The Campaign and Foreign Policy: The Balance between Obama and Romney (Part I)

The time is ripe to start assessing the balance of qualities, experience, judgment, and specific policies of President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. 

This can’t be the last judgment since the election is still some 6 weeks away and much can happen in that time. But we have, frankly, seen enough to do a general appraisal of the two on foreign affairs and national security issues based on their statements and party platforms.  More analysis will follow. 

I have decided to list here some of the key issues and the fundamental question of judgment and experience: 

Perceptions of the World and America’s Role:

Romney’s main point has been a rhetorical attack that President Obama has been weak abroad and has diminished American leadership and prestige abroad. The problem with this kind of attack is that it falls to pieces in the face of reality and public opinion polls around the world and the views of leaders abroad.

Go to Pew global polling data and in most countries abroad Obama and America’s standing has (with a few exceptions) been enhanced over the former Republican president George W. Bush. Indeed, the option polls in Europe, the key region of our NATO allies, show a huge imbalance between favorables for Obama versus Romney. It is no contest.

 Romney has yet to articulate specific differences and actions he would take that significantly differ from Obama’s in most areas and issues.  His attacks are filled with negatives, but not real specifics of his own. 

In general summary, Romney and the GOP platform mimic a neo-con belligerent anti-Islam perspective and far right (even sometimes ignorant) global perspective where America acts like a super-imperialistic power and others are told to follow blindly; where cooperation with key powers like China and Russia are reduced to slogans and antagonisms which highlight differences or engender fears instead of seeking areas of cooperation, mutual advantage, security, and long term engagement. It ignores or is dismissive of global problems like climate change, poverty, water and food issues; emerging areas of conflict and not dealing with difficult issues like North Korea and Iran. This perspective is found in many of the issue areas below.  His approach seems long on simplistic slogans and short on real insight, vision, and specifics. It does not seem to see the costs of its own policy pronouncements or policies.

Obama, in a strange way, is both more bold and at the same time more careful and judicious in his foreign and national security policy and statements. This is exemplified in both his initial hesitancy in Libya and finding an effective and “low profile” intervention strategy that put NATO allies at the forefront.  The same can be said about Syria, where restraint seems both careful and perhaps a bit too hesitant.  

Yet his “global view” is not of an America in decline or even an America disengaged from world affairs and threats.  His “grand vision” can be seen in his Prague speech on security in Europe and beyond, his pronouncements on approaching the Islamic world, and in the national posture statements and State of the Union speeches.

He has in fact made major accomplishments to overcome the weaknesses and costs of past decisions (like withdrawal from Iraq as promised), tried in the most difficult global environment to ameliorate dangers and threats, and acting early to rising conflicts and dangers.  

Not all have been successful but many of these problem areas are beyond the power of the U.S. to determine. Some are likely better for us to not have “boots on the ground” and efforts to “own” a country or conflict. In other places we have acted boldly but with “low profile” and in clandestine ways with some successes as exemplified in the taking of Bin Laden and drone attacks. Both the success and failures will be noted below. 

My overall judgment has been that Obama has been a successful keeper of the effective leadership role of America and is also more careful and thoughtful than his predecessor and of what looks to be a Romney promise of more of the Bush years: mindless aggression, proclivity, and a certain blindness to the cost to America.      

Indeed, on the substance, Obama has achieved major international gains in the face of a very difficult landscape that he inherited. 

Non-proliferation and Arms Control and Nuclear Weapons Policy:

Romney and his neo-con and “Cold War warriors” advisers seem bent on dismembering or weakening our treaties on arms control and non-proliferation.  They are more bent on increasing our already overwhelming nuclear weapons than on joint reductions with Russia and others. They oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which the United States has signed long ago and Congress with the Republican opposition has not ratified.  Romney would have opposed the New START treaty that the U.S. military supported.

The Republicans are also pushing for much higher expenditures on nuclear weapons modernization than needed as well as increases in the Defense budget including systems that the military does not want or need.  Romney has never seen a defense boondoggle that he does not like. Yet he opposed saving the U.S. auto industry which has strengthened our manufacturing base and contributed greatly to our industrial infrastructure. One has to wonder who has bought who?    

Obama has successfully negotiated the New START treaty with the Russians that reduced nuclear weapons on both sides and ensured mutual inspection and verification of these reductions and key stockpiles as he gained the almost impossible task of getting it passed in the Senate after much effort. He is now seeking further agreements on mutual arms reduction and strengthening efforts at confidence building measures and reduction of tactical nuclear weapons.  

Relations with Europe:

Here, the differences are as great as can be imagined. Romney talks a lot of support for our allies and weakness of Obama in dealing with our allies. Yet the reality is that, overwhelmingly, both the leaders of Europe and its citizens both admire Obama, respect him, and are for him over Romney – even the conservative leaders in the EU know that Romney and his blind belligerence and nationalistic bombast is not good for them.  He showed his ignorance and tin ear in his trip to Europe which only underlined his inaptitude.  

Dealing with Russia:

Romney’s statement making Russia, in advance of the election and a possible presidency, a “geopolitical foe,” rather than a nation we must and should deal with for mutual advantage, indicates a misperception of the complexity of our relations with Russia and our long-term interests.  He seems to think that antagonizing major powers is somehow in our interests or perhaps he thinks it is simply in his own interest with his base and thinks nothing of its impact on American interests overall.  As noted, he is against the New START treaty and seems negative towards further reduction in nuclear weapons and the NTP treaty.

Obama has in fact achieved major gains in dealing with the often picky Russian duo of Putin/Medvedev. He got the New START treaty, obtained an entry point for our supplies into Afghanistan via Russia, and had the Russians support the Libya intervention in the Security Council. He recognizes the limits and constraints of the Putin era but recognizes that constructive engagement is more likely to achieve results than simple hostility. We do not need to make Russia an enemy.  We need clearly to try long-term to have the Russians see the benefits of cooperation with the West. That is Obama’s goal and does not seem to be that of Romney.  

Our next blog will look at more areas including:

“Rise of China” and Asian Policy

Middle East and Israeli-Palestine Peace

Defense Spending and National Security Posture

Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environmental Issues

Trade and Global Economic Policy

Libya Killings: The Exploitation of Tragedy and Our Corrosive Politics

As a former diplomat I am appalled not just by the act of mindless violence that resulted in the death of four professional American diplomats, but also by the use of this sad event by the Republican candidate for president and his team to exploit it for partisan advantage. This, in my view, is truly unforgivable.

There are enough dangers and complexity in the various areas of trouble in the world without adding to them and saying silly things or to exacerbate hatreds and anger which seems sometimes to be the aim of Gov. Romney and his crew. America’s aim is to make peace and bring democracy and prosperity to the Middle East region and beyond. This fact seems of little worth to the Republicans if there is some gain in risking this goal to gain power.

The Middle East has been a kind of tinder box for as long as I can remember and its politics and national and ethnic makeup call for very wise and judicious handling which was the forte of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his many colleagues in the region. This is also a critical time in Middle East transition after the Arab Spring. It is time for both parties to continue the tradition of a subtle, balanced, and wise unified approach as taken by Reagan, the first Bush, Carter, Clinton, even the second Bush for some of his time (despite his indifference to its dangers), and now Obama. The simple fact is that Obama has been stronger and more effective against terrorism than the Bush people even came close to. He has shown strength in American determinism but also judiciousness in approach which has gain America much respect.     

Unfortunately, I agree with Senator Kerry’s judgment about Romney when he said, “Frankly I don’t think he knows what he is talking about.” 

At a time when U.S. Embassies are under attack, there is more need for voices of sanity, calm, and reconciliation. Not for stirring up partisan, ethnic, or religious animosities and least of all, in a time of turmoil and sadness of blatantly accusing the president (who has steadfastly fought terrorism successfully and also reached out to the vast majority of peaceful Muslims), of “sympathizing” with terrorists.

We do need a rational and thoughtful debate on American foreign policy but it is best done on the basis of facts, careful study, and thoughtful analysis; rather than the degrading and wrongheaded statements of someone who clearly is out of his depth but just does not know it. 

We welcome your comments!

The Charlotte Convention: Clashing Voices on Foreign Policy

Below you will find our take on the Democratic Convention in Charlotte which follows our earlier separate post commentary on the Republican Convention in Tampa. 

Charlotte: Accomplishments and Caution  

There were a number of speakers who touched on foreign policy but the main speakers directed their attention mostly on economic issues as well as the gap between the two parties on the future direction of America.  This included addressing controversial social issues and the growing gap between the rich and the middle class.  

But while foreign policy did have a less prominent  role in most of  the speeches, the reality of getting it right or wrong in this sector is critical for the security and constructive leadership in international affairs by America and the peace and progress of the globe.

It was largely the speech by Senator Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that set the context and landscape of the challenges America faces and set forth the case of what the Obama administration has achieved in a difficult environment.

Kerry quipped that, “Our opponents like to talk about ‘rebooting Exceptionalism.’ But all they do is talk. They forget that we are exceptional not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.” He went on to say, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”

The interesting fact is that polls were finding that the public thought Obama and the Democrats were better at foreign policy/national security than the Republicans– a change from past historical results over decades. It is clear that after the convention, with the strong statements by Kerry, Clinton, and Obama, that perspective has not changed. 

Recent talk after the tragic events in Libya by Romney and Ryan has only strengthened the image of “foot in the mouth” neophytes on the part of the GOP team.  

At the convention, the three key and other speakers (and in the platform) voiced a long litany of accomplishments in the international arena. They include the New START agreement with Russia which will reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons, the gaining of access via Russia to supply our forces in Afghanistan, the vote in the UN Security Council for sanctions and NATO action against Libya, which resulted in the ousting of a tyrannical regime. Successes included the “rebooting” of our relations with Russia, the pivoting towards Asia, the withdrawal from Iraq as promised, and the set date for ending US combat role in Afghanistan.  Further, Obama has led the rethinking of our defense posture and a focus on future dangers rather than building unneeded weapons and forces for past wars. 

Senator Kerry, himself a Vietnam hero, made the main foreign policy speech and it was effective and direct. He said: 

“…..our opponents like to talk about American exceptionalism, but all they do is talk. They forget that we’re exceptional, not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things. We break out of the Great Depression, win two World Wars, save lives fighting AIDS, pull people out of poverty, defend freedom, go to the moon and produce exceptional people who even give their lives for civil rights and for human rights…”

“…and despite what you heard in Tampa, an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet. That — that is a responsibility — that is a responsibility from the Scriptures. And that too is a responsibility of the leader of the free world. The only thing exceptional about today’s Republicans is that almost without exception, they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place. An exceptional nation demands exceptional leadership.

While the Republicans largely ignored Afghanistan, Senator Kerry ripped into the varied and clearly thoughtless GOP positions. In Kerry’s own sarcastic words: 

It isn’t fair to say that Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position.

He — he was against — he was against setting a date for withdrawal. Then he said it was right. And then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was tragic to leave Iraq. And then he said it was fine. He said we should have intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to run away from the reporters who were asking questions. Then he said, the intervention was too aggressive. And then he said the world was a better place because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it, before you were against it.” 

Vice President Joe Biden in his talk put it when talking about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound — that “if you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the world.” By contrast, Biden recalled, Republican challenger Mitt Romney once said that it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just to catch one person.”

More extraordinary still, it was the Democrats who saluted, mourned, and celebrated the “fallen angels” and “wounded warriors” of the U.S. military. Romney thoughtlessly observed no such understanding, leaving Sen. John Kerry to note, in his speech Thursday night, never before had a wartime nominee for president, of either party, “failed to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech.” 

IN SUMMARY COMPARISON:  

One interesting fact is that Romney and Ryan both on domestic, international issues, and on the challenges America faces were unwilling to get into the specifics of what their policies are, what exactly they would do different, and why their policies are more realistic and would be more effective.

The simple answer is that often while they mouth that they are different or better, in fact, you can see where their prescriptions for the most difficult issues are similar to Obama’s, simplistic and “mother and apple pie” (like supporting our allies), and where they are massively different: like climate change. Their position flies in the face of sound science and would bring catastrophes to the global environment and is just nonsense in addressing one of the great existential risks the world faces in this century. 

The Democrats were able to demonstrate clarity and experience in the Obama, Biden, and Kerry team.  They did sometimes also fall back on generalizations and there were some gaffs like the “Jerusalem” wording.  But the history of four years of actions and policies spoke for themselves, and Kerry’s summary of accomplishments and criticism of outlandish foreign policy positions provided Obama the change to focus on larger goals and connect on an emotional level. 

The recent events underline how events abroad can intrude on campaign efforts the “keep on message” on domestic topics. It also shows how stupidity by the GOP team in this area can cause a backlash and expose to light the shallowness of the GOP posture on national security and diplomacy.  

We welcome your comments,

Tampa and Charlotte Conventions: Clashing Voices on Foreign Policy

Below you will find our take on the Republican Convention in Tampa which will be followed by our separate post commentary on the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.

TAMPA: Republicans at their Worst and Most Cunning 

There were many disturbing elements coming out of the Republican Convention in Florida apart from offensive acts to both African-Americans and Hispanics, or Clint Eastwood’s babbling dementia and smutty gross remarks, or Paul Ryan’s miss- characterization of Obama’s programs and acts. They all seemed so typical of a certain unfortunate crudity of people who had no wise, wit, nor sympathy for others that were not like them or perhaps anyone.  The words I thought of were, “selfishness,” “mindless,” and “misleading;” the last being a nice word for lies. (See Factcheck for the footnotes re lies.)  How sad.

Romney’s speech was appalling in terms of national security and foreign policy, filled with empty words without substance.  He rarely spoke about Iraq or Afghanistan at all where our troops have made so many sacrifices. He set no directions and he designed not to share his real specific thoughts with those who must vote in November for their president.  He had no clear statement on his Iran policy other than an indication of a yet unneeded military option.

The New York Times had it right in their editorial on August 31st which looked at the foreign and security policy issues that it said were not fully addressed by Romney or Paul Ryan.  Here a few selected quotes:

“Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.”

“…..the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy.”

 “……Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy.”

“….Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war?

“She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling.

“Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world.

The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently.”

That was as good a summary as one can find of the emptiness of Romney’s foreign policy and the Republican lack of serious thought.

On some of the specifics of the GOP foreign policy positions: 

On the economic sphere —key to American long-term security – the Republican platform calls for the establishment of a Gold standard commission to examine going back to a gold standard for our currency. It is hard to imagine a more stupid and dangerous policy – putting our entire economy into the hands of a metal of no set worth and limited supply, open to manipulation and control largely by foreign mine owners – it would cause an immediate financial crisis and then a depression along with instability in our cooperation with other nations and in international trade. I will not bother our readers with the other economic policies which mirror the failed austerity policies in the EU/EURO Zone.   

Law of the Sea: The same platform says America should not ratify and indeed not be a part of the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Yet almost every administration after Reagan, including that of George W. Bush, has agreed to its ratification, but the right-wing of the Senate Republicans have opposed it. The US Navy and the Chiefs of Staff support the treaty as now does industry.  Keeping out of the treaty system puts our rights off free passage and access to seabed minerals in peril. Again, another example of Romney’s foolishness in the world abroad and I do not just mean insulting our UK friends on his trip abroad this August.

Reckless Belligerency: There is a carelessness and willingness to enter into conflicts and zones of deep instability, complexity, and danger that Romney and his neo-con advisors have indicated in position papers, statements, and in the GOP platform that boggles the mind. While making reckless statements that only infuriate countries with whom we have a wide range of interests (and even areas of cooperation), there is little indication of any deeper understanding of the interconnecting of issues and interests or of real as against least likely or imagined risks.  

Climate Change and Global Environmental Dangers: This is a prime example of ignoring serious dangers and clear catastrophic risks.  Romney, running mate Paul Ryan, and the GOP Platform and other GOP leaders deny the risks of global warming, the overwhelming scientific evidence, and above all are pushing for energy policies which will make the problem worse. They flatly refuse to deal with this true risk to global security in the face of major hurricanes, droughts, and coastal ocean levels rising.  

These are but a few examples of a national security and foreign policy platform and mindset that shows ignorance, recklessness, and myopia that spells major danger to American leadership abroad.  Just recently, for example, a Pew poll showed a vast majority of Indians (and in other polls, many other countries) with a high regard for America and Obama…..which would evaporate with a Romney presidency. Leadership starts through wise policies and cautious but clear actions.

Our next blog will look at the Democrat Convention and Platform and speeches.

We welcome your comments!

A Budget That Slashes American Progress and Strength At Home and Abroad

The Ryan/Romney budget proposals and their declarations and speeches all indicate that a Republican win in November will inevitably result in budget that guts American progress at home and abroad. (See our summaries in posts on Ryan’s budget for energy and environment and on the DOD/Diplomacy.)

With Paul Ryan now front and center on the Republican ticket and with the Republican Congressional record of slash and burn legislative bills and proposals, we can see clearly an outline of an America that is both greedy, nasty, wrongheaded for our times and conditions, and cruel to especially the “least among us”.

It is so un-American that it  makes one wonder what kind of nation we are becoming – perhaps one that only Ayn Rand and Sheldon Adelson might recognize, perhaps that cruel “Brave New World,” but not one that Jefferson, Lincoln, or the two Roosevelts would recognize.

It is a budget that only favors the very very rich via tax cuts for the 1% and that cuts programs and tax items that are important for the middle class and the poor of our nation. It is no path to build a strong and secure nation.

It cuts just those programs that would ensure the security and posterity of our country, including education of our children, support for higher education for middle class students, and gutting our key science and technology programs. Not least, it does away with our critical clean energy efforts to achieve global ecological security.  These clean energy programs put Americans to work at productive jobs but also reduce our energy dependence abroad.  These programs act to make America in the forefront of green energy technology which will be critical for the well being of our planet in this century and in future centuries.

But one of the immediate impacts of the Ryan/Romney budget agenda is essentially to increase our military spending even if it is on just useless old cold war expensive hardware – not likely to be used in the conflicts  we will see in this century. (See our post on defense budget.)  This useless stuff is designed to enrich the military industrial corporations and their massively overpaid executives that have been big supporters of the Republican right wing. It is not going to enhance our real security compared to a more relevant and prioritized defense effort aimed at current challenges and careful strategy.

On the other hand, the Ryan/Romney budget dismembers our diplomacy and aid programs that act as tools to prevent conflicts, address global climate change, and cooperation with our allies, in dealing with the many global challenges we face.  These include major food crisis that threatens widespread starvation, life threatening water shortages, the global spread of deadly diseases, or stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction before they are developed or used.

The Ryan/Romney approach sees the “hard” military option as the favored tool to deal with  the consequences of the Bush era idiot plan of inattention to our real challenges. The approach simply blindly waits for conflict and major crises to fully develop and then can only throw  the lives of our brave soldiers into the mess we have let developed. The horrendous costs of Republican indifference and cheapness to address the fundamental issues, has shown a head in the the sands approach that is hard to understand.  What is clear, is they care nothing for those that have to fight their unneeded dirty mindless battles.

If and when their excess of inaction, greed and myopia appears again it will be the average  taxpayer’s money that will once more bail out the billionaires and industrial military groups that cared little for the waste of useless weapons or jobs lost so they could stuff their own pockets.

But America’s internal and external security will be diminished by the greed of its now ascendant and money loving far right autocracy.  Its security will be less, the world will be less secure, there will be more poverty, more conflicts and an ever increasingly marginalized majority of the middle class and poor who are paying the costs.

We welcome your comments!

Paul Ryan on the Issues: Energy Policy and Climate Change

Climate change and energy policy have seemed to take a back burner during this 2012 presidential election season. But with much of the United States in a drought and many cities experiencing record heat, the candidate’s policies on climate change should be made a part of the campaign dialogue. Mitt Romney has not said much on the issue of climate change except for his belief that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” 

The appointment of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate should make conservationists concerned as his policy record on environmentalism and climate change is abysmal. Paul Ryan received a 3% voter rating from the League of Conservation Voters for the 1st Session of the 112th Congress – which is basically as low as you can get.

Ryan’s voting record demonstrates his virulent denial of climate science. Paul Ryan has argued that snow invalidates global warming policy, stating in his 2009 op-ed that “unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow”.  He has stated that climatologists “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change” and has supported legislation that would prevent the limitation of green house gases and block the US Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters.

Here is a sample of his voting record:

Paul Ryan voted to Eliminate EPA limits on Greenhouse Pollution. He voted in favor of H.R. 910 (4/07/11) to block the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas pollution. According to the League of Conservation Voters, this bill would “permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act” and “undermine fuel economy standards. This harmful bill would jeopardize public health and the environment, and increase the nation’s dangerous dependence on oil.

Paul Ryan voted to block the USDA from preparing for climate change. He voted in favor of the Scalise Amendment to the FY12 Agriculture Appropriations bill(6/16/11), to bar the US Department of Agriculture from implementing its Climate Protection Plan.  As stated by the League of Conservation Voters, voting “yes” to this amendment was anti-environment. The League states, “Our nation’s food sources and forests are threatened by the increased severity and variability of climate and weather-related events.  The Agriculture Department is working with farmers, the agriculture industry, and forest managers to prepare for these threats and to develop better farming and forestry practices to help reduce the negative impacts of climate change.”

Paul Ryan voted for Keystone XL Pipeline. Ryan voted to expedite the consideration and approval of the construction and operation of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (7/26/11). Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) sponsored H.R. 1938, the misnamed North American-Made Energy Security Act, to rush a decision on whether to grant a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline across six states in order to carry tar sands—the dirtiest oil on the planet—from Canada’s boreal forest to an international shipping port in Texas.  The League of Conservation Voters states that “this pipeline would threaten the environment with far more global warming pollution than conventional crude oil and jeopardize surrounding communities, ecosystems, and watersheds.”

Paul Ryan voted against the Energy Efficiency Loan H.R. 4785. This bill (which ultimately passed) aimed to amend the miscellaneous rural development provisions of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to make loans to certain entities that will use the funds to make loans to consumers to implement energy efficiency measures involving structural improvements and investments in cost-effective, commercial off-the-shelf technologies to reduce home energy use. Journalist Deena Shanker, responded to these votes, stating that the fact “that Ryan would oppose cutting tax incentives for oil companies in order to help those working in renewable shows how his support for Americans and their businesses is reserved only for those exploiting the environment”

Paul Ryan budget kept big oil subsides and slashed clean energy investment. Ryan’s FY 2013 Budget Resolution retained a decades’ worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while slashing funding for investments in clean energy research, development, deployment, and commercialization, along with other energy programs. The plan called for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone.

In addition to his opposition to meaningful action to reduce global warming pollution, Paul Ryan’s budget called for “drastic cuts in federal spending on energy research and development and for the outright elimination of subsidies and tax breaks for wind, solar power and other alternative energy technologies.”

In order to solve the very real climate crisis that the world is facing, we need political leadership that recognizes the need for action and will fight for policies that move us toward a clean energy economy.

We welcome your comments!

For more information on Paul Ryan and his views check out our page: Paul Ryan on the Issues

Rethinking National Security and Climate Change and Global Environmental Policy

In this highly political season in the U.S. we seem to be in a situation of debating with the dumb and the deaf but we are really not debating at all since the other side (mostly) knows our planet is heating up and that CO2 from human activities is largely to blame.  But it is not in their interest to acknowledge a reality that is already torching our lands and destroying billions of dollars in food and other crops around the world, and impacting the poor, farmers, food companies, and transportation and processing industries.

But even in our advanced economy, climate change is devastating our environment and especially our rural landscape where much of those Americans who are “global warming deniers” seem to live. Many of the most adamant “deniers” in Congress live or represent areas where the devastation is greatest. What is wrong with this picture?

The answer is in special interest money from oil companies like EXXON/Mobile, from billionaire Koch brothers, and from Almerson a gambling billionaire who has largely bought Romney and much of the Republican Party.

Recently the Republican Party including Mitt Romney, who should know better, seems to pander to and follow such deniers who are his supporters and advisors.  Here is Romney’s damning quote:  “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”  

It is not surprising that the GOP leaders have turned their backs on addressing in any serious way the reality of climate change. They have doubled up their indifference to it’s impact by even preventing a farm bill from passing in Congress this past month which would have helped to diminish the drought devastation that has cut across the wide farm belt, specifically hitting the Mid-West and West but also the South and East.

The great ability of our farmers to produce food, much of which is exported to feed the hungry abroad and our poor at home is indeed a key element in a deeper understanding of our national security, and not least our moral obligations. It is a key element to our global policy goals.

Among the “climate deniers” or opponents to acting to address the climate crisis, are first of all Mitt Romney who is not sure human impact is a factor in CO2 growth, but you can also add The House Speaker Representative John Boehner who said nonsensically : “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” Mr. Boehner told ABC News in an April 2009 interview. “Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.” He did not even address the science behind CO2 emissions and its proven role in planet warming.

As to why President Obama has not be fully able to carry out his policies of energy independence with priority on “ green technologies, look no further that the position of Senator James Inhofe (Ranking member, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works): He said, “President Obama’s green energy agenda has been a disaster. The time has come to put these tired, failed policies to rest and embrace the US energy boom so that we can put Americans back to work” The fact is that major investment in clean energies will create American jobs and save the environment at the same time. It will also help our broad national security interests and lower our dependence on risky oil imports.

The climate threat is a critical danger to all nations including America that only a full out nuclear war can match.  As James Hansen, the Nobel Laureate wrote recently:

“…… near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically.”

The prediction long-term is worse, according to Hansen, and includes, with the production of such carbon sources of the tar sands, that “heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

Recently there has been a lot of criticism of President Obama for not doing enough to push for clean energy programs. But too many of the critics appear to be unwilling to put the real blame on those in the Republican Party who have both an effective veto in Congress and support from the dominant right wing judges in our courts.

Yes, the time to debate and act on our long-term climate direction is long overdue but massive money spent by industries has drowned out the voices of reason, either the scientists themselves or even our more responsible political leaders. Money is not only buying what is left of our democracy it is also buying the destruction of our planet for future generations. It is time however for informed citizens to recognize who the real culprits destroying our global ecosystem are and to speak up with vigor.

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