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Republican Convention Redux – Night 2

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Despite a large crowd that waved placards and broke out in random chants of “U-S-A” and “Country First” over the course of two hours, there was not a great deal of enthusiasm during the first full night of the Republican National Convention. In addition, having watched most of the DNC convention last week, the organization and overall execution were certainly not matched by the Republican party this election year. 

The lack of enthusiasm was reflected most obviously in President Bush’s brief and carefully constructed speech. I’m not sure what the political pundits are saying right now, but it seemed to me that the speech was extremely forced. The President also did not really go after the Democrats, aside from a few small jabs like referring to the “angry left.” The concise nature of the President’s speech has not gone unnoticed by the media, who have indicated that the McCain campaign has taken pains to distance themselves from the sitting President, who is largely unpopular amongst most Americans. 

The surprise speaker of the night was Fred Thompson, not because he wasn’t scheduled, but because he was more energetic than everyone who preceded him. Thompson had some interesting lines in trying to make the case that John McCain was made up of “rebellion and honor.” Perhaps the most out of place line was when Fred Thompson explained that McCain drove a “Corvette and dated a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer under the name of Marie, the Flame of Florida.” Thompson also focused a great deal of time in detailing out John McCain’s extremely painful and heroic ordeal as a POW during the Vietnam War. During these moments, the audience seemed somber, especially the many Veterans that sat in the audience.  

He made several jabs towards Obama, likening him to someone who “talked a good deal on the Sunday talk shows and frequented the Washington cocktail circuit.” However, nothing was much of a surprise, it was really the typical “Obama is a talker, not a reformer” rhetoric. He also warned of the protectionism, higher taxes and expansive bureaucracy if Obama were elected and made fun of the lack of Progress made by the sitting democratically controlled congress. In some ways, it was disappointing, because I expected the Republicans to have some fresh new ideas, but this was not the case. In the same vein, while Thompson did do McCain justice by describing his character, he failed to impart why McCain’s service, would translate to being the best choice for President. 

Then, it was on to the keynote speaker,  Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat turned Independent.  From the get go, Lieberman failed to engage the audience, and only received applause when he uttered a positive statement about John McCain’s service.  Lieberman, like Thompson, touched on McCain’s history of being a reformer and standing up to political lobbies and even in some cases taking on the Republican establishment. However, as he continued to speak, it almost seemed that McCain, the maverick, reformer etc. didn’t belong to to the Republican party, but rather that he was an Independent, running under the guise of ‘Republican’. By this point in the night, the convention hall in St. Paul seemed like a diffused balloon, as the camera panned across delegates, looking off into space or half-heartedly waving signs emblazoned with “COUNTRY FIRST” on one side. Unfortunately for Lieberman, he did not make a strong case for McCain’s run for the presidency. The only issue he touched on forcefully was the surge in Iraq, which was successful, but at a recognized cost. (See Iraq War Posts on this blog).

Overall, unlike last week, when the Democrats were able to deliver consistent and cohesive messages, the Republican party seemed to flounder. On the second night of the convention, there were no energizing speakers who appealed to the base, but rather a group of scattered speakers who failed to deliver for John McCain. 

Update: In a commentary by Carl Bernstein regarding the theme of last night’s Republican convention, it seemed that he felt strongly that the subtle references to the “angry left” and continual reference to patriotism should be concerning to the Democrats because these are the same tactics that were used to elect Bush 43, in 2000 and 2004.

I agree with Bernsteins’s article because from the haunting video about American’s and service to the detailed account of John McCain’s time in a torture camp, it seems as if they were trying to put forth the notion that he was in fact more in line with “America.” However, as I noted above, the almost feverish appeal of “USA” and “COUNTRY FIRST” chants that took over the room, was eerie, since the population of the room was not representative of a modern-day America.

Here’s the article: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/03/bernstein.rnc/index.html 

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Written by Veena

September 3, 2008 at 5:18 am

masquerade

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I just saw this article on CNN which discusses how President Bush attended the White House Correspondent’s Dinner on Saturday night. It is amazing to me, that while we know this man’s lapse in judgment has had catastrophic implications all over the world, we still afford him and others in his administration (Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice etc.) the opportunities and forums to look like they aren’t responsible for a catastrophic war that has caused the deaths of thousands of people.

How come the President gets to celebrate with the likes of Jennifer Garner and Claire Danes, like he’s just another actor, out on the red carpet, en route to the Oscars? President Bush gets to go all over the country and pretend or masquerade, while a war without an end rages. It might seem like I am spouting stereotypical “bleeding heart liberalism” and that I don’t understand the threat of terrorism. However, I have been researching this topic for months. In fact, I am currently drafting a policy paper on the implications of a withdrawal from Iraq.

As I have learned over the last semester, this war is perhaps one of the most challenging military and political problems the United States has ever faced. It is also one of the (if not the most) significant foreign policy mistakes of our time. The worst part of the situation is that we did not go into the Iraq war with a plan, a political outcome, or even a clear picture of what Iraq should look like after we invaded. Ironically, George Bush had Colin Powell, who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had espoused the importance of having broad support and a clear military and political objectives before ever going to war in a country. This was later coined the Powell Doctrine, by a reporter and required that the following questions to be answered in the affirmative:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?[1]

I recall learning the Powell Doctrine in high school, in my history class, almost a decade ago. However, the weight of the Powell Doctrine has not hit me until very recently. There are so many considerations to make:

  • 2 million refugees (and counting)
  • 2 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs)
  • Sectarian violence (Sunni insurgency, Shiite extremist militias and Al Qaeda in Iraq or “AQI”)
  • Potential for a wider war (where neighboring countries could lend support to related religious groups)
  • Thousands of children out of school
  • Many widowed women
  • The general dire humanitarian conditions and lack of basic services like water, garbage pick-up and the state of hospital

War has crippled the country, and despite that, the US contractors still have access to McDonalds and KFC. Is this going to be our legacy?

I am going to elaborate on these points and will continue to bring updates, as I complete my policy paper. However, for now I wanted to say that it is not acceptable to me, that the President is treated like a hero at a posh dinner, can nostalgic about the past eight years, and and everyone for a few hours forgets, that his cloudy judgment, his masquerading, has led us in a dangerous direction. The United States is not not safer, nor more secure, instead we are more vulnerable and more hated. As an American I am affronted that he has treaded on freedoms, our dignity and the principles this country was founded on, for a war without a meaning. I suppose we will continue to watch as President Bush dances like a clown until the end of his term.

Written by Veena

April 28, 2008 at 4:11 am

an opportunity

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We have reached an unfortunate landmark in the Iraq War; 4000 US soldiers dead, upwards of 7000 iraqi soldiers are dead and over one hundred soldiers dead from other countries as well. There are also more than 80,000 Iraqi civilians who have died in this struggle . Despite this massive tragedy that will continue indefinitely, everyone from the President to the Presidential Nominee are touting the war as a success. In speeches given in the last few days, both Dick Cheney explained that the soldiers were brave and he thanked them for volunteering for this service. John McCain not only conflated Shiite and Sunni Islam, he failed to articulate whether he understood the deep rooted ethnic and religious conflicts that run deep in both Iraq and Iran. More importantly, he also echoed the same sentiment, explaining that the war was indeed going well and that he was committed to maintaining troops there until the US “won.”

Have we gotten to the point in our politics that we are so comfortable to deny what is right in front of us? 4000 US soldiers are dead for a war they did not create and for which they did not volunteer. They might be patriots, they might believe in the reasons we went to war and perhaps even agree with the Bush administration’s politics, but the fact remains, they were sent to war under false pretenses. When we went to war in Afghanistan, we had a clear enemy and a clear mission. With Iraq we had no real intelligence, no clear strategy and no real knowledge of who our enemy was. President Bush and his administration used Sadam Hussein as a symbol for anti-Americanism; anti-Westernism; a man who stood against everything the US believed in. No senator or congressman dared respond to that for fear they would be called anti-patriotic;anti-US;anti-West;pro-terrorism. It was a scary environment, everyone was holding their breath, Tom Ridge controlled our emotions by deciding what “temperature” it was (red, yellow, orange etc.). Why were we so scared? Why did people not question these motives more strongly and speak out against an unjust war?

I remember in January 2003, when the talk of war became incessant. I had a law professor at the time who swore to me that the war would be over in 15 days. He, like many others were convinced that we were going to fight a simple and decisive war, take out a dictator and replace it with a smoothly running democracy. However, what he was never able to articulate was why we were going there.

What is perhaps the most shocking of all the information we have about the pre-Iraq war days was the troop levels that were agreed upon by the army and the DoD. In 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, we had international support, and twice the number of troops than when we decided to invade the country, to overthrow its government and install a democracy. However, again, the few at the top controlled the information, the messages and yes, the media. Leaving the American public completely in the dark.

Yes, I know, everyone from local bloggers to Frank Rich has written about this topic, so why am I contributing to this topic? Because, I didn’t when I should have 5 years ago. I don’t think anyone grasped what this would do:

  • 4000 US Soldiers dead
  • 29,000+ soldiers have been injured
  • 7000+ Iraqi forces dead
  • 80,000 + Iraqi civilians dead
  • Civil War; Humanitarian refugee crisis;Unfettered terrorism..

While I could continue, I think the real issue here is that despite knowing all of these facts and more, despite the tragedies, the misinformation, the quagmire that Iraq has become that there are people who still defend what is happening. It is too late to go back and point fingers (though we know who to point them at). However, it is not too late to recognize the mistakes that we have made and the status of the war at present. This shouldn’t be a political game where people tell the American people what will win them votes in November. These are people’s lives. This is an entire region that is in disarray.

So, I don’t want to hear John McCain or Dick Cheney or President Bush himself get in front of the camera and boldly tell Americans that “things are going well” because that is a lie. If “things are going well” in comparison to when more Americans, Iraqis and foreign nationals were dying a year ago, then thats a different story. Yes, its true the surge did work, which is a good thing, because that means our military and political objectives were met.

However, what these politicians are saying are a series of dangerous mis-truths:

*Just because less people are dying doesn’t mean people are not dying.

*Just because some roads are getting built does not mean mortar has not pummeled the infrastructure of Iraq.

*Just because the surge is working, doesn’t mean the war will end soon or can be won. If the politicians continue to stick to this rhetoric, at least the media should this time, do the American people a service and write the truth. Lets not let someone paint this war a different color then it is, red.

 

 

Written by Veena

March 24, 2008 at 10:08 pm