What the Hell is the Presidency For?

The on-line magazine The Root recently asked, “Should Obama endorse gay marriage?” And then suggested, “Doing so before the election has some risks, but it could re-energize segments of his base.” Notice their question doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

I’m so accustomed to “what will get me re-elected” political thinking, I had to read these two paragraphs about Lyndon Baines Johnson from my first book of 2012, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig several times. Based on the assumption you may also be in need of inspiration, I share them with you as an abbreviated refresher on bold political leadership:

In his first speech to Congress, he (Johnson) placed civil rights at the core of his new administration, and hence at the core of the values of the Democratic Party. The decision was profoundly controversial. In a six-hour meeting before the speech, Johnson was advised strongly against making civil rights so central to his administration. As described by Randall Woods, Johnson was told, “Passage [of the Civil Rights Act]… looked pretty hopeless; the issue was as divisive as any… ; it would be suicide to wage and lose such a battle.” The safe bet was against the fight. Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell is the presidency for?” These were not the words of a triangulator from the U.S. Senate, but of a man who had grown tired of that game, and wanted to try something new.

When he decided to make civil rights central to his party’s platform, Johnson knew that he was forever changing the political dominance of the Democrats. His decision to pass the most important civil rights legislation in history was a guarantee that the Republicans would again become competitive. Yet his loyalty was more to truth, or justice, or his legacy—you pick—than to party politics. To that end, whichever it was, he was willing to sacrifice a Democratic majority of tomorrow in order to use the Democratic majority of today.

Indeed, what the hell is the presidency for?

Wake Me October 1, 2012

I follow national and international news closely, but I’ve run smack dab into a Presidential politics news wall. The coverage is way too extensive and speculative.

Constantly changing state and national polls, accusations back and forth, bizarre public appearances, both sides pandering for votes while our serious challenges intensify, soundbites left and right, an army of analysts dissecting every detail, even the debates lack substance.

I’m more cognizant than before of the opportunity cost of following the thirteen month long circus—hours of time down the drain. Life is short, I’m going to tune it out to the best of my abilities and focus instead on my “To Do” list:

1. Decide whether or not to refer to Ron Artest as Metta World Peace.

2. Clean the gutters.

3. Determine whether the Beibs fathered a baby or not.

4. Get the lawnmower serviced.

5. Clean the sink pipes in the Ron (master) bathroom.

6. Teach Marley to ride on the back of the new scoot.

7. Devise a plan to get on this list.

8. Run, swim, and cycle long distances.

9. Distract the offspring, then give away the bulk of their childhood possessions.

10. Take a nap.

Mitt’s Grand Idea—Let’s Spend More on Defense

This is written for the three independent voters—one in Montana, one in Vermont, and the other in Oregon—that will most likely decide the 2012 presidential election.

Completely lost in the weekend “Mormonism is a cult” hubbub, is a much more serious two-part problem. Mitt Romeny is a liar and in serious denial about our nation’s finances.

Indira A.R. Lakshmanan reporting for Bloomberg Business on October 8th:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of bowing to global adversaries and promised, if elected, to boost America’s military strength by expanding the Navy and missile defenses.

“America must lead the world, or someone else will,” Romney said, reprising the argument from his 2010 book, “No Apology,” that U.S. military strength and leadership are essential to deterring tyrants and keeping world peace. “In an American century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world.”

Note to Mitt: “Our century” was the Twentieth. We’re in decline in large part because we’re spending way too much on Medicare and defense.

Romney pledged in his first 100 days in the White House to boost naval shipbuilding, deploy Navy carriers to deter Iran’s suspected military ambitions. . . and invest heavily in missile defense and cybersecurity.

At The Citadel and Oct. 6 aboard a World War II aircraft carrier in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Romney repeatedly said Obama is slashing defense spending and gutting missile defense, assertions that are contradicted by official data.

According to government figures, military spending under Obama is higher than it was under former President George W. Bush. Total Defense Department budget authority for non-war and war spending increased 3.6 percent from fiscal year 2009 to 2010, according to Pentagon budget data. Obama requested $708 billion in budget authority for war and non-war spending in fiscal 2011, an increase of 2.5 percent. 

Romney showed “once again that he is willing to say anything, regardless of the facts, to get elected,” Obama’s re- election campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail.

The former Massachusetts governor on Oct. 6 released a list of foreign policy advisers, including many who served former President George W. Bush and advocated the invasion of Iraq. Several had supported so-called enhanced interrogation techniques or rendition of terrorism suspects to third countries, including former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Cofer Black, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Aboard the USS Yorktown Oct. 6, Romney called for reinforcing the Navy and Air Force and adding 100,000 active- duty troops to reduce battlefield rotations.

One U.S. service member costs the government $100,000 per year on average, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, meaning Romney’s plan would cost $10 billion per year, or $100 billion over the 10-year timeframe for reducing the nation’s deficit. 

Echoing a theme of American exceptionalism that was a favored Bush motif, Romney asserted that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers.”

Yes we most definitely are destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers.

Romney told listeners that he would ensure U.S. “leadership in multilateral organizations and alliances.” Romney has previously swiped at Obama for “leading from behind,” a reference to the White House’s push for NATO to take joint ownership of the military support campaign that allowed Libyan rebels to oust Qaddafi.

So this is what it’s come to, both sides competing to be the “Defense” party. I’ll spend more than you. No you won’t. Meanwhile, that frees up all the “follower nations” to use their finite economic resources to rebuild their infrastructure, strengthen their education systems, and improve their public health systems. Which in turn will enable them to close the economic gap with us even more quickly.

And to think some people are more worried about Mormonism’s multiple heavens and belief that Jesus visited the Americas.

This “my defense budget is larger than yours” bullshit makes me long for a third party. Since that’s not likely, I guess the only thing that “global military superpower” weary fiscal conservatives like me can do is support the side that will increase defense spending the least.