Southern Brooklyn

Op-Ed: America Needs Barack Obama


BETWEEN THE LINESFor habitual readers of this column, it should come as no revelation as to who my preference is in Tuesday’s presidential election.

Over the last three or four months, there’s nothing former Governor Mitt Romney or Rep. Paul Ryan did to convince me to change my mind. (I’d still rather be blue than red.) As a matter of fact, most of what they or their obstructionist Republican colleagues uttered only solidified my incentive for President Barack Obama to serve another four years.

Barack Obama is the only choice, if we hope to move forward and not revert to stale Republican policies that generated the chaos — overseas and nationwide — that we’re in today.

Forget about who was better in the debates. Look at the records and the strategies of each candidate and it’s obvious that we need this president to serve four more years to continue to reverse the economic turmoil and overseas quagmires left behind after eight years of George W. Bush.

I can hear the groaning and chortling that, after four years, Obama has had plenty of time to straighten things out. Admittedly, he has only scratched the surface, but things are better. After all, when you’re left a mess as consuming as the one Bush did, it demands a long-drawn-out effort to sweep it away — not under a rug.

The president came into office confronted by two wars that were sacrificing precious manpower and draining an excess of revenues. Barack Obama didn’t pursue the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks on Day One, but he eventually got Osama bin Laden, fulfilling the guarantee that Bush never attempted in the seven years that he had the opportunity. That photo-op image, etched in our minds, when President Bush boasted that the mission was accomplished was nothing but a sham triumph. To make matters worse, long after that premature declaration, thousands of soldiers fought, died or were wounded — physically and mentally.

While Obama has been criticized for his policy towards Israel, he is committed to defending our strongest ally in a perpetually turbulent region. However, he should not impulsively make a strategic commitment until defending the Jewish nation is absolutely indispensable. Our recent past is proof that for the U.S. to recklessly become engaged in another Mideast conflict will be very costly, in terms of manpower and money.

Despite the debate over Obama’s stand on Israel, on Friday, the [left-wing] Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, endorsed the president. This is the closing sentence of its endorsement: “…if any (voters) are vacillating over whether Obama has been a good president for Israel, the answer is yes.”

Here at home, one of the major accomplishments of the Obama Administration is the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare. But, in its infancy it has already provided health care for millions who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

The president reversed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” to allow homosexuals and lesbians to openly serve their nation.

Despite the snail’s pace, the president has been moderately successful in stabilizing the nation’s ailing economy. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the nation’s growth over the last year was estimated at 2.3 percent. Not great, but improved and persistent. Anyone who was naïve enough to imagine things would drastically turn around by now should take off their rose-colored glasses and realize how severe the problems are that Obama has had to correct.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, pledges tax cuts and federal spending reductions, which, even someone without an MBA knows would impair the deficit. He refuses to offer details for his “5 Point Plan,” though we can presume it will, in the minimum, bolster the military budget; cut education, health-care and social programs, plus decimate Social Security. And, it is all too obvious that Romney tax cuts would more than likely benefit the wealthiest — not the Americans who need it the most.

Besides, with partisanship still a major roadblock for achieving the goals needed to strengthen the economy and other matters, Republicans are likely to make a second Obama term just as challenging.

While most Americans oppose companies shipping domestic jobs overseas, the GOP refused to support rational legislation to penalize businesses that do so. Though some modifications were implemented, Republicans thwarted harsher Wall Street reforms. Attempts at immigration and environmental reforms were blocked by Congressional Republicans.

Those are just a few positive of the changes sought by the president, but were rejected by his opponents, who, nevertheless, doggedly blame him for the lack of improvement.

Let the conservative opposition, which vocally expressed its longing for Obama to fail from the day he took office, promote the Republican ticket, but we can ill afford a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan administration. It would retreat to policies that favor big business, the wealthy and the military-industrial complex. We’ve had enough of that!

Few politicians reveal emphatic strategies during a campaign, so they offer innuendos and vague approaches that generally imply change is forthcoming. As a result, the electorate and the media take sides based on records and potential. Though Barack Obama’s record is flawed, it has reversed some of the negatives and holds promise for progress and better days ahead.

As this lingering campaign has dragged on, there have been subtle improvements — enough to give Obama four more years. On the other hand, Romney, as most politicians have a tendency to, promises to turn things around, but it would be too risky to take a chance on such an imprecise strategy.

While the president deferred or neglected a few important issues, especially gun control and the closing of Guantanamo Bay, he’s certainly deserving of another term over his yo-yo’ing challenger.

Mitt Romney’s has constantly and consistently changed positions. That sort of wavering allows him to utter whatever is expedient at the moment. He seems to just say things that he thinks his audience wants to hear based on convenience.

As the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Romney was the ultimate moderate in a very blue state, but once he entered presidential politics, he shifted to the right. At times during the 2012 campaign, that shift was a hard right, to satisfy neo-conservatives, particularly Tea Party extremists. If he chose to stand by his true belief system, the gap in the polls would perhaps have shifted in his favor.

For those of us who experienced the wrath of Superstorm Sandy, it would be prudent to recall Romney’s stance and sudden change of heart in the wake of the enormous disaster.

In a GOP primary debate last June, while talking about disaster relief, Mitt Romney said, “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government (i.e. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

However, last Wednesday, after Hurricane Sandy devastated several states along the East Coast, the Romney campaign flip flopped when it released a statement : “I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission…” (Emphasis mine)

Suddenly, when the moment was at hand, he conveniently reversed his position without a mention of the private sector. And we all know that for a private sector business, profit is the main motive, while those most in need usually get slight or no compassion and consideration.

Some voters may not be too enthusiastic, even disappointed, feeling President Obama has not lived up to some of the expectations he promised four years ago. For them, it may come down to the lesser of two evils on Election Day, much like it often does in local, state and federal elections.

The president deserves another four years to continue righting the course for the ship of state. Mitt Romney’s case lacks compassion and follows the Republican Party’s conventional platform, which are neither in the best interests of the country nor the majority of voters.

It would not be practical to abandon Barack Obama, who not only understands the urgency of what America needs, but presents more encouraging evidence and compassion than his opponent that he cares.

At this critical juncture in our history, Barack Obama is not only the president America deserves, but the president America needs.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

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