Bob Cusack, editor of “The Hill” stops by Focus Washington to sit down with Qorvis’ Chuck Conconi to discuss the fundraising efforts of both Mitt Romney and President Obama, and Cusack weighs in on the 2012 congressional race.
A regular guest on my show, Quin Hillyer a columnist for the Examiner, came into discuss President Obama’s first 100 days…
Viewers of President Obama’s second press conference in the first 60 days of his Administration might well have wondered whatever happened to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would have been a good question, since in the nearly one-hour press conference there were only two questions dealing with foreign affairs – one referring to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the other concerning tougher security along the border with Mexico where President Calderon is bravely battling deadly drug cartels.
It was Obama at his most professorial – articulate, well-informed, careful, and unflappable. It probably wasn’t surprising that most of the questions concerned the dismal economy and the battle that is looming over his first budget proposal. The only time his “no-drama Obama” persona slipped a little, was when CNN’s Ed Henry asked why he had waited several days to public express his frustration after finding out about the excessive AIG bonuses. His terse response was, “I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.”
The Obama budget was clearly the subject of the day with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) describing it earlier in the day as what “may be the most irresponsible piece of legislation I’ve seen in my legislative career.” And to make matters worse for the president, his own party, led by North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committed, made it known that there would be a major hacking away of programs Obama wanted. The economy and his budget are ongoing issues that will measure the success or failure of his Administration.
It is also true that the unasked questions about Iraq and Afghanistan will come up again and will measure his tenure in the White House. The one question concerning security along the border and the ongoing battle Mexican President Calderon is fighting against the threatening and dangerous drug cartels, is especially significant. Obama clearly understands the importance of his relations with Mexico, a reliable and trusted neighbor. When Obama was asked about the possible spillover of violence from Mexico into the United States, he was quick to respond:
“We are sending millions of dollars in additional equipment to provide more effective surveillance. We are providing hundreds of additional personal that can help control the border, deal with customs issues. We are coordinating very effectively with the Mexican government and President Calderon, who has taken on an extraordinarily difficult task dealing with these drug cartels that have gotten completely out of hand.”
The President also spoke of this country’s responsibility in assisting President Calderon, who, he point out, “has been very courageous.” Obama explained that “even as he (Calderon) is doing more to deal with the drug cartels sending drugs into the United States, we need to do more to make sure that illegal guns and cash aren’t flowing back to these cartels. That’s part of what’s financing their operations. That’s part of what’s arming them. That’s what makes it so dangerous. And this is something that we take very seriously, and we’re going to continue to work on diligently in the months to come.”
The drug wars along the Mexican-U.S. border may not have the resonance the unasked questions about Iraq and Afghanistan have had, but they are also significant to the well-being of this country. The president recognizes that the drug cartels are not just a Mexican problem and he understanding that the money and weapons supporting these violent, criminal elements come from the United States. His commitment was that President Calderon is not in this fight alone. This is as important a war as those we are waging in the Middle East and in Asia.
Today I interviewed Michael Stanton, President and CEO of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM). AIAM, a trade association representing 13 international motor vehicle manufacturers, AIAM members currently account for approximately 46 percent of light vehicle sales in the U.S. Many of these vehicles are produced in the United States. AIAM member companies have been leaders in developing and introducing advanced vehicle technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including hybrid and alternative fueled vehicles.
When I want to understand the mental morass of the Federal Budget or the impossible economic situation, I call on Stan Colander. No one can take you through the sticky spider webs that economists weave and bring you to some reasonable understanding. I knew that Stan was the man to talk to after the Presidents first message to Congress and after weeks of frightening economic news. Stan feels more positive, so I now feel more positive. Maybe I’ll be able to afford to go out to dinner at T.G.I.Fridays and a movie next week. As we go through more of this economic crisis/downturn, or whatever, I’ll be again calling on Stan.
It was April 3rd, more than 40 years ago, that Dr. Martin Luther King told a Memphis audience that he had been to the mountain top. He prophetically said, “…I’ve looked over and seen the Promised Land. I may not get there. But I want you to know … we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” The next day he was killed by an assassin’s bullet.
What Dr. King could never have predicted or even dreamed, was that all these years later Barack Obama, a black man, would be elected president of the United States – nothing could have been more indicative of reaching the Promised Land to Dr. King. In one of the most troubled times in American history, with an economic collapse and escalating wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Obama will be sworn in on January 20th, as president. Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt has a president come to office facing such domestic and international dilemmas.
And, Obama, a man with a cool, seemingly unflappable demeanor, comes to office at the right time. He follows a disengaged President Bush whose cavalier international adventuring effectively destroyed much of this country’s stature abroad and stimulated the recruitment of radical Islamic terrorists. In the Arab word, the escalating Israeli war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is seen not an Israeli attack, but an American offensive. The heart-rending photographs on the front pages of most American newspapers and network television news programs of Palestinian children suffering and dying in the Israeli attacks are only a small sample of the proliferation of similar photographs and television reports of the carnage of non-combatants seen in the Arab world. These same photographs are perceived in the Arab world as another example of American perfidy in its war on Islam.
In addition to the seemingly insurmountable economic crisis, President Obama will have to deal with this deep-seeded hatred the Bush Administration’s Middle East policy has exacerbated. For Obama, the challenges seem insurmountable, while the expectations for success are dangerously high. This President will have a short honeymoon and will direct one of the busiest Administration’s in recent history that includes such festering conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the growing threat of a nuclear Iran. It will help that President-elect Obama is a man of color with a decidedly non Anglo Saxon name. The simple fact of his unexpected election stunned much of the world and raised the esteem of the United States abroad in ways that are yet to be understood. But now, he has to deliver. He has an opportunity to succeed on the world stage, mostly because there is a desire that he will succeed. It is possible that desire will give him an edge that few incoming presidents have ever had. It remains to be seen if that will be enough of an edge.
On January 20th, a vast world audience will be watching and listening to President Obama’s Inaugural Address. There will most likely be a Kennedy-like call for national sacrifice, but he will also speak out across the assembled millions crowding the capital to that world audience, and talk of the need for a resolution to the Palestinian problem that has troubled the world since the creation of Israel in 1948. Like most of his speeches, it will undoubtedly be inspiring, but for many Americans who watched the painfully slow, often frightening and dangerous civil rights movement, there will be tears – tears of happiness in recognition of the accomplishment of Martin Luther King’s mountain top dream realized. It will not be the Promised Land of King’s soaring rhetoric, there is no such place, but it will be an affirmation of an America facing the reality of an ugly racial past with the realization that it can be better and that in such perilous times an inspirational, committed President Obama is a man who can speak to the world in a new and different way, and that in itself evokes some reassurance and comfort. And that may be part of what King meant that fateful night in Memphis.