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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

On Foreign Policy, We Have Been Fortunate To Have Obama

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 01/14/16 15:49

by Dave Mindeman

I caught a few minutes of a National Press Club speech by Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry- which he gave yesterday in Washington.

During his speech he noted that today, "political decisions outweigh security needs when it comes to foreign policy." He was talking about the Obama administration and he said it as though we should be appalled at this type of priority.

I strongly disagree.

It was political decision making that kept us out of a nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. It was security posturing that escalated the Vietnam war into a national disgrace. It was out of control security ideas that led to the Iraq war. And it is political priorities that have led to a communications breakthrough that has prevented Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and the quick release of our sailors in the latest Gulf incident.

That is why the current rhetoric coming from our current crop of Republican Presidential candidates should give all of us pause. We have not seen this kind of shoot first mentality since the days of Barry Goldwater in 1964. There is nothing in the foreign policy realm that is off limits for criticism - at least in their view. Candidates who feel free to comment on any foreign development as an opportunity to criticize our current President are not only not helping these situations, but they are giving our enemies opportunities to test our will.

Amidst all the contentions about weakness and timidity and leading from behind that come from the GOP these days, there is not one shred of a plausible idea about how they would actually handle these situations.

In Syria, we all know it is a complex problem with a number of layers. Many of them we cannot even see. Yet, Ted Cruz thinks that carpet bombing will fix it. Trump thinks you can just bomb the oil fields. Carson thinks there are mysterious Chinese interests involved. Lindsay Graham had advocated for a massive US invasion force.

The idea that some kind of massive military intervention can fix any of these situations has already been proven to be a mistake - time after time after time. But it is all that the Republicans have to offer. They have nothing else. And the simplicity of it in the face of fearmongering may be attractive to a frustrated electorate.

But it is foolish and irresponsible.

President Obama has made some foreign policy mistakes...but most of them have come when he listens to the security first people. His first instincts of political diplomacy have always been the wiser and more productive method. He didn't over react to the Russian expansion and now Russia is bogged down with two failed policies and economic decline. He persisted on the Iran nuclear deal and achieved a solid agreement which has opened up a level of communication that has relieved tensions. His willingness to shift policy has led to a new era of Cuban relations.

The Republican critics want bluster and big stick action - but how much failure has to happen in that regard before we realize that it is not the way to deal with today's information technology world?

President Obama may not have the kind of approval ratings that you would want to see, but the standing of the United States has been rising steadily and global cooperation has improved immensely.

Aren't those the measurements that truly matter?

I know the Republican base continues to give big points for all the tough talk and swagger, but, in the end, this country needs calm steady leadership to weather these global events.

We have been very fortunate to have a President who understands that.
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Ferguson-Garner:Points To Key Of Law Enforcement Minority Hiring

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 12/04/14 12:36, Edited: 12/04/14 12:37

by Dave Mindeman

I have been out of commission for the last few weeks. Had some medical issues to attend to. Things are fine and fortunately, our insurance (via Obamacare) made the financial impact reasonably light.

But let's get to the main topic of the day.

Race issues and police relations with the community.

Ferguson- Eric Garner, the conversation is polarized and dangerous....yet necessary.

There is a hopeless void of trust between city police departments and the urban core community. It is toxic. It must be fixed. And these recent grand jury cases have underscored this lack of trust...and the hopelessness that permeates the black minority in this country.

I understand the need for a higher standard of prosecution in the case of police officers. They need latitude to do their jobs. But it is painfully obvious that this latitude is not even handed. Black community members do not get the same respect, the same assumptions, given to white members of the same communities.

This is a core problem in race relations and solutions need to be found.

The roots run deep. Decades of mistrust are involved. The bad actions of a few in law enforcement have deepened that mistrust. That is something that cannot be fixed by any kind of magic bullet or empty rhetoric.

To me, there is only one change that can make a difference now. One change that doesn't require years of base building and slow, painful work in core communities.

I'm talking about minority hiring.

Ferguson has been a powder keg waiting to explode for years. The population shift from majority white to a 2/3's black majority has been rapid and blatantly obvious. The political and law enforcement power base did not adapt or change in any way.

That was foolish. Couple that with a stubborn refusal to change the police culture of targeting blacks for municipal fines and you have the makings of what transpired after the catalyst of a tragic shooting of a young black man.

The altercation between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown is not a simple, one side is wrong, type narrative. They never are. But you take a tragedy and compound it with negligent mistakes by the police department and long brewing tensions between the community and the authorities .... and you get anger, frustration, and the need for action (and unfortunately some violent action).

In the case of Eric Garner, you have long standing problems with the NYPD and a political system that seeks to minimize officer wrongdoing for fear of admitting that their authority has been a failure in implementation that can't meet a basic standard of respect.

The problems are deep but one solution begs to be addressed.

The number of black officers in Ferguson is in the single digits. The number of black police officers in New York is about 18%.

In Ferguson, the military riot gear and battle type weapons with white officers in that gear sent a not so subtle message that power and control was more important than discussion and compromise.

In New York, the Eric Garner video shows him being taken down by 5 officers - none of them black and one who appeared to be an Asian-American. How much different would that incident have been if Eric Garner had had a black officer to talk to?

Urban police departments with troubled community relations need to be aggressive in minority hiring. Some place are trying, but not with the urgency that is needed.

Minneapolis has its own issues.

Of the department's 807 sworn officers, 74 are black (9 percent), and 33 are Hispanic (4 percent). Of the 460 new cadets and recruits, 61 are black (13 percent) and 13 are Hispanic (2.8 percent). This in a city where the black population is estimated to be 18.6 percent, and the Hispanic population is 10.5 percent.

And as Molly Priesmeyer points out in the linked Minnpost article, 94% of Minneapolis officers do not live in the city. It begs the question of what constitutes "community policing", if the police personnel do not invest themselves in that community?

Of course, the concept of a good police officer does not depend on residency or color of your skin. But how the community you serve perceives you matters - and if we are to even attempt to fix these problems in a timely manner, then public perception is the key component. And that perception depends on trained black officers dealing with police relationships for a black populated community.

The key questions of the last few weeks revolve around a failure of police accountability for their actions. And the reality is....that even if both of the officers in regards to Ferguson and Eric Garner were indicted and given a very public trial, it would still not solve the underlying problem....the lack of trust in those hired to protect and serve.

A public airing of police failures may give some temporary satisfaction to the minority community, but after the show is over, we are still left with two divergent sides with an even weaker bridge between them.

Minority hiring in our urban police departments is more than just a feel good goal, it is critical to the future of our cities.
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Ebola - The Political Issue

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 10/27/14 09:45

by Dave Mindeman

This is probably a good way to define the Age of Obama.

The Minnesota Poll took up the topic of ebola and, surprise, surprise, they found a partisan response....

While 97 percent of Democrats who responded said they had "a lot" or at least "some" confidence in the government's ability to contain an outbreak in the United States, only 60 percent of independent voters and 56 percent of Republicans expressed such faith. And 14 percent of Republicans said they had "no confidence at all" in the government's Ebola response. Zero Democrats made that claim.

In this day and age, diseases are responded to based on your political affiliation. Republicans have become insistent on making sure President Obama gets no credit for anything that might be considered positive. They trash Obamacare even though there is clear evidence on nearly all fronts that it is accomplishing exactly what it set out to do. Even tragic events like the murders of our embassy personnel in Benghazi has taken an epic political tone.

But on ebola? The problems that developed in Dallas could have happened anywhere in the country. It is tempting to make a political point about Texas, but the truth is, no city would have been fully prepared to be confronted with an ebola case right on their doorstep. We can argue indefinitely about what kind of prevention we should have been doing in this regard, but political blame is kind of absurd. Both parties had responsibilities and concerns to deal with here, but the idea that we could handle this perfectly when directly confronted with no warning is a bit much to ask.

What should matter is our reponse after the fact. And frankly, that response has not been good - and a good portion of that problem stems from ridiculous partisan politics.

The administration gets criticized for a lack of action in regards to ebola. They get sued for acting too much in regards to immigration.

It is getting harder and harder to correlate the reactions to President Obama without thinking - would the reaction be different if he was a white President?

If you look at facts alone, President Obama has accomplished a lot during his tenure. Our economy has almost fully recovered from the worst recession since the depression. We finally have a health care fix. Actions have been taken on the environment. Inequality has been brought to the forefront - in both LGBT and Women's issues. We have made progress in the fight with Al Qaeda. Bank regulations have improved the housing market and loan stability. The stock market soars and unemployment has been reduced to pre-recession levels. The car industry was saved from destruction.

But President Obama is unpopular. A relentless campaign to discredit him has gone on since he started his presidency. Republicans in Congress have taken a path of obstruction, rather than participate in dealing with the country's problems. On the economic front, their debt ceiling antics has actually increased the difficulty of Obama's economic policies...almost destroying the economy in one irresponsible action. Death threats and White House breaches of security are up. Blaming the President for everything is the new parlor game.

And yet, despite the political drag of a do nothing Congress and an obstructive Senate minority, Obama continues to move the US into prosperity.

Could we be doing better on responding to ebola? Sure. But to score political points and disseminate misinformation intentionally is not only a disservice to the American people, but creating an unnecessary danger to them.

Is the Age of Obama defined as the time of a black President? or should it be defined as the time of just a good President?

That will be the decision of people who come after us - because what we are doing now is just politics at its worst.
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