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Link(s) for 12/2 – Politics on TV

Last night was a great night for political junkies.  From 7-8 we had a surprisingly explosive debate between the four Democrats vying to represent their party in the special election to succeed the late Senator Kennedy.  Then, at 8, President Obama took over the airways to announce his new war strategy in Afghanistan. 

Click here for a recap of the debate

Click here to watch the President’s speech

      I thought this was one of the best speeches of the Obama Presidency.  For the most part he stayed away from “political” rhetoric and focused on laying out the case for increased troop levels in a clear and convincing manner.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I was a supporter of the war in Afghanistan back in 2002 and I do believe our success or failure in that country will have long-lasting consequences for America and for the stability of the region.   However, no matter what your opinion on the merits of the war is the fact remains that we are there and, due to irresponsible decisions by the previous administration, we have lost ground.  I don’t believe leaving right now is an option (as much as I’d like it to be)  and, if you believe people on the ground, maintaining the status quo is a recipe for disaster.   Therefore, I support the President’s plan to send in more troops and am gratified to hear him lay out a clear and realistic mission for them, as well as an exit strategy.  To those who don’t like putting out a timeline for withdrawal, I would argue that such an announcement is critical to show President Karzai and the Afghan people that we are serious about turning over the security of the country to them and that they must step up to the plate.  However, I truly believe that, in 18 months, if the situation is not what we hope it will be, President Obama will reassess his withdrawal timeline.  Hey, at least we have an exit strategy – something the Bush administration forgot to consider as they planned their invasions of both Afghanistan AND Iraq.

The men and women in uniform have already given so much (one only needed to look around the room at West Point and in the various living rooms across the world where CNN had cameras to see the true cost of this war) and to ask them to give more is so hard.  But I do believe the President when he says that he asked the hard questions and considered all options before making this incredibly difficult decision.  It may not work, but I applaud him for taking a stand and setting out a plan that, at least on paper, gives us the best chance of success.

How do these people sleep at night…

I pride myself on trying to understand and respect people whose opinions I disagree with.  The only way we are going to move forward in our country is by listening to each other and focusing on constructive dialogue rather than political posturing.  How in the world the President addressing students on the importance of staying in school can become a political issue is beyond me.  (Aside from the obvious point that asking them to write letters on how they can help the President was certainly inartful at best…)  Like it or not there are people in this country who have NO interest in making the USA a better place if it means the other guy might get the credit.  And these people will do whatever they can to discredit and defeat that person, and that is just sad to me.

Back to the article though…after 8 years of a president who governed a state that was at the bottom in educational achievement, it is refreshing to have a President who understands the importance of kids staying in school and helping them achieve their potential (here’s hoping that goes beyond words and into meaningful reforms, but that’s another topic).  The fact that people are boycotting the President delivering a message to students is shameful…simply shameful.  How can we teach our kids to listen to others if we censor the words of our opponents.    

Couple of quotes from the article I want to highlight:

1. As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

               WHAT????????????  Sen. Russell, why you are comparing a speech by a democratically elected president to actions by dictators who ruthlessly kill and detain their own citizens?  Does that make sense?

2. Arizona state schools superintendent Tom Horne, a Republican, said lesson plans for teachers created by Obama’s Education Department “call for a worshipful rather than critical approach.”

               Come again Mr. Horne?  Obama promotes a worshipful approach?  You mean the guy who doesn’t think we should teach the bible as fact and who taught in law school (which is all about critical analysis) is worshipful…umm, I think I’m terrified that this guy is a school superintendent.

To me these comments illustrate the importance of our kids staying in school…maybe the next generation can turn out leaders who aren’t close-minded and who care more about improving lives than getting their name in the paper. 

I don’t like that Democrats went after Bush for doing this in 1991 and I don’t like it now.   I suppose the difference is that Bush made the speech right before his election and used it to talk about his educational policies and plans while Obama will be using the speech to, according to the White House, make “a plea to students to really take their learning seriously. Find out what they’re good at. Set goals. And take the school year seriously.” 

Please explain how you can be opposed to that?