By Lynn Paris
My husband has shamed me into writing a new column. He felt that my last one, titled, “Palm Sunday” had run its course, and I guess I have to agree with him.
So I’ll start with bin Laden. It’s fantastic to finally get something right, and I think that’s what most people were celebrating. I agree that dancing in the streets with joy because another human being was killed is not exactly what Jesus would do, but I do believe that this country has a right to feel good about the death of (former) public enemy number one.
But it was so much more than his death. It was the brilliant, daring and strategic way it was done right, after so many years of getting it so wrong. Which is why it astounded me to read some of the Facebook comments (and that’s just from people I know!) posted in the hours after bin Laden was killed. “Thank you and God bless you, President Bush” and, “At last the policies of the Bush Administration have been vindicated.” Seriously? How blinded by the right ARE these people?
I wish I could spew out all the facts and figures that the media pundits do to make their cases, but there are a few things I know for sure, right off the top of my head. Like, Bush did NOT get bin Laden. He may have set that as his one-time goal, but here’s what Bush did instead:
He gave us the Bush Doctrine, which as most everyone knows, except perhaps Sarah Palin, definitively changed U.S. national security policy and gave us the alleged right to declare preemptive and preventative war, as we did in Iraq, He let bin Laden get away from U.S. forces at Tora Bora and then he invaded the wrong country, based on manipulated or, at best, bad intelligence concerning WMDs, costing this country trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. He and his administration condoned the use of torture to supposedly secure intelligence, which not only handed al-Qaeda its most effective recruiting tool but also did not yield the intelligence that finally brought us to bin Laden. And, after he closed down the CIA operation dedicated to finding bin Laden, he created and maintained our overly convoluted, multi-billion dollar homeland security industry.
So yes, thank you President Bush.
And what did Barack Obama do? He answered the question correctly when asked, in 2008, what he would do if he had substantial and good intelligence that bin Laden was in Pakistan. He said he’d go after him. By the way, his opponent, John McCain said he would not, because Pakistan was a sovereign nation. He doubled down the CIA’s efforts to locate bin Laden by meticulously following intelligence sources and then he took a brave and calculated risk to send in an elite Special Forces team to get him. I say brave and calculated because if anything had gone wrong; if bin Laden had not been there, Obama knew he’d have to shoulder the blame and he knew he’d be crucified by the right wing.
So everyone, right, left and in between, should have given him and his advisors (along with the CIA and the SEALS, of course) all the credit. And many did. But there was that group, represented by some in Congress, some of the media and a few of my Facebook “supposed” friends who are so narrow and myopic when it comes to our president that they couldn’t even give him that.
Which is why I’m so concerned about the countless other problems this country faces. And the next really BIG one — if we skip right over whether or not we should still be in Afghanistan, or what to do about immigration policy and the DREAM ACT, or how to create jobs, or handle Libya, or what to do about our failing education system, or the environment, or our crumbling infrastructure, or any of the other too-numerous-to-list problems facing us every day — is raising the debt ceiling.
According to every known expert we MUST raise the debt ceiling. Not to do so would be to invite financial disaster on this country. As President Obama said recently, if anyone thinks that the U.S. isn’t backing up its debt with its full faith and credit, that there is even a chance that we’d renege on our debt, it would unravel the entire global financial system.
Most Republicans agree, with the caveat that raising the debt ceiling must be tied to equal deficit reductions. And Democrats agree that we MUST reduce the deficit. So the question is, again, how do we make those reductions? And, should everything be on the table when we talk about them?
Republicans say that everything is on the table . . . except raising taxes. Obama and the Democrats say that everything is on the table including raising taxes (translation: on the wealthiest 1 or 2%) because the burden of all these sacrifices must be shared; it can’t ALL fall on the poor and the middle class. Both parties have proposed drilling offshore again, but the Democrats have also proposed that the $4 billion in annual subsidies to the super-profitable oil companies be used instead for deficit reduction. You can imagine how that plays among conservative Republicans.
The Republicans were first to step into the murky waters of Medicare and Medicaid, for which they get extra points for courage, if not for introducing a good plan. Now Obama must follow suit with a plan that might actually reform Medicare and Medicaid without stripping away these two programs that the citizens of this country care about so passionately. Yes, all the citizens, from tea-partiers to liberals. In other words, the subject of entitlements has been broached; now Obama has to lead. No rhetoric, no promises; he needs a better plan than vouchers and he needs to lay it out to the American people in no uncertain terms.
No one knows how this will all turn out. But I know I speak for millions when I say that the majority of us would like to see it handled as a true negotiation dedicated to finding solutions and not another stupid, bitter partisan battle. These are deadly serious problems.
Which brings me back to the way Obama handled “getting bin Laden.” It was brave and brilliant and strategic. He needs to lead that way on the deficit. Because to do it the way those who said, “Thank you, President Bush” would do it would be to set in motion another seven years of bad policies and unproductive distractions. And the whole world would suffer.