Friday, September 23, 2011

"Boo"r-ish Behavior

The third nationally-televised Republican presidential primary candidates' debate gave viewers another in what is becoming a rather embarrassing (or at least those guilty of committing the faux pas should have the sense to be embarrassed of and for themselves) litany of offensive reactions to questions offered to or comments given by the candidates in-attendance.  When a gay U.S. Army servicemember asked in his YouTube question of the candidates whether they would attempt to circumvent the progress made in gay rights, epitomized most recently by the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", shouts of "Boo!" were heard emanating from the attending audience.  And while those audience members called-out their derision for the gay man who had the courage to put voice to his concerns, the candidates on the stage stood silent.  They not only did not rebuke the disrespect those audience members showed toward someone who is currently serving in the United States armed forces; their silence, to coin an old phrase, "was deafening."  They essentially gave license to anyone who wished to condemn and ostracize an American if they are gay.  Such behavior is not only offensive, but it is beneath what this nation is supposed to be all about.

Political candidates have an opportunity throughout a campaign, and then later while serving should they win their campaign, to define the moral character that they embody.  It gives potential voters a chance to see/hear what ideals and principles are important to the candidates.  Often times current events helps to shape what 'ideals and principles' are at the heart of voters' consciousness.  The fairly protracted legislative repeal of the federal government's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (allowing gay servicemembers to serve in the U.S. armed forces openly and honestly), and the official recission of that policy from the respect codes of conduct of the various armed forces, thrust the issue of gay rights and gay men and women serving in the armed forces into the forefront of the ongoing political debate.  And such moments provide candidates with a perfect opportunity to portray themselves someone who does not side with those who would choose to discriminate against gay Americans.  Instead, the entire cadre of candidates stood mum; looking like the perverbal "cat that ate the canary." 

And if there was any doubt about how many Republican voters feel about gays in general, Rick Santorum gave voice to their despicable moral stance by declaring that he would not attempt to "get around" the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; he would reinstate the policy.  He doesn't feel that the U.S. armed forces is the place for any sort of discussion or recognition of sexual orientation/intimacy.  An opinion that is obviously out-of-touch with reality.  If our armed forces was such a paragon of non-sexual virtue, then we wouldn't have experienced the "Tailhook" scandal of the latter part of the 20th century.  We wouldn't have servicemembers reporting all manner of sexual assaults, rapes and molestations committed upon their persons by their fellow soldiers; they wouldn't exist is such a sex/sexuality-free vacuum. 

Let's face it.  There are some Americans who simply do not like homosexuals.  Period.  In fact, many of those same Americans feels so strongly in their dislike of gays that they would support the forced removal of them from American society.  That's fine.  While many would agree with the premise that discrimination against gays is simply wrong, noone is suggesting that Americans shouldn't be allowed to believe whatever they wish to.  But the right to think that homosexuality is some sort of corruption visited upon human society has not, does not and should never give anyone reason to believe that it is appropriate to actively publicly discriminate against gay men and women. 

It's safe to say that noone thought that the contest among Republican presidential candidates wannabe's would produce some stalwart defender of acceptance, tolerance and equality.  Americans aren't quite that naive.  But I do believe that most Americans would hope that those individuals who feel they are, for some reason, qualified to be the leader of the free world, would demonstrate the very best of our those very American ideals of acceptance, tolerance and equality. 

I don't think any American is expecting any sort of miracles to come about from the Republican debates.  I don't think most Americans expect much of anything from the debates, other than perhaps a certain measure of amusement and macabre entertainment.  I do think most Americans want our President, whoever he or she might be, to be someone they can be proud of when standing on the world stage.  Who could be proud of the shameful display we witnessed last night?  Not I. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

But Seriously ...

The American voting public had another opportunity to view the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination in a nationally-televised debate, as they responded to a variety of questions posed to them by what the majority of those same candidates believe to be two major players of the "lame-stream media."  In fact, in a rare display of Republican solidarity former Speaker of the House Nute Gingrinch took it upon himself to chastise the debate moderators for attempting to pit the present candidates against one another. 

Apparently the former Speaker fails to understand and/or appreciate the simple fact that he and his fellow candidates are attempting to secure the Republican presidential nomination; differences between the various candidates is primarily what will influence voters to make a choice for the respective candidate that they choose to support.  Without there being some sort of "winnowing of the chaff," so to speak, it's difficult to understand how voters will differeniate between the candidates.  Whether the former Speaker likes to admit it or not, not all of the candidates on the stage this evening will be able to run for and possibly win the presidency.  And even the least educated American understands that only one person takes the oath of office come January 2013. 

but, let's set Mr. Gingrinch' opinions to the side for the moment.  It seems apropos to consider some of the "highlights" (although the reality of what was said in many respects would be more aptly deemed to be 'lowlights') of the debate. 

In much of the network punditry that followed the debate much of the discussion centered on who won.  A loose concensus seemed to agree that Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas and the latest entrant into the contest, had the most to prove during this debate.  He also had the most, potentially, to lose, in that many potential Republican voters no doubt sought to make an initial judgement on whether or not his candidacy is real and viable.  He did not disappoint his supporters; he stuck to all of the rhetoric on which he has thus far based his entire political life and success.  That's all well and good.  Unfortunately for Mr. Perry, the people who are most likely to support him as the Republican candidate for President are not the only people expected to cast a vote in November 2012.  While Perry's 'stick-to-it-ed-ness' to what he has said in the past (not really something that should be a challenge to most sane, reasonably intelligent people) is seen and believed to be laudable in the eyes of some, his almost-rote reiteration of the uber-partisan, myopic views that have been the foundation of his tenure as Texas' governor (and what he feels qualifies him to run the entire country) do little to calm the fears that many have that Perry is just another wingnut from the Tea Party.  If anything, Perry's performance solidified his position as the most viable Republican candidate that has also essentially fully embraced the agenda of the Tea Party movement.

Governor Perry seems to believe that the majority of programs that are currently the purview of the federal government would be better created, instituted and managed at the state-level.  In some situations that may well be true.  Medicaid is actually one instance where states do manage to fairly effectively provide health insurance coverage to the poor and disadvantaged in their respective locales.  Admittedly, the money for the program is provided to the states by the federal government.  But the states themselves are responsible for administering the program and actually delivering the services expected to those who qualify for them.  But it would be a mistake to think that for some reason the states' success at administering Medicaid would similarly translate to their being able to adequately create, fund, administer and maintain all of the various programs and policies that the federal government is currently responsible for. 

Similarly, if voters are to believe Michele Bachman, if the Environmental Protection Agency was abolished we would immediately see gasoline selling for less than $2.00 per gallon.  Of course, she does not illuminate the reality of what our environment might be like if no standardized environmental regulation existed.  In fact, in a demonstration of just how unrealistic her positions are, Bachman has gone on the record stating she feels it would be "just fine" if oil companies were allowed to drill for oil in the middle and throughout the entire Florida Everglades.  Not to completely ignore how many voters might be a bit concerned about there being unregulated oil production in the Everglades, Bachman offered a fairly anemic reassurance that such production would be done in an "environmentally responsible" manner.  She, like the overwhelming majority of the other Republican presidential candidates, believes that if the oil companies were relieved of having to abide by federal environmental regulations that they, themselves (the oil companies), would be able to better manage and protect the environment than the EPA does today.  Perhaps Ms. Bachman might want to review the historical record on how, despite the fact that regulation does currently exist, tar balls continue to wash-up on the respective shores of the Gulf states, all largely the result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil production debacle.  If such a horrific calamity can occur despite there being, according to the Minnesota Republican, too much oppressive regulation, imagine how well (or not) the environment will fair with little or no regulation?  In one of the more ironic realities on this particular topic, one of the most specific reasons why the explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is because George W. Bush-era EPA rules allowed the oil companies to be responsible for the safety of their own operations. 

Former Utah Governor John Huntsman provided the most reasoned, sane-sounding performance in tonight's debate.  Unfortunately, his rather staid and unremarkable performance will not result in his receiving any significant bump in popularity.  His appearing to be of above-average intelligence does not provide him any great advantage over the other candidates.  As President Obama has learned, being and acting intelligent provides little (or no) currency with many American voters.  The fact that the Republican front-runner was a C student in college is a pretty clear indication that many voters are more interested in whether or not a candidate "looks" or "acts" "presidential", as opposed to whether or not they have more than a couple of brain cells to rub together.  It's difficult to pin-down exactly when it became a "bad thing" to be smart and run for president.  But it certainly seems that the candidate that least exudes intelligence, best displays bravado and hubris, is at a clear advantage.

If voters take anything from tonight's debate, it should be that the overwhelming majority of the Republican presidential candidates are spectacular examples of hypocrisy, ignorance and just plain meanness.  If what was 'on display' tonight is supposed to be the Republican savior of the American Dream, this country is in some real trouble.