Tag Archives: Obama

State of the Union? Dorner manhunt trumps wonky speech all the time

Some commentators today were so enthralled by last night’s Dorner news, they compared the manhunt to a Denzel Washington movie.

Too bad for the president. He gave a pretty good speech without having to sneak in a sip of water.

See my Asian American take on the State of the Union Address here.

It’s my post on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.

Who won that first Obama-Romney debate?

When it comes to debates, format is everything. Sometimes it’s too tight. Sometimes it’s too loose.

Wednesday’s was just right—for Mitt Romney. But it was wrong for President Obama, who never seemed to find the oratorical magic to take over.  

Indeed, it was Romney who seemed to be comfortable and in control of this “wonk-fest,” perhaps due to all the debates the Republicans did in the primary season.

Now as for the facts?

In some ways, the facts don’t matter in debates. Reality check all you want, only a bald face lie is a negative. Debates are  made for an etch-a-sketch guy like Romney. They’re not made for the deliberate orator like Obama.  Debates really are all about style and confidence and how a candidate thinks on his feet.  It’s the whole persuasive package, not a matter of accuracy.  So the key question to ask is who looked energized and engaged in his answers? Who looked presidential? Who looked like he wanted to be the next president? Who listened as well as they spoke so they could pounce, deflect, retort appropriately.

In that sense, I think Obama looked like he mailed it in.  He acted like a politician with a lead. He didn’t go for some of the things that he personally needed to ask Romney directly.  If he is your surrogate, you want him to ask Romney about “that tape,” that 47 percent comment, the tax-return  issue, Bain capital. Where were questions on those issues?

Romney acted like a man back on his heels who had to do well. He’s not Thurston Howell III. He’s the underdog overdog. He needed a positive campaign experience and the first debate I think gave that to him.

Did it change undecided voters? I don’t think so. There was nothing that changed anything. Romney on Wednesday night is the same guy he was last week and the week before. Not a good candidate, not exactly the man to be president. So he had one good night at the first debate. Is that really enough to jump on the Mittwagon?

CNN’s flash poll of registered voters, 67 percent said Romney won. Only 25 percent said Obama won. If Romney wins the election , this debate will be a turning point. If he loses, then you’ll know that one debate victory is not enough.

Also see my pre-debate comments on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.


Why is the U.S. attacking Libya?

Deep in an economic funk is no time to embark on another war, unless you can call it something else like a UN humanitarian mission to save poor anti-Gadhafi rebels.

Already by my amateur count, Obama’s spent all the savings he’d theoretically  get by cutting something like public broadcasting.

Public bombcasting is always more expensive.

The issue this week is what exactly is the U.S. involved in? Are we leading? Following? Obfuscating our true purpose? Why doesn’t Obama just call it what it is. Blood for Oil, Part II, or is it Part III, or Part IV.

 I’m losing count.

I’ve got to hand it to Obama. Starting a war, excuse me, a military engagement with UN allies, while all the world is focused on the devastation of Japan is a great bit of political sleight-of-hand. By comparison a war doesn’t seem so bad next to worries about impending nuclear disaster and the end of the world.

But as we come into this first week of Spring, we have no less than Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) saying that Obama has perhaps committed an impeachable offense, launching an unconstitutional war effort.

Should Obama have consulted Congress before giving the go ahead to start up against Libya? Is it a “war”? No combat troops are on the ground (yet). Did you expect Obama to parse his contitutional power to this degree?

Kucinich and a small group of the most liberal House members think the president is fudging to so much, he should have consulted them. The War Powers Act of 1973 is intended to limit the president’s ability to send troops into combat without Congressional approval.

But a president can do so for 60 days without a declaration or mandate from Congress.  60 days?  That sounds like a lot of time to do damage. But for enemies who like to play war for decades upon decades, 60 days is not so long.

So maybe the president thinks this is truly a short term action and we can all kindly disregard Gadhafi’s histrionics. All that stuff about fighting to the end, inch by inch, for forever and a day. Just macho talk by the colonel.  Or not.

Obama seems to be hoping for another repeat of the first Gulf War, where we can do most all the dirty work by air in just a few days with an adhoc alliance, before a vote can be taken in Congress.  And by time one could be taken, the action would be all over.  And we would win! U-S-A, U-S-A! 

Maybe. But the first Gulf War was an anomaly. The lesson since: War is not a video game. It’s a long narrative.

As we wait to see what exactly our purpose is in Libya, and what the end game is, it’s rather disappointing to see our man of change changing before our eyes into a different kind of president.

Anyone really surprised at this transformation? 

From  the war policy to the domestic policy and the banking and economic crisis, Obama seems quite happy to alienate the people who saw in him much hope.  Is this his way of getting ready for 2012?

Obama meets the high-tech kings (and a queen); but my favorite Obama meeting this week was the one with Manny Pacquiao

In the twitterverse came the comment that people were lining up last night in Woodside awaiting President Obama. Surely, they must have shipped in from Redwood City and such.

People in Woodside don’t line up for much.  In fact, the line comes to them.

So it was quite natural for the president to fly in for dinner with the nation’s high-tech giants on their home turf Thursday.

Whenever you accept an invite to Woodside, you never know how much it ultimately is going to mean to you.  A million? A billion?

I hope it worked out for the president sake, for the country’s sake, last night.

The U.S. could use a few trillion.

There’s something about Obama when he hits the road. You forget about all the process stuff in Washington that’s bogging him down and you see him in his natural mode of rock-star schmoozer.


Earlier this week, I commented in the Philippine media on another Obama meeting, the one with Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in DC. It was far more important a meeting than you think.

About two years ago, when he was just thinking about politics and a run for Congress, I called the boxer Manny Pacquiao the Philippines’ Obama.

At the time, Obama was in campaign mode, attracting large  crowds world-wide. He was like a rock-star representing hope and change. But I’ve seen them both in action, and Pacquiao was all that in boxing trunks.

I didn’t exactly call him the Great Brown Hope, but I sure wasn’t joking when I called him the Philippines’ Obama.
There’s just something about Pacquiao that suggests his ultimate reach will be far beyond the ring.

My assessment had less to do with Pacquiao as Obama’s intellectual equal (I don’t know how many rounds Pacquiao could last at Harvard Law School, for example), and everything to do with the sheer charismatic leadership prowess of the Pac-man.

Is there any doubt that Pacquiao could go toe to toe with anyone on that score?

So when the two men—Pacquiao and Obama—finally met this week in the White House’s Oval Office, I thought it was far more significant than any meeting Obama has had with a Philippine leader during his administration. (You don’t think that red-dress photo op with Arroyo a few years back was worth a darn, do you?)

That makes it both funny and sad, that in these times, the current president of the Philippines would barely make a headline were he to drop in on Obama. But the pound-for-for-pound champ? He caused a traffic accident just crossing Pennsylvania Ave.

Obama even had a few gifts and a promise for the Pac-Man this week, reportedly giving Pacquiao  three grocery bags full of light blue M&M’s with the presidential seal (breakfast of champions?), a watch with the same august logo,  and a promise of visiting the Philippines in the future.

Why not? When Obama goes to Oahu, he’s just a relative short hop to Manila.

Would he do that for PNoy just to say hello?

Doubt it.

But the Philippine president shouldn’t feel bad. I doubt Obama would make a trip to Manila for anyone but Pacquiao.

That’s why this shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere cute meet just to promote an upcoming fight. This is how relationships are forged. And in politics, relationships are everything. Those who focus on wonky policy matters and dismiss Pacquiao as a mere bobbing-head-jock-figure are missing the potential of Pacquiao’s real political potential. You can always surround yourself with the right policy folks, which will be a critical thing for Pacquiao.

Far more important is leadership, and that has nothing to do with policy nor ideology. It’s  all about charisma and the people.

If Egypt had a Pacquiao, that uprising would have been over in a week. But when all the opposition could do was trot out an ElBaradei?  Come on.

Leadership and charisma count for a lot more than you think.

You might have noticed it last year when PNoy trounced a relatively lackluster field, and even Joseph Estrada got votes. When you have the people abdicating to the political class, the oligarchs start recycling themselves and wearing yellow T-shirts.

That leaves the future wide open for new politico to excite the public.  And who among them has as legitimate claim to being man of the people besides the people’s champ himself?

Pacquiao still has sometime before a run for the presidency. He’s doing his time in the woodshed but it shouldn’t be for long. In the meantime, he’s going to have to stop fighting, period, no matter how good the money. He’s got a whole country riding on his shoulders.

Just keep in mind, if all you see is a guy in boxing trunks, you don’t understand the real power of  Manny Pacquiao.