But I think I'm finally understanding why re-electing Obama feels like the right vote to make.
I may be full of strong opinions, but I tend to gravitate towards centrist positions. I believe that statesmanship, compromising for the greater good -- and standing up to say so -- are signs of great strength. So when the "lunatic left" gets out of hand, I often find myself agreeing with the talk radio flame-throwers. But when the "radical right," gets out of hand, I find myself saying those tree-hugging libs have a point. So here's why I've been respecting Obama.
He's actually spent some time disagreeing with the radical fringe of his party, instead of pandering to them like the GOP candidates have been doing. Obama's charting a course toward the middle - and that, simply, reflects where I also want to go.
Strong tax talk in Obama's State ot the Nation speech
These words about using tax policy to benefit the nation as a whole made a lot of sense to me...
"Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.
So let's change it. First, if you're a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn't get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here."
I'm not hearing class warfare in this. I'm hearing fairness. I'm hearing a challenge to put country first.
Positive, middle-of-the-road words on energy
Then he said practical things about oil, natural gas and electric cars.
"Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right - eight years. Not only that - last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.
But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy - a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
What's true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled."
I think Obama also should have said "We know how to build safe nuclear plants and burn cleaner coal, too, so we should." But unlike the hard-liners, I'm not too greedy to compromise. I say get on with Canadian shale oil, go ahead and build the Keystone pipeline. The Ohio and West Virginia folks can fight for coal again next year.
Obama wants to fix the roads, too. Cool.
Yes, government CAN create certain kinds of jobs. It always has, by the way. Expanding infrastructure jobs counts in every good way. Get on with it, even though the world would indeed be a better place without ever saying the word infrastructure again. (Right, Lee Ann? ;) Here's what Obama said:
"Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America's infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We've got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."
A "C" for education
I liked what Obama said about the need to emphasize educational readiness. We absolutely need to keep on pushing math, science and academic rigor. But overall, Obama looks mushy on this issue.
He says: "Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn."
Obama is totally correct in saying that teacher bashing has gotten way out-of-hand. But I think his call for requiring schooling until age 18 is a weird non-issue. I also disagree with his words about not "teaching to the test." Measurement matters. Accountability matters. The pressure placed upon schools by No Child Left behind to show improvement was a mostly positive thing.
Years have passed since Bush and Kennedy signed that bill. But to me, that means the door is open to doing a BETTER job of testing, of making sure we measure the right things. I say many more teachers should be standing up for improved testing -- versus holier-than-thou disdain over "teaching to the test." It would be nice to encourage all sorts of small-scale innovations to blossom, but you can't tell which flowers smell the best without robust -- and standardized -- testing.
I saw very little in this speech to make me feel like America's education system is headed for better, stronger times.
Not much leadership from the wanna-bes.
So far, the GOP candidates have been so blatant about pandering to their rich and religious fringes that I think they've lost all hope of winning support from moderate independent thinkers.
It is beyond hard to convince a moderate that the great answer to our economic woes is to give the rich even more tax breaks, when they already enjoy the most favorable tax status they've had in a century. Romney's sweet tax return tells me all I need to know about the "plight" of Wall Street.
Meanwhile, moderate people just don't get worked up over what other people do in their bedrooms. The continued hard-line approaches on gay marriage just feel mean and petty. Likewise, the amusing back-pedaling on illegal immigration. Funny how so much of the tough border talk went silent as soon as the cameras started rolling in Florida.
If you're going to get moralistic on people, you can't back off when you step close to the "sinners'" home turf. If you're going to say the law's the law, you better mean it.
Or maybe we could get on with the compromises that everybody knows need to be made. Try extending a hand instead of pointing a finger.
And perhaps most amazingly, the GOP has nothing fresh to offer on the global policy front. While Obama has been surprisingly competent and successful, the GOP just seems lost.
The GOP is shattered internally -- more than I've seen in my lifetime. Sure, they agree they don't like Obama. But that's all they've got. They've got two genuinely sharp minds in Paul and Gingrich, but neither are unifying leaders. They'd be pretty cool as Cabinet members pushing certain focused agendas, but not as the general "face" of America.
The party has zero chance of winning a national election under Ayatollah Santorum. Meanwhile, Romney appears to be all face and no backbone. Is he truly an empty suit? Or is he just good at hiding a nasty side?
Regardless, none of that bunch comes close to offering true improvement over the situation we have -- and none of those who have dropped out of the race are tragic losses.
So now, after seeing their Romney cake falling as flat as Bob Dole did, I think the serious players in the GOP are kneading their dough for 2016, when they won't be trying to beat an incumbent. The rest of this political circus will be just sideshows, Congressional gridlock and pathetic attempts to hype personal scandals.
Right now, re-election is Obama's to lose. After all, he gets to say he's got a country to lead.