Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

South Carolina Debate

It is once again in vogue for a candidate for high office to brag about the fact that he is an outsider. The implication is that holding political office somehow dirties one's reputation and what is needed in Washington is an outsider who can sweep the place clean. This makes for good rhetoric on the campaign trail, but risks putting someone in office who does not know how to get things done. Herman Cain is the ultimate outsider. As CEO of Godfather's Pizza, he appears to know how to run a successful business organization, but that is a far cry from running the United States Government. Last night, I listened to his participation in the South Carolina Republican Party debate. He is a very personable man and appears to hold solid traditional values. I like that, but I do not believe that he has the background necessary to do the day-to-day job of president.

I also listened carefully to Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico. In my book, anyone who has successfully held the position of a state governor for two terms has sufficient background to be considered for the position of President of the United States. The fact that he was a successful businessman before becoming governor is good too, but I was not impressed with his performance in this debate. I did find his more liberal position on abortion to be interesting, saying that it might not get votes in the primary, but it would help him in the general election. Whether we like it or not, this is an important issue for Republicans and Johnson's comments are relevant to the conservative primary decision.

It is always fun to listen to Texas Representative Ron Paul. He is an articulate spokesman for the libertarian point of view and it is healthy for all of us to be reminded of those principals from time to time. I wish that we could live our lives according to them, but unfortunately I believe that our world is far too complex for simple solutions. Mr. Paul, however, serves an important role as an advocate for a more perfect world and that gives the rest of us something to shoot for.

I find former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum, to be a very attractive personality and his service in the House of Representatives and Senate gives him enough background in government to meet that requirement for the Republican candidate for president. I like many of his ideas including his emphasis on family as the cornerstone of our nation. I like his position on the debt and am interested in his thinking about entitlements. I see him as a viable dark horse candidate and look forward to learning more about his views and specific ideas. Even if he does not emerge as the Republican candidate, he can do a lot to shape our position on issues going into the general election.

Of these five men, I find Tim Pawlenty to be the most attractive candidate. His service as Governor of Minnesota for two terms gives him ample background for the office of the presidency. I like his position on the debt and am very interested in his views regarding entitlements. I find it interesting that he is virtually the only one of the five men on stage last night that the Democratic Party has attacked today. I presume that this says something about his viability as a conservative candidate. He will be criticized by many on the political right for not being enough of an attack dog, but that is one of the principal things that attracts me to him. I am looking for a candidate that can unite America - not one that can yell louder than the Democrats.

Although many of the big names that are mentioned as possible Republican candidates chose not to participate, I think that the debate served a valuable service in providing a venue for these five men to introduce themselves to a larger audience.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Next President has to Unite Us.

We are in the process of choosing our next president and there are a lot of people who want it to be someone other than Mr. Obama. I count myself in that number. Many of us are frustrated and even angered by what we see happening to our country because of the policies of the current administration. Potential candidates for the Republican nomination include some who are playing to that frustration and anger. To select a standard bearer for the Republican party that is a conservative firebrand might appeal to enough hard core conservatives that he or she could get elected, but it would not solve the problems that our country faces and it would ensure that the electorate would reject him or her in a succeeding round of elections in the same way that liberal firebrands are being rejected at the present time.

Hopefully, we will be intelligent enough to select a candidate that is levelheaded and can appeal to a majority of Americans. Much as I like conservative solutions to many of our most pressing challenges, I do not believe that America is willing to accept them in their most austere form. Compromise is necessary. I am practical enough to recognize that radicals play a useful role in our political system, but I do not believe that they should be given real political power. It is proper that they articulate the "best" solutions on left and right, but never should those solutions actually be implemented. Obama Care is a perfect example of what happens when they are mistakenly made into law.

Hopefully too, we will learn from our Obama mistake and thoroughly vet our future candidates before voting for or against them. It is my belief that, had America seen through the teleprompter and actually understood what Mr. Obama intended when he spoke of "change," we would have stuck with Hillary Clinton. Right now, the public appears to be in love with Donald Trump. The liberals love him because he is the absolutely perfect incarnation of their ideal conservative politician. Saturday Night Live and Mr. Axelrod could not ask for more. Many within the conservative base love Trump because he offers simple solutions to complex problems that simultaneously speak to our frustrations. I have never met Mr. Trump, but my impression is that he is a fairly shallow personality with a penchant for making money in real estate, but without a great deal of experience in much else. He is important only because he understands the frustrations of America - not because he offers real solutions.

I place Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin in the same general category as The Donald although there are some very important differences. These two ladies are not shallow and they do have a proven record of achievement in the political arena. I like what I have heard of their proposed solutions to the very real challenges facing our country. My problem with them is that they are both polarizing figures in the present political landscape. I do not believe that either one of them could defeat President Obama in 2012 nor do I believe that they could govern the country successfully. To elect either one of them would be to relive the Obama nightmare in reverse.

We need a man or woman who can bring us together, not one who will continue to champion the views of half of this nation. I continue to be very interested in Chris Christy despite his refusal to run.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dead or Alive

Osama bin Laden is dead. I did not like bin Laden. He was an awful man and deserved to die for his misdeeds. At the same time, I do not like killing and am not happy about any of it - including the killing of bin Laden. I am not saying that, if I could have done anything about it, I would have let bin Laden continue to cause the kind of trouble that he has for this past decade or so. I admire the professionalism of the intelligence effort that located bin Laden and the Seal Team that implemented our President's order and congratulate them on a very successful military mission. It is with the formulation of the objective of the Seal mission that I might quibble. If it had been up to me, I would have instructed the Seal Team to bring bin Laden back alive.

Maybe the Seals were ordered to capture, not kill, and the situation that unfolded on the ground did not permit it, but I suspect not. It is my understanding that this debate has been going on for quite a while, and President Obama is not in favor of capturing these kinds of folks, but rather wants to kill them as quickly as possible. His increased use of drones to attack other terrorist leaders is an example of this policy. My suspicion is that Mr. Obama's reluctance to capture rather than kill is motivated by humanitarian considerations. He does not want to capture a "high value" terrorist and then be faced with the prospect of having to use harsh interrogation methods to obtain the information that would permit him to go after other high value targets. Killing them seems to be the simpler choice.

America is still living in a dreamworld. We are being forced to slowly wake up to the dangers of the real world that are all around us - with the operative word being "slowly." Our enemies are really very bad people and they mean to destroy us. We are the best country that I know of, but our virtue will not protect us from the likes of bin Laden. It is important to note that the information that led us to the courier that ultimately brought our Seals to bin Laden's compound was obtained through the harsh interrogation methods that Mr. Obama prohibits. The argument that we make to each other is that we are better than that, but if that is so, please explain to me why, in humanitarian terms, our assassination of bin Laden is any different than Stalin's assassination of Trotsky.

America still thinks that Islamic terrorism is just another foreign problem that we will eventually deal with successfully just as we have so many others in our past. I suggest that it is fundamentally different because of the presence of nuclear weapons in an increasing number of unstable countries. We had better get very serious about it because it is literally a matter of our survival as a nation and perhaps as a people.  My fear is that we will not do that.