Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Rude Welcome For A President

Image of President Barack Obama

(I hope local media outlets here have now learned to review any information released by Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones with skepticism. His sensationalized analysis of “slush funds” he claims were used by the state Education Department under former schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett continues to unravel. Here’s the latest from Megan Rolland at NewsOK.com. Here’s my recent post on the issue. -Kurt Hochenauer)

The corporate media and power structure here has given President Barack Obama a rude welcome during his first visit to Oklahoma even though the president used his trip to announce an energy policy that directly benefits the state economically.

The president visited the oil hub of Cushing Thursday to announce he was going to push to expedite the southern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast. This will lead to both temporary and permanent job growth in Oklahoma and secure Cushing’s viability as a significant, national oil hub.

The president said the pipeline, which will be built by TransCanada, will relieve the current glut of oil in Cushing. (Note the word “glut.) The Obama administration has indicated it isn’t opposed to the northern section of the pipeline, which runs from Canada to Oklahoma, but that environmental concern over its placement in Nebraska has delayed its approval. One of those initially expressing those concerns was Nebraska Gov. David Heineman, a Republican.

So what do you get in Oklahoma when you announce a job-producing, energy initiative for the state, note your help at least indirectly for a Republican governor even though you’re a Democrat and show overall strong support for the fossil fuel industry?

You get rudeness, arrogance and ignorance thrown in your face. You’re maligned. You’re scolded. But Oklahomans are such nice people, right? Well, maybe in meaningless, hollow gestures. The truth is the Obama hatred in this state is as irrational as some of the religious-inspired legislation making its way into law at the capitol this year.

Here are some examples:

Before his arrival, four local energy executives, Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Tom Ward of SandRidge Energy sent a “message” to the president that was published on the NewsOK.com site. (Can you imagine the size of the collective ego of that group?)

In the message, they arrogantly lectured the president, hoping he would “develop a better understanding of the oil and gas industry, one of the largest and most vibrant sectors in the United States, during your visit.” Right. I think it’s safe to say that Obama has a much better and broader grasp of energy issues than these local members of the 1 percent. These guys know how to drill and make money, and that’s great for the local economy. Obama, however, must and should look at the larger issues when it comes to energy policy and world affairs.

The group scolded the president for not pushing for the approval of the entire pipeline, which they argue should “happen now.” Me me me! Now now now! The message sounds like a group of spoiled two-year-olds. They also fail to note the context of Obama’s position on the northern portion of the pipeline.

The energy leaders end the message with direct criticism, which is based on no evidence. “Mr. President,” they write, “your words suggest you want the economic benefits American natural gas and oil can deliver. We hope your actions follow suit – to date they have not.” But the president was in state to announce his support for the pipeline, and he has supported oil and gas exploration as much as any other president. Their position is political and illogical. To date, Obama has supported the “economic benefits” of the fossil fuel industry.

The arrogance of the energy leaders was matched by an Oklahoman editorial titled, “Mr. President, welcome to the town fossil fuel built.” That statement, of course, is a disputable contention in itself. No one can deny the energy sector’s influence on the economy here, but there’s also the agricultural impact in this area on a historical and current level. It has one of the largest livestock markets in the world, for example. There’s also Tinker Air Force Base, which certainly impacts the Oklahoma City area. Take away the agricultural sector in this state and then take away the military bases, and what do you have then?

Also, what about the influence of native Americans in the city’s and state’s history? You won’t hear much from The Oklahoman on that issue. This much is sure on a historical level: There will come a time when there’s no oil or gas to drill here, and the energy companies will simply no longer exist. We live in the last belch of the fossil fuel age, which, in retrospect, will seem like a relatively short period.

The editorial also scolds the president for some previous remarks he made. According to the editorial, “So demagogue all you want about undertaxed oil barons. Just remember that you didn’t arrive here on a solar-powered aircraft. What flows in and out of the Pipeline Crossroads of the World is oil. Getting it to Cushing is expensive and risky.” I bet Obama really learned something there and will keep it in mind constantly as he travels in Air Force One.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, didn’t even meet with Obama because she was out of state. She did release a statement, though, that contained this welcoming tidbit:

I hope that while President Obama is in Oklahoma he takes some time to listen to our citizens, many of whom work for the energy industry which he claims to support. I think they will tell him that – far from supporting the responsible domestic production of American-made energy – his administration has undermined it at every turn.

Obama has SO much he can learn here, right?

Welcome to Oklahoma, Mr. President. Really. I don’t blame you if you want to get out of here as soon as you can. Good luck in your next four-year term as president.

Dems Run Scared On Stimulus Package

( – promoted by DocHoc)

Image from www.oldamericancentury.org

If Democrats can’t muster the courage to stand up now and fight for President Barack Obama’s fiscal stimulus package, then don’t expect them to fight for anything else during Obama’s presidency.

If the Democrats won’t fight, the wealthy will get richer, the middle class will lose more ground and the poor will suffer more over the next four years. More people will suffer and die needlessly so health insurance companies can make profits. There will be fewer jobs in the nation and fewer opportunities to go to college.  Retirement will be that quaint program of the past once championed by those weird liberals.

If Democrats won’t fight, they could lose big in the 2010 Congressional elections, and Obama might not be reelected in 2012.

The $820 billion fiscal stimulus package-trimmed to $780 billion at this point–will help this nation escape another Great Depression, and the U.S. Senate should pass it without any major changes from the House version. But Republicans oppose the bill. The bill, if anything, should spend more money, not less.  It will put people to work.  It will put billions of dollars directly back into the economy. Who cares what the obstructionist Republicans think? Their ideology of market fundamentalism has been soundly repudiated and soundly rejected.  They are the people who squandered former President Bill Clinton’s budget surplus. How dare a Congressional Republican even mention budget deficits after former President George Bush’s reign of fiscal terror.

Why can’t or won’t the Democratic politicians fight? Why are they scared?  It’s a sickening spectacle-it literally should make Democratic voters nauseated-to watch major Democratic leaders try to soothe the political egos of extremist Republicans as they remove this or that part of the package because it doesn’t fit with GOP ideology. They should stop now.  The Republicans aren’t interested in bipartisanship.  They never have been.  Who in their right mind would think the Republican Party, in its current form, believes in bipartisanship? Call for the vote. If the GOP and its Tom Coburns can stop the bill in the U.S. Senate, then so be it. If some turncoat Democrats want to join the GOP, then so be it. Real Democrats can then find ways to work around the immoral obstructionists and extremists that run the GOP these days. They can also find ways to get around those Republicans who pose as Democrats.

Here, for example, is U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bland statement on the Republican obstructionism, according to a New York Times story:

“They cannot hold the president of the United States hostage,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said of Senate Republicans. “If they think they’re going to rewrite this bill and Barack Obama is going to walk away from what he is trying to do for the American people, they’ve got another thought coming.”

Scary, right?  I mean, ahem, another “thought coming.”  That’s downright frightening. No, no, no, not another “thought,” no, anything but that.

Here is Obama’s tough talk, according to The Boston Globe:

“We can’t delay and we can’t go back to the same worn-out ideas that led us here in the first place,” Obama said. “Let me be clear: those ideas have been tested, and they have failed.”

That’s true enough, but where’s the passion? His statement is, well, boring. It doesn’t resonate.  Where’s the clear sound bite that squarely blames GOP-influenced ideology for the mess we’re in on the economic front. The Democrats will never win the overall battle with Obama’s and Reid’s lukewarm rhetoric.  

Listen: The Republicans have a serious brand problem right now, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon. Democrats need to exploit it and win one for the people. Do they have the courage? Here are some sound bites Obama, Reid, and other Democratic leaders could use:

The Republican Party puts the interests of the ultra-wealthy above everyone else.  Its obstruction of the fiscal stimulus bill is just another example. The GOP position is fundamentally immoral and repugnant.

Let it be known that as people lost their homes and jobs in record numbers, the Republican Party clung to its own failed ideology and created massive suffering across this country. The damage the Republican Party has done to this country in recent years is incalculable.

The GOP is under the control of right-wing extremists and radicals who want to take away your economic freedom and security.

This Republican obstructionism tells us the GOP could care less about American losing their homes, jobs and health insurance.  It’s unpatriotic. It jeopardizes our way of life and our basic freedoms.

The Republicans will gladly ask you to serve in a war, but they could care less if you have a job or health care if you survive it.

The do-nothing Republicans are wasting time on wedge issues as Americans suffer the consequences of their failed policies.

Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi need to tell these radical Republican obstructionists that Democrats will hold up every major piece of GOP-sponsored legislation presented in the House and Senate until a real stimulus package passes.

Anyone who supported Obama in his presidential bid should be disappointed that he, along with Congressional Democrats, won’t stand up and tell it like it is.  Why won’t Obama stand up and fight for the people who got him elected to office? Does he even care about his own bill? Why is he now betraying groups of people who rallied around his candidacy and got him elected by allowing the Republicans to gut his bill, humiliate him in his first days in office as an ineffective leader and then indicate they’re going to vote against his plan anyway?

Why do the Republicans get to win even though Democrats pretty much control the federal government right now?

Here is how it is: The Republicans are the reason the country faces such a dire financial crisis and now they stand in the way of a solution.  The Democrats, once again, cower and refuse to fight even though a clear majority of the nation and the vast majority of the world want them to stand up to the GOP extremists who have ruined the global economy. It’s the same old story.

Meanwhile right-wing hate radio and television is filled with the latest rant, which is Obama is a socialist, blah, blah, blah.  Is this what leading Democrats are worried about? Maybe they should turn off Rush Limbaugh and start listening to the people who elected them to office.

(Update 1: Is there a deal? The Washington Post reported Feb. 7 the U.S. Senate will probably pass the stimulus bill Tuesday. This came after Obama sharpened his rhetoric against the obstructionist Republicans, who have severely damaged this country’s economy by supporting the reckless fiscal policies of George Bush. But why the delay if the votes are in the bag?)

(Update 2: This is from Obama’s Saturday radio address to the country:

We can’t expect relief from the tired old theories that, in eight short years, doubled the national debt, threw our economy into a tailspin, and led us into this mess in the first place. We can’t rely on a losing formula that offers only tax cuts as the answer to all our problems while ignoring our fundamental economic challenges.

That’s almost exactly the right tone. I would suggest he refer to t
he Republican Party specifically in his attacks and use the names of GOP bigwigs who stood idly by as Bush destroyed the economy.)

(This was initially posted on Okie Funk.–Kurt Hochenauer)

Vote For Obama, Rice

( – promoted by DocHoc)

Image of Sally Kern

Here are some political endorsements:

President: Barack Obama. There is no question the country’s government needs great change to face its pressing problems.  It’s absurd anyone would think John McCain would deviate substantially from the policy positions of President George Bush. For this reason alone, Barack Obama is the clear choice.  Obama also has the potential to be one of the greatest American presidents ever by uniting the country during a difficult time. An Obama presidency would represent a historical change of seismic proportions.

U.S. Senator: Andrew Rice. It’s clear U.S. Sen.  Jim Inhofe has been in Washington too long.  What has he done all these years? Well, he has repeatedly embarrassed many people in the state with his outrageous and divisive comments about global warming and cultural wedge issues.  This is a year of change. State Sen. Andrew Rice represents change.  He is bright and articulate and will serve as a great Oklahoma ambassador in Washington.

Corporation Commissioner: Jim Roth, Charles Gray. Jim Roth proved his mettle as a Oklahoma County Commissioner.  Gov. Brad Henry then appointed Roth to the Corporation Commission, and he has served with composure and distinction.  He deserves your vote. In the other Corporation Commission race, Charles Gray deserves your vote.  Gray would bring a real people’s view to the commission.

U.S Representative: Dan Boren. It’s essential Oklahomans return Dan Boren to Washington.  As it stands now, he is the only Democrat in the state’s Congressional delegation. He adds balance to the delegation and helps the state’s image in the process. Boren is a centrist-to-conservative Democrat who has represented the state with distinction.  He deserves your vote.  I would urge voters in other Congressional districts to also vote Democratic this year.

District 84 State Representative: Ron Marlett. As I wrote earlier, “Ron Marlett is the clear choice for state representative in House District 84, a seat now held by Sally Kern, the right-wing ideologue who made national news when she publicly claimed homosexuality is a greater threat to the nation than terrorism.” Marlett’s election would tell the world that Oklahoma will not tolerate the hateful, extremist views of political leaders.

Obama Campaign Endorses Rice

Image of Andrew Rice

This is from the Barack Obama campaign:

You can change politics in this country at every level — up and down the ballot.

There’s a candidate in Oklahoma who’s working to bring the change this country needs, and that candidate is Andrew Rice. Get involved and help bring change now.

   Andrew Rice for Senate:

   Visit the website.

Don’t wait until Election Day to support Rice. Get involved today to make sure Oklahoma has a strong senator to take our country in a new direction.

Thanks,

Obama for America

David and Barack

( – promoted by DocHoc)

Image of David Boren

“Senator Obama is also a person of sound and good judgment. He had the good judgment more than five years ago to warn against our involvement in this tragic and costly war. He also understands the need to repair our partnerships with other nations and to more effectively use diplomacy to serve our national interests.”-David Boren

David Boren’s recent endorsement of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama is an oasis of hope for the state when compared to Oklahoma’s growing national reputation as a right-wing, intolerant haven for gay bashers and immigrant haters.

His endorsement also could be read as a wake up call to academics in the state.  In a statement related to the endorsement, Boren, pictured right, president of the University of Oklahoma, said, “I am joining Senator Barack Obama’s advisory team on foreign policy and national security because I believe it is my duty as a citizen to do all I can to help our country at this critical moment. Our strength is declining.  Eighty-one percent of Americans believe we are heading in the wrong direction. We must act quickly to meet and overcome the challenges we face.”

In other words, the country’s political systems are broken.  Oklahoma academics, using Boren as an example, should get involved in this presidential election as citizens “at this critical moment” in history no matter whom they support and that includes the Republican presumptive nominee John McCain.  There needs to be real debate and dialogue among Americans about the country’s direction.  Now more than ever, academics are crucial in starting and maintaining this debate.  A real debate will not be fostered by mainstream media outlets, which are stuck in tabloid-like rhetorical frames, a lazy, laughable “gotcha” flag pin reporting that has very little meaning in today’s world.  The recent ABC “debate” hosted by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos represented a new low in meaningless, tabloid television.

Boren, a former U.S. Senator, told the Tulsa World, “I am not acting on behalf of the University of Oklahoma. This will in no way impact my work at the university.”  This is true. But Boren’s endorsement, along with his stature and position in Oklahoma higher education, tells other academics here and elsewhere that the current political situation in this country demands more direct participation in the process from professors and college administrators.  Perhaps, some state education leaders will even come to believe now they can abandon the neoconservative experiment, which continues to underfund education here at all levels.  

Boren will serve on Obama’s advisory team on foreign policy.  Boren was joined in his endorsement with Sam Nunn, a former U.S. Senator from Georgia, who will also serve on Obama’s foreign policy team.  Boren once served as leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Nunn was head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Both Boren and Nunn are known as moderate to conservative Democrats.

Boren recently hosted a bipartisan summit at OU, which was attended by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who some in the media have speculated might run as an independent for president this year.  Boren’s and Nunn’s decision to support Obama indicates Bloomberg will probably not run.

I was highly critical of the bipartisan summit, arguing it was merely a cover for a Bloomberg presidential bid.  (One of my posts on the event was even featured in the Blog Report on Salon.com.)  I argued that Obama, in fact, seemed more independent-minded than Bloomberg, who is a former Democrat, then Republican, now turned independent.   In light of Boren’s endorsement, however, I find myself reconsidering the purpose of the summit.  Perhaps, jaded as much as anyone else with the current political milieu, I did not give enough credit to Boren’s stated intentions to help break the gridlock in Washington and the division that has dominated the country under President George Bush’s administration.

According to a statement released by the Obama campaign, Boren praised the presidential contender’s non-partisan approach.  Boren said, “Our most urgent task is to end the divisions in our country, to stop the political bickering, and to unite our talents and efforts. Americans of all persuasions are pleading with our political leaders to bring us together. I believe Senator Obama is sincerely committed to that effort. He has made a non-partisan approach to all issues a top priority.”

Oklahoma has taken a lot of hits lately when it comes to its national reputation.  First, state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) authored a bill that created the strictest laws in the nation targeting illegal-immigrants.  Many Hispanic people-those here legally and not-have left the state because of the new laws.  This has generated terrible publicity for the state. Then, state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) was caught on tape delivering her now famous anti-gay rant that has made her and the state a scourge.  The state continues to have never-ending problems, as publicized study after study shows the nation, in providing decent health care to its citizens.

Boren’s endorsement of Obama, covered by media outlets across the country, shows the world Oklahoma is home to some reasoned and rational people who understand, like a majority of Americans, the country now faces a crisis at home and abroad and a major change in the country’s direction is necessary.