Tag Archives: president obama

You sure told me

I thought I was so clever. My analogy about how I approach conversations with people who disagree with me seemed so perfect. The assumption I have about most everyone who is active in politics is that we have the same ultimate goal; to make the country a better place. My analogy is that we both want to get to the same place — say we need to get to Safeway. I want to take one road and you want to take another, well, that doesn’t make either of evil, right?

So last week, I was feeling all good about my theory and approach and I tried to explain it to a Republican friend. She looked at me like I had eight heads and a tail — but people like you, she said, want to turn America socialist. You hate democracy. I tried to tell her that socialism is an economic system, that most of the democracies in the world (including ours) are capitalistic/socialist hybrids, that most of Europe, which is more socialist but anyone’s standard has more fluidity and upward mobility that we have (and higher standards of living) and that not all of us view democracy and some socialism as being mutually exclusive ideas. And, at he end of the day, don’t we seriously both want to make the US the best country it can be?

When Paul Ryan released his plan to overhaul Medicare and Social Security, I read it and hated it. Merely shifting the costs of healthcare from the government to the elderly will not impact the actual costs at all — we need real health care reform for that. That doesn’t mean I question his sincerity or his patriotism. I don’t blame Grover Norquist for anything the GOP Congresspeople do — and let me be as clear on this point as I can be, any member of Congress that voted for a tax hike, even after signing the pledge, would still be able to go back to their district and win re-election. Talk about paper tigers.

But I don’t have an ideological litmus test for my friends. I wish some of them had the same point of view.

I am a Democrat because I think out government exists to do for all of us collectively what we cannot do individually. I think a single payer health care system would be more cost effective than the system we have now. I think it would lead to more preventative care and the individual mandate is absolutely necessary for the system to work. I like the idea that my tax dollars go to help people who need it, pay for quality education, build a strong infrastructure and first rate military. And I think if we shifted the burden of health care costs from companies — with the additional step of streamlining costs — to all of us, we would make our businesses more competitive. How is that anti-capitalist? It’s not.

Moreover, I like regulations that keep my air and water clean, make sure the transportation I take is safe and my food is free of toxins and infectious agents. I don’t look back on movies like “Boys’ Town” or the novels of Charles Dickens and think — wow, we had it so good then.

And I like NASA. When President Kennedy reached for the stars, we did more than send men to the moon, we inspired generations of kids to go into sciences. The technological advancements achieved through the space program can be seen everywhere.

And I am an optimist. I don’t think we need a civil war to fix our country because I agree with Bill Clinton when he said “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed with what’s right with America.”

These are not the opinions of someone who wants us to lose our freedoms or change to a totalitarian state. If I am going to try to see your point, I wish you would make even the smallest effort to see mine.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you for…

1.  The US Constitution:  It is easy to look at the recent Congressional failures, and the “super

The US Constitution, it rocks

committee” is only the most recent, and think “our system is broken.”  It isn’t.  Flawed, yes.  Injured, probably.  Broken, no.  One thing that has always confused me is why some people, upset by the results of the 2008 presidential campaign, preferred to think that we had entered the “end of days” rather than entertain the idea that they lost an election.  You see, I have some perspective on this.  I worked on the Gore 2000 campaign.  I was devastated by the result but I never — not once — considered George W. Bush to be anything but a legitimate president.  My belief in our system got me through that loss.  When you work on campaigns, sometime you lose.  It sucks but that’s part of the deal.

The other part of the equation is the recognition that as great as our system is, it is a tool.  No tool is better than the people who use it.  our representative democracy, otherwise known as a republic, reflects us.  If we do not like the results it produces, we have no one but ourselves to blame.   I have written several letters to the Washington Post about George Will.  He claims to be both a proponent of capitalism and an opponent of public broadcasting.  And yet, he hates reality TV.  I think you cannot argue that the free market is the best method to produce quality anything and then be angry when it produces crap.  The same can be said of our government. As Bill Clinton used to say, There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America.  Amen, brother.

2. The Mets.  Do I hate to love them or love to hate them?  Clearly the former.  Oh, they break my heart every year.  I am not going to write any more right now about that, I need a break from hating myself.

3. Reality TV.  Jersey Shore.  Hoarders.  Anything with people who weight more than 500 pounds.  We all know why we watch; we want to feel better about our own lives and I am no different.  No, I don’t want to see wealthy, vain housewives spend more in an afternoon on napkins than I spend in a year on rent but  I like that as dirty as my apartment may get, I don’t have goats eating holes in my walls.  Oh, and I can stand up and walk around.  Seriously, your family cooks 12 chickens a day for you?  Do they deliver your heroin, too?  See?  I am clearly a disturbed person.

4. The GOP candidates for president.  About two years ago, I called Michele Bachmann’s office.  I said, “Look, I am not a constituent but I would love it if she ran for president.”  I did not add, because I write comedy and that would be awesome, I figured it was implied. I had no idea Herman Cain even existed.

Seriously, I am thankful for the Constitution but I am infinitely more thankful for my friends and family.  Thank you for being so awesome.

You know who you are.

My “Morning Joe” week & my monthly call for civility in politics

I write posts like this often enough that I feel a bit like a broken record but I am not going to be deterred.

This morning, someone sent me an article that lambasted Bruce Springsteen’s “41 Shots” and said he supports the killing of cops.  He continued to say “IF YOU LIKE KILLING COPS, YOU ARE A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.”  (Emphasis HIS)  As a liberal Democrat, who does not support cop killing but lived in NYC at the time of the incident that inspired that song I think the writer has really misunderstood the situation (in the interest of full disclosure, I will blog about my thoughts about that sometime this week).

If we are going to succeed at turning things in this country around, both parties need to stop seeing each other as adversaries and more like partners.  If our economy tanks this summer, for example, it won’t be only blue or red states that are hurt; it be all of us.

While this is not solely the media’s fault, it isn’t helping.  Shows where people yell over each other or merely wait for their turn to talk without listening – these are not discussions, they are debates.  And no one really learns anything.  That was my problem with “Crossfire.”  I knew where each person stood on each issue and it became a huge waste of my time.

One thing about the popularity of some shows now that baffles me is that I hate being yelled at.   I don’t want other people’s opinions screamed at me (after admitting my political affiliation, it should be a given that I am not a big fan of FOX News) but I don’t need to have my own yelled at me either.  I am pretty clear on where I stand; I don’t need Ed Schultz to holler it at me.  And for the record; Keith Olbermann makes my ears bleed.  When my TV yells at me, I end up yelling back and I really don’t need my neighbors to think I have lost it.

Joe Scarborough

And now we come to the “Morning Joe” portion of my point.  I love this show.  LOVE IT.  It has even eclipsed “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” (love that, too but I don’t watch it for three hours a day, five days a week.)  This is something that I never thought I would write.

The show’s creator, Joe Scarborough, is a former politician.  He was elected in 1994 to represent Florida’s first congressional district and was part of the “Republican Revolution” that year.  This was not a freshman class of moderate and liberal Republicans.  It was a bunch of fire breathing conservatives.  My first job was for Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and that’s where I was working when he took office.  From my side of the aisle, he looked a bit fringy.   I am not alone in this theory – he has said it, too.  One of my friend – a former Congressman himself, one who was the only member of the Conservative Party when he was in the House asked me, “How can YOU like Joe Scarborough he was a right-wing nut job in Congress!”

One belief that I will surrender only upon my death is one of the reasons I like Scarborough.  When I meet someone who is active politically, either on a professional or volunteer basis, I assume (until/unless I am given reason to think otherwise) that they are in this business for the same reason I am – to make the country and world a better place.  If you start conversations with people who disagree with you assuming that makes them Hitler, you are never going to get anywhere.  If you start from the position that your disagreements are more akin to having differing opinions about the route you should take to the same destination, you can have a real discussion.  Have you ever heard of someone thinking someone else was evil because you thought you should take one road to the grocery store and they thought you should go another way?  No?  Right, because it is a ridiculous thought.

Mika Brzezinski

“Morning Joe” provides these kinds of discussions.  From the hosts themselves – Scarborough, Mike Brzezinski and Willie Geist – to the guests they bring on, the topics they discuss and the atmosphere they provide, real ideas can be exchanged and I learn something every morning.  I have not been keeping track of how often I agree with Scarborough on his politics but it’s not often but then again, agreeing with me has never been a prerequisite for me liking someone.  I have no patience for that sort of thing.

Willie Geist

So why was this week more of a “Morning Joe” week?  Well, I’ll tell you.  (My job does require me to keep up on the news but even if it did not, I am a total political/news junkie and all around nerd, I know this already, no need to tweet me about it.)

On Wednesday, I went to a Politico event on Capitol Hill.  Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough were doing a book signing for her new book, “Knowing your value.”  I have never recommended a book as much as I recommend this one.  At first, I thought that I wanted to buy it for all the women I have ever – or will ever – meet but now I just want to buy it for the entire planet.  I was able to talk to both and it was really fun.  So when I was thinking about writing my monthly plea for people to remember we are all really on the same side, “Morning Joe” seemed like a good example of a way we can communicate and not just yell.   You can download part of the book from iTunes here.  You can also buy it from Amazon here.

As cheesy as this feels to end with, I often think about President Clinton’s line that “There’s nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what’s right with America.”  I think we can say the same about our political system.

Not sad but not excited by the death of a terrorist

When something is thrown upwards, there is a point at which the object’s upward momentum and the force of gravity are equal. For some time period — even if it is incredibly small — when the object hangs suspended. That is the emotional space I have occupied since learning about Osama bin Laden’s death. Any relief/closure/positive emotion has been tempered by my normal instinct that death is bad and deaths, even of bad people, are not meant to be celebrated.

Now, I should confess a few things. I grew up on Long Island and live in Washington, DC. My emotional location vis-à-vis 9/11 had been a strange place. It remains one of the worst days of my life and few things would make me happier than seeing the towers built back exactly the way there were and despite knowing New York as well as I know any place on earth, I still get lost in lower Manhattan sometimes because I still look for the WTC when I get out of the subway. Growing up, that was my compass in the city. It may always be. These are the reasons, my liberal friends tell me my opinion of anything 9/11 related is less valid because I am too close to it.

At the same time, I will never think we should do to ourselves what the terrorists could not; destroy out way of life and take away our belief in the ideals that inspired our republic. Racial intolerance cannot be mistaken for vigilance against terrorism. We cannot convince anyone outside of the US  to believe that we believe in the importance of the rule of law if we do not apply it uniformly within the US. And the Bill of Rights is as important today as it was on 9/10/2001. These are the reasons my conservative friends tell me my opinions on this subject are less valid because I “do not understand the impact 9/11 had on America.”

You can see the paradox. One might think these opinions would give me more reason to hate Osama bin Laden but I don’t. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve that. The closest thing I have had to “joy” at seeing him be killed was when I laughed at a photo of President Obama that had the caption “I am sorry it took me so long to get you my birth certificate, I was busy killing Osama bin Laden.”

At the end of the day though, if I were to become the kind of person who celebrates any loss of life — even of someone as reprehensible as this mass killer — I just become more like them and I don’t want that.

My experience with the “birther issue”

No, I am not a member of the Tea Party.  I am not a conspiracy theorist.   Occam’s Razor could be tattooed on my forehead.  I think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and we went to the moon.  Anyway, you get the point.

In late 2008, I was working as a freelance writer/PR person.  For a very brief period I wrote for a Sunday morning, political round table television show (won’t say which one but the host is super obnoxious and, for once, I am not talking about David Gregory — hint two: it’s also not Chris Matthews, whom I have never met).

In one morning meeting the host told us (there were two writers and the host in the room) what he wanted the theme of the next show to be.  They then recanted a tale of political intrigue that defied logic.  The then President-elect was planning go go back to Hawaii to retrieve his real birth certificate from Kenya that was cleverly hidden under the left, third drawer of his grandmother’s study (seriously, how would that detail get out?).  The host went on to explain the people who had been hired, sometime earlier in the President’s life, to cover up his real birth place and forge a new birth certificate, which is the one that was released.

To me, this story was/is/will forever be, absurd beyond belief.  My first reaction was to laugh really hard and I said, “THAT’s the story your’re going with?  Really?”  I also pointed out how absurd that was. Being really new to writing for TV, this was probably not my best plan and the host’s reaction backed me up on  that point.  They back peddled a bit and then said, “I didn’t say it was true, I just said people are saying this.”  Right.  I am not saying he’s a liar, I am just saying other people are.”

In a subsequent conversation, we had a back and forth that went like this:

Host, “You, you are obsessed with Obama!”

Me: “No.  No, really, I am not.  If anyone has Obama-fatigue, it is me.”

Host: “Obama fatigue, where did you get that?”

Me: “I just said it.”

Host: “I cannot figure you out.”

There would be few more of these pleasant exchanges as soon after, I was informed my services would no longer be needed at the program.

I am not saying I was fired for not supporting this birther nonsense.  I am just saying some people are.

(Note:  I am a Obama supporter.  I voted for him in 2008 and will do so again in 2012.  On the morning of the above conversation, I had seen two disturbing pieces of memorabilia — a toilet seat with the First Family on it and some sort of random OTC medication that claimed to be “Obama’s favorite.”  My fatigue was more attributable to that than any thoughts I had about the now President.)