Pros and cons of our new president
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
At the end of this month, President Obama will have completed his first 100 days in office. So how is he doing? In my view, there is both much to praise, and much to question.
First, it is refreshing to again have an intellectually-aware and articulate leader in the White House ” a leader who has shown the ability to restore the favorable impression of the United States once held throughout the world, which has been so badly tarnished by his predecessor. He has removed the ideological censorship which the Bush Administration imposed on government scientists, and has enunciated a plan for closure in Iraq. He has also commenced an effort to eventually normalize relations with our neighbor, Cuba, which poses absolutely no threat to our security, and could be opened up as a market for American products.
He has done this in spite of the vigorous objections of the politically-powerful hard-line Cuban expatriate lobby in Florida.
He could similarly improve our relations with Muslim nations by promoting a more even-handed policy on the issues dividing Israel and its Palestinian population, despite the bitter opposition which would come from the even more politically-powerful Israel lobby in the United States. That would really take political courage.
There are other even more vexing international problems confronting our new president ” Iran and North Korea, and Afghanistan and Pakistan. Removing the “Axis of Evil” label attached to Iran and North Korea by George W. Bush is the first step, hopefully leading to opening a dialogue and ultimately a rapprochement with Iran, which could have the effect of widening the rift between the majority of Iranians, who are favorably disposed toward the American people, and their fundamentalist regime, hopefully leading to a more moderate Iranian government. As for North Korea, the only way of reining in Kim Jong Il is to persuade Russia and China to join the United States, Japan and South Korea to provide a unified front to convince Kim abandoning his belligerent course will be better for both him and his country.
A far more difficult and dangerous threat for President Obama to deal with is the al Qaida and Taliban presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately, we let the opportunity to solve that problem slip through our fingers by changing our focus from Osama bin Ladin, who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, to Bush’s obsession with overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with the attacks. What concerns me is President Obama is following in the steps of George W. Bush by sending in more troops. The Russians can testify as to how successful such a strategy worked for them in Afghanistan, and there is little likelihood it will work any better for us. And now, the fray has spread into Pakistan, which is no better able to deal with it than the Karzai government in Afghanistan. We need to win over the people of these countries to reject the radical extremists, but we won’t achieve that by more bombing raids which are killing civilians.
And finally, there’s the 800-pound gorilla ” the economy.
Is President Obama on the right rack? Not if it means running up debts beyond our ability to pay. Yes, we do need to overhaul our health care system, but cost containment needs to make it self-supporting so as not to increase deficits. We need to balance the Social Security and Medicare accounts by measures such as raising the eligibility age and reducing the payments to those with more than adequate incomes. We must provide education funding, which is an investment in our future.
And what about the wisdom of our bail-out programs? Obama canned General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, and indicated there might be no more bail-out money for GM. Why not can the mismanagers of the banking and finance industries, and replace them with capable, honest talent within the industry?
The president needs to take a hard look at these issues and implement some midcourse corrections. Only time will tell whether his strategy is correct. We all have a lot riding on it.
Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent
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