In an already dismal political landscape, controversies could influence this year’s elections.
By Micah Hanks
One thing most people fortunate enough to make it into the public eye will learn, sooner or later, is that people can be very fickle.
The tremendous support Barack Obama managed to gain during his presidential campaign has shifted somewhat in the eighteen months since he took office. There is no doubt that Obama, facing one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression, has had a full plate set before him, undermining many of his intended goals such as health care reform. There is also little doubt that much of the economic turmoil that we presently endure was precipitated by some of the decisions of the last administration, and that to some degree, Obama is a victim of circumstances. Unfortunately, rather than accepting full accountability for the situation–regardless of who is to blame–Obama is quicker to point the finger.
“They are the same policies that led us into this recession,” the president said of Republican financial proposals in his weekly address, which received a storm of media attention over the weekend. Those on the ideological right point to the fact that, while some of the blame exists in the hands of both parties, Obama’s policies have done little to curb the lingering recession. Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana noted that “the Obama administration said that its trillion dollar stimulus plan would create jobs immediately and keep unemployment below eight percent,” calling the skyrocketing job loss that has occurred instead “heartbreaking.” All things considered, even with the best intentions, Obama has either failed altogether with his policies, or simply has not managed to implement plans that worked quickly enough; the end result, no matter how you look at it, has been clear among the fickle public.
Obama instead might have shrugged off the challenges his predecessors helped leave him and moved forward, creating unity, rather than contributing to the partisan sentiment in American politics by blame-gaming. Similar circumstances appear to be hounding the campaign to re-elect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, while Republican challenger Sharon Angle closes the distance in polls back in his home state of Nevada. The Associated Press reported recently that an inside memo it received had outlined a number of challenges Reid faces, and that “who makes the more persuasive case that he, or she, is more dependable and can be counted on to deliver for Nevada in these tough economic times” will ultimately emerge the victor. In spite of his best efforts, Nevada residents may remain unconvinced that this administration–or its elected officials–are really steering the economy back on track.
Despite Obama’s apparent neglect of accountability or Reid’s ability to convince his constituents the administration is doing its best, there are other concerns pertaining to ethical issues among Democrats which could create problems for the party in November. For instance, questions abound as Congressman Charlie Rangle is accused of a variety of ethical gaffes, ranging from the misuse of rental property off the US mainland, to a failure in reporting assets valued in the hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, Al Gore’s crusade against anthropomorphic climate change–a key focus of the Democratic party–seems threatened, as a number of masseuses have stepped forward claiming the former vice president engaged in lewd acts with them that were sexually explicit in nature. Granted, Gore doesn’t plan to run for political office in November, but his influence among liberals and progressives as an activist has remained nearly unmatched. It will be a shame indeed if Gore’s past attempts at altruism for the future of mankind become overshadowed by the revelation of his darker impulses.
Many of the present concerns over ethics drawing attention coincide with Democrat passage of last week’s financial reform legislation. In fact, the Senate Ethics Committee had already been contacted regarding the delivery of so-called “VIP” loans by Countrywide Financial Corp to U.S. senators or Senate employees. California Congressman Darrell Issa recently expressed concern that the loans might have been issued at cut-rates to garner favor of certain politicians, and has announced plans to investigate the actions with the Congressional House Committee of Oversight and Reform.
Previous loans of this sort were given to Senators Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad, which later fell under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, but no proof of ethics violations were reported. In recent investigations, nearly twenty additional loans were issued to individuals who listed “U.S. Senator” or similar wording for their place of employment; this activity hasn’t been relegated only to Democrats, however. Twelve more VIP loans were found to be issued to residents who claimed to work for Republican Senator Robert Bennett, who holds a position on the Senate Banking Committee.
Regardless of the political parties they serve, Americans trust that the individuals they elect to represent their interests will do so with honesty and integrity. Furthermore, the consensus these days leans heavily toward strong action and accountability; neither of which the Obama administration has managed to deliver convincingly. While progressives demanded a public option, the best Obama and the liberal majority could manage was to issue a plan mandating coverage under the very system they had loathed for its corruption and unfairness, albeit with a number of reforms. Similarly, while deficits and spending run rampant, sweeping financial reform was passed that grants more power to agencies like the Federal Reserve, in spite of bipartisan support of measures to audit their activities that were subsequently shot down by the Executive branch.
The meritocracy of transparency and virtue Obama promised has diminished greatly during his presidency, and by trying to please all with “bipartisan measures” such as those previously mentioned, he has only managed to stratify the political landscape. Even a number of Democrats show disapproval of his policies, and those who leap from the deck into calm waters now may do so to protect future investments; after all, if a storm comes along and the ship sinks, the crew that remains will go down invariably. Rest assured, if questions that challenge the strength and integrity of the majority party continue later into the year, by then there may be little left to sink.