Obama brings his grade up a notch, from C+ to a B; your grade?

by Joel on September 29, 2009

Make that, Obama brings his grade up a notch, from C+ to a B, with a huge qualifying asterisk, explained toward the middle of this post. I first started working on this update of my “grade” for President Obama back in June but cast it aside as I figured out how to be fair without pretending to be neutral. It seems something akin to the difference between, on the one hand, scoring a multiple choice exam, where the answers circled allow for more objective assessment (even there, the questions selected can show bias on the part of the examiner), without regard to whether the student is a favorite of yours, and on the other hand scoring an essay exam where you both have definite opinions of the correct theories and a particular personal dislike (though not hatred) for a test taker who holds to theories you consider somewhat asinine in the least or abhorrent at the outer limit. Oh, and thanks Richard for not inactivating my password after my long absence from both posting and commenting. I’ve been busy but have thought of you all! :-)

For President Barack Hussein Obama’s speech in Cairo admitting to our colonial practices at times and their long-lasting disastrous consequences; his inviting a new start with the Muslim world; his admitting to overreacting to the arrest of a friend and then using it as an opportunity to explore possibilities in racial understanding and reconciliation; opening us up for dialogue with Iran while still maintaining expectations regarding their nuclear programs; issuing one of the sternest rebukes given to Israel in years, while also letting Palestinian leaders know that more is expected of them, too; canceling the highly dubious missile defense system placement in Poland and the Czech Republic; promising to end production of the F-22 Raptor, that supersonic stealth “wonder” that was up for 200 more in production at a cost of $350 million each; for suggesting that military intervention was oversold as a solution for Afghanistan’s challenges and national security (while I keep asking about world security); easing trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, showing greater respect for Central and South America; and for giving the fullest disclosure of total U.S. yearly intelligence expenditures, $75 billion being the latest figure, I calculate that President Obama has brought his grade average up from a C+ to a B- in a combined military/foreign affairs approach. His grade could be higher, but the overall subsection called Afghanistan merits no better than a D+ for trying to create something coherent out of non-existent parts. A further subsection related to legal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice of past torture practices, I give a B+ for allowing Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision stand to press ahead despite Obama’s proposal to make changes, but not look back. If, as lobbied by numerous former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Obama orders Holder to kill the investigation, I’ll change Obama’s grade there to a D+, allowing it to remain that high only by comparing any positive change to former Vice-president Richard Cheney’s post-service pronouncements on torture that I am creating a special mark of F- for.

*In the event Obama shuts down Attorney General Holder’s torture investigation, limited as its scope already is, I would lower Obama’s overall grade back down to a C+.

Pundits from the ultra-right are squealing about our new president. How dare the president issue an apology! How dare the president open the curtain that hides our shameful misdeeds! And how dare the president seek a better relationship with Muslims! I don’t know, but when my head hits the pillow at night, I’m a little more relaxed than before Obama became president. The problems we face in the world are enormous, but why is it so bad for a proud, bright and beautiful nation to open its walk-in closet and let the crammed skeletons see the light of day as they fall over each other is beyond me.

On National Health Care, I rate Obama at a B-. His administration’s proposals get a solid B from me, but his inability to stay consistent in explaining to the public what likely would or would not change gets a C-. His inability to decide on and then articulate a consistent position on the “public option” or government role allowed many would-be Congressional supporters to become weak kneed. For grace under fire concerning the outrageous lies about the formation of “death panels” to decide the fate of the elderly deserves an A. I am not a financial expert, but I think Obama’s claim to be able to keep the initial cost to $900 billion is unrealistic and cost him credibility with the public. That the United States is the only “power” nation that cannot deliver even minimal health care to as many as 30 million of its citizens is a disgrace, however. No nation that drives as many to medical bankruptcy as does the U.S. can call itself a “wealthy” country, recession or no.

And our system of billing for medical services is confusing, illogical, and often downright immoral. I am fortunate to have good health insurance. However, I don’t find myself happy or appreciative, as I’m told I’m supposed to be, because blood lab work that is billed at $2,367 is “discounted” or “negotiated” down to $381. Who wouldn’t be pleased that they have just saved $1,986 off the original billed fee? Well, anyone with a conscience shouldn’t be too pleased, because those without insurance, are expected to pay that entire $2,367 and are often sued, with notice given to the public, have liens placed against their homes and frequently actually have their homes foreclosed on due to medical fees that they often couldn’t pay off in 100 years. Many in Congress oppose health care reform as “flawed” as if the billion dollar bailouts to the banks and auto companies weren’t also deeply flawed, often rewarding those who dug the graves of others. Interesting that war and weapons are often argued as morally necessary no matter how messy or costly, but that national security issue of basic medical care for all citizens must be neat in all regards. National health care or no, no one, even the experts, can accurately predict future medical costs with great accuracy because the unknown frontier includes what medical equipment and tests will be invented over the next generations, and what longevity of life will be.

On reform in the credit card industry and practices, I hand out a B. The industry will be more restricted, card agreements and notices must be more clear, but the bottom line is that usury issues go insufficiently addressed. And while I commend the President for his support of credit card policies that benefit the consumer, I would prefer to see a cap on credit card interest rates at 15-20 percent at a minimum, but as explained below, that is beyond the President’s ability minus a tidal wave change in public opinion or tolerance. He can however, use his “bully pulpit” to shame some folks. I would have loved to see a cap on late charges and over-the-limit fees. Due often to medical bills, there are many folks who have a credit card limit of $2,000, have been paying on time for years and then get hit by some truly exploitive fees. On my “example” of the $2,000, let’s say the card holder has been paying on-time for months $80 to $100 and that the bank sponsoring the card requires 3 per cent of the $2,000 to be paid each month. The card holder has no medical insurance and is badly hurt in an accident. After that, for about two years, the credit card holder can only send the bank (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) $50 a month,- $10 less than the minimum, but hardly a “bust” for the lender - so the bank (card sponsor/provider) rushes in with the penalties. Each time, the card holder is hit with a $39 late payment fee, which is more than half the minimum amount due. The card holder continues to send in what money they can, but eventually they go over the credit limit, which results in a separate $39 penalty. The credit card legislation will help with some of the dual penalties and partially limit rate increases for shorter delinquency periods, but consumers who meet up against even rather short-lived financial challenges will remain at the mercy of the credit industry.

So the card holder is a conscientious type and is paying the bank what they can. However, in a short while, the card provider ups the interest rate to 29 per cent due to the late payment and “over-the-limit” fees. The card holder continues to make payments. However, month after month the card holder falls short of the minimum payment and is hit with late fees or “over-the-limit fee”. Years go by and the card holder, for all their effort to honor their commitment, now owes $3,500 instead of $2,000. This scenario has happened to many people hit with large medical bills. In much, if not most of the world, such lenders would be disgraced.

New legislation limits how many times a card holder may be hit with both “over-the-limit” and “late payment” fees. But the changes are still favorable to the banking interests and promoting of a culture of greed. Why? As labor union influence has dropped, more and more Democrats running for office get their money from those affiliated with the banking/lending industry. So now, those elected to Congress either as a Democrats or Republican “owe” the industry. Whether he was legally required to take them on or not, Abraham Lincoln assumed the debts of a business partner and it took him a number of years to pay off the debt (although the frequently referenced debt repayment period of 17 years is considered by most historians to be greatly exaggerated).. Under the often predatory lending practices sanctioned today, Lincoln’s debt payments might have extended for so many years as to prevent a successful law practice and his eventual run for the presidency. In a March 9, 1832 address, Lincoln said, “It appears that the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates of interest has already been opened as a field for discussion; so I suppose I may enter upon it without claiming the honor or risking the danger which may await its first explorer. It seems as though we are never to have an end to this baneful and corroding system, acting almost as prejudicially to the general interests of the community as a direct tax of several thousand dollars annually laid on each county for the benefit of a few individuals only, unless there be a law made fixing the limits of usury. A law for this purpose, I am of opinion, may be made without materially injuring any class of people. In cases of extreme necessity, there could always be means found to cheat the law; while in all other cases it would have its intended effect. I would favor the passage of a law on this subject which might not be very easily evaded. Let it be such that the labor and difficulty of evading it could only be justified in cases of greatest necessity.”Due to a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision, subsequent banking legislation in 1980 and then the final blow via law signed by President Clinton, a Democrat, there are effectively no usury limits except with regards to student loans and by individual state and then only with respect to certain business-granted consumer loans (used car sales, etc.). Yet, the United States was able to prosper financially many times in its history when usury laws were in place. At this point, it would take a U.S. Constitutional Amendment, which I would favor, limiting interest rates while allowing for unusual inflationary pressures. U.S. Developments in this regard closely parallel the significant limitation of understandings of salvation to the personal, mostly ignoring corporate or community covenant notions of a social gospel. Again, because both political parties and their candidates mostly rely on the banking and lending industries to finance their campaigns (substantial exceptions included some of the presidential campaigns in 2008).

On the overall stimulus package, granting that much of it was enacted before Obama became president, I still find it far short in creating jobs by funding much-needed road, bridge and other infrastructure projects. Recovery must include living wage jobs, not just technical definitions of quarters of growth showing an end to a recession. While some bankruptcy laws needed to be revised because of fraud or abuse, the 2005 law went too far. Now President Obama has proposed easing some provisions, particularly in allowing people to retain their homes where their calamity has been due to medical catastrophe, weather disaster, etc. Considering the forces that will oppose him, I give Obama an A- in this area.

In the area of grace under fire, with clear racism or bigotry assaulting Obama’s presidency, I give the president an A. I do not however, find that Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouting of “you lie” at Obama from the House floor to have remotely been shown as rooted in racism. Some say the Obama haters are acting no worse than the Bush haters, but I find both a qualitative and quantitative escalation against Obama by the “birthers” as well as those hawking wild ideas of Obama confiscating arms protected by the Second Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on that second amendment issue and despite some of the positions on gun control Obama advocated as a U.S. Senator out of concern for urban violence, neither Obama or the dreaded “feds” are going to be seizing weapons under the cover of night. Why does there seem to be even more racially-based opposition now than during the election run-up? First, Republican presidential candidate John McCain took significant steps to keep race out of the campaign. With McCain’s loss, there is no central opposition figure with the stature to keep the extremist sentiment in check. Further, no matter that the polls showed a substantial lead for Obama throughout the fall of 2008, I think many of those whites who have such a hard time abiding a black president didn’t believe, in their hearts, that Obama could actually be elected. Now reality is sinking it. They are “5 to 10 per centers” but in Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the remnants of the Pat Robertson operation, their venom is amplified.

What is your grade for President Obama and why? You are not limited to the topics I covered. And perhaps more importantly, as the world scene rapidly changes, how long will it be before Americans have to seriously study the records and agendas of other world leaders? I read a good bit about Canadian, Chinese, German, Iranian leaders and their proposals, but it is embarassing that the average citizen in so many of the world’s leading countries know far more about our leaders than we do about theirs. If Americans don’t change on that score fairly soon, we are in for a rude but inevitable awakening, be it in ten, twenty, or thirty years.

Note (added October 1): Although the information is readily available online, I really ought to note upfront that I contributed $973 to Obama’s presidential campaign.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1

DH 09.29.09 at 4:35 pm

Overal I give Obama a D-: He is in the “D” category because he isaccurate in recognizing the problems but his reaction and proposed solution to the problems are inaccurate and would cause greater problems that are unecessary:

On National Health Care: I give him a D- for the same reasons. He doesn’t realize that everybody wants healthcare reform but not everybody supports the government proposing a “Public Option” or even a posibility of the in the future by having “coop’s”. The solution for reform is in the areas of tax credit/break for health insurance, tort reform to reduce the need for doctors to have defensive medicine, some limited regulations on health insurance to address pre-existing conditions and dropped coverage, as well as portability of insurance across state lines promoting greater competition so that people in NY can buy cheaper health insurance in SC thereby lower premiums in the higher priced states. Obama has got the cart before the horse on this issue.

Credit Card reform C: I like what he has done here hense the C. However, it remains yet to be seen how the regulation could raise the cost to consumers by credit card companies or people who need a credit card could get dropped or have their limits reduced. Again he has a passing score so I’m not going to nit-pick but it seems clear at this moment that it will lead to higher costs indirectly to consumers.

Stimulus Package D-: In hindsight it is clear that the stimulus package was not needed for the economy to stabilize. Like Joel said much of the stimulus has not been spent and yet the economy has stabilized without the stimulus money. To me this has just increased the National Debt. Spending $3 trillion dollars is ridiculous and taxpayers of future generations will ultimately pay by having higher taxes and inflation in the future. The best way to stimulate the economy is Fed policy lower interest rates or by tax cuts. Give more people a job and limit companies from going under are the best ways to stimulate the economy not government spending.

Grace under fire F: He has not recognized that the majority of people who are against his plans are not against him because of his race but because of Obama’s policies. Many of the people against Obama voted for Obama. The “you lie” comment was not rooted in racism but the accurate recognition that the Democrats and Obama voted down the ID requirement for health insurance would prevent a greater amount of illegals from taking advantage of the system. Under Obama and the Democrats illegals can lie and get health care coverage thereby the “you lie” comment is an accurate statement and not a racist one. I have supported many a black candidate or advocate: J.C. Watts, Armstrong Williams (voted for Obama), John Keyes, the Republican Party chairman. As you can see the claim of racism in the majority is unfounded. Are there people racist who don’t support Obama? absolutely but there are many a racist in the Democrat party: Sen Byrd, etc. who clearly were racist in the day but that gets overlooked by those in mainstream media. I find it terrible that Pat Robinson is lumped in with Limbaugh and Beck that’s the mainstream media for you and Joel and others are being brainwashed hook line and sinker.

Foreign Policy F: I say we need to support Israel our greatest ally in the Middle East as opposed to caving into the extremists in the Middle East. WE should never divide Jerusalem and we should support Israel as a nation and the Muslims must agree to this for peace to be in the land. The fact remains Muslims as a whole do not support Israel’s right to exist. How can negotiation occur when this is the premise? Eliminating the Missle Shield I find interesting. When Reagan helped promote “Star Wars” it was caused “dubious” by the left and I find it interesting that the missle shield is looked at the same way. We are caving into the Russians and making them stronger in the world to our own demise. Eliminating the F-22 at a time when we need a stronger military to defend democracy in the world. Easing Cuba when Cuba has done nothing to help their own people in the areas of freedom and democracy. Giving into Sandinistas in Honduras when the Honduran constitution was violated and then support the ousted President who violated the constituition who supports the terrorist Chavez. Obama is not taking a leadership role in the world and he is not supporting our soverignty around the world. Ex-President Bush said for years that Iran was developing nuclear weapons and the left and the rest of the world rejected those facts. Now the situation is worse because the world didn’t listen. Now it is too late. The fact remains no amount of negotiation will work in Iran because Iran is run by terrorists. Sanctions have never worked nor will they work. The sites must be eliminated. Obama has done nothing to deal with this other than sanctions. Until the world wakes up and supports the destruction of the nuclear sites we will face a future tragedy. Obama on foreign policy: F

2

Kim 09.29.09 at 6:11 pm

Damn! Double-damn!! Twice I’ve written lengthy comments, taking well over an hour-and-a-half to compose, and they’ve both disappeared. So I’ll just say a thousand thanks for your report, Joel. My grade was a bit lower - B- - largely because of the eggshells of the Bush administration still lying around over executive power and national security, and my anxieties over the ante being upped in Afghanistan. But your report itself gets an A-: written by a guy with such a keen eye, judicious intelligence, and above all, a big, big soul.

DH - he gets sent to the back of the class.

3

DH 09.29.09 at 7:06 pm

Kim, yes your right Obama and his administration gets sent to the back of the class. :) (I know you were referring to me but I couldn’t help myself). At least I’m not ignorant of the desires of those who are against democracy and who happen to support terrorism. No amount of negotiation will or has worked. We can try and ex-diplomat John Boltan did a great job. I expect the foreign policy for the Obama administration will equal or be worse than ex-President Carter which ended up being a big failure.

4

Joel Betow 09.29.09 at 7:10 pm

DH, Imade it clear that the good majority of those opposed to Obama are not against him or his policies based on race. However, there have been polls showing that up to one-fourth of conservative voters or one third in the “evangelical” theology (as the term is often impoperly used) believe that Obama, either himself, or as a Biblical sign, is or represents the anti-Christ.

5

DH 09.29.09 at 8:09 pm

Oh come on Joel, I know no Evangelical Christian who believes that Obama is the “anti-Christ” and I have been in many a “conservative circle”. Do you actually believe everything that is in the polls? Have you looked at the predisposition of the ones doing the polls you quote?

Also Joel, you didn’t make it clear. The fact that you even mentioned race as being a growing concern against Obama shows a hasty generalization. I don’t believe there is a growing level of antimosity race wise against Obama. The fact remains the people of the US are concerned by the rapid growing of government (period). Are there people who are against based on race? absolutely but it isn’t a higher number than before the election.

As for my particular view I have no problem with having any race being President as evident of those minorities for whom I support. I solely look at policy and the policies Obama supports are not the one I believe are good for America. If he happened to agree with J.C. Watts (I’m sure you know him being from OK), Armstrong Williams, John Keyes or the current Republican party Chairman then I would have no problem. My disagreement with Obama is not race based in any way and I abhore people who falsely accuse some people of this wrongly. Again are there some who have a problem with race? yes but it is not solely one party or the other with regard to this issue. Joel your presenting a false dichotomy.

6

DH 09.29.09 at 8:16 pm

In my earlier response I gave the impression that I solely elect a candidate based on party. That is actually not true. If I were alive during the late 40’s I would have voted for Truman for President and there are many a “blue-dog Democrat” that I would vote for as well particularly Rep. Heath Schuler of North Carolina. Sorry for the implications of what I wrote. I hope this helps.

7

Joel Betow 10.01.09 at 3:56 am

Kim,

In the past at many, many blogs, I lost so many long replies to website glitches, power outages and such that once I got beyond about 100 words I transferred to word processor, finished the comment and then “copied” it back to the blog comments section.

DH,

I believe that at the heart of the “birther” movement is Obama’s race. Others get incensed that he refers to himself a black when he is half white. The latter doesn’t take into account the long history, particularly in the southern states, a person was once regarded as black if they were 7/8 white and 1/8 black.

Whether or not you personally know any “evangelicals” (a misappropriation of the term by so many journalists and pollsters) who think Obama is the anti-Christ isn’t all the relevant; in 1972 if my immediate family had been all that voted, George McGovern would have won 100% of the popular vote. Polls are showing that a good proportion of Obama opponents do have the “anti-Christ” sentiment about him, think he is Muslim, and that he wasn’t born in the United States. That still leaves about 70% of Republicans opposing Obama mainly on the issues.

Kim,

Your grade of A- for my blog entry was very generous. To really do the topic justice would have taken twice as long to research and prepare and I either didn’t have that much time, or wasn’t willing to invest that much time in the effort.

In my opinion, A range presidents are rare because they’ve given away too many issue in order to get elected. And those presidents who at least get a concenus evaluation of an A range grade usually get it only after being in office for several years or out of office for several years.

8

Mark Byron 10.01.09 at 6:52 am

I haven’t seen people who have believer Obama is the Antichrist, but I have seen people who wondered if he might be in my old Baptist church.

For the birthers, I think it might be more xenophobia that racism; if Obama’s dad were from Kansas City rather an ethnically-Muslim Kenyan, they’d be less spooked.

He’s done a solid job in foreign policy, but many of the things that Joel sees as bugs I’ll see as features and visa versa. Pulling the plug on the Czech missile defense post seems to be a misstep to me. Also, not rushing head-long to undo everything Bush did is a plus, although I’ll agree with Joel that sunshine on our interrogation policy will be a good thing in the long term, even if it makes Republicans look bad.

Obama’s one drawback (if you are a person of the left and want to see his agenda passed) seems to be a tin ear on the sausage-making statecraft of getting bills passed. He hasn’t been able to move the ball forward on the energy “cap and trade” bill or health care, as enough moderate Democrats are balking at both. He might be somewhat like Jimmy Carter (in a good way) in that he may be too earnest and guileless to be a good political horse-trader. That’s a feature in many ways, but a bug in a leader; you often need charming SOBs like Clinton or LBJ to get the heavy lifting done.

9

Joel 10.01.09 at 11:15 am

Mark,
It is a bit early to know what Obama will or won’t get enacted. Bill Clinton achieved very little in his first two years, which was a major reason for the 1994 Republican landslide. It was the spring of ‘95 before Clinton started hitting his stride.

10

DH 10.01.09 at 3:37 pm

Joel, the borther movement is not a movement at all and that is not based solely on my own experience and I take issue with your “McGovern analogy” to the observation I have. Just becasue some poll says 30% of Republicans are “birthers” doesn’t mean the poll is correct. Have you looked at the predisposition of the group putting out the poll? Have you looked at the questions asked? Have you looked at the sample size? Even if what you say is correct that doesn’t mean you need to continue to project what you say “30%” onto the rest. I’m sure if I use your logic that I could say about 30% of Democrats are Communist/Socialist but I’m not going to label or even mention that the Democrat party are those things. You need to stop some of the overgeneralizations with regard to the Republicans as a whole. Many many people who VOTED for Obama reject him now because of the views he is voicing and the policies he is trying to impliment.

Joel, Clinton started hitting his stride because he had to give in to the Republican majority to get anything done. Thank God for the checks and balances from 1994 till 2006.

11

Mark Byron 10.02.09 at 8:43 am

Yes, the jury’s still out on Obama’s ability to get legislation passed. If we use a Clinton comparison, Clinton still got quite a few key things done in 1993-4, like extending NAFTA to Mexico, the WTO and the Family Leave bill; however, those first two were part of a center-right coalition that passed over the no votes of a majority of Democrats.

Welfare reform was the big accomplishment of the 1995-2000 era, and that was another center-right coalition; if I recall my history, it was more of a Republican initiative that Clinton co-opted and took credit for.

12

Joel Betow 10.02.09 at 2:59 pm

Mark,

You are correct, though I note that the Family Leave bill was hugely popular with both parties, and Nafta wasn’t signed until December 8, 1993, giving Obama time to catch up. Clinton suffered huge defeats on health care reform and gays in the military.

By my own account, Obama has been more successful in foreign affairs and diplomacy than Clinton was in 93-94, and Clinton didn’t achieve good approval ratings until 1995 — not that such is necessarily the mark of an achieving president. Clinton did campaign on welfare reform in ‘92, but did not push it as president until pushed by the Republicans.

13

DH 10.02.09 at 4:09 pm

Is loosing the 2016 Olympics in the first round great for Obama’s foreign affairs rating? How about with Iran, Israel/Palestinian, Russia, etc.? It seems to me that Americas forwign affairs and soverignty around the world is being diminished. It seems to me that if this continues no nation or group of nations will stand up for Western-Republic-Democracy.

Joel, I will say that I appreciate your correct observation of the positive impact the Republicans had on Clinton. I still say Clinton was forced to go along or risk being a no-name.

Mt prediction is that Obama will end up being a Carter.

14

Richard 10.02.09 at 4:36 pm

I have a suspicion that in the long run, history will be kinder to Carter than recent criticism suggests.

15

DH 10.02.09 at 5:04 pm

How can you say this? It has been almost 30 years and the reaction is the same. I would call the last 30 years “recent”. I will say that as a man he is great, nice and kind. However, giving away land for peace has shown and will show never worked/s, high tarriffs stifleing the exonomy, being wimpy in Iraq, wimpy to Hamas, wimpy to N. Korea to the point of seeing the nations get stronger over time. I put Carter in the same category as in your country Neville Chamerblain and we all know that even after 60 years history is not kind to him. The same goes for Carter.

16

Richard 10.02.09 at 6:45 pm

I can say this because I believe it to be true. I would call the last 30 years recent too. That is, in fact, what I said. As for Mr Chamberlain, we’ve established over time that you don’t think much of him and you’re entitled to your opinion. But there are signs that his reputation is being reconsidered, and not without justice.

17

DH 10.02.09 at 7:03 pm

Actually I meant to say that 30 years IS a long time and NOT recent. To me 30 years is a long time. Even if later things improve in foreign relations between the US/Israel/Palestinians I don’t believe that we can place the reasons on Carter.

How is Chamberlain being reconsidered when he said “peace in our time” as opposed to doing the appropriate action limiting the scope of the War than what happened and stood by Czech and Poland? If Chamberlain would have won the election would the UK responded to the defense of the Allies or would the UK been taken over by Germany?

18

Richard 10.02.09 at 7:14 pm

Please stop going on about WW2, DH. With hindsight, which is always perfect, the ‘peace in our time’ remark looks foolish. But I refuse to castigate someone for not rushing to war. As it goes, it was Chamberlain who declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland. Your own country never declared war on Hitler, so you’re in a poor position to throw stones on this. What is “If Chamberlain would have won the election…” supposed to mean? H wasn’t defeated in an election. Chamberlain resigned from his office as Prime Minister, but he remained in government. Furthermore, he died of cancer not long after resigning.

30 years certainly isn’t long enough to give a proper perspective on a presidency, or much else.

19

DH 10.02.09 at 9:10 pm

“As it goes, it was Chamberlain who declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland.” That was when it was too late. It was clear by the intelligence to what extent the military of Germany was about to do and the level of their armament which violated all of the WW1 laws.

We didn’t go to war because we knew it was clear that the UK, France, Belgium, etc. had the resources to take on Germany before they did the inevitable attack. We did declare war on Germany. Haven’t you read about Gen. Patton and all of the American forces that went to war against Germany? We didn’t go to war on a preemptive basis because America knew that UK, France and others combined could have taken care of Germany before their inevitable attack. When they didn’t do their job we bagan “Lend Lease” and ultimately went to war against Germany as well.

30 years not long enough to give perspective on a Presidency? hogwash the same logic could go for Bush II but I’m not going to use that logic no matter how tempting it is. :)

20

Kim 10.02.09 at 9:25 pm

Is loosing the 2016 Olympics in the first round great for Obama’s foreign affairs rating?

Absolutely, DH. A diplomatic disaster. Impeach the bugger.

“Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longings for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

That’s from Carter’s July 15th, 1979 speech. In what turned out to be his suicide note, Carter dared to suggest that America grow up and ask itself some critical questions about its identity and its future. America didn’t have the stomach for it. It preferred to remain an adolescent, deny that what goes around comes around, and lap up the flattery of Reagan, that “modern prophet of profligacy, the politician who gave moral sanction to the empire of consumption,” who “added to America’s civic religion two crucial beliefs: Credit has no limits, and the bills will never come due” (Andrew Bacevich).

Thirty years on, who looks like a prophet and who looks like a jerk?

21

Tony Buglass 10.02.09 at 9:33 pm

DH: “We didn’t go to war because we knew it was clear that the UK, France, Belgium, etc. had the resources to take on Germany before they did the inevitable attack. We did declare war on Germany.”

Utter and complete bull. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You didn’t go to war in 1939 because the vast majority of Americans didn’t want to get involved in European war. Even after you did get involved, US policy demonstrated a great suspicion that you were being used to shore up the British Empire. In 1940, when we faced invasion, the US ambassador Jospeh Kennedy (father of JFK, if I remember) was telling his government that Britain couldn’t possibly stand. It was only a matter of time. Well, it wasn’t, was it?

You did NOT declare war on Germany. Germany declared war on you, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Before that, it was largely down to Churchill and Roosevelt, developing things like Lend-Lease. Britain was prepared to stand alone and fight when France fell, but we were facing bankruptcy by 1940, and we needed help. It was Roosevelt who offered it, but there was significant opposition in the US, because of your isolationist policies. (For goodness’ sake, Charles Lindbergh was actually in favour of Hitler!)

You have a strange view of history, DH. Even stranger than your view of the Bible. Well, I have been interested in military and aviation history since I was a child, and I won’t let you get away with such unmitigated tripe. You speak with such conviction about stuff you know little about - Chamberlain was one of a generation of politicians who had seen the carnage of WW1 - in many cases, had actually been there. He would have done anything to avid a repeat of that, and when it became clear that Hitler was not a man to trust, he did his best to win us some time - Air Chief Marshall Dowding (who really won the Battle of Britain) was in favour of Chamberlain’s policies, because it gave him time to build up the fighter squadrons and radar chain which defended this country in 1940. To have gone to war at the time of the Munich crisis might have been a bigger disaster than the one which followed.

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Tony Buglass 10.02.09 at 9:36 pm

Of course, that should be Joseph Kennedy, not Jospeh - my keyboard does strange things when I type quickly and passionately! And you’ll spot other typos, such as ‘avid’ which should be avoid.

I think my keyboard is God’s instrument, to keep me humble… ;)

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Joel Betow 10.03.09 at 1:30 am

Another thing is missed over and over, particularly by so many in the U.S., even though we should know better, is the enormous loss of life endured by the Russians and the role that played in blocking Hitler’s plans. It was the reality of the Russian sacrifice, and where they had advanced to on Germany and on the map generally, and not Roosevelt’s supposed weakness due to poor health that left Russia in control of so much territory at the end of the war. That Stalin was a cruel dictator with large ambitions cannot be used to wipe away the fact that Russian efforts bought essential time for an Allied victory.

Americans have a hard time even acknowleding the important role Canada played in World War II. Canada declared War on Germany in 1939 and suffered, proportionally, far greater loss of life than did its neighbor to the south. Every once in a while a good movie has come out, modestly attended in the U.S. at best, depicting the Canadian role. As Wikipedia points out, from of a country of then some 11 million people, about one million served in the war effort.

Unlike the unbombed American mainland, the British had to find ways to continue the war effort in the midst of the rubble on the homefront due to an ongoing air assault by the Germans that had increasingly turned from military targets to attacks on the civilian population. And the RAF was keeping Hitler from making a land invasion, and in fact is regarded as sealing off Hitler from a land invasion of England well over a year before Pearl Harbor was even bombed.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, U.S. sentiment was isolationist to the extent that the only way for the U.S. to assist its allies was the lend-lease law.

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Tony Buglass 10.03.09 at 12:20 pm

…and don’t get me started on “U-571″! Snarl!

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DH 10.05.09 at 3:22 pm

I agree that America had an isolationist attitude. Howeve,r it is clear that the Allies minus the US had the military might prior to 1938 to take on Hitler thereby making the scope of the war more limited than it became otherwise. Nothing I said disagreed with what you said about America being isolationist but YOU cannot deny that the UK, France and other Allies in Europe had the resources to take on Hitler and limit the scope of the war. France and the UK had a stronger military prior to 1938. Germany was allowed to develop weapons and attack the Rhineland in clear violation of treaties. Shouldn’t France and the UK stood stronger against Germany prior to the need for America to help? Should France and the UK done more prior to even 1936? I agreed with the Lend Lease but prior to 1938 I don’t see a clear desire to do what was necessary to eliminate Hitler. America in 1936 was only the 9th most powerful miltary in the World France and the UK were 1st and 3 respectively while Germany was 4th in 1936. It seems to me based on those figures that if France and the UK could have gotten along, worked together for a common goal of eliminating Hitler they could have done it. In light of all of the broken treaties that Germany did with France and the UK. I totally agree that American isolationism was a MAJOR problembut that should not mean one should neglect to mention the facts regarding lack of France/UK vs. Germany prior to 1938. America was half way around the world and is there to help. The UK and France had a responsibility to its people to do all they can. Why did the UK and France believe that appeasement with Hitler would work and then continue to believe in appeasement after multiple violations of treaties? The first or at least the second violation should have been enough with the clear knowledge of the military buildup at the time of Hitler to go in and attack Hitler to at least limit the scope of the upcoming war.
Here is an article from MIT that explains in detail all of the reasons for failure ones you talked about and myself as well:

http://ocw.mit.edu/NR/rdonlyres/Political-Science/17-42Spring-2005/5481ECE6-57EB-4807-824C-01B3F615073A/0/ww2.pdf

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Joel Betow 10.05.09 at 7:56 pm

DH,

It would be nice to buy into simplistic views of Hitler and World War II. However, just do a careful reading of how Ford and General Motors knowingly aided Hitler’s militarization efforts by helping Germany retool its domestic auto production plants into war vehicle and material production. Many American companies and industrialists were aiding Hitler at the very time you complain of allied (Britain, France) slowness to respond, of appeasement, etc. Long before Neville Chamberlain stepped down as prime minister, his government had just about tripled the defense budget. It is true that Chamberlain resigned after losing the confidence of the public in his management of the war, but interestingly, Chamberlain was influential in the selection of Churchill to take over managing the war.

If you are going to make sweeping claims, then you might also want to acknowledge U.S. appeasement of Hitler for the sake of making a buck and with great indifference toward his attitude and attacks with respect to Jews. American aviator hero Charles Lindbergh and his wife were both great admirers of Hitler and were impressed, rather than turned off, by Germany’s militarization, knowing full well Hitler was likely to use the forces he was building up. On another front, Hitler’s ally Mussolini had significant popularlity in the United States.

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Joel Betow 10.05.09 at 8:05 pm

Regarding Obama and the Olympics, he was in a no-win position. If he didn’t push for Chicago, his patriotism would be challenged, if he didn’t push hard enough then he was “arrogant” for just showing up without wooing and lobbying the IOC members, if he pushed too hard then he was egotistical in the midst of our greatest recession since the Great Depression, ignoring important domestic and foreign policy matters to grandstand. Obama took the middle position — advocated for Chicago, but didn’t overdo it, and is developing some better relationships with South American leaders without rubber stamping.

It was a great win situation, though, for the Olympics and the world. South America, NEVER before host to the Olympics, gets a turn. That’s fantastic with me.

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DH 10.05.09 at 8:27 pm

Joel, Obama “didn’t over do it”? Come on. He sure did why the need for the First Lady, Mayor Daly, Oprah, etc., etc.? Why the need to show up when we need him to make a decision on Afghanistan and the lack of meeting the generals over Afghanistan? Only two times?

Nothing I said disagreed with what you said not I disagree with what you said. However, it doesn’t stop there. One must acknowledge that the UK and France combined had more than enough of a military to prevent Germany from what Hitler did as damage in Europe.

Once Germany stepped into the Rhineland, Sudentenland, Poland, etc. should have been enough. Why wait after 5 violations or more before taking care of Germany when the military resources are there to prevent the inevitable? It makes no sense.

You may want reread the MIT article I quoted earlier it is pretty good and goes into detail of all of the reason without neglecting any specific one. For I’m not neglecting your recognition of the US not doing its job prior to WWII but you are neglecting France/UK response that was necessary.

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DH 10.05.09 at 8:30 pm

Greatest recession since the Great Depression? I think you forget 1978-1982. If one looks at the facts it is the worst since then. I would much rather be in today’s economy then in a day when we had double-digit inflation/interest rate AND a recession on top of that and a gas crisis, etc., etc.

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Joel 10.06.09 at 5:42 pm

DH, I’ll let you have the last word. I’m done here. :-)

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