Tuesday, October 2, 2012

President Obama and Civil Discourse

I have listened to all of the disparaging comments about our current president with amazement.   As I have said in the past, I belong to golf clubs in Michigan and Florida.  The overwhelming majority of my fellow members at these clubs are conservative anti-Obama, some anti-Obama racist-hater types, Republicans.  Several of the readers of this blog are conservative, but still engage in a meaningful dialogue with civility.  This current writing has, therefore, two objectives; to thank these conservative friends for willingly engaging in discussions with me that are both fruitful and productive and to realistically discuss the four years of Obama’s first term.  
I must admit that I was a little starry-eyed about Obama as he began his first term of the presidency in 2009, but there have been some bumps in the road since then.  Let me discuss what I perceive to be his major shortcomings.   He doesn’t know how to negotiate properly.   He has violated basic principles of negotiating techniques in his rookie-like eagerness to get things done and/or appease the opposition.  As an example, Negotiating 101 says that one never, never negotiates against oneself.  A corollary of that principle is to never accept the first offer that is made by the opposition.  Our president has consistently violated these principles in caving into the variety of extremist Tea Party demands.  Additionally, I am concerned about Obama’s continuation of policies set under Bush insofar as the blatant and unnecessary disregard for our individual constitutional rights.  As I understand the current law, the president has the authority to hold any citizen of the United States without judicial recourse if it is suspected that the individual is acting against the safety of the U.S.  The potential for abuse of this authority is obvious.  As a lawyer and constitutional scholar, Obama should be ashamed of himself for embracing this authority. 

On the other hand, it took nothing short of political brilliance to become the first African-American elected president of the United States.  It took serious political and leadership skills to pass health-care reform that had been blocked for 100 years after being proposed over that time by Republican and Democrat presidents alike.   It took sheer brilliance and leadership skills, as well as great courage in the face of nasty vocal opposition, to avert a catastrophic depression.  Obama has provided an average tax cut of $3,600 to middle class Americans. He has fought to preserve middle class jobs by, among other things, rescuing the auto industry saving one million jobs.  Even Bill Kristol, an inveterate conservative has admitted that Obama "did pretty well" in turning around the economic meltdown that occurred under Bush, Jr.
Obama has extracted the United States from a costly and unnecessary war (Iraq) and set a date for departure from Afghanistan.  He has adopted a low-cost means to kill terrorists (drone attacks) and rid America of the specter of Osama bin Laden.  He has restrained Israel from attacking Iran and thus preventing a disastrous third Western war in the mid-East since 9/11.  Through the brilliant selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state he has sought ways to work with Russia and China, put European allies in lead roles in Libya; and generally looked not to hard power but American soft power reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt’s  “speak softly, but carry a big stick” approach.
Are there other things he should have done?  Sure, but the no-compromise position of Republicans have literally shut down any meaningful progress in other areas.   All in all, the accomplishments of Obama in his first term are impressive and important. 
Just saying . . .

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