So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. – President Barack Obama
Welcome to Wednesday! Today is one of those days in which there are several major political stories out there that I want to comment about – so it’s another “Political Odds & Ends” day!
Here are today’s topics:
- State of the Union Wrap-Up
- Kaiser & the Oregon Standoff
- More REAL-ID Paranoia
Also mentioned in this column are U.S. Senator Jon Tester, U.S. Senator Steve Daines, and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke.
State of the Union Wrap-Up:
I always enjoy the State of the Union (SOTU) speech and pageantry surrounding it. I watch the speech and the pre and post speech coverage on C-SPAN. It’s more independent than Fox News or CNN or MSNBC.
You can read the President’s speech HERE.
I was disappointed that the President did not mention veterans in his speech. I also wanted to hear about Iran and the issue with our U.S. sailors. He said nothing.
The President said little about guns, which was a surprise. Many on the right probably figured that since this was his final SOTU, he would announce that he was sending people door-to-door for a “gun grab.”
Here are few things I liked from the speech:
The President said, “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close.”
Amen to that. We hear how bad our country supposedly is from the candidates and from members of Congress running for election. It’s good to hear someone in leadership set the record straight.
The President spoke about the need to fix our politics:
The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.
The President also took some of the responsibility for the negativity in politics:
It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
The President spoke about race and religion:
We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.
It seems that many on the far-right have forgotten why this country was founded and that we still have freedom of religion.
As for the responses to the President’s speech from all across the fruited plains, they basically fell along partisan party lines. Montana was no different.
U.S. Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke, both Republicans, disappointed me. We already knew that Daines was a far-right loon who has a lot of hatred toward the President, but I expected a better, more professional and more reasoned, response from Ryan Zinke – a fellow veteran. Read Zinke’s statement HERE. Read Daines’ statement HERE.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, had a more reasoned response:
The President has laid out his priorities, and now it’s time for Congress to outline ours and get to work fixing the dysfunction that is plaguing Washington. We must defeat ISIS, create better paying jobs, make college more affordable, and end the flood of money in politics. It’s past time for Congress to step up to tackle the tough issues and provide the leadership that Montanans and Americans expect.
You can find Tester’s statement on-line HERE.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gave the Republican response. It was a good speech, but it’s always hard to follow President Obama.
I heard she ticked off some of the extreme members of the party. You can read her speech by clicking HERE.
For giggles and grins, read the “State of the Union Meme” HERE.
Kaiser & the Oregon Standoff:
You may have heard about the Oregon standoff where an armed group took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Oregon, as a protest against the federal government’s land-use policies.
People have been ticked off about the federal government’s land policies since the beginning of the Federal government. CNN explains what’s going on in Oregon HERE.
A faithful reader sent me a link to a video from outside the standoff featuring Barrett Kaiser, who readers may remember from his days working for U.S. Senator Max Baucus. Now he works for or represents the Center for Western Priorities.
Kaiser gives an opposing viewpoint about the protest and at one point he says about the protestors, “They shouldn’t just go home. They should go to jail.” He adds, “This is about furthering a right-wing extremist agenda.”
Kaiser is correct. I pretty much agree with all his comments in the video.
You can watch the video HERE.
More REAL-ID Paranoia:
Last week I wrote about the paranoia from some elected officials regarding REAL-ID. The REAL-ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” (Source)
That’s all it is. It’s designed to make us safer and more secure. It’s not the boogie man coming to get us and it’s not a secret code on a chip that will be implanted in our bodies by government doctors so drones can track us.
Sadly, all three members of the Montana Congressional delegation are paranoid about REAL-ID. Yesterday they proudly issued a joint press release announcing that they have formally introduced legislation in the Senate and House repealing federal mandates for driver’s licenses included in the REAL ID Act of 2005.
I am surprised that Ryan Zinke and Jon Tester are both acting like the cowardly lion when it comes to REAL-ID. Shame on them.
I highly suggest they work on more important issues, like how shitty the Veterans Administration is being run by the bureaucrats, especially since it was discovered there were several privacy violations in the Montana VA. For three guys who shout from the mountaintop how great they are for Montana veterans, the VA is still a mess both in Montana and across the nation.
In regard to REAL-ID, Daines, Tester, and Zinke are several nuts short of a full pouch.