Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Ted Cruz, Barack Obama and Needs for 2016"

                        Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Ted Cruz, Barack Obama and Needs for 2016”
April 2, 2015

The two men are different: They represent opposite ends of the political spectrum: Barack Obama was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. Ted Cruz was reared in Texas. Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Cruz speaks flawlessly without notes or a teleprompter; we know more about Mr. Cruz’s years at Princeton than we do about Mr. Obama’s at Occidental and Columbia; while Mr. Cruz was described by Alan Dershowitz as one of the smartest students he ever taught at Harvard Law School, Mr. Obama’s transcripts have been kept under wraps.

But, it is similarities that are striking. Both men were born outside the continental United States: Mr. Cruz in Calgary, Canada and Mr. Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii. Both had emigrant fathers: Mr. Obama’s was born in Kenya and Mr. Cruz’s in Cuba. Both fathers abandoned their sons in their youth, Mr. Cruz’s temporarily and Mr. Obama’s permanently. They were both raised, at least for a time, by their mothers. Barack Obama’s mother found solace in the communist beliefs of her father, while Ted Cruz’s mother got comfort from religion. Neither appears to have a sense of humor. Both taught at law school; Ted Cruz at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin and Barack Obama at the University of Chicago. Both were first term Senators, with limited experience, when they announced their candidacies. They were also similar in age: Barack Obama was 45 and Ted Cruz, 44. Both are populists who represent the extremes of their respective Parties, but perhaps most important, both are notable loners and partisans.

Partisanship has become so vocal and divisive that, in an inversion of the metaphor, trees have been lost for focus on the forest. Consider some of the issues facing the Country: The magnitude of our national debt that has been masked by extraordinarily low interest rates, rates which will, at some point, rise; entitlements which will, given current growth rates, consume more than 100% of the federal budget in a few years; tax codes and regulations that have been designed by special interests and favor crony capitalism; an immigration system that keeps out the most promising, while providing little control over the flow of the less desirable; government unions, like entitlements, that threaten the viability of federal and state budgets, and which function without regard to the needs or wants of taxpayers; a foreign policy that has alienated our allies, emboldened our enemies, cost us respect and influence, and which threatens the safety and security of the world; and over the years, a civility that has given way to arrogance.

On March 23, Ted Cruz became the first candidate of either Party to formally declare for the Presidency. His speech at Liberty University in Virginia was eloquent, pitch-perfect and smooth, perhaps a little too much so according to Peggy Noonan. Like the current President he can speak, but will he work with those whose opinions differ from his own? Will he invite contrary opinions? Can a man of his arrogance unite people, or would he divide them further? Would he mimic Mr. Obama – refuse to listen, reason or negotiate? It is not a lack of experience I worry about – after all, Abraham Lincoln came to the Presidency with only two years in the House – it is a concern for his judgment and an Obama-like divisiveness, a “my way or the highway” attitude.

The electorate is already divided and uncertain. The media is as biased as is the political class. Yet we are all in this together. What is needed is a man or a woman who understands the straits the nation faces, the fortitude to confront its challenges, yet who has the character and charisma to convince those who differ of the necessity for reform before events overtake us. For example, what will happen to federal deficits if interest rates were normalized? What happens to our future if our school children continue to underperform? For the first time in our history more small businesses – the engines of economic and job growth – are closing than opening. How to we reverse that trend? What would be the price of gasoline and home heating fuel if the privately financed fracking revolution had never taken place? How can we talk about inequality without speaking of the salaries and benefits of government unionized employees in virtually guaranteed lifetime employment? Will a nuclear arms race among a half dozen Middle East nations prove as harmless as the one between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War?

Unilateralism does not work in a liberal democracy. We have spent six years experimenting with Mr. Obama who came with great expectations. He appeared bright, reasonable and open to ideas. He was the first African-American President. As such, he had an opportunity to lead us into a post-racial world. He failed. Like Jesus and the money lenders in the temple, he promised to dispatch lobbyists from Washington. Instead, they have grown in numbers and influence. He promised to heal the rift between the Parties. That gulf has widened. He promised to restore America’s image abroad. It has become worse. Voters overlooked his prior associations with men and women that would have denied the Office to most. Voters saw what they wanted to see, not what was there. He was elected because people bet on a promise, a vision – what they hoped would prove true – not on the man, his history or experience.

A President needs to be principled and forceful, but also genial and accommodative. A sense of humor is critical, as it disarms opponents and helps mitigate the awesome responsibilities of the Office. While all candidates need publicity, he or she should be open and consistent. There is no need to pander to the media, pundits and talk show hosts, all of whom are partisan. Keep in mind, as their numbers proliferate, their individual influence wanes.


The question for voters, as they consider the future, is which candidate can achieve a future that is best for the nation, and does so while maintaining the integrity of our legal and legislative processes. Otto von Bismarck, not a man remembered as warm and fuzzy (and not the leader of a liberal democracy), yet a man who accomplished a great deal, once said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” It is a lesson Barack Obama never learned. It is a lesson voters need to consider, as they look toward 2016.

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