Obama’s Report Card: Quotes from the Second Inaugural

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As a teacher, this is the time of year that I start to evaluate my students and issue some sort of letter grade to their performance in my classroom.

It makes sense then, that I rate this administration also.

As always, I will try to be as neutral as possible.

Today’s grade sheet will look at the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy, based on his pledges from Monday’s Second Inaugural Address (read the entire transcript here courtesy of The Washington Post).

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Our citizens seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm.

Middle East in general–One blunder that President Obama had, and has gone relatively unnoticed since, was his address at the University of Cairo in 2009. There, Obama gleefully acknowledged a pro-Islamic Brotherhood world by defining the Middle Eastern identity as Islamic rather than Arab. Semantics, I know. But think for a second. What is an Arab?

An Arab is anyone in the Middle East or North Africa, whether they are from Morocco or Syria or Palestine or Saudi Arabia. They can be Christian or Muslim, man or woman, they can even be Jewish Arabs that speak Arabic. Arab is an identity.

Why then address the Middle East as Muslim? His intent, maybe, based on the speech, was to show the people that Americans are Muslim also. I can accept this, but he should have addressed the people as Arabic, and that there are Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs living happily in the United States. I think there might be something else behind this… Oh well.

In this case, the president seems to have forgotten who “would do us harm.” Of course, it is not all Muslims, and definitely not all Arabs, but there is a certain element within the Muslim faith that wishes America and its allies incredible harm. So, what damage might addressing a crowd in Cairo in 2009 as Muslim rather than Arab inflict? Tacitly, the United States acknowledges what the extreme Muslim groups believe: The Middle East is Muslim. Good luck Israel. Syria? The probability of an anti-American, pro-Brotherhood group replacing the current regime–strong. Worst of all, it puts Iran–Persian, not Arab, and Muslim–in a difficult place where it will need to assert its own will and power.

Grade: D

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America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice.

Obama proclaims America as a supporter of democracy and that we will be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice. Let’s see how well this stands up to the last four years of his administration.

Egypt–As it stands, the hope of democracy in Egypt is waning. President Morsi is aligning himself with a hard-line, Sharia-based government. If the Muslim Brotherhood gains strength, despite Morsi publicly distancing himself from the group by withdrawing his membership, you will see less rights for women or Christians in Egypt.

Syria–For a time, the Obama Administration supported the Syrian National Council in their war against the Assad regime (the administration has broken ties in October 2012). Unbeknownst to most Americans, the SNC was formed by a large faction of the Muslim Brotherhood. Though, on Mar. 25, 2012, the Brotherhood declared its intention to form a civil constitution, full democracy, equality irrespective of ethnicity, gender, or religion, and freedoms of opinion and belief (Muslim Brotherhood, New York Times), this ideal will probably not come to fruition in Syria as the Salafis–ultra-conservative Islamists within the Brotherhood–continue to gain strength. We may be trading one extreme for another.

India–This is a tough one for Obama. 1. India is a nuclear rival of Pakistan, a nation we are peppering with drone missile attacks. 2. India has issues with the U.S. acknowledging the ISI as a representative of foreign state and deserving of immunity. 3. The United States and India are working on resurrecting economic ties. However, all that said, this administration will be called to the mat as “a source of hope to the poor, sick, marginalized, the victims of prejudice” as more and more Indian women step forward, at great risk to themselves and their families, with rape allegations.

Grade: C- (The “C” is for hope in democracy around the world. The minus is for the fact that these democracies balance on the razor’s edge and could easily tip into a nefarious oblivion).

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Together we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play…. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality…

Not sure what it was that we “discovered” here. The greatest boom in American ingenuity occurred during the late 1800s, and fair play and competition were the furthest things from reality then. Even the Dot-Com boom of the 1990s had issues with “fair play.”

Hawker-Beechraft–The company was forced to sue the Air Force in order to have “fair play” in the bidding for a government contract which ultimately went to the Brazilian firm Embraer. On the midst bankruptcy now, and almost bought out by a Chinese firm, Beechcraft, as they will now be known, is going to come out of bankruptcy a smaller company. And it still doesn’t have the right to bid on the contract. One issue with Hawker-Beechcraft was that their small business jets (4000, 900x, and 200) are outsold by Bombardier and Gulfstream. They gambled on the market and lost.

“You didn’t build that”–I would dare say that this slip of “fair play” was inserted to counter the campaign assault of the “You Didn’t Build That” despite taken slightly out of context. This administration has made some errors in the business arena–Solyndra, A123, et al–but, so far has been supportive of innovation–Tesla Motors (ignoring that only the 1% can afford one of their cars… yeah, those vilified 1%ers). The jury is still out the impact of ACA on small business and whether they will be able to compete in this new market. Obama’s green energy policy has been a boondoggle–kindly said–or an economic sinkhole for the taxpayer–more blunt. China will continue to dominate this with their connections to European markets and their ability to produce cheaply.

China–the last four years has seen this Administration give way for China to increase its presence in the European market. Individual European nations are courting China for investment dollars. Though Obama has “pivoted” toward China, the Chinese hold the key to whether or not we will be able to maintain our economic vitality.

Grade: C+/B- (though not in ink with ACA outstanding, and four more years of bailouts looming, and China’s growth)

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… nothing…

Okay, not a quote from the speech itself, but a summary of any semblance of a foreign policy. I wasn’t expecting the same rhetoric of GW’s second inaugural, but a bit more than what was said would have been nice.

We are an interdependent world. True, the issues at hand are not as uplifting as the imagery that Obama laced his second inaugural with, but he set out clear, promising objectives for the domestic scene. Where were these for Syria? Iran? Drone bombings?

The President reminded the American people that he took out Osama bin Laden, but this snake has more than one head. AQIM grows in strength in North Africa. Game plan?

I fear that as the U.S. goes forward, our foreign policy will be one of reaction rather than proactive. We will seek out an obscure video vilifying Islam and claim it as the motive behind an attack on the U.S. or its embassies rather than admitting that drone assaults in Somalia or Sudan or Pakistan only infuriate an already angry Islamist group.

Grade: F

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How Three Little Letters Can Tear Apart A Party

I just want to say thank to the DNC for proving my point in my August 24th post (President for a Day)

G-O-D.

Three little letters that almost stole the convention.

Where does God fit into this nation? Without a doubt it was a significant aspect of every culture that settled this country–Puritan English, Anglican English, Catholic French, Catholic Spanish–and even in the tribes that settled before that.

At this point, there would appear to be more people who would either deny the existence of a god or have an absolute revulsion to the idea of god and government.

It’s a good thing, then, that Inauguration Day is a Sunday. Let’s see who shows up.

Flashback Friday: President for a Day

Take a drive through the rolling hills of Missouri just north of Kansas City, and you just might find yourself in the small community of Plattsburg.

In the Greenlawn Cemetery off State Highway C, among listing power lines,

David Rice Atchison's tombstone.

David Rice Atchison’s tombstone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

thick green grass, and granite family markers, stands a monument to the Atchison-Allen family plot. On the east side of the family obelisk is a worn, granite marker for David Rice Atchison, b. 1807 d. 1886. Just beyond, the city of Plattsburg set an ornate bronze marker in the grass that reads: “President of the United States for one day. Sunday Mar. 4 1849. David Rice Atchison. Aug. 11, 1807 – Jan. 26, 1886.”

Did we really have a president for a day?

According to a statue dedicated to Mr. Atchison standing in front of the Clinton County Courthouse in Plattsburg, MO. we did. The plaque on the red marble base declares Mr. Atchison as “President of the United States one day; Lawyer, Statesman, and Jurist; U.S. Senate 1843-1855.”

Where does this mythic “president for a day” come from?

It so happens that James K. Polk’s presidency ended at noon on March 4th 1849, a Sunday. His successor, President-elect Zachary Taylor, declined to be sworn in on the Sabbath, so his inauguration occurred at noon on March 5th.

The internet is full of funny little “facts” and trivia that claim David Atchison as being the “official” twelfth president for twenty-four hours.

Most of these claims surround the notion that Taylor wasn’t sworn in, but if that was the case, neither was Atchison. Therefore, people who make this claim should really state that there was no president for twenty-four hours. Atchison himself never claimed to be “president for a day” and said of that day, “there had been three or four busy nights finishing up the work of the Senate, and I slept most of that Sunday.”

In reality, Polk was neither removed from office, nor died or otherwise unable to perform his duties. According to the Constitution, there is no specific time at which the president’s term ends; when one president’s term ends, the president-elect’s begins. The only thing the swearing in does is enable the president to execute the powers of his office.

This tidbit of history got me thinking.

Inauguration day is January 20th, 2013. A Sunday.

Should Mitt Romney win the White House, will he stand by his Mormon faith and opt to hold the inauguration on Monday since Mormon’s cannot have people do “worldly” work on Sunday, or will he go through with the tradition?

Beyond that, how would a large portion of America react to this? There was a time when people feared a Catholic President, JFK, and the worry that he would hand over carte blanche power to the Pope. Most Americans can vividly remember the Christian Coalition that swept Ronald Reagan into office, and there has been a negative reaction from many Americans toward the Christian Right since that day. As near as I can find, American’s who consider themselves atheist hover around three to five percent. In a nation of three hundred million, that would mean on the low end there are roughly nine million people who would consider themselves atheist. Though this isn’t a “large” portion of Americans, there are still a great many that hold views that the religious right are the ones that are dooming America.

To have their–possible–president opt to hold the inauguration a day later due to religious beliefs might just ruffle a few feathers in the flock.

It would make for interesting television. Debates on the networks about Romney’s religion being more important than America, despite that fact that previous president’s have opted to honor the Sabbath.

Either way, I doubt that Hawaii will be erecting statues to Daniel Inouye, current President pro tempore, as being “president for a day” since there really isn’t one. No offense to David Atchison and his fans.