Tag Archives: Barack Obama

President Obama’s Tea Party Credentials

By Marc Seltzer; originally published at care2.com on November 14, 2010

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I wonder if the story of the midterm elections is what it seems:  Tea Party Rejection of President Obama’s policies ushers in a Republican agenda.

In that story, President Obama is either the same old Washington problem, out to use tax-payer money and gov’t power for his own out-of-touch interests or an out-of-control Democrat-Socialist on a wild spending spree.  The deficit and debt represent the proof of the irresponsibility of the incumbents, and the new Republicans are the populist heroes who will reign in spending and balance the budget.

But I keep remembering candidate Obama saying “I am not doing this so I can pass the buck on the hard decisions.”  Difficult decisions are the ones where you take things from powerful people or make them pay what they cost, rather than offer give-aways.

Leave the financial crisis aside for a moment.

The current President inherited both short-term deficit spending (war, tax cuts, excess gov’t spending, etc. — unpaid for) and long term structural debt (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security going up unsustainably per existing law and future demographics).  There are sometimes reasons to borrow money, to spend now and pay off debts later, but the past decade was not WWII.  Congress simply spent more than it took in, and it gave gifts such as tax cuts and Medicare benefits by borrowing money.

Along comes Barack Obama, talking about “bending the cost curve.”  Significant in the health care reform was removing tax subsidies for generous employer-sponsored health plans. Most Americans get their insurance from employer-sponsored health plans, and this substantial reform, however unpopular, will reduce the costs and waste of excessive medical care.  Mr. Obama also approved taking funds out of Medicare.  That’s hurting doctors and potentially forcing more cost containment on publicly funded health care for seniors.

The President also talked about reducing earmarks (the first budget under Obama contained earmarks prepared before his inauguration).  That hurts corporate interests and the politicians so aligned.   Then, Mr. Obama sought to reduce defense spending, with his Secretary of Defense standing up to criticism by congressional and corporate defense interests.

This sure seems like the long-term path of fiscal discipline.

What I’m wondering is, could the Tea Party movement be going in the same direction as the President?  Could it be that in order to balance the budget a lot of sacrifices will have to be made?  The President started down that path. (The financial crisis brought some unexpected costs — Bush’s TARP and Obama’s Stimulus — but not a recurring give-away). Now, the Tea Party-rejuvenated Republicans are all about cutting spending.

Doesn’t that really put them in the President’s camp?  Everyone with an interest, special or otherwise, will argue for their piece of the pie.  Tea Party Republicans are proposing to reform earmarks, cut defense spending and balance the budget.  They come at the problem as if it was the government that was devouring all the money.  But if they stay in the game for long enough, they will see that it’s not that simple.

In that case, President Obama may again appear the reformer:  A leader with a clear understanding of what needs to change to create a more sustainable America, waiting for people with integrity and discipline, a willingness to sacrifice, and political courage to join the fight against a system of entrenched interests.

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Listen to Marc Seltzer’s weekly podcasts on the U.S. Supreme Court at SupremePodcast.com

New Foreign Policy Emerging

Originally published at politicsunlocked.com

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

(Photo credit:  Marc Nozell; license — creative commons)

Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing reveals Obama’s new approach to the world.

The Senate confirmation hearing of Hillary Rodham Clinton provided the first insights into Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

The nominee for Secretary of State sought to make clear the principles that would guide the administration in its approach to international problems from terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.  

The most clear break with the Bush administration came in the insistence on a multilateral approach, recognizing the “overwhelming fact of our interdependence.”

“For me, consultation is not a catch-word.  It is a commitment,” Ms. Clinton stated.

Clinton also spoke for a greater emphasis on diplomacy and the use of what she labeled smart power, citing negotiation, development aid and cultural support to supplement the traditional use of military and economic power.  She cited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will retain his position in the new administration, for the belief that “our civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and under-funded for far too long.”

Ms. Clinton took a hard line however, with Hamas, currently facing a costly war in Gaza, and Iran, whose nuclear ambitions will be a high priority in the next administration. 

Clinton stated that the administration would not negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence and acceptsIsrael’s right to exist, and told Senators that Iran would not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.  When asked by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committeehow far the administration was prepared to go in standing up to Iran, she replied, “nothing is off the table.” 

This aggressive tone may upset some Obama supporters, depending on their isolationist or less confrontational views.  There has been a nearly universal hope that after the Bush Administration’s tough talk (axis of evil) and willingness to use military force, the incoming administration would tone down the rhetoric.  

Clinton appears to be trying to signal both an increased effort at diplomacy and a willingness to consider force when necessary.

“We will lead with diplomacy because it’s the smart approach.  But we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary, and we will rely on it to protect our people and our interests when and where needed, as a last resort.”

Presidential campaigns contain many general statements of philosophy, but not until the incoming administration finds itself face to face with the facts on the ground can a specific program be developed. Israel’s recent invasion of the Gaza strip is just the type of unanticipated event administrations are forced to deal with at their peril.  The risk for the Obama administration is that efforts at solving the Palestinian dilemma will take attention away from Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russia’s resurgent power in Europe and effective action to manage the current world economic crisis as well.

Challenging Obama’s Presidency

Originally published December 22, 2008, at politicsunlocked.com


United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

Photo by dbking licensed http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/


A little known aspect of the judicial system was made a bit more public recently, as courts have rejected lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidential election.

Anthony Martin-Trigona, a documented legal system abuser, did it again, filing a lawsuit regarding Obama’s citizenship in Hawaii state court. Federal courts have already imposed rules barring him from bringing any more frivolous claims to their courts.

federal appeals court has previously described Martin-Trigona’s actions and called out the harm caused by people who use our justice system for their own personal agenda without regard to the legal validity of their claims.

“To those who follow the business of the courts, the appellant needs no introduction. He is the source of literally hundreds of lawsuits, motions and miscellaneous pleadings, all but a small fraction of which lack any merit whatsoever. Viewing Martin-Trigona’s litigious conduct in its entirety yields the inescapable conclusion that he persistently resorts to legal processes without regard to the merits of the claims asserted and that he invokes those processes largely to harass persons who have unluckily crossed his path.”

And the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals continued:

“Martin-Trigona is known to have filed over 250 civil actions, appeals, and other matters throughout the United States, which have been pursued with ‘persistence, viciousness, and general disregard for decency and logic.’  He has used legal pleadings to ventilate his contempt and hatred of persons of Jewish heritage and to level accusations which ‘have often been personal, have often emphasized racial or religious affiliations, and have often involved the members of . . . judges’ and counsel’s families.’ The purpose, nature and effect of his resort to multiple litigation has been to involve as many persons in as many confounding legal processes as possible. . . . Martin-Trigona’s voluminous filings have ‘inundated’ the District of Connecticut and his activities have burdened judicial operations to the point of impairing the administration of justice. Finally, Martin-Trigona has not desisted from his course of vexatious litigation but has expressly stated his intent to file yet more actions.”

Fox News put Martin-Trigona on the air during the campaign to impugn Obama.  The real offense, political positions aside, was that a person known for such extensive and frivolous abuse of the American legal system was given the credibility of broadcast time.

But he is not alone.  Seventeen lawsuits (so far) have been filed in various jurisdictions, claiming Barack Obama was not born a U.S. citizen, and thus, cannot become president.

The facts:

Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959.  Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.   Obama’s birth certificate, conveying U.S. citizenship and noting birth in Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, has been examined by the State of Hawaii and found to be authentic.

Case closed.

None-the-less, seventeen individuals have filed suit, and upon rejection of their claims by trial judges, haveappealed as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.  The legal basis of the challenges is Article II of the U.S. Constitution, requiring a president to be a natural-born citizen.  Precious resources are used, briefs read, arguments heard, all to give every possible advantage to litigants who want their day in court.  To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected two petitions that have made it to the court for consideration.

The “natural-born citizen” clause has received publicity in recent years with California Republican GovernorArnold Schwarzenegger, who is an Austrian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, appearing to emerge as apresidential hopeful, except for Article II.  Discussion was also prompted by the candidacy of Republican Presidential aspirant John McCain, was born in the Panama Canal Zone to a U.S. military family.  McCain, however, was a citizen at birth, via his parents, both citizens and the status of the U.S.-controlled Canal Zone.

Can you imagine challenges to the birth certificates of George W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan? 

Can We Have Accountability with Our Stimulus?

Originally published at http://www.care2.com/causes/politics/blog



President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress have achieved their goal of creating stimulus legislation to bring aid to the declining economy.  

While both parties agreed that some action was needed to stimulate the economy, the Democratic embrace of public spending did not receive Republican support. Both sides did agree on tax cuts, which put more money in private hands, where it theoretically could be entrusted without fear of misuse.

Remarkably, the stimulus legislation was assembled, debated and negotiated quickly and follows the Bush administration’s $700 billion financial support program, showing both administrations’ willingness to act quickly and boldly–to avoid mistakes made by Depression-era governments.

The public has largely followed party positions with Democrats accepting President Obama’s claims that spending, with accountability, is necessary and proper, and Republicans rejecting public spending beyond the financial bailout as unjustified, except that a significant vocal minority of the public from across the political landscape believe that the government’s management of public funds is corrupt, self-serving, and unnecessary.

The conflict highlights a problem President Obama gave voice to in the 2008 presidential campaign, before the economic crisis captured center state. Many Americans have lost faith in their government. They perceive government as the game board of the wealthy and powerful, where tax revenues and rights to government spending are divided up by lobbyists and their representatives in office.

The truth is likely more complicated.  But Obama campaigned for more openness and accountability in the federal government, and crucially in the government’s use of public funding. Now is the time to make good on those promises.

Both the Treasury plan to support bank balance sheets and real estate values and the new stimulus legislation will only gain legitimacy if the public believes that they are worth the money. President Obama must put great effort into communicating and demonstrating that each dollar was spent wisely, obtained value, and served a public purpose that could not have been achieved otherwise.

This is no easy task. But with such doubt in the responsibility of government and the economic justice of our system, it is necessary. When the crisis ends and President Obama needs to move to the difficult tasks of cutting government spending, including entitlements, and working again towards a balanced budget, such calls for sacrifice by our leaders will require for their success the trust of the American people.

Barack H. Obama in Week Three: How’s He Doing?





What’s all the nonsense about Obama struggling?

The man is 47, has a sharp mind that is suited to judgment of competing ideas, makes speeches at the level of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, has a sensibility that is not so populist as to be deluded, and not so elite as to have lost touch.  He has simultaneously minority and elite status and has a genuinely all-American work ethic and positive disposition.

He begins his presidency with 58 or 59 Democratic Senators (depending on when Al Franken stops telling jokes and shows up for work) and two popular moderate and less partisan Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who are not likely to stand in filibuster against him.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats number 262 to the Republicans 178, which means the President can lose more than 40 Democrats and still pass his agenda in the House.

President Obama has spent the last two years invigorating public participation and activating Democrats to tune in and take a stand.

The choices before him are complex and the problems not easy to solve.  The President has shown in just three short weeks that he is not beholden to anyone.  Liberals are irritated by his centrist nominations.  Republicans challenged his stimulus bill and lost.  Obama demanded a fast response from congress and he got one.

His decisions may or may not solve the credit crisis, real estate market collapse, or spiraling recession, but he certainly is in command.  Franklin Roosevelt made many false steps working through the Great Depression.  In the end, his policies eased the pain, but it was the publicly financed industrial development during World War II that threw off the slump and earned the United States an economic rebirth.

So too Obama may have to readjust course as he evaluates the effect of his administration’s approach to economic difficulty and the country walks a tight-rope.  When he does, critics will attack his every misstep, but if there is any clarity to be gained from his first weeks in office, it is that he will retain command.  Anticipate that this President will respond actively, and until the next election, without gridlock tying his hands.