Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Weekly Meto Eireann Newspaper column (Archives)

Republican Politics, American Style
First newspaper column published October 26th 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

My name is Charles Laffiteau, a US Republican from Dallas, Texas, and I’m here to talk politics, American style.What I hope to accomplish by writing this column is to provide the reader with some insights as regards the United States’ political scene and foreign policy from the perspective of a lifelong member of the Republican Party. And in turn, I hope to familiarise myself with the political landscape of Ireland.From time to time I will also depart from discussing US political policy to share my experiences as an American living, studying and working abroad in Dublin. I hope you will find some humour in these observations, since I doubt you will find much humour in US politics and foreign policy.

I hope you won’t confuse American Republicans with Irish Republicans (notwithstanding the fact that both have shown a willingness to use force to achieve their political goals). I think Irish Republicans would more nearly identify with the American Democratic Party as opposed to the Republican Party; the ‘Grand Old Party’ has been in control of the Presidency for the last six years and of Congress for the past 12 years.I must confess that I have been disenchanted with the ‘National’ Republican Party for most of the past 14 years, dating to the party’s convention in 1992, which nominated President George Bush Sr to run for re-election against a Southern Democrat named Bill Clinton.I was well acquainted with Bill Clinton, having worked to defeat him in his bid for re-election as Governor of Arkansas during my first election campaign as a ‘Young Republican’ in the mid-1980s. I devised a way to set up Republican Party phone banks without the large cash deposits normally required by the telephone company. It saved the Republican Party of Arkansas thousands of dollars and I received an invitation to President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as a thank you for my “contribution” to the election campaign.Having said that, I must acknowledge that I was not a staunch supporter of President Reagan and I disagreed with a number of his administration’s policies. I was and still am considered to be a member of the moderate-liberal wing of the party, because of my views on social issues like abortion and homosexuality. This wing of the party lost favour after one of its members, President Richard Nixon, was forced out of office and his successor, President Gerald Ford, lost the subsequent election to another Southern Democrat named Jimmy Carter.

I became a Republican because I agreed with the basic principles that the party stood for. At their core, Republicans have a strong belief in personal responsibility, limited government and minimal regulation. Republicans favour free-market policies supporting capitalism, and this belief is reflected, in part, by the party’s long-term advocacy of tax cuts (a major Republican theme since the 1920s) and its goal of balancing the federal budget by controlling government spending. Republicans also do not support government intrusion into their homes and businesses and are very wary of laws which impinge on their individual freedoms (such as the right to privacy and the right to bear arms) as set forth in the US Constitution. Historically, rather than starting wars, Republicans have been the ones who get America out of wars started by Democrats (like Vietnam).

Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Republican Party has lost sight of many of the party’s core values. The billion-dollar no-bid contracts being given to the Vice President’s former business associates are not capitalism or free market economics in action. Record-setting budget deficits are not congruent with the ideals of balanced budgets and controlling federal spending. Indiscriminate wiretapping by the National Security Agency is an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of American citizens. Starting a war based on false information and then refusing to admit mistakes in conducting that war is not a demonstration of personal responsibility. Hopefully you now have a sense of my perspective, as a Republican, on the current state of politics in America. Frankly, I’m not sure what it means to be a Republican anymore, but given America’s current position as the only global superpower left in the world, I do see the wisdom in this observation: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Republican Politics, American Style
Election ReportPublished November 2nd 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

It will soon be Election Day back in the States so I want to point out some key national and state elections, which I bear watching for evidence of a negative trend against the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. I’ll start with my home state of Texas, where 2/3rds of the voters want someone other than incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry. Should he lose to Democrat Chris Bell, the national party will explain this was due to the independent candidacies of Carole Strayhorn and to a lesser extent Kinky Friedman. While my support for Governor Perry is nonexistent at best, I see the fractured field working against Chris Bell more than Rick Perry, as dissatisfied voters split their support among three other candidates, instead of coalescing behind a single opponent. If the Democrats pull off an upset here, it doesn’t bode well for the President or the Texas Republican Party come 2008. Other Statehouse races which may signal a Democratic Party resurgence at the state level will be in Arkansas, Minnesota and Alaska, where Republicans currently have control of the Governor’s offices. In Arkansas, Democratic Attorney General Mike Beebe is a good bet to take the Governor’s race over former US Senator, Asa Hutchinson, returning control of the Governor’s office to the Democratic Party for the first time in over 10 years. In Minnesota, Republican incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty is being challenged by Democrat Farm Labor Attorney General, Mike Hatch in a race expected to go right down to the wire on Election Day. Alaska’s Governors race is also too close to call as the state tries to pick a successor to out-going Republican Governor Murkowski. Former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles has a name recognition advantage over his Republican opponent Sarah Palin, which could prove to be the difference in this race.

In the US Senate, 4 races bear watching, because as they go, so will control of the Senate in the next Congress. In Missouri, the Republican incumbent, James Talent, is getting the race of his political life from Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, despite a campaign spending advantage of more than 2 to 1 over his Democratic opponent. This is not a good omen for the Republican Party if it hopes to retain control of the Senate. In Tennessee, there is a tight race for the open Senate seat of Republican Bill Frist, between Republican ex-Mayor of Chattanooga, Bob Corker and Democratic House Representative Harold Ford of Memphis. While Corker is a popular politician, I think Harold Ford is the strongest candidate the Democrats have in the entire State, so a big get out the vote effort by Democrats could put this seat in their column. Finally, in Virginia, incumbent Republican Senator George Allen is on the ropes in his race against a poorly financed, unknown Democratic challenger named James Webb. The fact that Allen has a war chest ten times the size of his challenger’s and is still running neck and neck with Webb is a very bad sign for the Republican Party if it wants to hold on to the Senate.The Democrats are in much better shape than Republicans (going into Election Day), with only one Senate seat at risk in my opinion, but they must retain this seat if they hope to win control of the Senate. In New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Senator Robert Menendez, is in a close race with Republican challenger Tom Kean, the photogenic young scion of the New Jersey Kean political family. I really like Tom Kean as a rising star of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, but I fear that the 2:1 spending advantage held by Menendez, coupled with voter disaffection over Republican Congressional ethics scandals and the Iraq war, may be more than Tom can overcome in this election year.

The Democratic Party hopes to take control of the US House of Representatives with a net gain of 15 seats in this election. This isn’t easy in an age where incumbent seats are protected by large, campaign war chests fattened by friendly lobbyists. Look for Democrats to push hard to pick up seats being vacated by Republican incumbents like scandal plagued Bob Ney in Ohio, Henry Hyde in Illinois, Florida’s Katherine Harris (remember her role in the 2000 presidential election?) and Mark Kennedy in Minnesota. But Democrats will also need to unseat other incumbent Republicans in Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Washington and Pennsylvania, if they expect to win back control of the US House. All in all, it should make for an interesting election night back in the states.

Republican Politics, American Style
Bill ClintonPublished November 9th 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

In my first column, I mentioned that I was well acquainted with Bill Clinton so today I will elaborate on my views about Bill Clinton, the man, the politician and the President. Please note, that my ex-wife (who is still a very good friend of mine) is also a fervent Democrat and political supporter of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. Having said that, she is not and never has been much of a fan of Bill Clinton, the man, because she doesn’t approve of married men who run around on their wives.

While I was a college student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, my ex and I had occasion to spend an evening out on the town with Bill Clinton and some mutual friends. It was the early 80’s and Bill was out of office, but planning another run at the Governorship. A group consisting of 4 couples plus Bill (he left Hillary at home) and the future sister-in-law of the musician we were listening to had assembled at a restaurant and bar popular with local politicos. When our musician friend had finished his set and the bar closed at 2:00am, all of us went to one of the aforementioned couples’ homes to continue our evening of music and partying.Without sharing too much, lets just say – allegedly - that Bill’s contention as a Presidential candidate that he had “smoked but didn’t inhale” doesn’t correspond with my recollection of the events of that particular evening/morning.

Personally, I don’t care that Bill Clinton smoked pot or that he ran around on his wife, Hillary (a well known fact in Little Rock). That is between him and his family. As a waiter and bartender in Little Rock, I became a bit cynical about the personal morals of male politicians, because I saw so much of this type behaviour among legislators and political office holders (regardless of their party affiliation). I cast my vote for a man or woman based on their political positions on issues of concern to me and my opinions about their effectiveness in office. Can they get the job done, is what matters most to me. When Bill Clinton first started out in state politics, he was a classic, big government, tax and spend, liberal Democratic. The only thing I have in common with these types of Democrats is our positions on social issues. To his credit, Bill Clinton did learn a few things from his second electoral defeat as Governor of Arkansas and subsequently changed his position on taxes, balanced budgets and government spending, to a stance more closely aligned with Republican views on these matters. That’s the sign of a good politician, learning from your mistakes.

Still and all, I couldn’t see myself voting for him as President. That type of outlook began to change during the Republican National Convention in 1992. I have held political office once in my life and one thing I learned as president of a CWA Union local was that you can’t please everyone who votes in your election, nor should you try to. President Bush caved in to right wing Christian fundamentalists and allowed his primary opponent (Pat Buchanan) to address the nation on evening prime-time TV, spewing venom and hate towards all who opposed him and his extreme right-wing beliefs. By contrast, Bill Clinton made his primary opponent (a left wing liberal named Jerry Brown) address the nation in the afternoon when no-one was watching. I lost respect for President Bush and gained respect for Bill Clinton in the process, because Bill showed he wasn’t afraid of his party’s liberal left wing while President Bush believed he needed to kiss up to my party’s right wing extremists. While I still voted for Bush, I did so reluctantly and was not at all disappointed when Bill Clinton won the election. I finally voted for Clinton for the first time in 1996, because I thought he had done a good job as President and because I now believe that in the US, we are better off as a country when neither party has control of both the Congress and the Presidency. Both parties are more likely to push the country too far to the right or left when they are in control of both branches of government. I believe that history will judge the Clinton Presidency much more kindly than many in the US currently do. I don’t admire the man for his sexual morals (or lack thereof), but I do admire him as a politician and as a better than average national and world leader.

Republican Politics, American Style -
Post Election ReportPublished November 16th 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin, Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

After staying up until 4am watching election returns, it’s now time for me to weigh in with my assessment of what happened and what it might mean for the future. But first I would like to give you some background on the new US Ambassador to Ireland, Thomas Foley.

Thomas Foley is a Harvard buddy of President Bush and a big donor to the Republican Party. He started a firm called NTC, which specialized in leveraged buyouts, (taking publicly held companies private) using junk bonds to finance them. But his first acquisition, a textile firm called Bibb Co., subsequently went bankrupt when it was unable to pay the interest on those junk bonds. In addition to being among the biggest donors to Bob Dole during his run for President in 1996, Foley was also a big donor to another Republican, ex-Connecticut State Treasurer Paul Silvester, who was convicted in 1999 for taking kickbacks for pension-investment contracts. Foley subsequently headed up Bush’s Connecticut fundraising campaign during the 2000 Presidential elections and more recently served as Private Sector Development Director for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), in charge of privatizing over 200 Iraqi state-owned businesses. Shortly before Foley’s appointment, the U.S. reneged on its promise to leave privatization decisions to an elected Iraqi government. The CPA issued an order abolishing most limits on foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses and lobbyists seeking Iraqi business for U.S. companies swooped in to take advantage of the situation. Maybe Foley was sent here to advise the Irish government on how to privatize state owned businesses like Aer Lingus? Who knows.

In fairness to Tom Foley, he may turn out to be a fine US Ambassador to Ireland. I just wish that these types of positions were given to individuals with a background in diplomacy, foreign policy and or significant ties to the country where they receive their appointment. Unfortunately both Democratic and Republican administrations give most of the so-called “plum” ambassadorships to large campaign donors with little or no diplomatic and foreign language skills.

As for the 2006 elections, the Democratic Party has taken control of the US House with an even larger majority of seats(233) than the Republican Party currently holds (232) there. They also have won control of the Senate, which means they can veto any Bush nominees to the Federal and Supreme Courts (as well as other positions in the Federal Government) and appoint special committees to investigate governmental misconduct. Say goodbye to current UN Ambassador John Bolton and hello to Congressional investigations and hearings about how the Bush administration led the US into the Iraq war and how it has conducted that war.

I think the only good news for Republicans was that we held our losses of State Governorships to 6, leaving Democrats in control of only 28 statehouses. This is good news –it could have been worse. Long before Republicans took control of Congress, they first won more than 30 of the 50 State Governors offices. As Chief Executives of their respective states’ governments, these Republican governors were able to influence the makeup of their respective states US Congressional districts (which are redrawn every 10 years following a nationwide census). In the early 80’s and 90’s many of the newly-redrawn congressional districts strengthened Republican candidacies by breaking up Democratic Party district constituencies into 2 or more separate districts, thus diluting Democrats voting strength. This in turn led to the “Republican Revolution” in 1994 when the Republican Party first took control of Congress. This trend continued following the 2000 census and was most evident in my home state of Texas, where a remapping of congressional districts (promoted and financed by Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay) resulted in a net gain of five Congressional seats for the Republican Party in the state of Texas alone (following the 2004 elections).

My concern is that (with Democrats in control of a majority of Governorships) they will use redistricting in 2010 to cement Democratic control of the US House of Representatives for the next 10 to 20 years. My fear is centred on what Democrats will do if they are also able to win the Presidency in 2008 and find themselves in the same position of control over both the Executive and Legislative branches of government, which the Republican Party has held for the past 6 years. In fact, my worst nightmare is what might happen if the Democratic Party controls both branches of government for the next 10 to 20 years. Time will tell.

Life in Dublin, Women and Computers
Published November 23rd in Metro Eireann Dublin Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

I’ve been musing about my impressions of Dublin, computers and women today and thought it might be time to share some of these observations with you. For starters, the taxi and bus drivers here are awesome. I think it takes incredible skill to negotiate the narrow streets, avoid jaywalking pedestrians and still have patience left to deal with endless traffic jams and befuddled Americans asking for directions to Molesworth Street. The bus drivers, in particular, never cease to amaze me with their ability to manoeuvre those double-decker and accordion buses around sharp curves and thru narrow traffic lanes. However, I’ve also noticed that the buses don’t always seem to run on schedule. I take the 4, 11, 13 or 13A into the city and according to the schedule they are supposed to arrive at 5 or 10 minute intervals. But often as not I’ll be waiting 20 minutes for one of the four to show up, when all four arrive at the shelter with one right behind the other. How are they able to coordinate their arrivals like that?

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people here don’t generally tip their waiters or waitresses very well, if at all (though they do seem to take a bit better care of the bartenders). As a waiter or bartender back in the states, a 15% gratuity was the minimum I expected to receive for my services and 20% was fairly normal. When we served others who were also employed in the restaurant and bar business, our tips averaged 25-35%. Is little or no tipping the norm throughout the EU or just in Ireland?I would be remiss if I didn’t make some comments about the HIGH cost of living here in Dublin. I knew I was going to suffer some financial pain because of the exchange rate difference of $1.25 to 1.00 Euro, but that’s not even the half of it. Back in the states we have “Dollar Stores” where I can pick up items like a bottle of 250 aspirin, a cheap set of screwdrivers or a can of shave cream for $1.00 each. Here you have “Everything is 2 Euros” stores where they carry much of the same merchandise for the equivalent of $2.50 each. Ouch! Oh, and the stuff that McDonald’s has on their value menu for 2 Euros is also priced at 1 dollar (.75 Euro) back in the states not to mention they don’t charge you for strawberry jam, no matter how many you ask for. As for the cost of housing, well let’s not even go there because I think you’ve got the idea by now.I

went shopping for a computer last week which, like everything else, is much more expensive here. Having said that, it occurred to me while I was thinking about the attributes and features I was looking for in a computer, how much computers are like women. In fact, I think computers must be female.

Here are 10 of the reasons why I believe this to be the case.
1) They are never wrong. Any wrong answers are the result of faulty data inputs by someone else, so they aren’t responsible for giving you the wrong answer.
2) But the smallest mistakes you make are immediately committed to memory for future reference.
3) They know everything (no matter how insignificant) in great detail.
4) No one but their creator understands their internal logic.
5) The world as we know it would cease to function properly without them. Remember our fears about societal breakdowns due to Y2K?
6) The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to the rest of us.
7) Responses like “invalid password” or “this file name does not exist” are just about as informative as “Well, if you don’t understand why I’m mad at you, I’m certainly not going to tell you.”
8) They are multi-tasking. They can do multiple jobs (3 or more) simultaneously with little or no impact on their overall performance. Males can’t do more than two things (successfully) at the same time.
9) You can turn them off in just a few seconds, but it seems to take forever to turn them on.
10) Once you’ve made a commitment to one, you then find yourself spending a third or more of your pay check on accessories and upgrades for it.

I could go on and list some other reasons but I have a feeling only other males would find any humour in these so I will leave it at that for now.

Republican Politics American Style
Published November 30th 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin, Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

Today I’d like to discuss why I continue to belong to the Republican Party and then share some of my impressions about life as a post-graduate student at Dublin City University. Not too long ago I was asked why I remain committed to the Republican Party even though I disagree with the Party’s current leadership in so many different areas (foreign policy, federal budget deficits and social policies to name just a few). This is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, but until now I don’t think I’ve ever really answered this question completely. While it is true that I have grown ever more disenchanted with the Republican Party over the past 15 years, that doesn’t mean I have grown any fonder of the Democratic Party. While the left wing of the Democratic Party no longer wields the same amount of influence on their party as the right wing currently does on my party, they are still a force to be reckoned with inside the Democratic Party. They are just as rigid and doctrinaire in their views on how we should be governed as the right wingers in the Republican Party. Other parties like the Greens and Libertarians are too extreme in some of their policy prescriptions and too narrowly focused on the issues of environmental protection and individual rights. These parties also have little or no chance of electing candidates on the state level much less the national level and I feel that campaigning or voting for their candidates is a waste of my time and my ballot. By remaining in the Republican Party, I am able to speak on behalf of issues I believe in and generate some internal debate, which may result in a change or modification of the party’s positions. I also believe that if I tried to speak to my fellow Republicans as a “turncoat” or Democrat, they would tune me out as soon as I started to speak. Since I know that many other rank and file Republicans as well as officeholders share my views on a variety of issues, I am also able to voice concerns on their behalf, without them having to do so and risk feeling the wrath of the right wing, fundamentalist constituencies of the Republican Party. So there you have the reasons why, “for better or for worse” I remain a member of the US Republican Party, the “Grand Old Party” of Abraham Lincoln.

As for my impressions about Dublin City University (DCU), they are almost entirely favourable. I will however begin with something I am not favourably impressed with. I do not believe the DCU Library’s hours are conducive to study and research by postgraduates and or by students who may have full or part-time jobs. When I was at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), I was either at work or in class from 8am until 9 or 9:30pm Monday thru Friday. The only time I had available to study and do research at the library (as well as use their computers) was in the evening after 9:30pm and on Saturday and Sunday. At UTD this was not a problem because their library is open until 2am Sunday thru Thursday, midnight on Friday and 8pm on Saturday. Here at DCU, the Library closes at 10pm Monday thru Thursday, 9pm on Friday, 5pm on Saturday and is closed all day Sunday. I have now been forced to purchase a computer for my apartment so that I can continue to study and do my research during the evenings and throughout the entire weekend.

On the other hand I am very impressed with the faculty and staff here at DCU. The DCU staff has been uniformly friendly and helpful in all situations I have come across during my time here. I believe the DCU faculty to be equal to the best that I had the pleasure of coming in contact with at UTD, (which has come as a pleasant surprise for both me and some of my fellow Americans). I had hoped the faculty would be very good, but they have thus far exceeded all of my expectations and then some. As for my fellow postgraduate students, they are an extremely agreeable, friendly, hardworking and intelligent group. I couldn’t be more pleased to be associated with such a great collection of classmates and friends from around the Globe. We disagree in a number of areas but we respect each other’s point of view and don’t take such disagreements personally. I’m grateful to be a member of their class.

Republican Politics American Style
Published December 7th 2006 in Metro Eireann Dublin, Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

I’d like to talk about social issues today, since this is the area where I seem to be in most conflict with the more conservative members of the Republican Party. I am not alone in this area as my views are shared privately by many elected Republicans around the country, who won’t say so publicly because they are afraid of the wrath of right-wing Christian fundamentalists. But there are some Republican officials who are not afraid to let their voices be heard on social issues, such as Liberal Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City and Moderate Republicans including U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani.

First I will discuss our (mine and other moderate/liberal Republicans) views on the highly charged issue of abortion. On a personal level, we do not approve of abortion as a form of birth control and instead would rather encourage women to use contraceptives or consider having the children and placing them with an adoption agency, (as an alternative to having an abortion) especially considering the thousands of childless couples who are on adoption waiting lists throughout the United States. Having said that, we also do not believe that the government should attempt to legislate issues which involve someone’s personal moral and or religious convictions. More than thirty years ago, the US Supreme Court decided that this was an issue best left to the woman to decide and that state laws preventing a woman from having a safe medical abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to privacy. This is especially true in cases where a woman’s health might be adversely affected and in those cases where she has been a victim of crimes like rape and incest. We agree with and support the US Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade and a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. I would like to also note that former President Ronald Reagan, a darling of the Christian right wing and anti-abortion forces, signed into law a provision making poor and indigent women in California eligible for government funded abortions as a part of California’s Medi-Cal health insurance plan while he was Governor of California. The justices later appointed by President Reagan to the US Supreme Court have also consistently upheld the Court’s earlier decision in Roe vs. Wade as well. Furthermore, most of today’s anti-abortion groups were nowhere to be seen (or heard from) when the Court ruled on this issue back in 1973. The Catholic Church was and is the only religious institution or organization in the US to have consistently opposed the legalization of abortion (as well as capital punishment) prior to and since the US Supreme Court’s rulings on these two very divisive issues. Most other anti-abortion groups take no position or favor the death penalty and extremists within these groups would have us believe that it is a sin to abort a fetus but not to kill a doctor or nurse who provides abortion services.

Most moderate and liberal Republicans also oppose the death penalty because we acknowledge the shortcomings of the American legal system, especially at the state and county levels where most capital punishment cases are decided. While we believe the American judicial system is one of (if not the) finest in the world, we also know it isn’t perfect. We are all painfully aware of instances where innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death for crimes that they were innocent of. A few lucky ones were exonerated prior to their execution dates, but others have not been so lucky. The play “Exonerated” (which finished a run at the Liberty Hall Theatre on October 14th) is based on the true stories of 6 men and women who spent from 2 to 22 years on Death Row in the states of Texas, Illinois and Florida for murders they did not commit. After reviewing several cases involving wrongful convictions of innocent death row inmates, the moderate Republican Governor of Illinois commuted the death sentences of all 200 plus death row inmates in the state of Illinois. He concluded that there were too many flaws in that state’s judicial system to assure him that all of the death row inmates were in fact guilty of the crimes they had been convicted and sentenced for.

Finally, as regards homosexuality and various state legal prohibitions against same sex marriages, we believe that this is also a matter of choice for the individuals concerned. We do not believe state governments should enact laws which prohibit such unions or prevent partners from having the same legal rights, medical and tax benefits that the state accords heterosexual marriage partners. We also advocate the repeal of state laws involving sodomy (yes, some states still have these laws on their books) or other sexual acts involving consenting adults. All such prohibitions violate an individual’s right to privacy and pursuit of happiness and are based on a particular set of religious and moral convictions, not shared by all American citizens.To summarize, most moderate/liberal Republicans don’t believe the government should be involved in lawmaking on issues involving one’s religious or moral convictions. Doing so violates the principle of separation of church and state (interests), an individuals right to privacy and the individual’s right to choose to live in a manner which best fulfills his or her emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs. This is none of our business.

Republican Politics, American Style
Published December 14th 2006 in Metro Eireann in Dublin Ireland
By Charles Laffiteau

Lets discus US Foreign Policy in terms of how the Bush administration has conducted it outside of the Iraq war zone. But first let us ask this question; Is America any safer from terrorism and are the people of Iraq better off today as a result of our invasion of Iraq? These concerns, along with eliminating Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”, were the reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq. We now know that just as the UN inspectors and the United States’ own CIA analysts had predicted, Saddam had no such “weapons of mass destruction”. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s own intelligence analysts have now concluded that we are dealing with even more terrorists, in Iraq and world wide, than we were before we invaded Iraq. While the people of Iraq may be free of the oppression, they are also now living in even more fear for their lives due to sectarian violence. In fact, Iraqi citizens are now dying at a daily rate far in excess of anything seen during the reign of Saddam Hussein.Unfortunately for this administration, the mistakes in Iraq have rippled through other areas of US foreign policy.

Next door in Iran, a regime dominated by Muslim extremists’ is moving with all due deliberate speed to build nuclear weapons so that they can one day become a more potent political and religious force in both the Middle East as well as the rest of the Islamic world. Nuclear proliferation issues have taken a back seat to the Iraq war, when they, in fact, actually represent the greatest threat to both the US and the rest of the world’s security. We all need to fear rogue nations in possession of nuclear devices as potential “weapons of mass destruction”. But the Bush administration’s tough talk has done nothing to slow down nuclear weapons development in either Iran or North Korea. If anything it has caused them both to press ahead with even more determination. Identifying Iran and North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” may sound good to Republican conservatives and a fearful American public, but it gives those so identified, reason to believe they no longer have anything to lose by moving forward on nuclear weapons development. The Japanese believe that this change in tone by Bush (from the Clinton administration’s) so alarmed the North Koreans that they felt they had to possess nuclear weapons in order to insure the survival of their own regime. Some believe that this may also be true in Iran. Regardless, the US is now seen as powerless to stop these two rogue states from developing and deploying (and threatening/blackmailing neighbouring states with) nuclear weapons.

In Afghanistan, the US didn’t follow through on our development commitments to a people who truly welcomed us when we came into their country and put the Taliban regime on the run. Once again, the war in Iraq diverted military and monetary resources, which could have helped stabilize and rebuild the country’s security forces, infrastructure and economy away from this region. Today, the Taliban are making a comeback, utilizing the same tactics they have seen insurgents using in Iraq such as Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) and suicide bombers. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because (unlike Iraq) there was never any doubt that the Taliban regime there was harbouring the Al Qaeda terrorist organization that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the US. The US also had a lot of support from both inside and outside the Islamic world before it undertook this invasion which was not the case in Iraq. Today the success of the Afghanistan operation is now in doubt due to a lack of follow thru on the part of the US and its allies.

In Latin America, the US has continued to step on toes, offend sensibilities and react defensively when things don’t go our way. Instead of ignoring Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, we publicly and loudly complained about what he was doing, allowing known Republican conservatives like Pat Robertson to threaten him, thereby giving him added visibility and credibility in the rest of Latin America and around the world. A real superpower doesn’t have to stoop to the level of its critics and dignify their accusations and criticisms. Unfortunately the Bush administration has a very thin skin and can’t seem to bring itself to just keep quiet when various tinhorn dictators (like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il) or democratically elected populists like Chavez, publicly thumb their noses at us. It’s no wonder Colin Powell resigned as Secretary of State at the end of Bush’s first term. Frankly I’m surprised he stayed as long as he did in an administration that ignores the advice of its own defence, intelligence and state department personnel when it makes major (or minor) foreign policy decisions.

The recent departure of Condoleezza Rice’s State Department counsellor and the chief advocate of a different approach to these foreign policy issues is not a good sign. Philip D. Zelikow was an advocate of new diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East and engagement in talks with Iran and North Korea about their nuclear programs, in sharp contrast with the positions of the Bush Administration for the past 6 years. Mr. Zelikow also opposed the use of secret prisons by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and was one of the few advisors to Ms. Rice willing to speak up in opposition to the neo-conservative policies espoused by so many in the Bush Administration. He will be sorely missed.