Monday, June 23, 2014

A Political History of the Last 20 Years

Years ago, Hillary Clinton said that there was a vast right wing conspiracy against her husband, then President Bill Clinton-and while she was mocked and scoffed for saying this by those on the right, she may not have been wrong. There has always been political rivalry and one-upmanship, since the dawn of Democracy--you can look at contentious campaigns in our country going all the way back to our first President....Did anyone study their history to see that the election of Abraham Lincoln was not a forgone conclusion, but a bitter fight for Honest Abe--and he may have sacrificed a bit of that honesty to be elected our 16th President. The point is, politics have always been ugly, especially here in America, but in the 1990's there was a dramatic shift in the discord that came from the opposing party. When Bill Clinton took the office of President having won a decisive victory over who many on the Right saw as a hero, George H. W. Bush--he had been a major part of the decisive victory that was the First Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, the tone in Washington took a major shift from sometimes polite and gentlemanly disagreement, to something far more personal and much more ugly.
Bill Clinton was taking over the Presidency after nearly 20 years of political failure and a dramatic rise in the national debt, especially under Republican leadership, and he came to office with, perhaps, a sincere idea that he would reach across the isle and join hands with the Republicans and work to rebuild the suffering middle class who, under Reagan and Bush, had seen a dramatic decline in wages and benefits and steep incline in taxes and general inflation. The idea that Reagan had sold America on-Trickle Down Economics-had turned out to be a bust,  the wealthiest one percent seeing a steep incline in their net worth while the rest of America, all the laborers and blue collars out there, saw their net worth decline. All the while, during the 80's, America's poverty level had increased exponentially. Bill Clinton had been a successful and quite popular governor of the small southern state of Arkansas--they had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, they had little to no debt under Clinton's guidance and their education system had taken a dramatic step forward, and he had plans to bring that success to the rest of the country. He was just the politician to do it too, he had his southern charm and was no slouch in the education department, having been a Rhodes Scholar attending Oxford University. He won election with a pretty healthy margin of victory, Bush having done himself in with the promise of "no new taxes," telling us to "read his lips," which we did--only to discover he had lied.
Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States, and he hit the ground running with an ambitious agenda to turn the nation around and rebuild a healthy middle class, ensuring that every American had a more fair shake at achieving the American Dream, which had become the punchline to a bad party joke by this point. His goals were to reduce poverty, scale back welfare through massive reform that would help put people back to work which included job training programs that were to be very successful---he wanted to revamp our education system, bring back jobs to America that had fled to overseas countries with the blessing of Conservatives more concerned with companies turning a HUGE profit than in helping the middle class--he wanted to do immigration reform and tax reform and basically reform the way America did business. Now we had seen what the environment of the 80's had given us--all about corporate profit often at the expense of the blue collar worker--remember, the 80's had become the decade of Gordon Gekko and his need to dismantle companies for personal gain, almost ALWAYS at the expense of the worker. But here we had a President who recognized that the greed of the 80's had only helped enrich the one percent --and THAT is why we were now having massive inflation and stagnant and declining wages. It was time to turn that tide. Oh, and he wanted to guarantee every American healthcare--it was a tall order, but he felt if he could work with Republicans, he could get almost all of it done.  Republicans, however, seemed to have little to no interest in working with him. Right from day one--much as they've done with Barak Obama--their agenda was to shut down his agenda--and with Bill Clinton, they had very little success at shutting him down, which only enraged the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay--two of the Republicans top Congressional leaders, to no end.
Republicans decided that instead of working to make America a success by working with Bill Clinton, they would throw up every possible roadblock they could conceive of in his way, and their roadblock consisted of investigating EVERY aspect of the Clinton's lives--even to the extent of bringing in a "Special Investigator," Ken Starr--when they were really unable to uncover any serious wrongdoing in the Clinton's past. Mr. Starr had been an Appellate Court Judge and Solicitor General under George Bush, he had gained an excellent reputation for his adherence to legal standards, and Republicans thought he was just the man to investigate the Clinton's. His original purview being to investigate the "suspicious" death of former White House counsel Vince Foster, who had been found shot in the head with the pistol in his hand in a Potomac River park, an obvious suicide. But Republicans who had failed to find any wrongdoing with the Clintons, brought on Starr to investigate this death with the idea that the Clinton's had somehow ordered his death because he knew where all the skeletons were buried in the Clinton closet.  Ken Starr broadened his purview, mostly due to the fact that he had come up with nothing--nothing on Foster's death, nothing on Mrs. Clinton's involvement with the Rose Law Firm, and nothing on the land deal with the Whitewater development. While he was investigating the Clinton's, Starr kept his association with the law firm he had previously worked for, even in light of conflicts that would have caused other attorneys to remove themselves from the investigation--one conflict involving his law firms involvement with a lawsuit having to do with the Whitewater development deal. Ken Starr continually came to dead ends with his investigations. He soon broadened the scope of his investigation to include the firing of personnel at the White House travel office,  The Rose Law Firm and a little known woman who had said the President had made sexual advances to her, Paula Jones, all this in addition to a look into an allegation that the President may have been involved with sexual misconduct with an intern, yes-Monica Lewinsky. All in all, after spending almost 2 years and 400 million tax payer dollars, Ken Starr was unable to find anything on the Clinton's with the exception that Bill Clinton had perjured himself trying to cover up his dalliance with Ms. Lewinsky.
Ultimately, charges of impeachment were brought before Congress and Clinton was acquitted. This relentless dissection of every aspect of his life was unprecedented in American history--it was done with such vitriol and anger that it really backfired on Republicans. Somewhere in this mess that had become the Clinton Presidency, Bill Clinton was able to make major achievements including welfare reform, a housing bill, education reform that helped open the doors of education to more people than ever before--he slimmed down our military and streamlined it--creating a more efficient, less expensive fighting force--was there pain caused by this streamlining? Absolutely, but it lead to a balanced budget for the first time in many decades and even a budget surplus! The Clinton years left the country and in particular the Middle Class, in the best shape it had been in post World War II--the middle class expanding, poverty and welfare decreasing and wages beginning to rise. He accomplished all this in the face of some of the worst opposition any President ever faced. Flash forward to the George W. Bush Administration, 8 years that completely erased the gains the Clinton Administration had made, set the middle class back to levels before Clinton and saw poverty on the increase again. He squandered the surplus left by Bill Clinton and was the President on watch when the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world took down the World Trade Center in New York. The damage caused by the 8 years of Bush/Cheney will continue to be counted for decades to come, including the cost of the 2 longest wars in our history, one of which we were lied into and had no discernible purpose for being there, Iraq. 
By going to war with Iraq and taking out Saddam Hussein, a leader that the United States had been instrumental in bringing to power in the first place, George W. Bush changed the course of history of the Middle East, destabilizing the region for decades to come. Like him or not, Hussein was the one bulkhead that kept the wave of Islamic Fundamentalists in line in the Middle East--and though the United Nations really had Hussein contained to his own country after the first Gulf War, the nations around him still considered him a threat and the unrest remained mostly contained to small pockets in their respective countries, certainly not crossing into other Islamic countries, certainly not Iraq. What we have today, the unrest that is in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries and even the bold moves in the Ukraine region are all direct results of the disaster that was the Iraq War. The Bush Administration left in its wake a weakened America, a destabilized Middle East and distrustful allies, all of which the Right today tries to lay at the feet of the current President, Barak Obama.

In the wake of unprecedented opposition and monumental obstructionism, Barak Obama has struggled to enact an agenda that seems to be geared toward the idea of rebuilding the Middle Class that Bill Clinton had left behind, but jobs today seem to be those jobs that are less skilled and pay much less. Barak Obama was elected to office at a time when the nation demanded change, and that was exactly his slogan, HOPE AND CHANGE--and as much as he tried to bring that motto to reality, he has been blocked by the very party that is mostly responsible for the mess our nation is in today. From the first day of his Presidency, Republicans--who had just overseen the largest redistribution of wealth in the history of our country--had an agenda of destroying and delegitimizing his Presidency. On his inauguration day, a quite smarmy Mitch McConnell stood in front of a bank of microphones and laid out the Republican agenda. It wasn't helping to bring jobs back to the 28 million who had lost them on their watch between 2004 and 2009, it wasn't stabilizing the economy which was still in free fall at this point--it wasn't working on immigration reform or any one of a host of problems that had been exacerbated during the Bush years--NO! Mitch McConnell smiled glibly to the press that day and said, "Our number one agenda is to make Barak Obama a one term President." Really! That was it. No talk about the financial collapse or the jobs lost, no talk about the increasing poverty or the 600 billion dollars in net worth the Middle Class had lost in the 8 years George W. Bush was President, or the hole that was blown wide open in the ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor--the wealthiest 1 percent saw their net worth INCREASE by almost that exact same amount, 600 billion dollars. (And that was laughably part of their attack on Obama during the election period--that he wanted to REDISTRIBUTE the wealth in America while they had just overseen the LARGEST redistribution of wealth in world history.)  During the first few years of Barak Obama, the attacks from across the isle increased exponentially--according to those on the right, Barak Obama was a Muslim loving, terrorist sympathizing, Kenyan born, Non-American apologist who had somehow TAKEN the White House and America and was now launching a war on everything from coal to religion--all of which were false claims designed to put a wedge right in the heartland of America. We had always had political opposition in America, but now Conservatives were launching an all out campaign of hate and division--bringing out the worst in people. I myself was chastised for being a "coward" and "Un-American", a "Socialist, terrorist loving scumbag" for voting for Obama, and this from someone once considered a friend, of course he is no longer--the irony of his anti-Obama tirade is that this person runs a green energy company that BENEFITTED from Obama's initiative to support and promote green energy.

In the years since his election, Republicans took obstructionism to an all new level--going so far as to DISAVOW their own bill which they eventually termed Obamacare. In his quest to insure ALL Americans (and he was demonized for this by the right-because how dare we get decent healthcare at a decent rate--remember the Republican mantra-"Let 'em die," when talking about an uninsured man who had lost his job), Obama had reached for the stars and, in a televised negotiation with Republicans (which Republicans say never happened despite it being on LIVE TV)--Obama and Democrats worked out a compromise and decided against single payer healthcare and instead took the Republicans proposal and left the idea of insuring all Americans in the hands of insurance companies with a few caveat's--that ALL Americans be eligible for healthcare regardless of pre-existing conditions, that students in college be kept on their parents work-based plans till the age of 26--there were more to be sure, but these were among the largest, most popular tenets of the healthcare bill.  The very day after negotiations happened and it looked like their might be bi-partisan support for the bill written by the Conservative 'Heritage Foundation,' Republicans turned on Obama and disavowed the bill that had previously been put into action to great success in Massachusetts under the leadership of then Republican governor, Mitt Romney, often called Romneycare. Romneycare had previously been HAILED by Republicans as a major success of a little known one term Governor.  Republicans FLOCKED to FOX News with stories of "death panels" and healthcare "rationing," FOX going so far as to put people on their shows, Sean Hannity in particular, who were saying they were negatively benefitting from Obamacare when it turns out they actually stood to benefit from it. Republicans set out on a mission to destroy not only Obamacare, but Obama himself, and to Conservative Americans, they really struck a chord. The sheer vitriol aimed at this President has been unprecedented, making the ugliness aimed at the Clinton's seem like child's play.

So, flash forward to 2014--the Middle East has been in a state of unrest that is growing at an unabated rate, some of the leaders that America had previously propped up and then disavowed, like Khadafy in Libya, were being overthrown. There is now unrest in Syria, Libya, Egypt, The Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq. Muslim extremists in most cases, are moving in to these areas weakened by the downfall of Suddam Hussein and the fear of his retaliation, and they are imposing their own strict interpretations of the Quran. And now that the conflict in Syria has spilled over the borders into Iraq, we have those people on the right who would rather point fingers than work to solve the conflict. We have the ARCHITECTS of the disastrous policy in Iraq coming out and calling out Obama for destroying the "victory" they had achieved in Iraq.  People like Dick Cheney, a man who had been an opponent of over throwing Hussein in the first Gulf War, (after all he had been instrumental in bringing Hussein to power in the 1970's)-- a man who had been the CEO of the company that received the largest NO BID contracts for war in American history, Halliburton. A man who now had the audacity to say that this would be a war of weeks and that this war with Iraq would pay for itself many times over in the oil revenue we would gain. Dick Cheney and his seemingly mindless daughter, went on TV to denounce Obama and vilify for him for the disaster that is befalling Iraq--and in doing so, Mr. Cheney and his seemingly "ill informed" daughter went on to blame the President for what was happening not only in Iraq, but the region as a whole. And fellow Conservatives have made similar moves, trying with all their might to distance themselves from blame and lay it all at the feet of our current President. Last week, Progressive economist let it be known his father's feelings about the current situation and the Conservatives attempt to blame Obama, Reich said on his FACEBOOK page--'I'm here in Florida visiting my father, Ed Reich, who, at the young age of 100 and a half, just came up with one of the most incisive assessments I've heard of what's happened in Iraq: "George W. Bush and the crooks he hired are responsible for this. If they hadn't lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction we wouldn't have lost nearly 5,000 American lives and god knows how many Iraqi lives, and stirred up this hornet's nest. Obama has spent his entire administration cleaning up Bush's shit, like someone with a giant pooper scooper." Dad has lived during the administrations of 17 presidents. "Bush was the worst," he says. "Reagan the second worst."'

What is my purpose in writing this brief history of politics in the last 20 years--mostly as a means of getting the message out of why NOT to vote Republican or Tea Party-especially our younger generation--the so called "Millennial's." The youngest voting generation that is currently being barraged by ads telling them to FEAR the Progressive agenda--here in North Carolina, there is a  commercial out telling those young college graduates that they can't find good paying jobs because Kay Hagan, NC Democratic Senator, approved all of Obama's extensive spending and that together with Obama they are spending away the next generations future, when nothing could be further from the truth--the commercial, by Koch Brothers backed GENERATION OPPORTUNITY is full of outright lies and "misinformation." Under Obama, government has shrunk by its greatest margin since Clinton, having seen a HUGE expansion under the administration of George W. Bush. The commercial fails to tell the story of how Republicans have blocked jobs bills, education and college reform bills and bills designed to help increase the pay of these Millennial's, most recently killing a bill in the House that had previously passed the Senate on a party line vote--a bill that would have substantially lowered interest rates on student loans, a bill proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren designed to stop the profiteering off the backs of struggling young people trying to pay off their loans AND pay their rent often in low paying starter jobs. The bill was killed in the House with not ONE Republican voting for it. The commercial from GENERATION OPPORTUNITY fails to tell us that. Its time to tell Republicans to either do something to make America a better place, or get the hell out of the way and let progress take its course.

What we've gotten from Republicans is unprecedented obstructionism, class warfare, divisiveness and in come cases, veiled calls for violence--look to Sarah Palin, who on her website a few years back, placed gun sights over the faces of Democrats she wanted to defeat--or Sean Hannity who told his audience to go to Nevada and stand with Cliven Bundy, a racist farmer who was illegally grazing his cattle on public lands. We've gotten manufactured scandal after manufactured scandal and tens of millions of dollars investigating not only this President, but his entire administration, and again, not coming up with anything substantial like a cover up or any malfeasance on the part of anyone in the White House. We've gotten fundraising off the deaths of 4 Americans in Benghazi, turning their deaths into a political football trying to blame rather than fix. The IRS, besieged with 504(C) applications--for charitable organizations--in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, actually doing due diligence and looking into ALL these applications, again--companies making MILLIONS of DOLLARS seeking TAX FREE STATUS! We've gotten FAST & FURIOUS, a program once again started under Bush and inherited by Obama, and again--after many hearings and million spent investigating, nothing came of that "scandal." And now they are trying to lay blame on Obama for the VA scandal, a legitimate scandal that actually started YEARS ago and was exacerbated by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which saw our Veterans Administration overrun with the 50 to 60 thousand wounded in those conflicts, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of soldiers from previous wars.

Am I saying the Democrats are above reproach, that everything they do is perfect? Certainly not, a lot of the ills of our country come from years of mismanagement from BOTH sides of the isle--but at least we see dramatic effort from Democrats to right the ship, right the wrongs and put America on a better footing than they found it, and sadly, I can't say the same for Republicans. Already, with the next Presidential Election 2 years away, Republicans have launched their attacks on the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Its going to be a LOOOONNNNGGGG 2 years.   

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