Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Obama's Drone Wars and Romney's Taxes

Election season cometh and so I now turn to more serious issues away from other frivolities. "What is Mitt Romney hiding?" President Obama would like to see the voters worry about what Mitt Romney is hiding by not releasing more than 2 years of his tax returns. Answer: Nothing. Mitt Romney cannot hide anything from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and as a multi-millionaire his tax returns are probably audited every year by the IRS. So why is Romney not releasing more years. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney his father George Romney, when he ran for the Presidency, released 10 years of tax returns saying pointedly "one year, could be a fluke, perhaps done for show". Romney's critics gleefully point to his father and pretty much ask him "are you your father's son". Senate Majority leader Harry Reid snubbed Mitt Romney saying "on the issue of releasing tax returns the apple has indeed fallen far from the tree". 

Romney's wealth is estimated around $200 million. Romney is not the first millionaire to run for the presidency. FDR, JFK, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton were all millionaires in the same league as Romney. When unemployment is stuck at 8% and his own ability to relate to common folks is called into question it is political suicide to release tax returns that can be mined for political pot shots. The rumor mills are abuzz with other possible reasons like Romney paying almost no taxes in 2009. Romney's income mostly derives from investments and in the years when stock market nose dived he probably booked enough losses resulting in almost no taxes. In a 15 second attack ad such nuances will be gladly overlooked. Already Romney's tax rate, 15%, is fodder for criticism and fuels the 'tax the rich' debate. This is politics so there is no place for truth telling and I expect none from the Chicago pols. Romney's income is almost exclusively from investments. Dividends are now taxed at 15% as part of the sweeping Bush tax cuts passed in 2001. Note, dividends are what a company pays AFTER paying corporate taxes (where the US is the highest in the world) for money an investor put in stocks AFTER paying his share of individual taxes. There is a larger sensible debate on taxes. 

Obama's scare tactic on taxes and trying to tar the opponent as a rich out of touch  person who incidentally got rich by invidious schemes is not new. This is old hat. He did the same, with more justification then, to Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton, after nearly 20 years in government and shelling millions defending himself from Paula Jones and Ken Starr, was almost penniless when he left office. Bill Clinton's loan application to buy a home in NY was turned down for insufficient credit. That was 2000. When Hillary ran in 2008 her net worth was rumored to be $100 million. Bill Clinton became a rain maker blazing the speaking circuit and frankly peddling influence on behalf of investor Ron Burkle. Obama pilloried Hillary asking "what is Hillary hiding' then. Clinton had kept donors for his Presidential library and his 'Clinton Global Initiative' as a secret. The rumor mills went into overdrive asking 'who is paying Clinton and for what'. Today Hillary is a Secretary of State for Obama. 

The question voters, in particular, the liberals, should be worried about is 'What is Obama hiding from US citizens on the drone wars?" New York Times (not Fox news) ran a detailed investigative reporting on how Obama conducts his 'war on terror'. 

Obama's much publicized ban on torture, euphemistically during Bush days as 'enhanced interrogation', NYT says had subtle loopholes. NYT exults that the President, unlike his supporters, was 'never carried away by his own rhetoric'. The hypocrisy, we are told, is comforting. A blunt paragraph reads "A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks".

How does USA count civilian deaths in drone attacks, an official explained to NYT, "Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs". Simple. Make any fellow traveler a terrorist then the civilian count will drop dramatically. Not even the much derided neo-cons, called vulcans, in Bush's administration would have the gall to formulate that. An official added "It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants".

Conservative commentators pointed to the ludicrousness and plain hypocrisy of Harold Koh who as dean of Yale law school was a sharp critic of Bush. Obama, the US President, now personally signs off on a kill list that is vetted by his aides. Koh is now a top lawyer in the administration. Referring to presence of John Brennan to help the President decide on whom to kill Koh purrs "It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.” Many analysts have pointed to the loss of valuable intelligence by killing of assailants using drones instead of capturing them. NYT says that 'while scores have been killed only one has been taken prisoner'. 

Obama, his supporters in the Press exclaim, is an 'intellectual'. When NYT muses that "pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision" I wonder where was the charming intellect. Apparently it was on holiday. No. Obama knew full well that what he talked on campaign trail will not be practical to implement. Soon after securing the nomination then senator Obama duly cast his vote for Bush's much hated FISA bill.

Angered by how close a bomber came to blow up a plane during Christmas Obama wanted to show the resolve o f USA, his resolve. Result was a ruthless bombing in Yemen that killed a 'target' with other innocents and children. 

Obama has prosecuted more people for breach of secrecy laws than all the other President's 'combined'. The word 'Nixonian' has been used. The killing of radical American cleric Anwar-Al-Awlaki in Yemen raised questions of killing a US citizen without 'due process'. OK, thats a bit hypocritical considering that nobody bothered about due process for Osama Bin Laden. Washington Post editorial and few other concerned liberals have asked Obama to release the documents concerning the decision to kill Awlaki. I guess being a US born terrorist begets some protection unlike the foreign terrorist.

Now there is talk of using drones to monitor US citizens within USA. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer was livid at this blatant usurpation of rights. The famous liberals are not even whimpering.

Obama has effectively neutered the GOP on all the above. His own liberal base is holding their noses and voting for him purely out of their spite for his opponent. And the voters are asked to worry about Mitt Romney's taxes.

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