Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Foreign Policy and Our Reputation Abroad, by Natalie

Foreign Policy/Our Reputation Abroad
The United States is currently marred by the Bush-Cheney approach to foreign relations, an approach that 1) is based in a unilateralist approach 2) believes the only way to “get tough” is to blow things up and 3) relies on a dangerous refusal to talk to leaders we dislike. These approaches have made the United States, amongst other things, less safe and have brought down our moral standing in the international community. McCain and Palin offer a foreign policy strategy that is unnervingly similar.

• According to several reports, including research from the State Department, the war in Iraq has harmed security in America and has left the nation more at risk. A survey of more than 100 foreign policy experts, conducted in February 2008 by Foreign Policy magazine, found that three-quarters believed that the United States was losing the war on terror. Cleary the Bush/Cheney strategy has not worked.

• McCain staked out anew his position on Iraq, staunchly defending his support for a continued U.S. military mission as the war enters its sixth year and the U.S. death toll tops 4,000. He derided calls by Clinton and Obama for withdrawal.

A coherent foreign policy must be comprised of several tools, including strategic military use and diplomatic efforts. Obama gets this! He is nuanced and understands the complexities of the world we live in today. He understands the need to engage the international community; he also understands that diplomatic pressures are often more effective than military intervention. However, the military is an important tool for Obama, as well: Obama and Biden fully understand the importance of a strong and fortified military and the need to deploy it when all else fails.

• Obama’s foreign policy focuses on ending the politics of fear and emphasizes the need to move beyond a hollow "democracy promotion" agenda to one that promotes dignity. This approach aims to “fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism in the first place and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.” An inextricable part of that doctrine is a relentless and thorough destruction of al-Qaeda.

“When considering any presidential hopeful's foreign-policy promises, it's important to remember that what candidates say is, at best, an imperfect guide to their actions in office. What proves to be a more reliable indicator of presidential behavior is a candidate's roster of advisers. (If the press had paid better attention, the country would have seen through Bush's pitch about a humble foreign policy and realized that many of his advisers, including Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, were conspiracy-minded warmongers.) Obama's foreign-policy advisers come from diverse backgrounds. They are former aides to Democratic mandarins like Tom Daschle and Lee Hamilton (Denis McDonough and Ben Rhodes, respectively); veterans of the Clinton administration's left flank (Tony Lake and Susan Rice); a human-rights advocate who helped write the Army's and Marine Corps' much-lauded counterinsurgency field manual (Sarah Sewall); and a retired general who helped run the air war during the invasion of Iraq (Scott Gration) Yet they form a committed, intellectually coherent, and surprisingly united foreign-affairs team.” (The Obama Doctorine)

• Obama and Biden will convene a bipartisan Consultative Group of leading members of Congress to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy. This group will be comprised of the congressional leadership of both political parties, and the chair and ranking members of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Appropriations Committees. This group will meet with the president once a month to review foreign policy priorities, and will be consulted in advance of military action.

• McCain’s foreign policy has been derided as “schizophrenic” and “out of touch,” a “policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers.” A foreign policy expert and revered academic warned that McCain’s plan “would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating [Russia and China] into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.”

• McCain’s website does not have a section coherently detailing his foreign policy approach.

For more information on Obama’s and McCain’s foreign policy, visit:
The Obama Doctorine
McCain vs. McCain
Obama website on foreign policy foreign policy brain trusts

On Women, by Natalie

Women are different: we come from different backgrounds, occupations, families and places and we have different beliefs, values and opinions. However, I believe our differences-wide as they may be-are small compared to our powerful similarities: I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think about the economy; about her job, her financial security and her work/life balance; about taking care of her family, her children, her parents, her siblings and her friends; about the safety of this nation in the face of war and terrorism; about healthcare and gas and food prices; and about the desire for peace in her neighborhood, her country and across the globe. Women also care about their ability to make their own decisions over their bodies and their reproductive futures, about whether they are paid equally and about sexual and gender based discrimination and violence within and outside the home.

Obama and Biden get this; McCain and Palin do not. On their website, McCain/Palin claim that “there is only one candidate (John McCain) who has answers to the most basic concerns facing women voters.” I have scoured their website and there is absolutely no reference to the particular challenges women face in the work-force, including balancing work, personal and family demands and the specific obstacles women face in owning their own businesses; there is also scant discussion on the variety of other issues that matter to women. They do however discuss Cindy McCain’s travels. Take a look for yourself. Obama and Biden, on the other hand, have a lot to say-and it makes sense.

On Women and Work

• While women have made unparalleled gains in the American economy, we continue to shoulder substantial economic burdens and unjust practices. Over the past eight years, female workers have faced stagnating wages, declining health care coverage, erosion of pension protections, rising personal debt and have been hard hit by the housing crisis.

• While 62 percent of working women earn at least half of their family’s income, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work. This is a national shame. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have championed the right of women to receive equal pay for equal work. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama cosponsored and voted for the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which provided 330,000 more women protection from pay discrimination. In the U.S. Senate, Obama joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Fair Pay Restoration Act.

• 3 out of 4 low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. It is fundamentally unfair that a mother, working hard and playing by the rules, can get fired or lose wages because her child gets sick. Obama and Biden support efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a moderate proposal that should not impose too onerous a burden on employers.

• The Obama economic plan will also give 8.4 million working women a raise of up to $4,700 per year, by increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011.

• Obama and Biden will extend Child Care Tax Breaks to 7.5 million additional workingwomen and provide high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs to an additional 2 million children. Their plan also supports paid paternal leave.

• Women business owners are more likely than white male business owners to have their loan applications denied. Obama and Biden encourage investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners and reducing discrimination in lending.

• Obama/Biden will help 8.7 million women business owners grow their businesses and create jobs by setting capital gains rates to zero for small business and entrepreneurial ventures.

• In McCain’s website issues section on the economy, which includes topics like “Supporting Small Businesses,” “Workplace Flexibility and Choice” and “Relief for American Families” neither McCain nor Palin illustrate even the slightest understanding of the specific economic or work place triumphs and challenges women face.

On Reproductive Rights/Healthcare
• Obama supports a woman’s right to choose her reproductive futures-and to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare; he also supports expanding access to contraception, health information and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies.

• McCain and Palin want to restrict and control the options women are able to access when facing unintended pregnancies; this is a direct attack against women’s autonomy and empowerment. McCain does not support a woman’s right to choose her reproductive futures (neither does Palin); in fact, both would overthrow Roe v. Wade if given the chance, making safe abortion illegal in many parts of the country.

• John McCain has voted to terminate the Title X family-planning program, which provides millions of women with health-care services ranging from birth control to breast cancer screenings.

• John McCain voted against legislation that would have prevented unintended pregnancy in the first place! He opposed investing in insurance coverage for prescription birth control, promoting family-planning services, implementing teen-pregnancy prevention programs and developing programs to increase awareness about emergency contraception.

• More than 19 million women are uninsured in this country, and women are more likely than men to delay or not get medical care because of high costs. Obama and Biden are committed to ensuring that all Americans can access affordable, quality health care coverage.

• As dubious as it is to define and fully ensure, choice is critical to the promotion and maintenance of democracy, progress and individual agency. In order to truly have control over one’s life, one must have full control of one’s body, which, undoubtedly, includes access to quality and comprehensive reproductive healthcare. As a woman, I do not want my autonomy jeopardized; and I do not want the state or national legislature to impose its “moral values” on my reproductive healthcare options. I want the choice to dictate what happens to my body and my life. And I want others—regardless of the course they choose—to have that choice, as well.

This is obviously just a snapshot of the many issues that matter to women. If you want to read more about what Obama and Biden will do for women in relation to healthcare, jobs, caretaking responsibilities, retirement and investment, technology and scientific advancement and empowering women abroad, check this out.