Archive for ‘American Politics’

January 27, 2011

A closer look a Obama’s second State of the Union

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President Obama’s second State of the Union address, delivered in the early hours of yesterday morning, has been widely praised as the President’s most centrist speech yet. It was delivered to congressmen also partaking in the bi-partisan spirit, with some sitting with ‘dates’ from the opposite party. Obama himself made a clear declaration of bi-partisan intent from the podium saying “what counts is not whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.” The entire audience, wearing ribbons to commemorate the shooting in Tuscon, got to it’s feet.

The President started  his speech  by congratulating the new speaker, Republican John Boehner, before noting Gabrielle Giffords empty chair. He chose not to speak about gun control though, a wise decision, as such move could have been dismissed as playing politics with a tragedy. A less understandable omission to the speech though was climate change, despite an extensive section on renewable energy.

The address was built around the theme of ‘winning the future’, and Obama developed this around two primary strands – investment and inspiration. He may have praised the tax cuts that Congress passed, but he is clearly not going to shy away from spending money on big ticket projects in the future, declaring this generation needed their ‘Sputnick moment’.

Taking on the elephant in the room, Obama joked that the crowd had had disagreements about his highly contentious healthcare bill. He defended his policy, but showed a willingness to work to solve some of the problems that have developed. There was no contrition though, as he asked the 112th Congress to not ‘fight the battles of the last two years again, let’s fix what needs fixing, and move forward’.

This was an approach typical of the whole speech. Having irritated the Republicans by talking about healthcare, he spoke about deficit reduction in the next section. After declaring his pride at the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, he stated that Universities should allow Army recruiters onto their campuses.

Using the old classic of the American dream to develop his notion of ‘winning the future,’ he used the examples of VP Biden and Speaker Boehner sitting behind him, saying that only in America could people from their humble backgrounds reach such lofty positions. By using the similarly sure-fire crowd pleaser of American Exceptionalism, and citing challenges from China and India, he also induced a bit of a siege mentality amongst the collected politicians – in the next year it will be the US against the world, and all American’s are in it together.

As ever Obama delivered his speech well.  The oratory didn’t quite, in the words of Sam Seaborn, “blow the doors of the place” [it is editorial policy that all US politics articles on VN have a West Wing reference – Ed], but it did cement his position as a progressive, compromising leader. His second State of the Union showed that President Obama has clearly decided to plough straight through the middle of politics over the next two years,  trying to grab as many people fron either side as possible on the way.

January 25, 2011

Obama will use State of the Union to kick-off re-election campaign

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Barack Obama, during the 2010 State Of The Uni...Image by BlatantWorld.com via Flickr

In a few hours time, Barack Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address, and at the same time kick-off his bid to be re-elected next year. The theme of the speech will be “winning the future”, showing a clear determination to move forward despite a split congress. CNN is reporting that he will also “lay out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world.” However he faces a sluggish economy, with 9.4% of Americans out of work, and 43% of these for 6 months or longer. The President will also use the speech to defend his healthcare reforms once again, and address the war in Afghanistan.

In an attempt to show they are moving beyond the angry rhetoric that has so scarred American politics, some members of the joint session of congress will cross the isle, and not sit purely on partisan lines. Notably, the entire Arizona congressional delegation will all sit together, and leave an empty seat for Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who is still  in hospital recovering from an assassination attempt.

However, it is not all unity and light going into this key address. The GOP appears to be more split that ever, and will issue two responses to the President’s major address. The official Republican response will come from Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is the new chairman of the House Budget Committee. Tea Party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota will though provide her own response via the Tea Party Express website.

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27:  U.S. President Barac...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

One year out from the next Presidential election, President Obama needs to start reminding people why they were so inspired by him in the first place. He needs to regain trust by proving he can reform, and improve peoples lives, without continuing to increase the countries already vast deficit. Perhaps the moderating influence of a split congress will help, moving him away from the more defiantely left-wing (particularly for America,) policies that have unnerved some of the independents who supported him in 2008.

The President is kicking off his campaign on a surer footing than he would a few months ago though. His deeply impressive legislative victories in the so-called ‘lame duck’ congressional session, such as repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and passing the 9/11 First Responders package, showed clearly he is a man that can get business done. His moving speech at the Tuscon Memorial service also touched many people.

One thing is for certain, there is still nobody that can deliver a set piece speech quite like President Obama can. Time to let Obama be Obama.

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January 13, 2011

>President Obama’s speech to Arizona memorial service

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Here is President Obama’s speech to the memorial service held to commemorate those killed and wounded in the Tuscon Arizona shooting at the weekend.
January 12, 2011

>Sarah Palin accuses media and the left of ‘blood libel’

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Former Alaska Governer and Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin has issued a video response to critics of her cross hairs campaign map. Except she now seems to have made another problem for herself. In the seven minute video, Palin says that “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

The phrase ‘blood libel’ is a deeply offensive one. It is derived from bible passages around the crucification, and anti-semitic medieval mythology in which Jews take their children’s blood for religious ceremonies. Injured Congresswoman, and target of the assassination attempt, Gabrielle Giffords is Arizona’s first Jewish Representative.

Some may argue that the phrase was not meant to be anti-semitic. If that is the case, why use it at all? It is quite amazing that neither Palin herself, or a member of her staff, thought to remove this phrase from the script before filming.

Palin should not be held personally responsible for the tragic consequences of a disturbed person’s actions. But she is responsible for her response to it, and the language that she uses. Someone of Palin’s prominence should not be using phrases like ‘blood libel’ that are based on hatred and bigotry. To use anti-semitic language at any time is utterly unacceptable, to use such inflammatory language at such a time is almost unforgivable.

January 12, 2011

>A call to put down rhetorical arms

>The events on Saturday in Tucson in the US state of Arizona have shocked and concerned many, especially in the political world. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a highly talented Congresswoman who was tipped for greater things – Governor, Senator, even President – was shot in the head and remains in intensive care. Six other people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, have tragically died. When reading profiles of the victims yesterday, I was moved almost to tears. The response by the media classes in the United States has not been, by and large, a questioning and critique of the nation’s, or Arizona’s gun laws, but has instead focused on the actions of Sarah Palin.

Palin’s website put up a map of the United States with crosshairs hovering over the congressional districts of 20 representatives who voted in favour of President Obama’s healthcare reforms. This is the worst kind of political campaigning. Crass, rude and unnecessarily violent. Yet it is not alone. Sharron Angle spoke of Second Amendment remedies. Glenn Beck fantasised about poisoning Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Keith Olbermann stated that the only way to get Hillary Clinton to leave the 2008 Democratic primaries would be to assassinate her, although he did apologise for the remarks.

Violent language has long pervaded political discourse. Thomas Jefferson, indeed, spoke of renewing the ‘tree of liberty’ with the blood of ‘patriots and tyrants’. I do not believe that Sarah Palin intended for the map to harm anyone. We cannot directly tie the shootings with any politician or national figure because Loughner’s beliefs seem so confused, and his mental health so fragile. The responsibility for the deaths and the injuries lies solely with the gunman himself. The media should, therefore, leave Palin alone. She should apologise for producing that map, but not because it was responsible for the shootings.

She should apologise because politicians have a responsibility to treat others with respect – not just constituents, but colleagues, and opponents too. She should apologise because politicians have a responsibility not to legitimise violence. It cannot, however, just be Palin who should apologise, because she is not the only politician to use this sort of language. Politicians and cable pundits, from left and right, too often resort to using violent imagery, or to calling their opponents ‘evil’ or ‘fascist’. It may make them, or us, feel better, but it poisons the well of political discourse. By using this language, we are saying that it is OK for other people, citizens and constituents, to feel violent towards politicians. But it isn’t.

Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean their viewpoint is invalid or, worse still, that they are is evil, fascistic or stupid. When we get back to understanding that, when we isolate the violent or the inciters, then we can have a proper political debate which focuses on actions and reality, rather than hating our opponents.

The shootings in Arizona are not the fault of the right, nor are they the fault of the left. They are the fault of a political discourse which too often resorts to violent imagery or angry sentiments to make a point. It doesn’t have to be like this, yet it so often is. Let us take from the shooting a message. Not a message of blaming one party over another, or blaming one person or another, but a message of civility, and service to constituents, a message which Gabrielle Giffords by all accounts made cornerstones of her political style. Even after Giffords’ office was targeted in 2009 and she was threatened she still carried on with her work as a Congresswoman. She still fought, and continues to fight, for the people of Arizona’s 8th. She still worked across the floor with those she disagreed with, even as they criticised the healthcare reforms in the strongest terms. She decried the violent language used in political debate.

That, surely, is the best message to take away from the shootings.

By Thomas Hemsley

January 5, 2011

>White House Press Secretary to leave job

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President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is to leave the role, it has been confirmed. Along with David Axelrod, Gibbs was a key component to Obama’s widely praised Presidential campaign.

Mr. Gibbs is going to become a consultant and speaker upon leaving his current role in February. He is the second member of the core Obama team to leave the White House in recent times, former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual recently left in order to run to be Mayor of Chicago. This perhaps shows a desire for Obama to reignite his Presidency after a difficult first half of his first term. He said:

“He’s had a six-year stretch now where basically he’s been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay. I think it’s natural for someone like Robert to want to step back for a second to reflect, retool and that as a consequence brings about both challenges and opportunities for the White House.”

Gibbs though will still be an outside advisor to the White House, and a consultant to Obama’s re-election campaign.

December 18, 2010

>US Senate votes to repeal "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’

>The US Senate has voted 63-33 in favour of repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law which prevents gay soldiers serving openly in the US army. It now only needs President Obama’s signature to come into force, although there will be a 60 day gap while the Pentagon brings about the new rules though.

One of the leading voices against the repealing of this law was Senator Jon McCain, former Republican Presidential candidate. He kept fudging issue, saying he would only back the change on the back of a study, then saying the study was flawed.

President Obama greeted the news of the vote positively saying:


“The Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend.”


The vote was also welcomed by other Senior Democrats.

It is great to see that progress is finally being made to remove this outdated law.
November 25, 2010

>Sarah Palin stands by her North Korean Allies

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Totally up to date with current affairs as ever, Sarah Palin yesterday decreed on the Glenn Beck radio show that the US ‘must with our North Korean allies’.
November 20, 2010

>Sharron Angle’s amazing unseen campaign ad

>Tea Partier Sharron Angle’s attempts to de-seat Harry Reid in Nevada failed spectacularly, and she didn’t even have to release this gem of a campaign ad:

November 19, 2010

>VN support Palin 2012

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After the recent mid-term ‘shellacking’ handed out to President Obama’s Democrat’s his Presidential re-run is going to be a lot harder than imagined in the 2008 hay day. Or is it? 


If the rumours are true and Tea Party darling  Sarah Palin does mount a bid for the Presidency in 2012 we’re all for it. The presence of Palin on the bottom of the ticket in 2008 was enough to send anyone reasonable running to the Democrats. Let’s hope she wins the Republican nomination and pulls off the same trick in 2012!

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