The Politics of Crisis
In 2008 and again in 2012, I voted for Barack Obama for president. His current low approval ratings are due mainly, I believe, to the noise made by Republicans and their supporters in the media, primarily Fox News. His every action or inaction elicits howls of condemnation from these people. Throughout the tenure of his administration, Republicans have switched positions, opposing issues they originally favored after Obama sided with them. They have spared no strategy to make the American people dislike him and/or his policies, to the detriment of the country. On his stances vis a vis the enormously complex and bedeviling foreign crises, for example – Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Israel versus the Palestinians – he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He is in a no-win situation. One listens to these Republicans and wants to reply, “You say Obama is handling this matter wrong. How would you handle it?” They never have a better solution. Invariably, their answer is a get-tough policy to show the world who’s boss, which only exacerbates the hatred of some peoples and nations for the United States.
Columnist Ruben Navarrette
That said, I have soured a little on the president lately for caving to criticism and taking the politically expedient route when strong leadership was required. On the gut-wrenching matter of children from Central America fleeing to the U.S., syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette made a compelling counter-argument to Obama’s claim that this dire circumstance was the result of Republicans’ failure to approve a Senate immigration reform bill calling for 20,000 more Border Patrol agents. “This assumes,” Navarrette wrote, “that with enough boots on the ground, we can turn back uninvited guests. No one who understands the border, and the lengths to which the downtrodden and the desperate will go to cross it, would believe such foolishness.”
Children fleeing Central America on a train
The columnist made the point that the children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador taking a 1,400-mile trip through Mexico to the U.S. atop a freight train are not immigrants seeking jobs. Most are refugees escaping sexual assault or violence by youth gangs, and are treated abysmally upon reaching this country with warehousing in facilities that lack the basic necessities of life. “Also troubling,” said Navarrette, “neither members of Congress nor the media have been allowed to interview the children,” some as young as 5 or 6.
Equally disturbing is the apparently insufficient concern by a president who always has shown a soft spot in his heart for children, poignantly exhibited in a speech following the massacre of children in Newtown, Mass., when the usually cool Obama shed a few tears in an apparently spontaneous, sincere moment. But on a visit to Texas, he declined to visit the children congregated at the border, protesting that his purpose was to solve the dilemma rather than pose for a photo op. Perhaps he feared that his emotions would get the better of him.
Of course, Navarrette, a conservative, adroitly laid the blame for inaction toward the children’s plight on Obama, acknowledging that he asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis but skirting the issue of Republican refusal to grant it. Instead, he accused the president of behaving in partisan fashion while calling for bipartisanship. Obama is correct in his charges that Republicans act purely in their own self-interest and have zero intention of cooperating with the president and Democrats to resolve critical issues. But in this case, he needed to rise above the fray and place paramount importance on the welfare of these desperate children.
Humpty dumpty beyond patching
Professor Timothy William Waters
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki
On the question of Iraqi intervention in an effort to bring about stability, Obama bowed to political pressure from Sen. John McCain and others to jump back into this quagmire, launching drone attacks and sending advisers to train Iraqi troops at the urgent request of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who previously had forbid the U.S. to stay longer except under his conditions. It is obvious to those steeped in the history of Iraq that Shiite and Sunni hatred for each other, which goes back centuries, will not evaporate, and it is useless to attempt reconciliation. The northern Kurds want to become autonomous, and Professor Timothy William Waters of the Center for Constitutional Democracy at Indiana University argues for allowing that to happen rather than working toward unification. U.S. military assistance will not stop the formation of an Islamist state by the militants, Waters wrote in a piece for the Los Angeles Times, while the Kurdish militia could and would want to achieve that goal, Waters says.
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