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  • Obama: A Disappointment So Far...
  • Posted By:
  • Paul Heller
  • Posted On:
  • 14-Oct-2009
  • Dear Readers,

    I’m disappointed in Obama; as an independent (for years now), I, like many others, voted for him in the hope that he would be something different. Who else was there anyway? McCain was not himself, clearly older, senility had set in, nor the wiser - and then the choice of Sarah Palin. But Obama clearly turned out not to be the statesman, nor the leader, that I think I, and the country, had been looking for.

    Of course, Obama turned out to be a…. politician. An elegant and smart guy, no doubt – but politician through and through. I’m worried now that he may be the wrong person, at the wrong time in our history. I'm willing to give him a little more time, but not much. I, and the country, need to see some cajones.

    It is true unfortunately that all politicians, with few historical exceptions, are always running for office, their next term. That means follow the money, the backers, those that they owe.

    But we don't elect a President who is thinking 2nd term and when running we always tend to believe we are electing a true leader, a statesman. Only after they enter the White House do we really see the character, the individual under stress, and his /her leadership. I like many, maybe most, wanted and hoped for a statesman this time around. I wanted and longed for a Jack Kennedy, a President Johnson, and yes, a Ronald Reagan. All three had flaws, but all were leaders and strong. I am talking here about leadership, strength, not about any particular political philosophy, mind you (albeit I do have my libertarian-like moments).

    The public I believe longs for such an individual, but alas it may be like wishing to win the lottery. Once elected, my own personal 'test' of Obama's leadership was whether he would immediately strike down “don’t ask, don’t tell” - something Clinton, who says now it was his "biggest regret" (see what happens when a politician is not running for anything), nor Bush did anything about. Obama, of course, has done nothing, stayed away from the subject like it was plague, and when pushed, agreed it needs to be overturned - but it is "down his list" of things to do "right now".

    It is this lack of leadership, fortitude, fear, that explains why Obama has shown no leadership on health care, refusing to forcefully articulate how in the end it will save taxpayers money and press those even in his own Party to follow his lead. He's done just the opposite and one wonders whether he believes anything he says or said on the campaign trail. I don't.

    Of course, Obama, and very few others, see any connection between the economy, health care reform and immigration. In truth, they are all tied in together. But Obama has no idea what to do with the immigration situation, doesn't seem to even understand it, or how to move it forward. I'm sure it is another "down the list" thing. This is another disappointment.

    Although I would like to see comprehensive immigration reform of a clearly broken system, my passion and focus is on the immigration of scientists, researchers, post docs and scholars - about the shameful way we allow incredibly bright people who are here at our government labs, the many post docs, those doing important research at our best universities and those helping to invent new technologies in private industry from leaving their position or, more accurately stated, forced to leave. The untold story is that they are doing so in droves (and have been for many years). Too often these scientists then go on to create innovation and industry in other nations who do everything they can to ‘steal’ them from us, or more often do so in their home countries.

    We can't afford this and neither can our economy. We are losing any advantage we as a nation have enjoyed. And that advantage has in large part come from these same foreign-born scholars, academics and scientists who want to stay here but are being told to leave. This is the deep secret that few really know about. We should have open arms to these scientists and researchers and do everything possible not only to attract more of them, but certainly do our best to keep those that are here from leaving.

    Where is Obama on this issue? I am certain he has no clue. Immigration, the issue itself, has come to mean ‘illegal immigration’, undocumented workers and then there’s the “New McCarthyism” and general xenophobia that always surfaces in a bad economy.
    The truth is that our immigration bureaucracy, the officers and adjudicators, the ‘system, look for every way in the world to harass and deny these important cases, instead of looking for ways to approve them. This is a dysfunctional system that does horrendous damage to our country and this economy. We can’t be this stupid I keep telling myself.

    Everyone knows the USCIS is broken, but very few, and I'll bet Obama is among them, truly know what happens when a scientist applies for a green card under the immigration laws. Most would presume that the cases would swiftly be processed, the individual welcomed to this country, and he/she could get on to the business of helping to create cutting-edge industries, science and technology - thus helping to create jobs which in the end help all Americans.

    The reality though is the opposite; yes, in the end, often with professional help and intervention by practitioners who understand the system, many of these cases are approved, but the process and resources it takes, take a toll. Too often I see individuals whose cases have been denied and by the time they seek help they just want to go home. Not only are these academics, researchers and scientists treated like some sort of criminal who are attempting to scam the system, but even the pre-eminent scientists and academics who send in their own 'advisory opinions' or reference letters to support the applicant find their own credibility and reputation tarnished in the process! It's crazy.

    Immigration reform is not just about changing the travesty involving extraordinary or outstanding scientists, although that to a large part is my focus. It is also about making sure we separate and document those otherwise law abiding individuals so that we can more easily identify and deport those who have truly broken our criminal laws.
    And I would be very harsh indeed to those that haven't behaved themselves. There's arrogance about it that disturbs me.

    Entering the country illegally or overstaying should certainly not be tolerated by any nation, but we must be real and pragmatic and understand that ‘they’ are not leaving voluntarily and it is a pipedream to think otherwise - and we as a nation don't have the resources to force them do so. But more importantly we must be smart and realize that we can focus on the criminal element, if we can separate them from the otherwise lawful. We can't do so if we don't allow the many to come forward to help identify the few.

    To me this is a tax issue; I'd rather see these individuals becoming tax payers, paying into the system their fair share, and in process of immigration reform require them to do all the things they now cannot do, but I believe they would be happy to do if documented. No, I would not given anyone a green card because there are many people in line ahead of them, but I would demand they act like responsible citizens i.e., buy auto insurance, pay federal and state income taxes, and on and on.
    Right now these individuals are a heavy burden on the rest of us. Again, it is a tax issue for me.

    I want one last word on Obama and Tarp. Whether the banks and financial institutions really needed saving is one thing, but as a side observer, and now with 20/20 hindsight, I called for at the time and would have allowed all of them, the auto industry included, to go into Chapter 11, which is reorganization, not truly bankruptcy anyway.

    With that said, we now know what should have been understood from the beginning, "it’s about jobs, stupid". Giving any more TARP money away now is silly. It is just the powerful, the elite, feeding the powerful and perpetuating a system that rewards power over markets.

    At the time I couldn't understand why not suspend payroll taxes for small business for 3-5 years? And I still can’t.

    Iraq and Afghanistan – hasn’t anyone learned the lessons of history, i.e., that occupation and ‘nation building’ always fails. Whatever we do security wise, I know one thing: If I hear about it, it's worthless and we are throwing money. Period.
    This country has always been too rich to think straight. We rarely think deeply or long term and too often act impulsively as a nation. Our culture is historically new. Obama seems like a smart guy, but he's clearly not a leader. My fear is that he's Jimmy Carter, someone who was distracted by the White House tennis schedule. No one said he was stupid, in fact they said he was very smart. But leadership is not about brainpower, but about judgment making decisions decisively (right or wrong). Read the job description of any CEO. Obama must remember he is in the White House and no longer in Congress, where deliberation and horse trading is the norm. They must do their constitutional duty, he must do his.

    This country is in trouble and will continue to be without real leadership; the country needs a Statesman, a Churchill. Obama?





 

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