Monday, December 19, 2011

Consider the Alternatives.

A plea to President Obama's fair weather supporters: consider the alternatives. Before you start ranting about how the administration's decision to require a prescription for teenagers who want to buy the new morning-after pill represents a heinous betrayal of women's rights, show at least a modicum of understanding of the huge number of voters who probably think that is not such an onerous requirement. And think about how the opposition might have played a different decision. Imagine the outraged campaign commercials warning voters of our country's moral decline: to think we would allow abortion pills to be sold over the counter--like aspirin--to twelve year olds! Of course, a great case can be made for doing just that, but it is a case that is never going to convince a large segment of voters.

And for those claiming it is the last straw that the administration went along with an amendment to the defense authorization act that might allow indefinite detention by the military of terrorism suspects, consider that the alternative would have required vetoing funding for the entire Department of Defense. How much understanding would the average American voter have for an administration that de-funded the troops? Let's also remember that there was no stand-alone bill allowing indefinite detentions. And while the provision in the NDAA that allows for military detentions in some circumstances may be somewhat troubling, it might not warrant the hysteria or screams of betrayal we have heard from some quarters. Especially when you consider the alternative.

Finally, for those bemoaning the administration's "cave" on the Keystone XL pipeline, can we please remember that it was Republicans in Congress who inserted a provision attempting to accelerate the approval process for the pipeline into the bill extending the payroll tax reduction? Even the most ardent environmentalist might hesitate for just a second before vetoing a bill that promises tax relief for about 100 million Americans. Those who take the trouble to study the facts should also note that this attempt to force earlier pipeline approval may very well backfire, as the State Department has already publicly announced that they will not be rushed. More likely, the bill was designed to force the administration to kill the pipeline before the election, instead of allowing it to wait until after the election. That means the Republicans may actually succeed in killing the very project they say they favor. Their motives are transparent: to make a political issue of killing this pipeline. Robert Redford understands this. Others should take the time to appreciate the alternatives.

None of these decisions are simple. All of them require balancing powerful competing interests. None of them allow the president complete freedom of action, in disregard of the political power of his opponents. Those for whom one set of issues is paramount--whether it is women's rights, or the human rights of prisoners of war, or the environment--should at least try to understand those competing concerns, and realities.


  1. It's tough -- especially in the current environment -- to move off any part of the left vs right dogfight. So, I appreciate your reasoned comments. These uncomfortable, relatively small compromises are essential.

    How small are these issues? If we take off 8 zeroes off real numbers and examine America's income, debt and spending it looks something like this:

    We are a family that makes about $21,000 a year. But we spent $37,000 last year. That's an additional $16,000 on the credit card. But wait, there's more. That brings our total credit card debt to $142,000 for a family making $21,000 and it is getting worse.

    With all the hollering and and vile back and forth between the left and right and the sweeping House changes in 2010 and the big bad Tea Party coming in and slashing the family budget who makes $21,000 and spends $37,000 you know what the family did? The equivalent of cutting $342 in a year where they ran up another $16,000 in debt. Now they are going to go back to their freinds (constituents) and bragging about!

    So thank you again for a calming moment in the middle of such confounding times.

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