Leader from 2003-2007, and he had been a Senator of the great state of Tennessee since 1995. He has a M.D. from Harvard and even performed surgery on the honorable David Petraeus after Petraeus was shot during a training accident in 1991. During his tenure in the Senate, Mr. Frist worked tirelessly to pass important legislation and was an important ally to then President George W. Bush. He is unabashedly conservative, but restrained in his temper, much like Mr. Romney. Tapping Mr. Frist as his running mate would enable Mr. Romney to garner the support of conservatives and at the same time develop a ticket that is powerful on ideas and substance. Moreover, he can win the election not through pandering but through offering America a viable alternative of two experienced conservatives who have great power to change Washington for the better.

Now, I know most conservatives will be pushing Mr. Romney to choose a rock-star like the current Senator of Florida Marco Rubio or the effulgent Wisconcsin congressman Paul Ryan. They are fresh faces with bold ideas, and have galvanized support from the Tea Party and Republicans alike. Tempting as it may be, there are problems with these two choices. The first problem is that Mr. Rubio has been in the Senate for less than two years, and therefore does not have that much experience. I understand there is a possibility that we would get an increase in Latino support, though I remain dubious since 45% of Latinos voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004 without either one of them having any trace of Latino ancestry. I also understand that winning Florida may be more attainable with Mr. Rubio on the ticket. However, this will only exacerbate the rhetoric that Mr. Romney is a panderer and the media will have a field day investigating his Cuban heritage. Mr. Ryan, on the other hand, has been serving Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district since 1999. He has also been the Chairman of the House Budget Committee for the past year and since then has passed bold initiatives to deal with Medicare, Social Security and our astronomical debt. He is also a fan of Metallica, something I personally admire. That being said, Mr. Ryan repeatedly refused the request of The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and conservatives alike to run for President. So, why would he agree to a role that would put him a heart-beat away from the presidency? Also, as he stated on last week’s “Fox News Sunday”, he can perform his role of enacting sensible conservative policies from the role he currently has. With Mr. Romney as President, you can bet that his point man will be Mr. Ryan, and rightfully so.

The point I’m trying to make is that we don’t need a “game changer” like we did in 2008. We need someone who is reliable, knowledgeable and accomplished. While Mr. Rubio and Mr. Ryan deserve enormous respect and may one day be qualified to run for President on their own, I say we choose a solid conservative who is charming, well-spoken and will not be victim of endless media persecution due to an unsavory past. Unlike former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, Mr. Frist has never (publicly) said anything that could be interpreted as racist. So even though he’s a Southerner, he won’t be accused of having clandestine sympathies for the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, he has traveled to Africa to support global health and anti-poverty initiatives as part of the One campaign in 2008. During his time in the Senate, he had very few controversies and would not worsen Mr. Romney’s habit of making too many gaffes. Like Mr. Romney, he has been married for a very long time and walks the walk of being a family man. I say conservatives should resist the urge of nominating a rock-star and go with a safe nominee: BILL FRIST FOR VICE PRESIDENT, BABY!!!

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It’s constitutional, just not good policy….

Today marks the end of a three day Supreme Court hearing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as  President Obama’s signatory Health Care bill that was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The hearing started off on Monday and continued the following day with a discussion on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the core provision in the President’s health care plan that states that every citizen must buy health insurance or pay a fine. Today, the hearing ended with a discussion on the 450 or so provisions in the law, including an expansion of Medicaid. According to quite a few sources, the existence of the individual mandate appears to be in jeopardy as the court’s conservative judges do not think it is constitutional, viewing it as an overreach of the federal government. Would the Supreme Court be right in throwing out the individual mandate, and if they are, how does that change the politics and the future of health care in the United States?

Conservatives insist that the mandate is too daunting, and that if it survives, it sets a precedent that enables congress to allow the federal government to enact any law it sees fit. They also claim the mandate is unconstitutional because it forces Americans to buy a product they might not need or want. To be sure, the mandate would introduce an entirely new paradigm in terms of the federal government’s power in regulating the economy, and health care happens to be the largest sector of the economy. Justices Roberts and Scalia aggressively argued that if the federal government could force people to buy insurance, then it could also force people to buy healthy foods like broccoli. That is an interesting (and somewhat hyperbolic) slippery slope case to argue, but it does raise a very valid point: If the government can force everyone to buy health care, does the line of what the government can and can’t force you purchase cease to exist? Also, will the mandate make it necessary to create another new giant bureaucracy to enforce the controversial measure?

On the other hand, I’m not a lawyer (clearly), but there are a few problems with the broccoli argument in my view. One problem with this argument is that the health care law does give the option for people not to buy health insurance, but they are subjected to a fine if they choose to rebuff the mandate. The other problem is that under the President’s health care plan, privatization still exists in the health care industry. The law does not specify which health care provider or you must choose or what plan you must purchase. Similarly, the government could not tell you which company to buy your broccoli from or how much broccoli you must buy. Also, a mandate for health insurance is a lot more feasible than broccoli, as every kid in America would protest vociferously due to not being able to eat their desert. The point is, it’s not entirely unreasonable to argue that a health care mandate does seem entirely constitutional. We’ve already seen that conservative judges on two appellate courts have agreed with this sentiment.

Now, does this mean I support the entire health care law? No, I do not support the health care law in its current form and if I were a member of congress (God forbid), I would have voted nay. There are several reasons for my objection to the President’s bill. Mainly, there is no evidence the bill will control costs, provide better care or prevent the government from attenuating our entitlement society. Expanding medicare, which is already on a path to insolvency, is not the ideal way to get people on a path to self-dependency. It’s not that I think the idea of universal health care is abhorrent, it’s that this way of going about it gets more people covered into a privatized system with the limited possibility of actually lowering the costs for everyone. The added bureaucracy and regulations will end up creating more hindrances in an already over-bloated health care system. I personally wanted congress to pursue the Wyden-Bennett option, also known as the Healthy Americans Act. Congressman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), co-creator of the bill, stated that this option would save Americans $1.45 trillion over the next decade. Conversely, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently stated that the President’s health care bill would cost $1.76 trillion over the next decade.

Should the Supreme Court strike down the individual mandate, there is one person who would benefit greatly from this ruling: The inevitable Republican nominee Mitt Romney. You may remember how Mr. Romney incessantly made the argument during the Republican debates that he had nothing to regret when he implemented a health care plan as governor of Massachusetts that was very similar to the President’s bill because states have the capacity to mandate their residents to do things that the federal government cannot. If the Supreme Court rules the individual mandate unconstitutional, Mr. Romney may greatly benefit from his clairvoyance and will insist the Supreme Court agreed with the position he took in his book, No Apologies. Moreover, we’ve all seen the latest polls on the President’s health care plan, and they do not bode well for the President. A significant number of Americans want the Supreme Court to at least repeal the individual mandate, and the rest of the law only gets support from certain constituencies. Mr. Romney can greatly benefit from this if he offers his own version of a federal health care plan.

So while I don’t think the President’s health care law is unconstitutional, I still think it’s bad policy. That being said, Republicans have to offer more solutions than just advocating for the Government to extricate itself from the health care sector and insist that all we have to do is allow insurance companies to sell their plans across state lines. One, there’s no guarantee that insurance companies will offer cheap plans for young individuals that only cover certain services that would apply to them. Two, it doesn’t solve the issues that the President’s plan tackles, such as forbidding insurance companies to deny people with pre-existing conditions. Three, the goal of getting government out of health care is simply unrealistic. We already have government involved in health care for the poor, seniors and veterans, and I doubt anybody would seriously consider rescinding these services. The goal should be to get the Government to provide universal coverage, but to allocate the role of encouraging the means to offer different services at lower costs to private companies. As David Brooks recently put it, “centralize the goals, but decentralize the means people take to get there.”

(H/T: Phillip Klein and David Brooks)

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Yesterday, Rick…

Yesterday, Rick Santorum verbally lashed out at New York Times Reporter Jeff Zeleny for asking him to clarify on a remark he made about his competitor, former Governor Mitt Romney. Mr. Santorum said that Mr. Romney is the “worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” When questioned by Zeleny, he reportedly answered back: “Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it’s bulls**t!” Regardless of whether or not you agree with Mr. Santorum, he has recently developed a habit to catechize the media when they ask him to elaborate on a previous statement he made. He claims he’s being treated unfairly and that the media is in the tank for Governor Romney and President Obama. He insists he’s only making these controversial statements with regards to Mr. Romney’s position on health care. The problem is two-fold: one is that unlike last week where he got into trouble for implying that conservative voters would be better off with the current President rather than a moderate, the evidence is strong that he wasn’t just talking about Mr. Romney’s position on health care in Racine, WI.  The second problem is that he keeps complaining about the consequences he faces every time he makes a contentious statement.

It’s understandable why Republicans would sympathize with the feelings Mr. Santorum has for the New York Times and extol his figurative middle-finger towards Zeleny. Republicans know the media is overwhelmingly liberal and has a subtle affinity for President Obama. We also know that they often don’t put as much scrutiny on the President as they do for the Republican challengers. All this aside, Mr. Santorum still acted inappropriately towards Zeleny and should not have used such coarse language. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe the Presidency comes with the responsibility of conducting yourself with temperance. At some point, every President (yes, even the one we currently have) will have to answer tough questions about his record or things he has said in the past. If you have this much of a temper-tantrum as a candidate, how do you expect to manage yourself in the Oval Office? Also, Mr. Santorum said on “Fox and Friends” this morning that “If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republican’s the way I look at it.” This is also completely unacceptable. As President of the country, you have to be prepared to take questions from all reporters and answer them with dignity and professionalism. You can’t pick and choose what questions you want to accept based on whether you agree or disagree with the newspaper’s political slant.

When Mr. Romney was criticized for his gaffes, he (for the most part) acknowledged that he screwed up and rectified the situations as best he could. Granted, Mr. Romney still has not solved his gaffe problem and continues to make foolish remarks on an almost weekly basis. And when he’s not doing it, his staff is making the media’s job easier by making the gaffes for him (I’m looking at you, Eric Fehrnstrom). But he is not castigating the media by claiming they are out to get him. Instead, he mans up and laughs off his mistakes. He does not scream expletives and delve into paranoid theories of how the media is out to get him. He knows the media is going to be harsh on him because he’s a Republican, and he accepts that role not by lighting his hair on fire (to borrow a phrase from him), but by taking responsibility for his actions and clarifying what he meant to say. This is what we should expect from the demeanor of a man running for President.

At the same time, I also want to criticize the media for their indifference to the President’s latest attempt to raise money off the American Affordable Health-Care Act. Vice President Joe Biden acted stupidly by saying “this is a big f**king deal” when the President’s health care reform law passed. But it is even stupider to turn it into a juvenile acronym and then put it on t-shirts and raise money off it! How does the President expect people to take him seriously when he puts comments about his signatory bill on a t-shirt that is akin to the ones you could find at any Spencer’s gift shop? This is completely lacking of dignity and trivializes all the efforts he put into passing his health care law, and the media should be ashamed of themselves for not calling the President out on it.

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A President of Half-Measures

By now you may have noticed that I have yet to write a column on President Obama. You might think I’m about to write that he’s a socialist who is destroying the country with his subversive anti-colonialist policies that enable class-warfare. Well, I’m not. I do not think the President is a socialist, a communist or a fascist. I do not think he is going to completely destroy the country should the American people re-elect him in November (though I will do my best to advocate for Governor Mitt Romney). I believe that President Obama is a good man, a great father and a decent President who has accomplished some important things during his tenure. But, there is one flaw that President Obama has that makes me apprehensive to vote for him: by the standards of our previous Presidents, he is not a bold leader.

Let’s start in the present and work our way backwards. Gasoline is almost $5 a gallon, unemployment is still above 8% (despite his own projections) and we still have yet to even begin to develop a solution to acquiring our own energy sources. We were handed a gift from the heavens some time ago. Actually, the gift was from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They Keystone Pipeline is a multi-thousand mile oil pipeline that could give us more oil, more jobs and more revenue for our economy. Instead of leaping forward at the chance to work with our Canadian brethren and fast-track this process, he instead caved to his environmental base and (at first) decided to wait until after the election to make a decision. He could have chosen to enact legislation with the utmost haste that would carry bi-partisan support and get this pipeline moving as fast as possible, but instead this President chose not to act boldly. When he took heat for his timidity, he then decided instead to fast-track only the Sothern portion of the pipeline to avoid the sensitive sand hills in Nebraska. If I were a Nebraskan, I would be offended that this President is more concerned with sand hills than creating jobs and moving in the right direction of energy independence. Now, while it is true that the pipeline would not lower the price of gas immediately, it is true that it would create jobs in the heartland where work is desperately needed. Moreover, it would signal that this President is committed to his very own “all of the above strategy” that we all agree is desperately needed.

On the topic of foreign policy, I give the President a lot (and I mean, a lot) of credit when he made the decision in 2009 to pursue a surge strategy in Afghanistan.  His progressive base forlornly expressed their disappointment that the President not only continued two wars that began under his predecessor, but he also continued controversial measures like indefinite detainment and rendition.  Not to mention that he escalated and increased drone attacks against AL-Qaeda figures in the dangerous Waziristan region of Pakistan, Yemen and even Somalia. President Obama also authorized a daring mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in May of 2011, a mission that was thought to have a less than 50 percent chance of working successfully. But then, the President conveniently announced his withdrawal plans of the surge troops just before the 2012 election. This not only goes against the wishes of the generals that are operating on the ground there, it also puts in jeopardy all the gains we have made there if we transition the mission to the Afghan Security Forces to quickly. We know they still need more time to grow their membership and train the ones who have joined. The U.S. forces also need to make more gains in the Western parts of Afghanistan, where Taliban strongholds are still prevalent. A decision like the one the President made makes it all too evident that he based his plan for withdrawal on a political calculation. He knows America is weary of War, especially this one. He knows he has perturbed his Progressive base too much and needs to signal to them that he’s different from President George W. Bush.   Therefore, the only conclusion I can draw is that he would rather ease the minds of his base rather than take the right steps to avoid the devastating consequences of a precipitous withdrawal of American troops.

Moving to the subject of the deficit again, in 2010 the President created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to bring a bipartisan group together to solve the problem of our outrageously large deficit. Headed by former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, the two (and several other members of the House of Representatives) set out to create a plan that would reduce Government spending, control health care costs, reform Social Security and bring more revenue into the Government. It was lauded with praise from both sides of the political spectrum, and the CBO said these were the necessary steps that needed to be taken to begin providing solutions for multiple issues at once.  Once again, the President did not step up to the plate, and dismissed the plan entirely. Instead of screaming from the rooftops that he had a coherent and logical plan to show the American people, he evaded the issue and still has not brought forth any solutions to bring down our debt, reform Medicare and Social Security and begin restructuring the tax code.

 In case the President and Congress are confused as to why their approval ratings aren’t higher, it’s because of the inaction and the bickering that goes on in Washington. If I may quote the Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, “what the hell are we paying you for?” Can anyone point to a time in history where Washington was so polarized that Senate couldn’t agree on a budget for almost two years? Not to mention when the President produced his own budget, it didn’t get any votes in the Senate. Not even one. Just like on the issues of health care reform and financial reform, the President spoke about them briefly for the press and then sat back and let former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid go to work. For the entire duration of the health care debate, he spoke of bringing Republicans and Democrats together, and then dismissed almost everyone’s input. When Senator Bob Corker was working with then Senator Chris Dodd on financial reform, he again sat and did nothing when their negotiations collapsed and we ended up with an overreaching and partisan bill.

The point I want to make is that it is the President’s job to lead. It is the President’s job to work vigorously to make our country better and stronger. It is the President’s job to work with all members of Congress regardless of their party affiliation. I understand this President was handed a struggling country on the brink of a recession the likes of which we hadn’t experienced in decades. But this President needs to understand that we need a leader who is capable of bold decisions. Just like the one he made in May of 2011 to raid the compound of Osama Bin Laden. Mr. President, another four years of half-measured approaches to solving the country’s problems is not going to be sufficient enough for me to vote for you. The American people need a leader who will make the right decisions, regardless of the political cost. I only hope that former Governor Romney will learn from this President’s mistakes and provide a clear alternative to the status-quo.

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