Friday, January 04, 2008

The next USA President

Click cartoon to enlarge. Source
I've heard about Barack Obama's victory in Iowa. I am not an expert on foreign politics and as a Dutchman I don't have a vote to give away in these elections - but the fact that there will be a newly elected President in the USA soon will affect all people of the world, so let me share my modest opinion with you. Personally I don't want to see a comeback of the Clintons in the White House. It's about time that a black man or woman becomes the next American president. I don't know enough about Barack Obama yet, but I am impressed by the way he is campaigning. I only visited Mike Huckabee's website so far. To be honest, I'd never heard about this Republican candidate before. I've had a look at the video clips on his website and he seems to be a decent guy. It looks like the former governor of Arkansas, a Baptist pastor, is a good father, husband and crisis manager (can you see the connection?) because he showed some real leadership in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster, while other government officials seemed to be powerless or paralysed, as if the people of New Orleans didn't matter to them. Bass players are always calm and collected - that's a plus for Mike Huckabee too! He also lost a lot of weight - which shows that he has at least some personal discipline. And he loves animals, because he hugs bees, eats fishes and chases deers.
I don't know whether my American blog friends want to be open about their political preferences, but most Dutch people don't mind discussing these things openly. We have many political parties in our country and as long as we respectfully can agree to disagree, that's just fine.
Two things really bother me and I'm just wondering what you think of these topics. First, I can't see how so many Americans can be pro-life and support the death penalty. In my eyes that is very inconsistent. Check this if you want to know just one important reason why I am against the death penalty. Second, I just can't see why American people can buy heavy guns and ammunition as if these things were some cool gadgets or fashion accessories. There are too many trigger happy people on this planet - that's what I think.
PS Today's Verse of the Day offers sound advice to all candidates and voters: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)


David said...

Some good insights concerning U.S. politics. I don't share your enthusiasm for Obama though. He is charismatic and an articulate speaker, but when it is all said, he really hasn't "said" anything. He seems to only speak in sound bites.

Huckabee is coming from virtually nowhere and is all of a sudden a main player. What concerns me about him is that I can't get a good sence of is foreign policy. Americans want to know that our president cares about world issues and is willing to work with other governments, something that has been lacking within the Bush administration. The U.S. needs to do a better job of being a good neighbor on several fronts.

Guns...? Certainly many Americans own firearms, but again, it isn't as the liberal press would have you believe. Most fire arms in the US are legally owned by responsible people, but they don't make headlines.

Good post, thanks for being a voice fromthe world community. we need to listen to each other as much as we can.

By the way, the word verification for this post was hoykma; closely resembling the Hebrew word for Wisdom.

Paul said...

Thanks, David. If "Hoykma" means something like wisdom in Hebrew, it must be referring to your comment and not to my post, ha ha ;-) It also sounds like a Dutch surname to me, by the way.
I don't read "liberal press" (I know liberal has a different connotation in the American language), I just observe from the other side of the Atlantic. I do listen to the BBC and I read all kind of news papers, blogs and websites. Of course I understand that a hunter, ranger, border guard, police man and soldier needs to carry a gun sometimes. But ordinary citizens!?? That is really hard to understand for Europeans (especially after all the horrible shootings in the USA).
Like the British, the Dutch have played their role in Iraq and 'we' are still involved in peace keeping (including fighting the taliban) in Afghanistan. When Bush decided to invade Iraq I thought he had no other option (although I really hate war and violence!), because I believed the stories about weapons of mass destruction and so did our government. Most Dutch people (and British people) feel now that it was a big mistake and I guess the majority of the Americans feels the same. I'm still not sure about it. Sadam didn't care for his people and he had no respect for human rights at all. I still remember what he did with poison gass. But I have also heard that America sold him weapons to fight Iran... After 9/11 many of us thought that we needed to take some action and it's always easy to judge afterwards. But I'm afraid we all have been misguided. Looking back, I think the German and French governments were right. It's a tragedy that so many lives have been lost because of this terrible war.
I agree that Bush didn't co-operate enough with foreign governments - some were loyal to America (like our own government), but in many respects the international situation has deteriorated since Bush came to power. I know that many Christians in the USA support Bush because of some moral issues, but I really don't know what to think of him. All these candidates know how to say the 'right' things for the 'right' audiences. But are they really sincere?? It's hard to know who to believe...

Carol L. Douglas said...

The columnist Mark Shields once said, "As Iowa goes, so goes Iowa." It is not a good predictor of the general election, which is why Hillary (why can't women candidates have last names?) wasn't too worried this morning.

The right to bear arms is protected by our constitution (what that means is the subject of vigorous debate).

A lot of Americans hunt, even here in New York. I don't know about the Netherlands, but in Britain, hunting was tied to land ownership, so there wasn't a tradition of working-class hunting as there is here. And the United States is infested with wild animals. In my urban neighborhood we have had turkeys, deer, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. There are black bears living within 15 miles of my house.

Guns are regulated by states, rather than by the Federal government so laws vary greatly. Violent crime doesn't correlate well with gun control--there are places like the District of Columbia with strict gun control which have hideous murder rates (Rochester is another one) and places with no gun control with low murder rates. Many, many murders in the US relate to drug dealing and related gang warfare. And unfortunately, both victims and perpetrators of gun homicide tend to be minorities.

In the last decade we've seen a craze of mass murder with automatic weapons. I think these DO tend to happen in states without gun control, because of the nature of these guns.

I think part of the issue is that Americans didn't knuckle under to any government interference until the beginning of the twentieth century. Guns were an integral part of frontier life and remain important in the west and in farm communities.

I have always supported the death penalty in certain situations, primarily when killings were carried out for profit. (For the record, I don't support it in the case of mental illness or for juveniles). I live in a city with a horrific murder problem, and I think that drug dealers make cost-benefit analyses when they shoot their competition, so factoring in possible death might give them something to think about (for the record, New York has not executed a prisoner since 1976).

On the other hand, we've seen a lot of reversed convictions based on new DNA evidence in the last few years. (On Dec. 21 Martin H. Tankleff was released from prison on LI after 17 years, after a classic cock-up of an unjust conviction for the murder of his parents. It's awful that Mr. Tankleff lost his parents, his honor, and 17 years of his life; it would have been worse had he lost his life.) Furthermore, I'm concerned that the death penalty is more often given to poor black people than rich white ones.

But the death penalty doesn't correspond to abortion. Abortion is the murder of an unborn fetus, innocent by definition. The death penalty is a measured sanction taken against a criminal who has taken someone else's life. I think you can find Biblical justification for it if applied fairly.

I'm a Republican in New York which means I have absolutely no part to play in the primary process (it's a Democratic state which means the Republicans just don't care who carries it for them). I am currently undecided because the field is too broad for me to focus right now.

Hillary is the junior senator from New York and although I have never voted for her (and won't) she has earned my grudging respect for her practical politics. She seems to have learned something since the early Clinton years. If the choice were between her and Obama, I'd support her.

Lastly, I remain a supporter of the Iraq war and I think the President has done a credible job against overwhelming odds. It's a difficult and terrible balancing act, remaining strong against the enemy while not becoming as vile as him yourself. Of course the administration has made errors; who is perfect? But we inherited a very dangerous position and are playing the best hand we can.

Mike said...

As a Brit living in the U.S I find some of the thoughts brought up here interesting.

Iowa may be an indicator for the press but history proves it no guide for who wins elections. It is early days we will have to see.

While it is true many Americans own guns, the situation isn’t as bad as many Europeans are lead to believe. It is part of the law and the vast majority of American gun owners are responsible caring citizens. As the U.S has 280 million people you get a few nuts. Sadly these few nuts get on the news in Europe and not the many responsible people. There are two camps of people, those who believe guns should be restricted or removed. Then there are those who believe that guns (an inanimate object) don’t hurt people…people hurt people. They use Britain as an example, after Dunblain Britain banned firearms, then gun violence went up 48%.

Prior to arriving in the U.S I was given the impression that shootings and violence were common. I have lived in the U.S for 26 years no and never witnessed one act of violence. No fist fights, no stabbings, no shootings. Yea, they have been on TV but it has not been part of my experience. In fact growing up in London was far more violent than here. My old high school had teachers assaulted by students and stabbings. My son has never experienced that here.

Most of the Christians I know are prolife and anti death penalty for the reasons you stated. For them it is more to do with careful courts rather than just being against it for prolife issues. For myself I have come to the opinion that certain acts can be so bad, that once proven with solid evidence, the guilty have abrogated their right to life. This is the exception and not the norm. An unborn child has not had the opportunity to make choices, a mass murder has.

The landscape is quite a bit different over here than British TV presents. When I left for this country my mother asked me if I was going to get a gun, “why I asked”? She said “defend yourself”, I just laughed. To date I still do not own a gun.

Carol L. Douglas said...

Mike, where do you live? Rates of violence in the US vary greatly by region. There are differences even within states. For example, NYC is the safest city in the US and I have never been nervous walking through Manhattan at night. The upstate cities have much higher rates of violent crime and there are parts of Rochester and Buffalo which I hesitate to go into even during the day. (This is almost a total reversal of the situation 25 years ago, when NYC was dangerous and upstate was not.)

For the record, I've had a gun leveled on me twice--once by a police officer when I was no older than nine, and once in an armed robbery. Not an experience I'd like to repeat.

Mike said...

I live in Minneapolis. It has crime like any other city, I have never experienced any...yet.

I agree with what you say about NYC. I was there about one year ago. I felt very safe. Sadly, I do not feel that way in London anymore. It was tough where I grew up. The worst we had to deal with was knives. Now the high volume of drugs with armed gangs makes the situation much worse.

It is kind of odd. Growing up in Europe I always thought America was a violent place. Now that feeling is reversed.

I agree with what you say concerning crime rates. This is a great country..but we have some work to do.

Sorry to read about your experience. Hopefully you were not hurt.

Carol L. Douglas said...

The murder rate for Minnesota is 2.2/100,000 and for New York is 4.8/100,000. Washington DC's rate is 29.1/100,000 and it has very strict gun laws (currently under review by Supreme Court). NY also has strict gun laws. Minnesota's gun laws are a lot less strict.

All of which is to say that there doesn't seem to be much correlation between gun control and homicide rates in the US.

The shootings which are saddest is when children and innocents are caught up in the gunfire of drug warfare. It happens frequently, and I think our compassion is best directed toward the people who have to live in these terrible conditions.

Paul said...

In the Netherlands the murder rate is 0.97 / 100,000 and I really believe this is also because of tight gun control. It's much harder to get a gun on our continent...

Paul said...

Below is a list of countries that retain the death penalty:

CONGO (Democratic Republic)
MYANMAR (formerly Burma)

Carol L. Douglas said...

Another root cause of violence here is that the US is an extremely multicultural, polyglot country, and has been since the original English emigres turned up their noses at the earliest Dutch and German settlers.

Unfortunately, immigration sometimes results in gang violence between ethnic groups. Last year's murder of three black college students in Newark, NJ falls into this category.

Right now we are experiencing immigration in unprecedented levels and from all over the world.

BTW, there is an excellent story about Mitt Romney in this weekend's NY Times Magazine:

I think Huckabee could face the same sort of religious litmus test with non-SBC voters on the subjects of women in leadership and the inerrancy question. Unfortunately faith doesn't lend itself to soundbite answers. On the other hand, he's an experienced politician.

I don't think southern governors have a good track record on foreign affairs. Bill Clinton was poor, Jimmy Carter was a disaster.

John said...

Ahh, Paul, you've obviously never known the joy of an early morning hunt when the turkey's are gobbling their heads off! I know people who hunt them with bow and arrow but they are the skilled few. I've been hunting them with the shotgun my grandfather used for three years and have only fired once at these elusive birds. In my little hamlet I assure you that every family owns at least one gun, more likely multiple guns. I can also tell you that the only reason one would be turned on another human being in my town is because of a drug deal gone bad (even in "Mayberry" there are drugs) or some woman found her man messin' around with another woman!

Gun ownership is deeply ingrained in the culture of the vast stretches of our fair land. Hunting is part of the rite of passage for a young boy in our land. All of my children know how to properly handle guns and my wife is a much better shot than I am!

You've really opened a wonderful discussion here. Thanks for your view from the other side of the pond. BTW - when you come and visit we'll plan to go hunting!

Carol L. Douglas said...

Hillary and McCain take NH. And once again the American electorate demonstrates... nothing.

As the World's Oldest Person, what I've noticed during the last decade is how pollsters keep getting it wrong. Either their sampling has a fundamental error or voters have decided to lie.

Mike said...


Your right. I have totally tuned out all that stuff.