Monday, November 23, 2009

To Bow or Not to Bow, That is the Question

The president had this to say about "the bow" to Japanese Emperor Akihito:

"I’m representing the United States of America. And we’re talking about a friend, and we’re talking about an ally. We’re talking about a nation with whom we have constructive relationships."

That wasn't President Barack Obama saying that about his recent bow to the Japanese Emperor. That was President George H.W. Bush saying that in 1989 in response to a reporter's query about his bow to the new Japanese Emperor.

Presidents bow. President Richard Nixon did so when he visited China and bowed to Mao Tse-Tung. President Obama did so when greeting the Saudi King and the same Japanese Emperor. Presidents even hold hands with other leaders, as President George W. Bush did with Saudi King Abdullah (I didn't hear the Veep complaining about that).

Despite what former Vice President Richard Cheney said, it's really not a big deal. Presidents of both parties bow. It's a sign of respect in many cultures. Just because we don't do it in America doesn't mean it signals weakness when an American president bows to a foreign leader, especially an ally. Now, if they had curtsied, that might be another story...

Obama and Psalm 109: How Very Unchristian

There is a slogan that is appearing on bumper stickers and t-shirts all across the land:

"Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8"

Very biblical. Sounds pretty innocent right? Not quite:

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office."

It gets worse:

"Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

I'm a big believer in free speech and civil liberties. Freedom and liberty let the sun shine on the vermin. Vermin look more sinister and ugly in the daylight as they scurry into the sewer or under a rock.

However, this slogan represents a direct threat to President Obama. It is not funny and the message is clear. It is no different than someone advocating for the assassination of the president on a street corner or in a train station. You simply can't do it and if you do, expect a visit from the U.S. Secret Service.

I pray that the government is up to the task of protecting this and every president that serves our country. Based on the level of crazies on the right that hate this president, the Secret Service have and will continue to have their hands full.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ohio's U.S. Senate Race, Governor's Race, Dead Heats

In a Quinnipiac University political poll of registered voters in Ohio, Republican Rob Portman has overtaken his Democratic rivals, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is in a dead heat with Republican Challenger John Kasich at 40% support for each. Given the recent decline in President Barack Obama's numbers in Ohio and the relative surge in the Republican brand, this is not terribly surprising. However, because of the large number of undecideds in the race, anything could happen between now and May and November.

What is shocking, however, is the fact that Fisher has yet to pull away from Brunner despite the backing of many heavyweights in Ohio's political establishment and despite Brunner's anemic fundraising. Democrats do not seem overly excited about Fisher's candidacy and may be ripe for the picking if Brunner can turn around her listless campaign and demonstrate that she is viable.

Expect the primaries to start getting nasty on both sides of the aisle as the May primary is beginning to loom large on the campaign calendar. Tom Ganley, the conservative car dealer, has indicated he is in it to the end and will dip into his wallet. Likewise, Brunner appears to be in it to win it as well. The next few months should make for some good political theater during the winter doldrums.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bob Ney: Out of Bush's Federal Housing Program and into the College Classroom

From time to time I invite elected officials, policy makers, news media, etc. to speak to my political science classes at The University of Akron. From sitting members of Congress to members of the Ohio executive branch, to law enforcement officials, I have already had a number of people visit with my students this semester. Today I had former Congressman Bob Ney visit three of my classes.

When I told colleagues I invited Bob Ney to come to campus to speak to my students, most of them looked at me with blank stares or raised eye brows. Afterall, this is the same Bob Ney that got mixed up in the Jack Abramoff scandal and ended up doing time in a Federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. However, since getting out of "Bush's federal housing program" (as Ney often quips) in 2008, he has been trying to resurrect his life and has begun a career as a political analyst for Talk Radio News Service and has his own self-titled talk news show on WVLY AM 1370 which airs out of Wheeling, West Virginia, every weekday from 1-3 p.m.

I had a feeling that he would be a great speaker and that students would benefit from hearing from a person who was at the pinnacle, lost it all, and is trying and put his life back together. Some of the best American stories are those of redemption and Bob Ney's may be one of those. My instincts were right: the students were enthralled by his very American story and were taken with his candidness. Ney talked openly about his fall from grace and took responsibility for his actions. And, his political instincts are as sharp as ever. Ney spoke about current events and challenges facing the president and Congress and did so with a balanced eye. I now understand why Ellen Ratner and Talk Radio News Service took a significant chance on Ney by giving him a job when he left prison. If you want rabid partisanship and red meat, Ney is not your guy. If you want thoughtful analysis and blatant candor absent the filter of oppressive ideology, Ney is your guy.

I am glad my students got the opportunity to hear the former Congressman today and many of my students were as well. In fact, one student raised her hand and asked him to come back. That has never happened with any guest speaker I've had before...

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