A Birth Date Plea; Presidential Power in a Democracy



Cornel West discusses President Obama’s administration on Real Time With Bill Maher

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On the eve of President Obama’s birth date, thoughts turn to his time in office.  As a man, countless admire the person, Barack Obama, and yet, feel that they cannot fully celebrate his performance.  Hope has all but disappeared.  Audacity appears vanquished.  Still, some are sure that there is reason to believe. People ponder potentials not fully realized.  Prospects for change loom large.  Several may be shared in the sentiments offered on this auspicious occasion.

Dreams have yet to die.  The desire to write to the President on the anniversary of his birth or converse with him personally is strong.  Most will only be able to meet Mister Obama circuitously. Nonetheless, millions will try to talk to the man in the White House.  People, such as esteemed Educator, Doctor Cornel West has addressed the President profoundly though the airwaves.  “One of America’s most provocative public intellectuals,” West speaks of what is needed for a genuine success.  The Princeton Professor ponders aloud; if only President Obama advanced classlessness.

The obligation of a citizen, in a democracy, is to speak to truth.  Silence secures a society ruled by the few.  Those who serve power, the elites well-endowed with dollars, will do the bidding if the people let them.  In a society established on social parity, it is vital that each of us acts on the values avowed in the Declaration Of Independence, advanced in the United States Constitution, and a G-d-given veracity, “all men are created equal.”  A President, in the United States, is not exempt from this truth.

A Commander-In Chief is not meant to be more royal or right than Jane or John Doe is . . .  or at least that is what our forefathers intended.  If a citizen chosen individual authentically thinks to serve society, he cannot lose light of the purpose articulated in a campaign.

An elected official is selected to represent us all. This should not be a promise, but a pledge.  As a President, a man or woman is designated to officiate only for a term or two.  This person is not donned with a crown.  Nay is he or she bequeathed supremacy over others who inhabit this nation.  The individual, who we the people place in the Oval Office, be it Barack Obama or whomever is selected in the future, must think of him or herself as a fellow civilian first and foremost. Yet, often, as Americans witness today, this is not what occurs.

Doctor Cornel West of Princeton University aptly observes; big finance and big business are in bed with the government.  Our current President and his Cabinet make love to manufacturers.  Producers of petroleum are closely connected to today’s policymakers just as others were in the past.  Persons in White House, from their actions, seem to pay deference to companies that take advantage of the common folk. A concerned citizen could easily construe profiteers are in power.  

Authority resides in affable relations with an Administration.  After all, as we saw months earlier, before the BP well explosion, energy plans benefited an industry that wished to grow earnings. The Treasury too was given over insiders, intent on furthering financial strength for his fellow investors.

Philosophically and in principle, it is not the place of an elected Chief Executive, to act as a corporate Chief Executive.  To be truly effective, an American President must embody the people.  He or she must remember the reasons supporters cast a ballot.  The electorate does not merely vote for an individual; constituents also vote for the institution we call democracy.

Mister President, as we honor you, please honor as the people originally requested.  Exasperated and exhausted, the electorate expresses our birthday wish in the form of a plea.  A President needs to perform as though he/she is, as she/he actually is, one of us!  Mister Obama we await your awareness and acknowledgement.  Please recognize that your role is to speak to truth, not solely converse with tycoons on act on their behalf.  

Barack Obama, please remember as you had stated; the power of a President is profound only when the President works with and for the people.  Please do not forget what the electorate cannot; your words on the campaign trail.  “This campaign is not about me, it’s about the issues in your daily lives. It’s about how am I going to make this country a little better. If you help me, we’ll change the country. We’ll change the world!”  Mister Obama you once knew; in a democracy, the President is but a partner, a citizen amongst the populous.  On your birthday, may we begin anew.  Together, let us keep hope alive.

References; Democracy Deferred or Realized  . . .

Tell President Obama: Don’t Betray Your Promise

In response to fear-mongering and scare tactics of cynical politicians, the Obama administration is considering keeping the cases of the accused 9/11 planners in the discredited military commission system in Guantanamo.

President Obama declared that he intended to try suspected terrorists in the same criminal court system where more than 300 terrorists have been brought to justice since 2001. But the pressure to reverse that decision is enormous. We need every American who believes in justice and due process to take action right away.

Tell President Obama to stand by his decision to try the 9/11 suspects in federal court – where they belong.

The Two Faces of Obama

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

~ Barack Obama (President of the United States.  Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. December 10, 2009)

For years, Americans saw live, and in person, or on television screens, Presidential aspirant Barack Obama.   Several mused; the man is calm in a crisis.  “No drama Obama” was the phrase most often associated with the candidate.  Those closely and personally connected to the potential President corroborated what was for most only an observation.  The election did not change Barack Obama.  His calm demeanor remained intact.  Yet, many perceived a difference, not in his response to a predicament, but in the President’s rhetoric.  Empathy evolved into escalation.  This was perhaps most evident on two occasions, when Mister Obama delivered his Address on the War in Afghanistan, and then again when the Commander-In Chief offered his Remarks in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.  After these events, the pensive pondered; what was there all along, Cerebral Discord, the Two Faces of Barack Obama.

During the Presidential campaign, millions were aware of the dichotomy.  For Barack Obama the need for empathy and the escalation of armed forces seemed to safely coexist.   Others, hopeful, for a change may have chosen to forgive what was a concern.  Perchance Mister Obama’s persuasive language assuaged the American people, or they too may have suffered from the same condition, intellectual disharmony.  

Possibly, the public was either so eager or expectant, that they did not wish to wonder what might occur if Barack Obama acted on the more aggressive stance he often took.  Troop escalation in Afghanistan is a must.  The words the President of the United States postured in his recent remarks at West Point and in Oslo, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, while countless thought anathemas, were as he presented in his published plan on July 14, 2008.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.

Yet, most Americans and the Nobel Prize Committee were stunned when as President, Barack Obama fulfilled his promise.  More struggled with what they heard days later.  In his acknowledgement of the award he was about to receive, the Peace Prize, Barack Obama explained, and exclaimed, as has been his well-established habit; empathy is essential and compassion can not cure the world’s ills.  

While the rhetoric was exquisite, and the rationalizations seemed sound, the inconsistency awakened awareness.  At once, observers were alarmed by what was apparent for quite awhile.  There are Two Faces of Barack Obama.

The few who had feared his empathetic side welcomed the warlike stance of the current Commander.  Others felt the sacramental observance, the Nobel Peace Prize Presentation, was not the place to promote war.  Nor is it thought apt for the beneficiary of such a significant award to advocate for armed conflict.  Even those who trusted he would do as he had done, and say as he did, found it difficult to grapple with what Barack Obama has for all of his life: cognitive dissonance.

Some may ask; how can one man, woman, or one mind so adamantly adhere to the idea of empathy, and also embrace the notion that our fellow man is our enemy.  What is it that drives a desire to reason love and peace are  harmonious with hatred and war?  Why would a brilliant being think violence builds benevolence?

The cause, or perchance the effect, of the President’s condition was delineated and defined in 1956.  five years before Barack Obama was even a thought in the mind of his mother Ann Dunham.   Prior to his conception, few imagined that today a baby, born to an average Americans schoolgirl, would be addressed as Mister President.  All those decades ago, an individual whose background was as varied as Barack Obama’s is, could not be expected to achieve the grandeur he has.  At the time, to even ponder the possibility might evoke Cognitive Dissonance,  had the notion been a known construct.

Today, Social Psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory is an accepted truth.  Humans have honed the art of rationalization.  Some offer seemingly reasonable interpretations better than most others.   Mister Obama spoke of his skill to allegorize, to offer an analysis that is coherent, and cogent.  Indeed, as he wrote in his most recent tome, The Audacity of Hope,  President Obama offered that through conversation, he could conquer an adversary.

Readers of his book may recall the beloved tale that endeared the President to those who hoped Barack Obama might be a man of peace. The story led many, perhaps even the Nobel Peace Prize Committee 2009, to believe this Head of State is worthy of the honor he was awarded.

Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expresses itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me she would look me square in the eyes and ask, “How do you think that would make you feel?”

But it was in the relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy. Because my mother’s work took her overseas, I often lived with my grandparents during my high school years, and without a father present in the house, my grandfather bore the brunt of most of my adolescent rebellion. He himself was not always easy to get along with; he was at once warmhearted and quick to anger, and in part his career had not been particularly successful, his feelings could also be easily bruised. By the time I was sixteen we were arguing all of the time, usually about me failing to abide by what I considered to be an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules–filling up the gas tank whenever I borrowed his car, say, or making sure that I rinsed out the milk carton before I put it in the garbage.

With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments, in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable. But at the same point, perhaps in my senior year, such victories started to feel less satisfying. I started thinking about the struggles and disappointments he had seen in his life. I started to appreciate his need to feel respected in his own home. I realized that abiding by his rules would cost me little, but to him it would mean a lot. I recognized that sometimes he really did have a point, and that in insisting on getting my own way all the time, without regard to his feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.

There’s nothing extraordinary about such an awakening, of course. In one form or another it is what we all must go through if we are to grow up. And yet I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle–“How would that make you feel?”–as a guidepost for my politics.

It’s not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.

~ Barack Obama excerpt from The Audacity of Hope

At the time he wrote those words, as Senator, and an author who aspired to inspire, Barack Obama reminded readers, No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.”  That is, unless, as he clarified with the Nobel Peace Prize in his grasp, “(A)s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.  Today, the man who occupies the White House would seem to no longer believe as his followers thought, or hoped he did,  

Perchance, a culture mired in its own cerebral discord did not acknowledge that Barack Obama has always been a mirror image of society.  He speaks of his love of peace.  He yearns for global harmony, yet President Obama believes war is a worthy endeavor. For the once candidate and also for the Commander-In-Chief who currently occupies the Oval Office, empathy is thought as  necessary as escalation. The Two disparate Faces of Obama are as they were, united.

Barack Obama has not changed.  Only people’s perception of him has been transformed, transitioned just as predicted, or has revealed itself to be as the President pledged.  The public saw the side of Mister Obama that he presented, and or, the one as individuals, each American might prefer.  He has always been one who embraces empathy as he asserts evil exists.

Little more than a year ago, when but a Presidential hopeful Obama offered his carefully crafted message while in Church, Christians rejoiced, as did those of many faiths.   On August 16, 2008, the world watched the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.  Barack Obama presented his peaceful posture, not the face of the person who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil. . . .

In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”

What a difference a day makes.  As a potential representative of the people, on the night of the Presidential Forum, Obama expressed as he had in his tome,  “Mutual understanding is not enough.  People must practice as they profess to believe.”  However, as he himself once chimed “Talk is cheap.” The philosophy Presidential candidate Obama bequeathed upon the American people, the thought that gave constituents hope has been shelved.  The sentiment is available only in archives far from the White House Situation Room.

When I was a community organizer back in the eighties, I would often challenge neighborhood leaders by asking them where they put their time, energy, and money. Those are the true tests of what we value, I’d tell them, regardless of what we like to tell ourselves.  If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.

The Nobel Committee might have read the passage, and as was stated, they wanted to support Mister Obama’s approach.  Accolades for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples” was thought to be sufficient to explain what those who were troubled by the March 2009 escalation could not understand.

Perchance, his mere election alone meant that “Obama has, as President, created a new climate in international politics.” After all, near a year before the Nobel announcement, Barack Obama had completed his original mission as articulated in 2004, “My job is to inspire people to take ownership of this country.”

Possibly, at the time of the official announcement, the Norwegian group was as mesmerized as the world was.  They too reveled in what Barack Obama acknowledged in his book; he has a “gift for rhetoric.”

That may explain why in an October Press Release the Nobel Institute stated that they thought Barack Obama embodied the essence of their belief “Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”  At the time, the Norwegian Stortingof might have recalled the eloquent and empathetic language of the world leader.  The Committee may have been so moved by the peaceful prose of the President they did not realize they had only caught sight of one of the Two Face of Obama.

While the Peace Prize is intended to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” on this occasion it did not.

A warrior, or one who sends tens of thousands of American sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and sibling off to slaughter and to be slaughtered received the honor. The combatant face of Obama who surrenders his more peacefully stated principles claimed the accolade.

In his Oslo lecture, the President did not acknowledge his cerebral discord.  Instead, he reasoned as researchers realized those who wrestle with cognitive dissonance do.  From the windows of the White House, President Obama, tells us, decisions look very different, (or did they, since Barack Obama actually did as he penned he would in his July 2008 plan)  Protected in the cocoon of a title, Commander-In-Chief, it is possible to order the massacre of a population comprised mostly of children, under the age of fourteen (14) and to do it “faster.”

Rationalization realized when cognitive dissonance dominates allows for avoidance and less authentic analysis.  Simply stated, President Obama professed to the Nobel audience, “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  This is the Obama escalation truth, regardless of a reality shared by his National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones, on Cable News Network’s “State of the Union” only days before the Peace Prize Committee announced that President Obama would win the award.

“Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.

Now the problem is the next step in this is the sanctuaries across the border. But I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger — imminent danger of falling.

The intelligence General Jim Jones imparted was ignored just as the guidance from U.S. Afghan envoy, retired General, Karl Eikenberry was.    General Eikenberry advised against escalation.  However, the empathetic President, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient exclaimed to his Cabinet and Commanders, “What I’m looking for is a surge.”

Barack Obama favors, the fight.  An Afghanistan Apocalypse. seems reasonable when rationalized through the eyes of one comfortable with cerebral discord.  From the Executive Office, empathy equates to a troops escalation.

Perhaps, one day, anathemas such as war will advance authentic prospects for global harmony. Intellectual cacophonies, two faces shared by a man, (a nation, or the world) will merge into one.  Then, and only then, will change emerge, and peace be truly prized.

Surge reduced violence; but distracts us from long-term goal.

~ Barack Obama. CBS News interview with Katie Couric, July 28, 2008

End the war, and end the mindset that got us into war.

~ Barack Obama. 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles, California, January 31, 2008

Never fudge numbers or shade the truth about war.

~ Barack Obama. Keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention July 29, 2004

References for a dual realty . . .

The Change; Hope

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is said, as individuals, we can achieve all we conceive, if only we truly believe.  President Barack Obama once knew this.  He lived this veracity.  Indeed, candidate Obama’s audacity and accomplishments gave Americans hope.  When Barack Obama reached for the sky he realized what no one thought he could. The electorate was energized.  People came to expect the country was in for a change.   Now, it seems Mister Obama is bogged down by what Eisenhower understood, concerns of the Military Industrial Complex.  

The intricacy of the Armed Forces mission does not confine itself to forceful martial escalation.  Nothing escapes the wide reach of combative nation building.  Lives are lost.  Limbs crushed.  With bullets ablaze, brains are battered or blown to smithereens.  Hope suffers.  Hearts are hurt.  The economy is also affected.

Education policies are altered.  There are few pennies left to provide for adequate instruction.  Health care coverage fiscal calculations related to medical treatments and delivery of services are transformed.  The  billions of dollars spent on defense surpasses any other consideration.  This fiscal truth is obviously not lost on a Commander-In-Chief burdened with the need to appease his many Advisors, most of whom, from the beginning, were intent on war.  

President Obama could not ignore or forget his own earlier rhetoric.  After all, his words “Afghanistan is a war of necessity,” helped him win over the hearts and minds of Conservatives and Independents during the recent election.  As one who believes and works to builds consensus, some say President Obama chose to take the middle path.

With his decision to send more troops, into Afghanistan, the President  has shattered the dreams of many.  Another surge will mean countless communities will wait for more dollars to spend at home.   A patient nation, for a while longer, will remain proud and stay the course.

For now, only eight percent, the progressive fringe, feel a deepening sense of hopelessness.   Millions of Independents have also lost faith.  When only 36 percent of these think President Obama has done a fine job that could prove to be a problem.  

If, over time, personal pains become more profound, the exorbitant budgetary imbalance will not be ignored.  Misery amongst the masses will likely bring more voices of dissent.

In this moment, those on the far Left feel they must vocalize the sentiment heard in society at-large. However, without reason to believe, with signs that change has not come to those most in need, the public will turn nasty. Timidity, as history reveals, is transitory.  

Just as we witnessed in the 1960s, again in 2008, a war weary population becomes disheartened, and loud.  Americans who struggle to survive, and who realize billions, no trillions of dollars are spent on the fight, will ultimately, speak out vociferously

This week, President Obama quoted his predecessor, General Eisenhower,, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”  Then, contrary to Ike’s caution, he bowed to the Military Industrial Complex, Should Mister Obama continue down this path people of all walks of life are likely to rise up and say; The change we once believed in, our hope, has become our sense of hopelessness.

References for the reality of hope and hopelessness . . .

Tortured

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

Early on, I knew that he and I differed in some respects.  While we each loathe drama, I was never certain if he felt as I do; love need not be a tortuous trauma.  Barry spoke of the need to work together.  Yet, not necessarily in aspect of life.  At times, he advocated aggressive actions I could not consider.  This, for me, caused much confusion.  Nonetheless, I liked the man I saw before me.

I recall the day we first met, face-to-face.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  Barry was polite, not pushy.  Amiable is the way I would describe him.  Then, the second time we saw each other, we had a more extensive conversation.  He took my hand in his.  We each spoke with greater sincerity.  As Barry and I chatted, he looked me straight in the eye.  He listened to my personal tale.  Visibly, he pondered the story I shared.  Barry responded so genuinely to my inquiry, albeit an unconventional concern, I was surprised.  Indeed, I was impressed, although less than I was when I read what he had written.

His books moved me.  The more autobiographical tome endeared him to me.  His notes on hope did not lack the spirit to inspire me.  As one who “loves” to learn, which differs from the impulsive idea that I might be “in love,” a person that can kindle my earnest thirst for knowledge truly electrifies me.  I recall the moment I read the text that, all these years later, still resonates within me.  Barry humbly offered, in a discussion of empathy . . .

It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

Barry told tales of his mother, his grandfather, and how through his interactions with each he realized there is reason to think “about the struggles and disappointments” others have seen in their lives.  Reflection helped the younger Barry understand, every individual is not solely right or wrong.  If he were to insist that, his way was the only approach that worked, “without regard to his [or her] feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.”  Such awareness, such a superior soul; Barry showed what I believe to be a human’s greatest strength, vulnerability.  Were I to have a heart to win, the words of this gentle-man could have surely swept me off my feet.

Even his calm demeanor is as I desire and live.  Those close to me wonder of my own emotional tranquility.  From his manner and manuscript, it would seem Barry believes as I do.  Empathy elicits equilibrium.  Today, he seemed to embrace this notion once again.  We can choose to love our neighbors.  We need not torture “those who are different from us.”

Near noon, on April 23, 2009, at the Holocaust days of Remembrance Ceremony, Barry, the now President of the United States, Barack Obama spoke of this belief again.  Once more, I felt a pang for the person who oft-expressed a profound connection to the feelings of another.  The sweet soul who can bring me to tears, did so once again.  On this historic occasion, Barry shared a profound realization through a personal story.  The subject; the Holocaust and the torture our forebears felt or beheld.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.  My own great uncle returned from his service in World War II in a state of shock, saying little, alone with painful memories that would not leave his head.  He went up into the attic, according to the stories that I’ve heard, and wouldn’t come down for six months.  He was one of the liberators — someone who at a very tender age had seen the unimaginable.  And so some of the liberators who are here today honor us with their presence — all of whom we honor for their extraordinary service.  My great uncle was part of the 89th Infantry Division — the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp.  And they liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, where tens of thousands had perished.

Stunned, by the saga, and the words that preceded the legend, I began to believe again.  Perhaps the Barry I admire had a change of heart.  Policies he never fully embraced, might not seem reasonable to him now.

During the campaign, Barry, Senator Barack Obama only promised to investigate, not to prosecute.  Many months ago, before the August 2008 declaration, and thereafter, I had thought his stance reflected his vast ability to empathize.  Yet, in the light of the ample evidence, most if not all of which affirms the Bush Administration engaged in extreme methods of interrogation, President Obama still supports or chooses to sustain a position that negates empathy for the victims.  I shudder to think of how the Seventh Generation might be affected.

Hence, I am left to question what I thought was truth.  Was the empathy I envisioned not as sincere as I hoped it to be?  Perchance that is why, for me, love is as torture.  I have faith no one has the power to disappoint me.  Only my choices can be a source of much concern.  For as long as I can recall, I have observed, once infatuation fades, we learn as I had before Barry entered the Oval Office.  He is but another human.  He embraces and then forgets, the power of empathy and the force of our past?

When, in homage to Holocaust victims, and survivors of a heinous hostility that forever stains world history, I sensed he knew.  As I looked on, I forgot the setting.  Intent on the torrent of news on torture techniques I read and heard throughout the day, I made an erroneous connection.  As Barry, President Obama spoke of the deeds done in decades past, and those crimes committed by the previous Administration, I imagined the man I thought I knew meant to express empathy for those who suffered at the hands of Americans.  The Chief Executive, on behalf of the United States avowed.

Their legacy is our inheritance.  And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it?  How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?

I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.

I cried.  Tremendously thankful for the oratory, indeed, I must say, for a second, I was elated.  I wondered.  Had the person many think beloved, the individual I at least treasure, decided to rescind his prior position?

Might he have rejected the thought offered recently; “nothing will be gained by our time and energy laying blame for the past,”  

Could it be the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony helped the President to renew his faith in his earlier expression;  “(H)istory returns “with a vengeance . . . “(A)s Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried — it isn’t even past.”  I hoped.

Perchance, he had worked through a struggle I too experience.  As one who has no desire to hurt others, even those who have physically and psychologically harmed individuals, and our country’s image, how might I think prosecution is just?  

I truly embrace such an honorable ability to seek no retribution.  Indeed, I may not fall “in love”; nonetheless, I would hope to live love.  

I feel harsh reprisals are never wise.  I also accept the enduring wisdom of a finer balance.  I have experienced the need to empathize and the conflict of what I might do if one I treasure intentionally injures another.  I have come to discover, if deleterious deeds are allowed to stand, sooner or later the other, I, and perchance, society will be subjected to adulterations that individuals or a culture cannot endure.

Awful actions we accept, avoid, or merely do not acknowledge become a foundation for the future.  Humans inure.  Lest we forget the Milgram shock experiment of decades ago, or the knowledge that when repeated in the present, proves again, as a Psychologist, Thomas Blass, espoused in  “The Man Who Shocked the World.” Milgram extrapolated, to larger events like the Holocaust, or Abu Ghraib.  “people can act destructively without coercion.”  “In things like interrogations, we don’t know the complexities involved.  People are under enormous pressure to produce results.”  

I wonder how many Americans came to accept violence as a necessity on September 11, 2001.  On that dreadful day, a date that now lives in infamy, all Americans were placed in a precarious position.  With the threat of terror etched into our every cell, each of us had to ask, what were we to do.  In the 2004 edition of Dreams From My Father, the Barry, who I trusted to be so thoughtful whispered his woe for what might occur once the “world fractured.” He penned . . .

This collective history, this past, directly touches my own . . .

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair.  I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task.  I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

Those are the words of the Barry I was inspired to meet, the person I was reminded of when he stood with an audience of individuals who never forget the agony of torture.  Today, as that empathetic soul, the President referred to the future, the generations to come, he stated, “We find cause for hope” when “people of every age and faith and background and race (are) united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.”  I thought of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay prison, and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the need to empathize with victims of “extreme duress.”

Oblivious to the purpose of this particular speech, in my moment of stupor, I surmised Mister Obama had not only accepted the association, but perhaps had realized what could occur if the transgressions of the previous Administration were allowed to stand as if all was in the past.

“Barry,” Barack, the Commander-In-Chief, further elucidated; “Those [persons] can be our future . . . (D)uring this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

I imagined the reference was to empathy, to the paradigms I too embrace. Punishment offers no benefits for people.  Yet, there is a need to prosecute the culpable, to ensure that people are answerable for the most atrocious aggressions.  It is vital, if we wish to prevent the numbness that humans so easily adopt, we must bring torture to the full light of day.  Torment executed in our names, I think Barry would agree, hurts us.  Surely, General and President Eisenhower did.  Mister Obama acknowledged this only hours ago .

Eisenhower understood the danger of silence.  He understood that if no one knew what had happened, that would be yet another atrocity — and it would be the perpetrators’ ultimate triumph.

What Eisenhower did to record these crimes for history is what we are doing here today.  That’s what Elie Wiesel and the survivors we honor here do by fighting to make their memories part of our collective memory.  That’s what the Holocaust Museum does every day on our National Mall, the place where we display for the world our triumphs and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from our history.  It’s the very opposite of silence.

But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation — it’s just the beginning.  We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth.  We’ve seen it in this century in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.

Barry knows what President Obama. spoke of in his address at the Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony  Love needed not be tortured.  Expressions of fondness are found in empathy, not extreme duress.

President Eisenhower understood as I had hoped, on this day, Barry Obama had.  What occurs far from view is never truly unseen.  Nor can avoidance erase the scars left on a heart. While as a country, or as individuals we may prefer to retreat to the attic as President Obama’s great uncle did, in truth, it is impossible to forget.

People who participated know this to be so. A belatedly brave Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Ali Soufan, tell his tales of sorrowful love in My Tortured Decision.  The mediator recalls how for seven years he has remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.  Mister Soufan, as General Eisenhower did before him saw the need to “shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.”

I inquire; what will Barry do, and what of President Obama.  Will the man who once held my hand and professed a need to be empathetic do as he declares his commitment? “(W)e have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges.”  Might he instead do as he hopes we will not, “wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own,”

I can only hope Barry will encourage the President to heed his own call. “(W)e have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place . . .”

Let us never forget Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, or any America penitentiary camp, need not be our holocaust.   Tales of tortured love need not be an American truth.

References for tortured love . . .

Obama; State Secrets A Shame



Countdown: Turley on Obama Administration Invoking State Secrets on Surveillance Program

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, the Obama truth is revealed.  Change has come in the form of familiarity.  Some American’s are embarrassed.  Others embrace what, when presented by the previous Administration, they rejected.  Apathy helps most Americans to avoid a sense of shame.  It was announced;  Obama defends Bush-era secrets.  This Administration has gone further to establish government sovereignty.  As a nation, the Obama White House tells citizens, our country will be better protected if details about the surveillance program are considered “Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

Several knew this too would come to pass.  Authentic transformation was but a tease meant to achieve supremacy for Senator Obama.  In the Summer of 2008, the Illinois statesman voted to give George W. Bush more power than even the former President requested.  The issue; the  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA.  The controversial ballot cast by then Senator Obama did not capture the attention of most.  People were consumed by woes that were more personal.  Privacy is a right most in the United States take for granted.  Until an event in an individual’s life awakens awareness for what was taken away long ago, most do not realize in America the Administration is legally able to watch and listen to a residents’ every move.

The media did not devote much time to Senator Obama’s, measured move.  More importantly, from a business perspective, news stories that address surveillance do not receive a larger share of the audience.  Perchance, auspiciously, for our current President, last July campaign distractions dominated the news cycle.  In 2009, talk of the economy is thought most essential.  Indeed, the United States had already experienced an authentic transformation.

After the infamous attacks on September 11, 2001, the electorate accepted the Bush Administration’s truth.  That is why there are few cries of alarm for the White House’s current claim.  The two are close to the same Each Oval Office expounded; there is a constant threat of terrorist aggressions.  Presidents’ need to have the power to act on “Intelligence.”  Privacy for citizens must be forfeited.  The Patriot Act needed to be passed.  (Please read the text.)  The Commander-In-Chief must have all the authority he or she requests if the American people are to stay safe.  

Hence, convinced of the need to be forever vigilant, countrymen and women changed near a decade ago.  The public became accustomed to constant shadowing.  In the recent past and present, the press presumes correctly.  There is no need to question what collectively, the public concluded justifiable.

It was as it is, apt to assume there was no tale to tell when Congress, with Obama in the Senate authorized the wonderful world of unlawful White House sanctioned wiretaps.  Nor is there a public interest story when the current occupant of the Oval Office through the Department of Justice proclaims, undercover work, legal or not, is necessary.  Americans have come to acknowledge, in dire times such as these, perhaps, the Administration needs be above the law.  The people need not have the power to sue for improprieties or illegalities.

Perhaps, this explains what was and continues to persist.  Less than a year ago, little time was spent on what candidate Obama justified as wise.  The few who expressed apprehension were eschewed.  Thoughts that often, history is repeated, were rejected.  Fear that what occurred today might follow was thought folly.  Regard for the notion, a President with power will not likely relinquish authority bestowed upon him or her, was ridiculed.  Then, as now, those scant individuals who voiced distress were easily dismissed as cynics.  They were relegated to the position of people without faith in the greater cause.  

Supporters of President Obama, sustain hope.  Activists felt, and continue to believe; this time is different.  Barack Obama, or the people who coalesced to create a vibrant civically responsible community, will indeed prevail.  The population is the change we can believe in, or would be were it not for the fact that under the direction of the Obama Justice Department, the government can wiretap without a warrant and still, not be charged with a crime.

Only this week, loyalist recount the rhetoric and rejoice in the knowledge; in countries such as Turkey Obama is a hit! Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, on MSNBC‘s Hardball said Obama “is putting himself forth as . . .president to the world.”  Countless partisans are reassured, assured; as Commander-In-Chief, the man who promised to work for the people, would do what was “right” for everyone on this Earth.  

Yet, less than three months in office, the tide has turned, and not for the better.  Obama Administration quietly expanded Bush’s legal defense of wiretapping program.  Indeed, as President, Barack Obama did as he pledged not to do.  Candidate Obama had declared There would be No warrantless wiretaps if you elect me.  Yet, trust in that promise has become another American shame.

(L)ate Friday afternoon, the  Obama DOJ filed the government’s first response to EFF’s lawsuit (.pdf), the first of its kind to seek damages against government officials under FISA, the Wiretap Act and other statutes, arising out of Bush’s NSA program.  But the Obama DOJ demanded dismissal of the entire lawsuit based on (1) its Bush-mimicking claim that the “state secrets” privilege bars any lawsuits against the Bush administration for illegal spying, and  (2)  a brand new “sovereign immunity” claim of breathtaking scope — never before advanced even by the Bush administration — that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is “willful disclosure” of the illegally intercepted communications.  

In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad “state secrets” privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and — even if what they’re doing is blatantly illegal and they know it’s illegal — you are barred from suing them unless they “willfully disclose” to the public what they have learned. . . .

This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ’s, and the ample time that elapsed — almost three full months — makes clear that it was fully considered by Obama officials.  Yet, they responded exactly as the Bush DOJ would have.  This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used — not only when the Obama DOJ is taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance.  Everything for which Bush critics excoriated the Bush DOJ — using an absurdly broad rendition of “state secrets” to block entire lawsuits from proceeding even where they allege radical lawbreaking by the President and inventing new claims of absolute legal immunity — are now things the Obama DOJ has left no doubt it intends to embrace itself.

Only days earlier an evaluation of the Obama White House evoked concern.  Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard.  Might Americans particularly those who trusted President Obama would change an Administration’s corrupt practices, consider, as a candidate, an aspirant  Barack Obama built the foundation that now supports him.  The Obama Administration, the Government opts for secrecy in wiretap suit.  Those who today continue to purport, “I pledge my allegiance to President, Barack Obama,” or even only to his plans, may consider the thought.  Past is prologue.  

If Americans do not acknowledge the significance of early actions on the part of Presidential aspirants, if the people hold onto false hope, the electorate hurts itself.  Rights to privacy lost will  not only  be retained but also enhanced.  If citizens trust a challenger will be the change we can believe in, even when he reveals he is not, then, we can expect what will come.  Telephones will be tapped.  Surveillance will pass for security.  The fact that Americans allowed the same intrusive policies to persist is our shame.  

References; the loss of civil liberties restored . . .

Tim Geithner; Retention, Rewards, and Krugman Realizations



DN!>Paul Krugman (12) on $1 Trillion Geithner Plan to Buy Toxic Bank Assets

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Negotiations began in November.  Decisions were reached during the month of December.  By January, a retention bonus was awarded to the individual considered most superlative within the staff.  President Barack Obama presented the gift.  American International Group, Incorporated [AIG] executives did not receive the windfall.  Nor did someone “separate” from the previous President garner the honors.  Gold was not placed at the door of a New Deal Democrat.  No, dollars and command were delivered to a truly Progressive person.    Insider, Timothy Geithner was the recipient of a title that would sustain his service.  Mister Geithner was given a reward that was worth far more than mere millions in greenbacks.  Power and influence are priceless.

President Obama granted these “commodities” to one who worked to ensure banks and other financial institutions would continue to flourish just as they had in the Bush Era.  Now, the man with copious clout, wants more.

Indeed, Tim Geithner has already taken the reigns.  He has worked to set more rules.  Separate from Congressional approval for increased authority, and regardless of what regulatory standards the House and Senate might pass, Secretary Geithner, happily ensconced in President Obama’s favor, has begun to broaden his horizons.  He expresses his expansive preeminence, and all are a twitter.

New-found fame, a brighter, well-funded future befits the man whose face now appears everywhere.  Greater authority is as Tim Geithner was groomed to acquire.  Indeed, Secretary Geithner grew accustomed to attention and awards.

Perhaps, Timothy Geithner’s desire for further recompense, economically or emotionally, began when he was but a boy.  In his youth, the now Secretary of Treasury saw what could be wrought if one was well-connected.  His lineage allowed him to look into a world of affluence and advantages.  

Maternal grandfather, Charles F. Moore, was an adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Mister Moore also served as a Vice President of Ford Motor Company.  “Dad,” Peter F. Geithner, was with the Ford Foundation.  Tim Geithner’s father oversaw the project that Ann Dunham, President Obama’s mother gave birth to.  Stanley Ann Soetoro and Tim’s Dad, developed microfinance programs in Indonesia.

This association alone might have helped Mister Geithner realize his path to the White House.  Some theorize, President Obama and Tim Geithner formed an invisible bond, one that ties them together today

Money, power, and privilege were given to Timothy Geithner from birth.  The more the lad “earned,” the more he hoped to receive in return.  A graduate of Dartmouth and John Hopkins, initially Tim Geithner worked for Kissinger Associates, Incorporated.  He then entered government, just as his forebears had.  Geithner first joined the Department of Treasury in 1988 and worked in three administrations for five Secretaries of the Treasury in a variety of positions.  He served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs from 1999 to 2001.  He was Director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund from 2001 until 2003.  Then, he headed the New York Reserve.  He befriended the acclaimed Economist Professor Paul Krugman.  The two are associates within The Group of Thirty, a Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs.  It is no wonder President Obama was impressed and wanted to retain the financial expertise of one so esteemed.

Previously, the Secretary had succeeded, even exceeded expectations.  With each step, the esteemed Economic wizard takes, greater gratitude and gilt are given.  Hence, he moves forward.

Secretary Geithner addressed Congress on March 24, 2009.  He and his cohort, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke affirmed a need to be endowed with exceptional authority.  The two concurred.  The AIG catastrophe confirmed “a basic and tragic unfairness – that those who were prudent and responsible in their personal and professional judgments are harmed by the actions of those who were less careful and less prudent.”  Many would agree.  

On paper, the proposed request for increased control over financial institutions, other than banks, seems reasonable.  If Congress approves of the strategy, Federal authorities could seize a failed fiscal establishment.  Many believe the measures are long overdue.  However, several hesitate.  When they consider the fact, Secretary Geithner might be the person to decide the fate of these firms countless express concern.  Perchance, he is not the person to have or hold such extensive power.  

Esteemed Economist, and colleague Paul Krugman expressed disappointment after Mister Geithner revealed his bailout plan.  Nobel Prize recipient Krugman wrote in The New York Times, “”In fact it fills me with a sense of despair.”

“The Geithner scheme would offer a one-way bet: if asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt,” the Princeton University Economist explained, as he cited specifics within the proposed strategy.

Might the man Professor Krugman long admired not be competent to oversee the fringe financial institutions? Those who were uncertain Tim Geithner was ever the best, the brightest, or the person to be retained, are now joined by others who originally had confidence in the now Secretary of Treasury.  Since the appointment, and ample intangible appropriations were bestowed upon Secretary Geithner, the choice issue may be a moot point.  Only the battle for a bigger role, increased responsibility to regulate remains a subject of contention.

The Obama Administration, mostly through Tim Geithner, has compared the proposed process to the work of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  This favored institution protects depositors from bank failures.  Regulators can take control of a troubled depository, place it under the authority of the FDIC, and then, quickly, and competently, restructure the reserve

Perhaps, that is the most significant difference.  With consideration of the current economic crisis, and crucial assessments, the Secretary made prior to this plea for greater rule, Timothy Geithner showed no evidence of being swift or skilled in his ability to seize the moment or reign in American Insurance Group’s excesses.

As the former president of the New York Federal Reserve, Mister Geithner is the one Obama Administration official who is associated with the Bush-era bailouts.  Once AIG was under Federal control, public servants say, compensation arrangements were rarely, if ever, discussed.  In December, long before Tim Geithner received his own abundant reward, an initial $55 million in bonuses was delivered to the Insurance Group executives.  

At the time, the glorious Geithner did not decry the greed.  Indeed, even on this date late in March 2009, as he answered questions before the House Financial Services Committee, Secretary Geithner stated, “It’s a difficult balance.”  He then further explained his belief; the government should not dictate detailed executive compensation limits to bankers.  Timothy Geithner empathized with those who had been given retention bonuses.  Indeed, while he did not give voice to the thought, the Secretary understood, he too was a very recent beneficiary of such graciousness.

Perhaps, opponents of greater government oversight appreciated the more individualist posture Treasury Secretary Geithner presented. However, a few felt a vital veracity must be pondered.  An individual Presidential appointee [Geithner], and an agency [FDIC] with ample autonomy, are not one and the same.

Intentionally, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, unlike the Treasury Department, was designed to be separate from the political process.  The bureau acts in accordance to law.  Should Congress consent to the Geithner request, a person who is profoundly affiliated with a partial, political body, would have the authority to take possession of a business that displeases the White House.  Granted, supporters assure those who challenge the proposal, only corporations in crisis would be seized.  Nevertheless, dissenters declare, corporate collusion with government insiders would remains a concern.  A poorly regulated financial institution potentially would corrupt the government [further?].

Policy-wonks state, the power to take over banks or other alternative financial entities need be part of a broader regulatory structure.  Limits are set on the risks that economic establishments can take.  Therefore, the need for seizures is, and must be, more fully linked to violations.  The Obama Administration has expressed a desire to increase regulations on firms that might be eligible for seizure under the proposed law.  However, specifics have yet to be furnished.  

For now, the focus remains solely on the Treasury Secretary.  Tim Geithner seeks greater power than was given to him in the form of a gift, his title.

Unequivocally, Tim Geithner has received many accolades.  Perchance, he was and is deserving.  Secretary Geithner offered a welcome plan to resolve the mortgage meltdown the day before his most recent plea.  Wall Street applauded the strategy, as evidenced by a record rise in stocks.  The headlines for the long-anticipated program that would remove bank toxic assets and revive the financial system, bedazzled those with money to spend.  Rescue Plan, With Fine Print, Dazzles Wall Street. Urged on by his success, Secretary Geithner had reason to  hope he could garner greater authority.  Those with big bucks see his increased powers as a bonus.

Yet, the apprehension Nobel Prize Economist, Paul Krugman expressed on March 23, 2009, the day before this recent hearing hangs over the head of Treasury Secretary Geithner. Thankfully, rancor for the subprime solution seems to receive less attention, at least amongst the House Financial Services Committee.  Possibly, acrimony over Geithner’s past performances is also forgotten.

For a time it seemed Professor Krugman too had been willing to forgive and forget.  There was a time the Princeton Professor was with those who sanctioned the selection of Tim Geithner to Treasury.  Doctor Krugman had thought as President Obama did; Tim Geithner should be retained.  His mere presence in the Administration would be a worthy bonus.  Only months ago, Krugman approved of Geithner and his work.  In his article, The grown-ups are coming, the stellar observer of economic policy sardonically noted the Tim Geithner was an improvement in contrast to the  Bush Best and the Brightest.  

Paul Krugman spoke highly of his associate from The Group of Thirty, a Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs.  That is, until Tim Geithner introduced his solution for toxic assets relief.

Perhaps times have changed.  Certainly, there is reason to think Timothy Geithner has not.  Nonetheless, earlier impressions and associations formed long ago linger in the present.

The New York Times Columnist and Economist publicly offered his “Despair over financial policy.” However, in a recent interview with Democracy Now’s, Amy Goodman, Krugman was reluctant to say the person who ascribes to lemon socialism, Timothy Geithner must go.

Paul Krugman as others may not have yet come to terms with contradictory views of the man who now Heads the Treasury.

Prior to the prize bequeathed on Mister  Geithner, all of his actions appeared above board and in alignment with the ethical standards President Obama set for his Cabinet.  The beneficiary of perks and power was perceived as an individual who had sacrificed much in order to serve his country.  Tim Geithner was subjected grueling to Senate hearings.  His records were scrutinized. To be certain no one would have reason to question the calculations, a highly respectable résumé was submitted.  

Before his selection, Mister Geithner served as President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.  In his career, he worked closely with former U.S. Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan, Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and head of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and oh yes, venerated Economist Paul Krugman.  

Overdue taxes were paid to ensure that all appeared proper and in order.  That is, at least some of the levees never accounted for were remunerated  Other outstanding tariffs, Tim Geithner was told, need not be paid,  The statute of limitations had lapsed.

Just as had been with much else in his life, Tim would be forgiven for his forgetfulness or failures to do what most think ethical.  No one would think to inquire of the enormous sums the Head of Treasury would garner for his friends, former colleagues, and himself.  People were expected to consider the pittance he “earned” as a civil servant and be reassured, Tim Geithner is committed to the good of the country.  After all, were he still with his previous employer, investment firm Goldman-Sachs,  Secretary Geithner’s salary would have been far greater.  

The power Timothy Geithner garnered throughout his life cannot be counted.  Personal financial gains for friends, former colleagues, and himself are ample.  Influence is near infinite.  Why not, some might say, give Geithner more authority to rule.  He has “earned” it.  Perhaps, one day in a sequel to Professor Krugman’s recent tome, “America the Tarnished”, the established Economist will reject the cry, “Why not indeed.”  He might even pen prose that state more directly  Timothy Geithner, his retention, and the rewards he has already received  are a significant part of “the crisis [that] has cost America much of its credibility, and with it much of its ability to lead.”

References for a Geithner Rule to be realized . . .

Updated Reference . . .

President Obama Address; The Power of People



President Obama Address to Congress February 24, 2009

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On Tuesday, February 24, 2008 the Earth moved.  The shaking began in America, specifically in Washington, District of Columbia.  In the United States Capitol, the ground swelled.  The seas parted.  People who thought they would never come together, in a joint session Congressmen and women, concluded, perchance, it was time to unify, to work for a common cause.  Indeed, throughout America, the quake of an address delivered by President Barack Obama reminded citizens that they could, and perhaps should, consider that America is powerful when the people are one.    

The economic crisis did not cause the shift in stony plates, although it certainly added to the tremor.  Health Care or the lack of it for near fifty million did not give rise to the seismic activity.  A population poorly educated did not budge boulders.  Nor did these issues do other than increase the fear American people felt.  What shook the terrain was a speech, the first, to an expectant nation, to Senators, Representatives, Justices, and to a world who looked on, since Barack Obama became President of the United States.

People from each political Party finally found reason to believe change would come.  Perhaps, the process had already begun.  The once so-called “stimulus package” was, with the President’s words, now really a recovery plan.  

Republican embraced the idea, or ideal, of personal responsibility.  The country’s Chief Executive stated, “What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.”

“Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long we have not always met these responsibilities, as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or to look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.”

Progressives were thankful that the tone was optimistic; yet genuine.  While the situation seemed dire hours earlier, for those out of work, without a home or health care coverage, the President’s proclamation was welcome.  

On this evening, on this historic occasion, Barack Obama said, “While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

The President continued to speak to an attentive audience.  “The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.”  The Commander-In-Chief proclaimed this truth to a people ready to return to a more hopeful reality.

The words were reminders to Americans.  We, the people are innately strong, stronger than a monetary or momentary wobble.  President Obama pronounced; “Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure.”

Indeed, President Obama assured Americans, we have the power.  We are the force, more formidable than the intensity of bank failures, foreclosures, business, and personal bankruptcies.  Tis true, he said.  Stock markets sank.  The economy declined.  Bridges and roads crumbled.  Health care costs rose.  Savings shrank.  New sources of energy were not secured.  Nonetheless, in America The United States can take a little rattle.  They can endure a few rolls.  We, if we work together can and will survive.  American can and will do as it has done.  We will thrive.

President Obama offered inspiration and a forgotten note.  “Now is the time to act boldly and wisely, to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.”

The President’s voice did not quiver; nor did the people shudder.  A wave of relief rose from the throngs who waited anxiously to hear, “Now is the time to jump-start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.”

Tonight the tenor change.  People, planet-wide moved.  The drift was not without direction.  Rescue and recovery were in sight.  Americans understood, they could save themselves with a little help from the friend who stood before them, Barack Obama.  Citizens heeded the call.  The people are powerful, more forceful than any crisis, when they work together as one

Please peruse the text, roll up your sleeves Americans.  It is time to get to work, to rebuild the country we love.


February 24, 2009

Transcript

President Obama’s Address to Congress

Following is a transcript of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions.

Obama: Thank you very much.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and the first lady of the United States… (APPLAUSE)

… who’s around here somewhere…

(APPLAUSE)

… I have come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.

You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.

The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

Obama: But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

(APPLAUSE)

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.

Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

(APPLAUSE)

Obama: Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long we have not always met these responsibilities, as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or to look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank.

We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy, yet we import more oil today than ever before.

The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform.

Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for.

And though all of these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity, where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.

A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations…

(APPLAUSE)

Regulations — regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well, that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely, to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.

Now is the time to jump-start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs. As soon…

(APPLAUSE)

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets, not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t — not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited — I am.

I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. And that’s why I pushed for quick action.

And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

(APPLAUSE)

Over — over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

(APPLAUSE)

Because of this plan, 95 percent of working households in America will receive a tax cut, a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

(APPLAUSE)

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college.

(APPLAUSE)

And Americans — and Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm. Now…

(APPLAUSE)

… I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work, and I understand that skepticism.

Obama: Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

And that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.

(APPLAUSE)

I…

(APPLAUSE)

I have told each of my cabinet, as well as mayors and governors across the country, that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend.

I’ve appointed a proven and aggressive inspector general to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud.

And we have created a new Web site called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track, but it is just the first step, because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe, your insurance is secure. You can rely on the continued operation of our financial system; that’s not the source of concern.

The concern is that, if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins. You see…

(APPLAUSE)

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education, how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. And with so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or even to each other.

When there’s no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars, so businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, to restore confidence, and restart lending.

And we will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small-business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

(APPLAUSE)

Second — second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages.

It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values, Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped to bring about. In fact, the average family who refinances today can save nearly $2,000 per year on their mortgage.

(APPLAUSE)

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

Obama: Now, I understand that, on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives bank bailouts with no strings attached and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions, but such an approach won’t solve the problem.

And our goal is to quicken the day when we restart lending to the American people and American business (OOTC:ARBU) and end this crisis once and for all. And I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer.

(APPLAUSE)

This time — this time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks, or buy fancy drapes, or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

(APPLAUSE)

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government and, yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade.

That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and the results that followed. So were the American taxpayers; so was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you: I get it.

But I also know that, in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger or yield to the politics of the moment.

(APPLAUSE)

My job — our job — is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility.

I will not send — I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks; it’s about helping people.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s not about helping banks; it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend. And if they can get a loan, too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car or open their own business.

Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

(APPLAUSE)

So — so I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary, because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system.

(APPLAUSE)

It is time. It is time.

(APPLAUSE)

It is time to put in place tough, new commonsense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation and punishes shortcuts and abuse.

Obama: The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short term, but the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.

The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care, the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we’ve come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or a laundry list of programs.

I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America, as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited: a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber — Democrats and Republicans — will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars, and that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges.

I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves, that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity, for history tells a different story.

History reminds us that, at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.

In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.

From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.

In the wake of war and depression, the G.I. Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.

(APPLAUSE)

And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again.

That is why, even as it cuts back on programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

(APPLAUSE)

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders, and I know you don’t, either. It is time for America to lead again.

(APPLAUSE)

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We’ve also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history, an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, in science and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

Obama: But to truly transform our economy, to protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.

So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. That’s what we need.

(APPLAUSE)

And to support — to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power (OTCBB:SOPW) , advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

(APPLAUSE)

Speaking of our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not and will not protect them from their own bad practices.

But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it; scores of communities depend on it; and I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, none of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what’s necessary to move this country forward.

And for that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, 1 million more Americans have lost their health insurance.

It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it is one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget. Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold. We can’t afford to do it.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s time.

(APPLAUSE)

Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full-time.

(APPLAUSE)

Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.

It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American, including me, by seeking a cure for cancer in our time.

(APPLAUSE)

And — and it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that’s one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment…

(APPLAUSE)

It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue, and it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform. That’s why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. Once again, it will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and our conscience long enough.

So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

(APPLAUSE)

Obama: The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity. It is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma, and yet just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have to make to the children of America.

(APPLAUSE)

Already, we’ve made a historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We’ve dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.

We’ve made college affordable for nearly 7 million more students, 7 million…

(APPLAUSE)

… and we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources; they need more reform. And that is why…

(APPLAUSE)

That is why this budget creates new teachers — new incentives for teacher performance, pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest — we’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. It is…

(APPLAUSE)

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this system work, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.

So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself; it’s quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why — that’s why we will support — we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. That is a goal we can meet.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s a goal we can meet.

(APPLAUSE)

Now — now, I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why, if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage…

(APPLAUSE)

And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country, Senator Edward Kennedy.

(APPLAUSE)

Obama: These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children, but it is up to us to ensure they walk through them.

In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent, for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, read to their child.

(APPLAUSE)

I speak to you not just as a president, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That’s an American issue.

(APPLAUSE)

And there is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children, and that’s the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. That is critical.

(APPLAUSE)

I agree, absolutely.

(APPLAUSE)

See, I know we can get some consensus in here.

(LAUGHTER)

With the deficit we inherited, the cost…

(APPLAUSE)

… the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that, as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down. That is critical.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I’m proud that we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

And yesterday, I — I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs.

As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time, but we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade. In this budget…

(APPLAUSE)

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate…

(APPLAUSE)

We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq…

(APPLAUSE)

… and — and reform…

(APPLAUSE)

… and — and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will…

(APPLAUSE)

We will root out — we will root out the waste and fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier. We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

(APPLAUSE)

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, let me be clear. Let me be absolutely clear, because I know you’ll end up hearing some of the same claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people. If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.

(APPLAUSE)

Obama: In fact — not a dime.

In fact — in fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut — that’s right, a tax cut — for 95 percent of working families. And, by the way, these checks are on the way.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, to preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing cost in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come, and we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead 10 years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules and, for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(APPLAUSE)

For seven years, we’ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

(APPLAUSE)

Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

(APPLAUSE)

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.

(APPLAUSE)

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: We honor your service; we are inspired by your sacrifice; and you have our unyielding support.

(APPLAUSE)

To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

(APPLAUSE)

Obama: To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend, because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. And that is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists…

(APPLAUSE)

… because living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger.

And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun, for we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America.

We cannot shun the negotiating table nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century — from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty — we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe, for the world depends on us having a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us, watching to see what we do with this moment, waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege, one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans, for in our hands lies the ability to shape our world, for good or for ill.

I know that it’s easy to lose sight of this truth, to become cynical and doubtful, consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places, that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think of Leonard Abess, a bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, “I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”

I think about…

(APPLAUSE)

I think about — I think about Greensburg — Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community, how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay.

“The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”

Obama: I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina, a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.

She had been told that her school is hopeless. But the other day after class, she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this chamber. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.

The letter asks us for help and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself, and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina, but also the world. We are not quitters.”

That’s what she said: “We are not quitters.” These words…

(APPLAUSE)

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that, even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres, a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know…

(APPLAUSE)

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far.

(LAUGHTER)

There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.

(APPLAUSE)

I know that.

(APPLAUSE)

That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.”

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

References for a new rumble, roll, a reality . . . .

“I won!”

IWn

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Update . . . A bell rings.  The sound reverberates.  A sentiment shared aloud resonates within the heart, mind, body, and soul of persons who heard the message.  No matter the actions taken afterward, sullen statements are not easily erased from memory.  

Days before Congress was asked to pass the stimulus package, the President uttered the now famous phrase; “I won,” Republicans, as could have been expected, expressed resentment.  Immediately, subsequent to President Obama’s statement Democrats were said to have followed the Chief Executive’s lead.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was asked if he thought Republicans might block the initiative.  Empathically, he replied; “No.”  Today we know differently.  In the House, the measure received no support from the Grand Old Party.  

As we await approval from the Senate we may wish to consider, the past.  Words that evoke division have a lasting effect.  

Please peruse a missive penned shortly after President Obama reacted to pressure from the “Right.”

Oh Mister Obama, please tell me it is not so.  Days ago, I read and heard numerous reports.  You made a declarative statement.  Many were shocked.  Anecdotally, Congressman and women stated, when pressed by Republicans who disagreed with your position on economic policy, you said, “I won.”  Will this mean, once again, Americans will be the losers?  

I fear for the future, for I remember when the words were “Yes we can!”  Has this assertion become but an old argot, now trivial or trite?  Please tell me.  Now that you sit solidly in the Oval Office is the achievement of one all that matters?  Perchance, with a “change” in climate, we, the Progressives have become the Party of arrogance.

It seems you personally have adopted an individualistic platform.  Peace and process talks will be less diplomatic.  Discussions will be more reflective of Obama rule or Democratic control.  After he left the White House, House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina was said to have “echoed” your sentiment.  He may not have used your exact words; nevertheless, the sentiment was clear, the Progressive Party will dictate the rule of law.  Congressman Clyburn said, “The American people didn’t listen to them [the Republicans] too well during the election.”  The implication being, so why should the Progressives who represent them.

My concern extends beyond the language.  It is the intent I lament!

I had hoped that sooner than later, the Obama Administration would recognize individualism, as we all saw, did more harm than good.  ‘I envisioned “Mavericks no more,” would be the mantra of an Obama Administration.  

As a Democrat, devoted to progressive platforms, I imagined peace was a prospect we would no longer ignore.  Admittedly, as I say this I cannot help but think of the quagmire that Afghanistan is, and I fear will be worsened

You may recall, President Obama, when we go for the unilateral kill, as we did in Iraq, innocents, foreign born and our own die.  The terrain is devastated.  The cost cannot be accurately calculated.  The price humans pay for victory is incomprehensible, at least it is to me.  I inquire; how does one place value on lives, limbs, and a sense of security, serenity, and safety lost.  It seems in America, most rarely do the math.  We want only to overcome, to be the victor.

Hence, with a note of superiority, supremacy, and self-importance, we say we, he, or “I win.”

I heard the reaction on November 4, 2008.  As the election results came in, your constituents chanted “We won!”  You too must have felt concern as the crowd cheered.  You spoke to such a perspective often.  A triumphal tune closes doors and ends discussion.  President Obama, these are your words.  “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”  

The electorate, I recognize is new to the novelty of inclusively, but you, Mister President.  What of your core beliefs?

President Obama, I could understand such a statement from a Republican, not yet ready, to put aside differences after what seemed to be a defeat.  Elections, by their very nature, are divisive.  However, even Conservatives for Change concluded this year was different.  Republican Senator Mitch McConnell even offered his open hand.  I suspect with word of your “win” that will not last.

Oh, Mister President, until I heard word of how you spoke of “your” feat, I truly believed that change had come.

I wonder, with all the work to do, has anyone won?  There has been too much despair, too much distress, disparity that is incomprehensible, and all this has existed for far too long.  

Please Mister President,  travel back, into the future, with me.  Do you recall the deregulations and the economic downfall?.  In the recent past, as a country, we experienced the dire effects of a Republican victory.  It seemed obvious, a conquest breed certain vanity.

Persons within the Grand Old Party are not alone when it comes to excessive pomposity.  Hence, my apprehension.  In modern times, Americans have seen the ill inflated egos can cause.  Democrats, equally haughty, ultimately embraced policies that ended an era of effective oversight.  Do the words Glass-Steagall Act remind you of how arrogant, those replete with power might be,  Does the taste of the Depression era law President Clinton repealed linger on your lips?

Those who no longer have a legal right to redeem a mortgage might caution against a prizewinning irrational exuberance.  

Perhaps you may recall predatory lending.  Winners on Wall Street thought this idea fine.  Home foreclosures flourished.  Bank failures became common.  Unemployment rates rose.  Workers received less benefits before businesses finally closed the doors.

It was not that long ago.  Think back.  During the Bush reign the Conservatives were in power.  For decades, Republicans won most every Presidential election.  On the one occasion when a Democrat occupied the Oval Office and Congress was mostly Progressive, defiant winners were only able to do so much.  Soon after, Democratic “control” was easily lost.  

Perhaps, the people felt the Administration to full of itself with the win.  You may remember President Obama, “The Republican Contract with America.”  In the past, a practiced politician or a Political Party may have said they won.  However, what really happened was America lost.

President Obama, you spoke of this in your more recent book, The Audacity of Hope.”  Remember?

“In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation – a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago – played out on the national stage. . . .what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions – that quality of trust and fellow feeling – that bring us together as Americans.”

Mister President, you also addressed the issue of the ownership society.  You must remember this.  You stated what I often say; however, more eloquently.

Barack Obama these are your words.  “In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own. Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.”

If someone, anyone wins or owns the rights to run the show, we are all doomed. Currently, we witness the woes of a win in our Health Care systems.   Medical coverage is a service available only to the privileged.  There is income for triumphant Insurers. Pharmaceuticals profits have paralyzed this country.  Disparity in healthcare devastates the impoverished, the ill, and the injured, millions of whom have no medical coverage.  More Americans are underinsured.  Even more are likely to lose what they have as the economy weakens.  In this country, cash divides winners and losers.  

Mister President, you might understand this.  Consider the dollars needed just to get a candidate elected, to have him or her heard.  Please also ponder what was once more important to you and the electorate than dough.  The community carried the message.  Without the strength of unity, we as a country crumble.

The deterioration has already begun.  President Obama, do you remember the dream?  You must recall; Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Junior taught us to believe in the dream of equality. Reverend King avowed, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way our world is made.”  Doctor King did not praise personal wins or commend clannish conquests.

Yet, today, in America, where a President proudly proclaims “I won,” children of all colors, their elders of every hue, are not afforded a chance to succeed.  In a country where Progressives posture, “We won,” we do not consider what a coup d’état mentality means to a country, or to the children who inherit a nation torn asunder.

Mister President and Progressives proud of what it means to win, please consider the ominous shadow cast by a Supreme Court decision, Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson,  The Court and the prideful parents who championed a cause ensured only the wealthy and the white would receive a quality education.  Separate and unequal services are again sanctioned in city schools.  The judgment sealed a subterranean deal that has long been in effect.  The rich triumph; the poor will not have equal opportunities.  

In America, we have seen the destruction wrought by our culture of conquests.  Yet, as a nation we continue to ignore what might be obvious.

Perhaps, this is why, as your proclamation filtered through the airwaves, Mister President, many Progressives applauded what was familiar and what they had waited for.  Republicans who had come to believe there was reason to hope for true change were struck by the divisive rhetoric.  Your disdainful remark was like a slap in the face, a stab in the back, or the statement that would bring resentment back to Washington, Those still bruised by the political battle never forgot that they wanted to be the ones, or at least “That one.”  

I recall history and recoil at what could be our future if we affirm as you did days ago.  “I won?”  

Oh please President Obama, remember your own reflection.    “What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night.  This “victory” alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change . . . ”

I beg you to consider, the power of words.  Ponder; can we be “victorious,” and will such a triumph leave many behind; or we can we be successful together.  Can one “I” prevail or will we, the people achieve when we unite.  

Please tell me it is true.  Government can be of, by, and for us all, or an Administration, and Americans can be partisan.

Please President Obama, let us not suggest that we, or “I won!”  I implore you to reflect or your own words.. “(The change we seek) that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.  It cannot happen without you (the American people).”  

President Obama, you did not win.  Progressives did not prevail when you were placed in the Oval Office.  We the people will not meet the challenges through conquest.  Nor will we be the change we can believe in if you, or any of us, declaratively deems, “I won!”

Americans did not vote for the arrogance we heard and saw for eight long years,  We had hope.  We had a dream.  In the White House, in the people’s house, in Congress, and in our local communities, we could become  genuinely united, integrated, and inclusive.  Yes we can, and I think we must.

References for realities that divide us . . .

The Wolf Barack Obama Feeds



Pt 1 – National Cathedral Message – Story of The Two Wolves

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was 11:22 Ante Meridian, on January 21, 2009.  I did as I rarely do.  I stood silently and watched television.  As one who listens to what is aired, and does so from another room, this was an unusual occurrence.  However, the Cherokee wisdom of wolves, an illustration that represents the internal strife within every human being beckoned me.  

Then, at the very same hour on the very next day, again I was compelled to do what is odd for me.  I did not say a word as I glared at humanitarian actions took place on the screen.  President Barack Obama proclaimed, by Executive Order, the United States would not torture.  Nor would we, as a nation, detain presumed “combatants” without a just trial.  On each occasion, I was in awe as I gazed upon what I had not imagined would come to pass.  Upon reflection, the two events seem to be related.

On Wednesday, the voice of the speaker was unfamiliar to me.  The narrative, she share was extremely familiar.  Perchance that is why I was drawn into the calm drama as it unfolded before me.  Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, in her candid manner, in the Inaugural Prayer, brought the Chief Executive of the United States to task.  With knowledge of The Obama Administration’s agenda, a plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan, Doctor   Reverend Sharon E. Watkins shared a allegory and directly addressed the analogy.  The President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) spoke to the President of the United States with intent.  Her prayer was meant to be more than a homily, easily left in the home of the Lord.  The passionate cleric conceded, the circumstances that exist today are dire.

What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center.  But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that

we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.

“There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.

“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self?pity, fear . . .

“The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”

His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

The congregation was spellbound.  The camera showed a meditative Barack Obama.  The President, with his head in his hand, seemed to consider the parable.  He looked as if he might ponder the parallel.  Minister Watkins continued.

The frank Theologian furthered the thought when she said, “There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center – crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.”  

President Obama, from his facial expressions, understood.  He knew the weight placed on his shoulders.  As he oft expressed, the decision to serve the public was his, and he would do so to the best of abilities.  Yet, Barack Obama often proclaimed, he could not do the nation’s work alone.  Indeed, he would need help from the public.  The Reverend was ready to lend a hand to the Commander-In-Chief.  In service to her country, and perchance, more significantly to the Almighty and the people, planet-wide Sharon E. Watkins submitted.

We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground.  We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.

We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.

In the hours before the erudite religious leader spoke, much laid in the balance.  Doctor Watkins likely heard the whispers; President Obama might not close Guantanamo Bay Prison as quickly as he had promised.  When asked of the possible release of detainees Barack Obama was hesitant.  He discussed what logistically would be difficult.  

Doctor Sharon E. Watkins seemed to inquire as an ABC News interviewer had not.  Mister President; which path will you choose?  How will ethical principles shape your policies President Obama?  

She too may have marveled at the statement a pious man offered just prior to the inauguration.  On “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, Barack Obama stated, homeland security is his top priority.  The “need” to fight back when terrorists threaten would be prominent features in an Obama Administration.  “We are going to have to stay vigilant, and that’s something that doesn’t change from administration to administration,” the then President Elect said.

Hence, in her homily Sharon E. Watkins invited the newly installed President Obama to obey the sacred principles he had oft professed to believe.

On Thursday, perhaps he did honor the ethical traditions.  As I again, listened to the television from afar, the baritone sounds that echoed in the next room were recognizable.  Barack Obama addressed a small audience of onlookers, each anxious to see him sign three Executive Orders.  Indeed, Commander-In-Chief Obama decreed that this country act on the “some” of the ethical standards the Minister spoke of only twenty-four hours earlier.

President Obama signed directives that authorize a Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities.  A Review of Detention Policy Options, and he approved an order that would Ensure Lawful Interrogations.

However, what the President has yet to act on the poignant matters that affect every American, in truth all human beings every day.  War.  As I situated myself before the screen to watch the invocation, I saw a pensive man.  Barack Obama, unlike most in the National Cathedral congregation seemed to study Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins’ every word.  

The Commander-In-Chief appeared to recognize the depth of the sermon Reverend Watkins delivered. Indeed, that is what captured my attention.  While Doctor Watkins had command of her language, she commanded the person who is perhaps, the most powerful human being in the world.  This articulate Minister stood before the President, and eloquently presented parables and scriptures that spoke to the less than honorable and moral issue of vengeance.  

This uncommon; yet commoner, cleric addressed a reverent Barack Obama.  She welcomed reflections on stark realities in a manner that few might.  Doctor Reverend Sharon E. Watkins essentially confronted the new Commander and asked him to evaluate his ethics.  

Solemnly she said, “In international hard times, our instinct is to fight – to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other and why not?  They just might be out to get us.  We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect.  Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President – Tag!  You’re it!”

The congregation laughed.  The air for them was light.  However, for Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, there was no humor in her words.  

G-d’s representative spoke of the change she, and I could, believe in.

While most Americans delighted in the news of today’s Executive Orders, I wonder if Reverend Doctor Watkins worried as I do.  Later, on Thursday afternoon, at 3:10 Post Meridian, when once again, I stood frozen in front of the “tube.”  I felt the futility of fight would be America’s fate.

The baritone, Barack Obama boomed, as if defiant of the deities.  “The world needs to understand that America will be unyielding in its protection of its security and relentless in its pursuit of those who would carry out terrorism or threaten the United States.”

I wondered.  Had Reverend Doctor Watkins heard the statement?  Does she now know as I do, which wolf Barack Obama will feed.

Update . . .

Two U.S. missile strikes kill 17 in Pakistan, sources say,

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Seventeen people were killed Friday evening in two U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region, said one government and two military officials.

They are the first such strikes since President Obama took office Tuesday.

Both hits were near the Afghan border, said local political official Nasim Dawar. The Pakistani military sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to release such information.

The first strike, which killed 10 people, occurred about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the officials said. Seven people died in the second hit at 7:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) near Wana, the major town in South Waziristan, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Afghanistan, they said.

References for realities, real, and those imagined by vengeful, fearful, humans . . .