Why Do I Bother Reading Article Comments?

children-poop-kid-play-name-namecalling-bstn464l.jpgFor some reason, after reading a USA Today article about the upcoming midterm elections, I strolled over to the comments section. Now, normally, I avoid reading the comments only because I can’t afford the spike in heart rate and my computer monitor cannot take the verbal abuse I spew at it while reading the comments. But there I was, reading the typically partisan venom and the obligatory name calling and elementary school bickering from adults.

All I could think about as I read the banter, for better words, back and forth in the some 140 comments at the time was that there is a serious need to review history again.

So, here it is.

Blaming The Current President For Economic Issues

Most people are quick to jump on the policies of the current president for the problems that this country is facing. Case in point: Economics. Read through the comments and there are those on the left who blame G. W. Bush for the 2007-08 recession because he was sitting in office at the time. The right counters that the current unemployment and economic malaise is B. Obama’s fault.

Both groups are simply incorrect. Take the Great Depression as an example. No one can lay the blame for the Great Depression solely at the feet of Herbert Hoover because he was president in ’29. Just like no one can cast stones on FDR for the Depression, either.

Economic events in U.S. history take time to evolve. The Great Depression can be linked to events in the 1920s–buying on margin, speculative land deals–and I will even argue that the foundations to the Great Depression can be traced as far back as A. Lincoln’s Homestead Act in 1862 (By encouraging farming of the Midwest, we were setting the soil and the environment up for failure. The Dust Bowl of the 1920s was the culmination of this failure).

So, to lay the blame for our current economic issues on G. W. Bush or B. Obama is as ludicrous as blaming Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression. So please stop this nonsense.

There are few times when economic issues during a president’s term can be squarely placed on the president’s table. Case in point, the Roosevelt Recession of 1937-38 where FDR curtailed some of the New Deal programs and dropped the recovering economy into a downward spiral.

To those who are quick to blame either G. W. Bush or B. Obama for our current issues, be sure to understand that our current issues have a foundation many years prior to either of these men’s time in office. I wrote about the Clinton impact on the economy today in this article “Looking that the Ads–Okay Just One”.

What can be addressed, and what one hardly reads, are the current policies that are being enacted to fix the situation. In this case, I’d give a D- to both G. W. Bush and B. Obama for their handling of the economy. They both inherited an issue and either chose to ignore it or throw random money at it hoping that something would stick. In the case of B. Obama, I find it funny that the left views trickle down economics as a system of failure, yet with the bailout of GM and loans to companies like Solyndra I can see no greater form of trickle down.

But I Need To Blame The (Circle one: Republicans/Democrats) For Something

After the economy, foreign policy is the next forum for uncivil discourse on the internet. At foreign_policyfirst blush, this would seem to be a fair place to level an assault against the rival party’s behavior on an international level. They are the ones directing the events that are unfolding at this moment with regard to U.S. relations. However, there are issues that must be neatly navigated around here.

While the Iraq War is and will be plagued with issues, is best compared to the Vietnam War, and will be a massive blemish on the G. W. Bush administration (US News has a good opinion piece you can read here) there are arguments bantered by those on the left that hold absolutely no merit. Chief among them is that the United States was lied to about the motives for the war: Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Again, if we are to be objective about our criticism of the present, we must be aware of the past.

“It’s just the war and that lying son of a bitch Johnson and…” That’s Wesley, Jenny’s boyfriend, from Forrest Gump describing Lyndon Johnson. In reality, the Vietnam War was almost inevitable from the moment Truman issued his Containment Policy and Eisenhower gave the world the “domino theory.” Ike suggested that Southeast Asia was stacked like dominoes in a row, and should one fall (in this case to communism) then they all would leading to the “loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia following.” [Source: DDE News conference April 7, 1954]. That Kennedy and, later Johnson, would use this theory to support their activity in Vietnam, and ultimately Johnson’s decidedly misconstrued tale of the Gulf of Tonkin, is what truly matters in the study of current affairs.

That G.W. Bush had assembled a war hawk cabinet and a Vice President still reeling from his failure in Iraq years early was a large contributing factor to the declaration of war in Iraq. Had 9/11 not happened, there would have been other mitigating factors in our invasion of Iraq and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Whether for good or not, the United States has long been in the regime change business and it has continued with B. Obama and Libya and Egypt. But, I’d like to consider that there were other factors that allowed the Bush administration the opportunity to go at Iraq. What was their “domino theory”?

Again, history doesn’t repeat itself, but the coincidences are stark.

Like Vietnam, the Iraq war was molded in infancy during a press conference of sorts. W. Clinton established a policy for containing–to borrow a Cold War term–Iraq and the Hussein regime’s weapons. In February 17, 1998, Clinton addressed the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon and outlined his policy on Iraq. At their essences, both addresses focus on the freedoms of people around the world; freedoms that we in the United States take for granted–speech, democracy, economy. Both Eisenhower and Clinton warn of threats to these freedoms and the necessity of the United States to protect these for both neighboring nations and for our own welfare. Eisenhower worries that the nations of Indochina will fall under a dictatorship and Clinton laments that “There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.” [Source: CNN Text of Clinton Statement on Iraq, Feb. 17, 1998].

Let’s look at how closely these two speeches mirror one another. The six quotes below were pulled from both speeches. Without looking them up, see if you can correctly identify the President who said each. (Parts of speech that would give away answers have been redacted).

Now, let me say to all of you here as all you know the weightiest decision any president ever has to make is to send our troops into harm’s way. And force can never be the first answer. But sometimes, it’s the only answer.

 

But it is different if we unite…. Our purpose is… to create the unity of free wills needed to assure a peaceful settlement which will in fact preserve the vital interests of us all.

 

I wouldn’t want to comment at too great a length at this moment, but I do believe this: this is the kind of thing that must not be handled by one nation trying to act alone.

 

But if we act as one, we can safeguard our interests and send a clear message to every would-be tyrant… that the international community does have the wisdom and the will and the way to protect peace and security in a new era.

 

It is against that background that we have repeatedly and unambiguously made clear our preference for a diplomatic solution.

 

But one thing: we are not going to overstep the line of prudence in keeping ourselves secure, knowing that the agreements we made have some means of being enforced. We are not simply going to take words. There must be some way of making these things fact and deed.

 

I promise that these six quotes came from both Eisenhower and Clinton. You can follow the links above to read them for yourself. That the similarities exist should have been a warning to us all that at some time we’d find ourselves enmeshed in a war in Iraq. Let’s see how you did: If you answered Clinton, Ike, Ike, Clinton, Clinton, Ike, you got the all correct. Both Presidents sought a unified front, either through our British and French allies or through the United Nations. However, both Presidents left open the opportunity for the use of force.

Just like the Domino Theory came back to haunt America in the 1960s, so to did Clinton’s “Promise to the Future” speech as I am calling it. The most damning part of it was Clinton’s continued use of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons stockpiles.

If G.W. Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq, then this speech (and many others by W. Clinton) is chock full of lies also. To condemn one is to condemn the other. That the Obama Administration continued the war is no surprise. If G.W. Bush is “that lying son of a bitch Johnson” then B. Obama would be Nixon. Both took the war into different directions. Nixon with his secret Cambodia excursions and Obama with his secret drone wars. And in this, we see that foreign policy cannot be used as a true condemnation of a presidency; all presidencies are tied to previous generations.

I Have To Complain About Something

072808-nonsequiturWe all do. That’s just the nature of having an opinion. What needs to happen, however, is a greater understanding of that past before we are able to criticize the present. Many of the issues facing us today could have been avoided had we, the electorate, and our elected officials bothered to pay attention to the things that we’ve tried before. Consider it a Been There, Done That (BTDT) scenario. When you understand the past, your are more likely to accept the present–both the good and the bad–and you are more likely to accept that both parties have some culpability in the issues at hand.

However, if you still wish to complain and cannot be bothered to understand the past, then I would suggest the following for your rhetoric. Since everything offends everyone on the opposite side of the political spectrum, these options will further that divide:

1. You can borrow the line used to describe Lewis Cass in the 1848 election. He is a “pot-bellied, mutton-headed, cucumber.”

2. If calling someone a cucumber seems too childish, you can always drag out their sex life as did the Polk supporters in the 1844 election. They claimed that Henry Clay had broken every single Commandment and had sex with whores. When Clay supporters demanded evidence, Polk’s camp merely said that the details were too scandalous to print.

3. Sticking with sex, you can accuse the opposition of pimping American girls as was the case with John Quincy Adams in the 1828 election. JQA was accused of pimping an American girl to the czar of Russia.

4. When sex becomes taboo, or the website moderators delete your posts, you can always just fall back on death. In 1800, Jefferson was declared dead by Adams supporters.

5. And if people realize that the object of your spite and malice is still living go after their parents. Back to the 1828 election and this time Adams’ supporters went after Jackson’s dead mother claiming she was a “common prostitute brought to America by British soldiers who married a mulatto and fathered Jackson”.

6. Those of you who feel you are above the personal attacks, you can always worry about the future: It was said that if Thomas Jefferson was elected he would usher in an America where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”

For the rest of us, we’ll continue to keep up on the present by investigating the past.

*****

As always, From The Kitchen Cabinet encourages comments and feedback. Political discourse can only happen when two or more people talk, listen, and observe. Otherwise, its just tyranny of the mind.

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Looking At The Ads… Okay, Just One.

Don’t get me wrong.

I like some of what Bill Clinton did as President. But then again, I like some of Reagan too. However, there’s a slight issue I have with Mr. Clinton’s latest Obama ad.

In the ad, you can watch here courtesy of YouTube, the former President talks about how Romney’s plan is to go back to deregulation. Here’s a quote:

This election, to me, is about which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment. This is a clear choice. The Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper-income people and go back to deregulation. That’s what got us in trouble in the first place.

Okay, Mr. former President Clinton. Let’s look at the deregulation that “got us in trouble in the first place.”

First of all, be it known that in my world neither the Democrats or Republicans are blameless. Both screwed the situation up badly and left us in the mess we find ourselves in right now.

Quick history:

  • 1920s: In a nutshell, people were going to the bank to take out a loan to go gamble in Las Vegas. In a stock market craze, American’s bought stocks on “margin.” Loans were given based on the idea that the stock would rise beyond the loan value and everyone would make money. Along came 1929.
  • As a part of FDR’s First Hundred Days, the Banking Act of 1932 and 1933 were passed. These “reform” acts were designed to prevent a future Depression from ever happening again. Beside creating a FDIC, the Banking Acts (later known as the Glass-Steagall Act after the two Congressmen who authored the bills), separated commercial banking from investment banking.
  • 1977. The Carter Admin authors the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The CRA, vaguely written and hardly enforced, authorized banking regulators to ensure that insured banks were serving the “whole” community.

1993. The incoming Clinton Administration, working on a 1992 Boston Federal Reserve Study on home loans, encouraged lending institutions to revisit their loan policies. At the behest of Clinton Regulators, banks had to prove that they were meeting a quota of loans made to low- and moderate-income borrowers. In other words, banks were encouraged to create innovative and flexible loan policies to get people who would otherwise be unable to get a home loan. A 1994 HUD National Homeownership Strategy, promoted by Clinton, called for

“financing strategies, fueled by the creativity and resources of the private and public sectors, to help homeowners that lack cash to buy a home or to make the payments.”

On top of this, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were also encouraged to open up the purse strings so that everyone could be homeowners.

Not to be out played in the “we-like-the-little-people” game, Republicans pushed through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which undid all things Glass-Steagall. After nearly twenty-five years of lobbying from the banks, Wall Street and Main Street Banks were once again able to merge policies, institutions, and lending practices. The reform effort of FDR to prevent another Great Depression went by the wayside. What we had was a massive housing speculation (more commonly called “flipping”) and eventually a collapse of the value of middle-class family home prices.

This brings us back to “…deregulation. That’s what got us in trouble in the first place.”

By encouraging banks to be “creative” and flexible in their lending policies, Clinton dismantled every oversight that the banks had establish for themselves in their lending programs. If that’s not deregulation, then maybe I don’t understand the term.

Deregulation. It’s not just something the Republicans are good at.

It’s time we put on our thinking caps as we listen to these campaign ads.