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August 21, 2014

Presidential Debate

As I now live outside of the country, I have easier access to non-American news media and outlets. All this week, the BBC and CBC have had reports talking about how one of ISIS's goals is to compel America into attacking them, returning to the region with "boots on the ground," because they know how bad that will look to radical Islamists and jihadists in the region (and around the world) and will give legitimacy to the group's goals, swelling their membership and funding to allow more terrorism.

The non-American media is praising the American administration for its restraint in handling this current regional crisis; by staying mostly out of it, we are not inciting the terrorists and swelling their ranks and coffers. Food drops to the dispossessed and the occasional drone strike aren't enough for ISIS to wave its flag and gather support.

What I find incongruent is switching to and watching some American news media. Fox News, of course, is continuing its never-ending crusade to lambast the President. The talking heads, both the pundits and their interviews, were talking about how "weak" the President is for his handling of the situation, about how America needs to go right back in there and "take care of business," and about how we should have no fixed timetable so we can "get the job done right." How is it that other news agencies in the world see America's "non-action" in the region as a triumph and the right move, and yet Fox News labels it weak and improper?

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the same thing happened; Fox News lambasted our "weak" President for his lack of action in the region. The CBC, BBC, and other non-American media had Russian experts on who cautioned to stay out of it, as it was a desperate ploy by Putin to stay in power; a weakening leader trying to shore up his far right allies with what would look like a strong move but really was simply an appeasement. Putin's people are now hungry, a lot of their money is devalued or unavailable, and unrest appears to be growing quickly due to the economic sanctions other nations, including the US, put in place to protest his actions. Yet Fox News continues to claim the American President is a weak and ineffectual leader in the world arena. They exemplify what Putin did as showing strength and leadership.

There is a great line within a great speech in the movie The American President: "He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections." This, in a nutshell is what both the American media and American politicians in this election cycle are trying to do: It is the President's fault the world is the way it is; it is his fault you don't have a job; it is his fault for X, Y, and Z. Facts be damned!

Guess what, folks? No, it's not. I'm not trying to claim that President Obama is a great or even good President. However, I can tell you fairly confidently that he is not a bad President. I think history will look back on this era and, similar to Jimmy Carter, realize there were challenges that no President could have successfully navigated. His biggest failure, perhaps, is his inability to get the Republicans to buy in to the direction he has set and the goals and tasks he sees as important. However, those same Republicans also said from day one that they were going to block everything this President proposed, so THEY never gave HIM a chance to succeed. Hell, reports now indicate a small but growing number of Republicans in Congress want to help, want to work on bipartisan efforts, and agree with some of what Obama has proposed. They simply fear the backlash from actually voting their conscience and doing their job.

Until I was exposed to a broader swath of media, I did not realize quite how biased the American news media was, or how contentious the politics had become. Now, seeing reports about what goes on inside (and outside) America from a news media with no real dog in the fight, I get a less biased view of the situation, see experts who are not paid to sway viewers/voters in a particular direction, and see just how politically motivated much of what I was given before actually is.

In the end, I think that historians will improve President Obama's rating as we get more time between his presidency and current issues, especially if current Republicans get their wish and make world matters worse with their overly militant stance. I think that those same historians will downgrade this Congress even more harshly over time. And, if sanity is to be restored, I think the American people need to vote OUT every elected official who has been in office more than two terms. Lastly, I think that Congress needs term limits to stop this sort of partisan infighting and gridlock in the future.

(As an aside: I once proudly was a member of the Republican party. But, even as a youth voting for the first time, I voted my conscience and not party if I felt a different leader more closely aligned with my needs. I still feel I lean mostly Conservative on most issues, but I find that I rarely align with the Republican party's goals or stated objectives. I think that is true of many Republicans today; I think you will see the ranks of a third party, possibly the Libertarians, who more closely align with conservative but not Republican views, swell in ranks in the coming years. And I shudder to think what state America would be in today if current Republicans were in complete power -- many of the issues I outlined above would probably have led to military conflict, another Cold War with Russia (or maybe even a hot war, in Ukraine), and an unending presence in the Middle East, leading to further acts of terrorism.)

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