Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Presidential Race Narrows

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 29, 2008

Conservatives vs. McCain

An interesting phenomenon occurred as the slow, lumbering bus full of potential Republican Presidential candidates became the sleek, two-seater sports car. It seems that many conservative leaders did not like the chosen driver of this sports car and, lacking another car in the race, they decided to loosen the lug nuts and sabotage the vehicle. To me, this is the very opposite of the way conservatives should respond.

While I do not deny those leaders the right to express their disappointment, I do believe that they may have lost sight of the basic tenets of conservatism.

Let me explain:

I believe some of today’s conservative leaders may have swallowed the bait of liberalism by believing that their happiness and personal success comes, not from their own individual efforts and achievements, but from some executive in Washington, D.C. As I listen to and read these men and women, who claim to have strong, conservative beliefs, bemoan the fact that ‘their party and conservatism will be destroyed by John McCain’ I have to ask them: “Just how fragile is your party and your vision of conservatism?”

I believe that we need to re-examine the basic tenets of conservatism and realize afresh the proper role of government and the proper response to life’s disappointments.

For example, when we elect a president, we are not electing a man who will come into our homes and make us all comfortable and well fed. He is not the provider of all our wants and needs; he is merely the representative of the executive branch of our three-branch government. While he does indeed hold a very powerful pen that can change the lives of millions, he also has limitations. We must remind ourselves that only one source can truly meet our daily needs and sadly He is not a candidate for this office.

As a conservative, I would love to have a conservative man in the Oval Office, obviously. However, my memory is not so short that I cannot recall the years of the late 70’s when a Southern Baptist from Georgia led our nation. I remember the Misery Index as inflation and interest rates stifled our economy. I remember watching as our citizens were blindfolded and tortured by an Islamic fascist in Iran. I remember living in fear of an imperialist Soviet Union that seemed destined to destroy our nation as it had destroyed others around the globe. It seemed as though the conservative voice was silent. The future was bleak.

Today, the landscape is remarkably different. We have talk radio with many conservative voices. We have conservative publications. We have websites and bloggers dedicated to promoting conservative viewpoints. We have many sources of information that we didn’t have before. Yet, with all this we still have intelligent conservatives (no, that is NOT an oxymoron!) who think that the election of John McCain could ruin or destroy conservatism.

My contention is that true conservatism will not die, because it is based upon the laws of nature, and as long as nature exists, these laws will also exist. The law of supply and demand is one we conservatives tend to rely upon and submit to as the best method to achieve goals. In other words, according to this law, the primary voters will get the supply (candidate) they demand (vote for). It is up to us to create the demand that will ultimately be met by the supply. If we demand a conservative candidate and none is available on the national scale, we, as true conservatives, should work for the candidates on the local and state levels that meet our demands – or become one!

Another law we ascribe to as conservatives is the law of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest. The primary system is designed to shrink the field to one candidate by pitting the prospects against each other in the battle for news coverage, funding and volunteer workers. Now, I will concede that a national primary date would be more effective in allowing every resident of every state to vote for every candidate, rather than the present system in which a few states can pre-determine the choices for most of the others. However, this is the present system and we as conservatives must submit to it and make the best of it until our demands are supplied in the future.

In conclusion, I will not pick up my toys and go home when my chosen candidate removes himself from the race. I will not use my silence as a “message” to those in power, as if I was a betrayed by a spouse. I will not vote for a Democrat to teach a “lesson” to the Republicans. I will vote for the best available candidate, even if it means the classic “lesser of two evils” choice. I will speak passionately about what I believe as long as the Constitution allows me to do so. I will seek out and work for those on the local level who believe as I do. I will trust the One who tells me that He is still sovereign in the affairs of men rather than place my trust in some elected representative. I will continue to pray for the leaders of our nation, as I am commanded to do, whoever they are.

The Presidential Race Narrows

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 29, 2008

Unlike my fellow columnist, I believe that it is important who sits behind the Oval Office’s desk. One only need look at the current administration to gauge the effect that seasoned neo-cons like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld had on the U.S. The past seven years have been dominated by corporate greed, war profiteering and a foreign policy dedicated to establishing the United States as an imperialist military bully. The president and the advisors with which he surrounds himself have an enormous influence on policy.

As the field of candidates has dropped away and the probable choice of each party has emerged, it’s clear that primary voters realize the impact of this fall’s presidential election on our nation’s future. It appears, at this point, that both parties have rejected the current administration and its neo-conservative posturing. Republicans have essentially chosen Senator John McCain, who has been the most vocal member of the party in Congress against the administration’s war mongering. While the contest is not yet over, Senator Barack Obama is beginning to emerge as the Democratic candidate, over Senator Hillary Clinton, whose approach to Iraq and Iran more closely mirror Bush’s.

I have been a fan of Clinton in the past. I think we are overdue to have a woman, with sensitivity to diplomatic strategies, serve in our highest office. I feel a woman would be less likely to display the machismo arrogance that has driven our current “bring it on” presidency. Unfortunately, foreign policy stances discussed during her campaign leads me to think Hillary would be likely to try to prove herself militarily tough and make decisions that might further imperil the U.S. So, although I appreciate the social liberalism she has always displayed, I backed Obama over her for his level-headed approach to foreign affairs.

Another Obama characteristic that I believe has appealed to primary voters thus far is his opposition to the Washington culture of loyalty to lobbyists and special interests. I am not naïve enough to think that Obama will single-handedly transform the K-Street culture and successfully break the strangle hold that powerful lobbyists have over our leaders. It is true, however, that Barack Obama does not have to pay back years of political favors to contributors and special interests. I feel more confident that Obama will surround himself with insightful advisors and make his decisions based on national interest, not the interests of corporations and political action committees.

Barack Obama’s campaign has also effectively snuffed a common Republican pitch. Past campaigns have painted the Grand Old Party as one of optimism. It is hard to deny the theme of hope that has become the rallying cry of the Obama camp. Change has been a recurring buzzword among nearly all the campaigns. However, no candidate was able to wear the badge of hope as successfully as Obama. Not only does his heritage bring hope to African-Americans who feel disfranchised, but his message has appealed to citizens from all walks of life who have felt denied the American dream.

Obama’s strategy for universal healthcare seems to realistically recognize the challenges of the current healthcare and insurance system, without fully catering to the corporate greed that accounts for the current healthcare dilemma. He appears to identify with the working class and the working poor in a way that neither the Republican Party, with its dedication to corporate America, nor the Clintons with their image of privilege, can attempt.

And while it is not my only benchmark, nor my only consideration as I cast my vote, one of my tests of presidential prowess is the ability to make inspiring speeches. Few could deny Barack Obama’s skill in this arena. It would be a refreshing change after Bush’s repeated butchering of the English language.

Hillary Clinton cannot be counted out just yet. She has waged successful campaign warfare in the past and understands the Washington culture like few others. The Clintons are a political machine that should not be underestimated. However, Barack Obama has proven a viable candidate for his party’s nomination. I believe that time will prove him capable of winning the general election. History will tell if Obama has the makings of an American President

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The State of the Union

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 15, 2008

While our President delivered his Farewell State of the Union Address, I was struck with a few thoughts.

First of all, I believe that history may be a somewhat kinder critic of his performance than the current noisy critics who seem to have such a visceral hatred for the man. According to the Random House College Dictionary, “visceral” is defined as “Characterized by or proceeding from the instinctive rather than intellectual motivation.” I think this sums up those who suffer from ‘Bush Derangement Syndrome’.

While I personally have many differences with Mr. Bush, I can approach and judge his policies as separate from the man. It appears that many others – such as my fellow columnist – cannot.

Let’s go back to the previous occupant of the Oval Office. I was diametrically opposed to most of President Clinton’s policies and morally repulsed by his disrespect for our White House and the rule of law. (In case we need to be reminded here, he was convicted of, and disbarred for committing perjury – a felony, but I digress) However, I don’t recall ever having a hatred for the man, like the Bush-o-phobes seem to have.

The war in Iraq is improving daily, while we still have many bloody miles ahead, I think an honest appraisal of the situation will confirm that the belated surge of troops and increased negotiations with Sunni leaders has been an effective policy.

The economy is slowing down and adjusting itself to the housing debacle, but Bush’s critics have to decide whether he was responsible for the seven years of growth or whether he is only responsible for the current downturn. To suggest the latter without the former is illogical.

As I listened to his speech, I heard the oft-repeated mantra of “trust the people” and “empower the people”.
It was sprinkled about his speech like a nice seasoning that a good chef recognizes would stay on the palate after the meal is finished. For me, it works. After all, that is really the core of our American system. The Jeffersonian philosophy of getting government out of the way of entrepreneurs and inventors and restricting government rather than restricting the people is the best path to prosperity.

Now to the issue of this mania that seems to afflict many on the left: Calm thyself with the assurance that our Constitution does not allow George W. Bush a third term. Take a breath, he’ll be gone a year from now. But, unless you address this hatred in your hearts, you will still be stressing yourself unnecessarily. If McCain becomes our next Commander-in-Chief, will you transfer this “instinctive rather than intellectual” hatred to him?

Friday, February 8, 2008

President George W. Bush’s Final State of the Union

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, February 8, 2008

George W. Bush gave his final State of the Union address on Monday, January 28. As historic as this event was, most unique was the fact that it was his last annual speech to Congress. This was the fact I found most noteworthy and encouraging.

Apparently, Fox News broadcasted a special on Sunday, the 27th to kick off the week of Bush’s historic address. I didn’t watch it but it was entitled “George W. Bush: Fighting to the Finish.” It is clear that Bush is, at least, spewing rhetoric to the finish. All in all, there were no surprises in this last State of the Union.

Bush couldn’t deny the fading economy, and, to preserve a shred of credibility, he led off with that bleak subject. While his acceptance of the dire situation did indicate a perceived awareness of reality, he made a pathetic attempt to spin a little optimism into the mix. Describing the problem as “slowing growth” does little to quell fears about the worsening economic situation of most Americans. The proposed stimulus package he mentioned that night illustrates the disconnect between the president and those in Congress, and those of us who are hit hardest by the failing U.S. economy. Throwing a few hundred dollars each to the masses while whispering under their collective breath, “God, I hope they spend this,” will do little to help those struggling to pay bills, put enough gas in their cars to get themselves to their low-paying jobs, or allow them to keep their meager homes. For most Americans, economic hardship is far more than kitchen table talk. We live in a constant state of worry and fear of where the next financial blow will hit. It is disheartening to note that so many of our political leaders are out of touch with those of us who work hard but barely get by.

Even faced with the reality of impending recession, Bush’s disregard of the working class was evident in his insistence that the nation’s wealthy not sacrifice the sweet tax cuts they’ve been enjoying during his presidency. Not only has this administration frittered away the prosperity and surplus of the Clinton years, driving up the Federal deficit and financing its imperialistic military agenda with foreign credit, it has refused to allow those who can best afford it to help support its aggressive policies. The administration’s line has always been that these tax cuts would stimulate the growth and strengthen the economy. Now, with the market tanking and the working class squeezed between low wages and rising costs, it’s difficult to see the effectiveness of this strategy.

Again, Bush was forced to face the inconvenience of reality when he had to mention the nationwide health care crisis. Fortunately, he was able to garner cheers from the Republicans present by focusing on “solutions” that benefit insurance companies and corporations without offering relief to the uninsured or underinsured. The arrogance of measures like tax credits for private insurance holders and health savings accounts add insult to injury by blaming the working class and working poor for their plight. These programs do little to help those who can barely afford food and staples, gain access to needed healthcare.

The remainder of the speech was dedicated to fear mongering as thick as only the Bush administration can lay it on. To satisfy his base’s rabid hunger for immigration reform, the president called attention to immigrants who mean us harm. He described terrorists and extremists as evil men who despise freedom. He warned of the danger of failure in Iraq, while claiming the success of the surge. It is interesting that he mentions the new mission given to troops a year ago, which included denying insurgents safe haven. Recent reports from those in-country have indicated that violence reductions in some areas like Anbar have been matched by increases in other parts of Iraq. That insurgents appear to have found sufficient safe havens elsewhere calls into question his definition of success. Bush used the fear of terrorism in an attempt to intimidate Congress into reauthorizing aggressive surveillance programs.

In rhetoric that echoed his 2003 State of the Union, Bush used the podium to repeat his fervent condemnation of Iran. The macho breast thumping was the standard administration fare that has been the constant appeal for public support of action against the Arab nation. One addition was a warning to Iranian leaders against threatening our troops. This is a reference to the recent incident where Iranian speedboats were apparently videotaped taunting a U.S. military ship. Inconsistencies in the official story harkened to the Gulf of Tonkin incident that springboarded the Johnson administration’s escalation of the war in Vietnam. This reference is an important counter to the recent damaging National Intelligence Estimate that reported that Iran had most likely canned any nuclear program it had been working on long ago. It is clear that Iran is an agenda item Bush wishes to check off his list before leaving office.

It inspires fear in me that throughout these final twelve months Bush is determined to fight to the finish. Unfortunately, his fight is the fight of America’s sons and daughters. His presidency has written checks that have been cashed with the blood of our military and the lives of those we have invaded. We must not let his administration drain this account as he has dwindled our economic prosperity. We must remind those who represent us in Congress, that the Executive is accountable to the people. We must let our leaders know that we will not accept policies that are not in our best interest.