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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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union Speech

I watched the State of the Union speech last night in the hope that there might be some hint that the president would be willing to change course and start getting our spending under control.  I understand that he can not be very overt about doing that kind of thing because his liberal base would vehemently oppose it, so I was just looking for hints.  Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that was in the least encouraging.

The most depressing part of the speech was what he chose to leave out.  I didn't hear him say anything substantive about the real problems that imperil our future - particularly our massive debt.  He only repeated his mantra about the rich not paying their fair share, as though there are enough dollars there to solve our debt crisis.  I heard him embrace the thought that Washington is broken and make a plea for working together, but I don't see any concrete evidence that he is doing his part.  It would seem to me that he could nudge Harry Reed to get the Senate to at least take up the budget that is required by law.  It is obviously not the Republicans that are blocking a debate on the budget.  The House long ago passed one, but, as we all know, it continues to languish in the Democratically controlled senate.  My suspicion is that the President does not want the budget debate because it would highlight our out-of-control spending binge as well as talk to the problems of the rapid acceleration in the growth of government bureaucracy.  I heard the President championing energy independence, but I didn't hear an explanation as to why he has decided to send Canadian oil to China rather than bring it down to Huston to be refined here.  I did not hear anything substantive about what he recommends that we do about medicare and social security.  Etc, etc, etc.  I heard him make some minor promises, but given that he has repeatedly broken his word in the past, I find that I no longer trust him even in the little things.

I not only found the speech boring (all State of the Union speeches tend to be boring), I found it to be depressing.  I agree that Washington is broken, but I suggest that our President is one of the chief reasons why that is so.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The primary process continues to grind along and we continue the winnowing process in an effort to come up with a Republican candidate to take on President Obama in November.  This is the point in the process where the various candidates and their more ardent supporters begin to sharpen their criticism of one another.  All of them agree that the country is headed in the wrong direction and that the policies of President Obama are the major reason.  They struggle to differentiate themselves one from another.

The only candidate that has a radically different set of proposals as to what to do to get this country back on track is Ron Paul and his appeal is limited to a relatively small group of very ardent supporters.  The rest of the field are hard pressed to differentiate their positions sufficiently to attract major support from the public at large and their polling numbers show it.  Like their predecessors in races before them, they now turn to attacking each other in an effort to prove that the other candidate is not as worthy as they.

Mitt Romney is accused of changing his mind about important subjects and he has a political record that proves that he is very flexible in his political stance on these subjects.  People calling themselves "true conservatives" find this to be a serious flaw, particularly since it encompasses both fiscal and social issues.  Newt Gingrich is "known to have baggage" and that is worrisome to many even though what is actually in the baggage is rather poorly understood by most folks.  The baggage attack generates criticism of the man and his policies and creates doubt as to his electability.  Rick Santorum looks like a purist who champions traditional values to such an extent that many worry that he is out of touch with the public at large and thus unelectable.

If I had my druthers, I would take a chance on Newt Gingrich, but I should quickly add that I can easily and wholeheartedly support either of the other two major contenders.  The only one that would give me pause is Ron Paul.  In many ways he is the most interesting of the bunch.  There is no question, but that he touches some deeply felt concerns within the public at large.  Domestically, his criticism of our monetary and tax systems resonates with those that are concerned about our economic system in general.  Internationally, he plays to those who wish that the world was not as complicated as it is.  Although I find much of his message to be naiveté, my basic criticism is that I do not believe that the man is up to actually doing the job of president of the United States.

Although it is not a popular position to take, I continue to believe that what we need in the White House is someone who understands the practical day-to-day job of politics.  Someone who can rally the American people behind a set of decisions that will return financial stability to our country.  Someone who respects private enterprise and understands how to get things accomplished in government.  As I compare them with our current president, any of the three major GOP contenders would do a better job, but my guess is that, of the three, Gingrich would be the best prospect for that honor and I would love to watch a Gingrich/Obama debate.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iowa Does Matter

I followed the Iowa caucus results on television last night and listened to the candidate speeches that followed the announcement of the results.  There has been a lot of talk about the significance of Iowa in the primary process.  I see it as being of importance for several reasons including the fact that it is the first place that at least some folks actually vote.  It may be a small sampling of America, but it is infinitely better than all of the polls that have preceded it.  Based on history, Iowa does not necessarily pick the winner of the GOP primary process, but it does winnow the field of viable contenders.  Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry are now out of the running because of Iowa.

I continue to dismiss Ron Paul as a viable Republican candidate and suspect that John Huntsman is on his last legs.  It looks to me that there are three viable candidates left - Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.  Last night, I was most impressed by Santorum and Gingrich, but could not quibble with Romney.  I continue to favor Gingrich, but can happily vote for any of these three come November 2012.  I see Paul as a possible danger should he decide to mount a third party campaign.  If he does that, I suspect that it will probably ensure Obama's reelection.  Obviously, I hope that he will decide against that course of action.

The American political process is rough and this election cycle is beginning to heat up.  I dislike negativity just as much as the next fellow, but believe that the airing or dirty linen is a necessary part of the process.  Gingrich is the most recent recipient of a spate of attack ads that appear to have knocked him out of a better showing in Iowa.  It will be interesting to see how he answers these attacks in the New Hampshire campaign.  At this point in the process, these candidates are increasingly talking to two audiences.  First, they have to convince the Republican Party that they are true conservatives.  Second, they have to convince the general electorate that they are capable of governing from the middle.  At least some of the current criticism of these candidates revolves around this conundrum.

As I have said before, I am a staunch fiscal conservative, but I want a president that can not only address the dangerous financial problems that face this nation, but one that can also bring this country back together.   It appears to me that these three men are capable of doing this.  I might prefer Gingrich, but I believe that any one of them will do a better job of it than President Obama.