Sunday, December 31, 2006

In Case You've Forgotten the Rest of the World

Sobering and disturbing article by Richard Clarke in the Washington Post today.

It's hard to stop and remember all the challenges the United States and the world is facing today given the overwhelming amount of attention on Iraq. Of course, Iraq is extraordinarily important, but an argument could be made that we have several other challenges, some just over the horizon and some closer whose impact on this country and the world could be even more severe.

In this op-ed, Clarke reminds us of just a few of these challenges. The article is a good way to get up to speed on some of the problems under our radar. It also gives an insider's perspective on why it is difficult for an administration (any administration) to deal with multiple major challenges simultaneously.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ford's Passing Got Me Thinking....

President Gerald Ford's death has led to constant media coverage in the last 24 hours. These memorials are almost completely geared toward celebrating his contribution to the United States during a tough time in its history.

His patriotism, integrity and fundamental decency are being affirmed and openly admired by almost everyone on the airwaves, with a few exceptions here and there. This is all well and good. From what I know of Ford and his presidency, I think he probably deserves it.

But I am not writing to repeat the accolades he is receiving, nor to even comment on his presidency.

This is only the second death of a former President that I remember very well. I was able to witness part of Ronald Reagan's funeral ceremonies first hand in Washington DC, and it was an experience I will never forget. The ceremony itself was breathtaking, but more meaningful to me were the discussions the President's death sparked.

It takes an event like this to get most people to reflect on what they admire in a leader and more importantly, what they strive for in themselves. The traits I mentioned earlier - integrity, decency - are of course but a few in a fairly long list.

It seems like society only stops to reflect on and actively celebrate these traits when Presidents, or in rare instances, other extraordinary leaders (e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) pass away. Presidents and other famous individuals that faithfully serve the world's interests deserve the admiration they receive, but so do countless others that live and die anonymously.

I hope that in each of your lives, there are people you know that have used their talents to the fullest to improve their towns, schools or even just their own children's lives and opportunities. On a basic level, these people, in my opinion, are worth every bit of praise that we will give to Gerald Ford. They are doing the most they can for the world given the context that defines their life.

I am fortunate to have met a number of people like this in my life. A few of them just might be known by the country or the world some day, but most will never be known by anyone who does not come within 5 miles of their home.

These are the heroes - the ones whose ability to change lives is rooted in the character of their soul, not the resources they command. Most of them live among us, even if we don't usually notice.

I say all of this because when I look at the flags flown at half staff, I feel compelled not to remember a man or even an office, not fame, or power - and certainly not "achievements" noted by historians - just the inexplicable spark that so many feel to contribute to something greater than themselves.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Don't Do It Al

Over the last few years, I have come to regard Al Gore as a decent and intelligent man. I did not follow politics very closely until after 2000, and so I did not have an informed perspective on him when he was Vice President. Although I do not agree with a lot of his politics, I now think the government was better when he was a part of it.

His actions following his loss in 2000 suggest (to me - a deliberate optimist) a man that is determined to use the influence he has gained through his political career to make a meaningful positive difference in the world. I believe the work he is doing to motivate people to take action against global warming is admirable and the strategy he is employing is intelligent (though I wonder if he would appeal to a broader audience if he did not put a lightning rod, himself, front and center).

In addition, one of his newest ventures, Generation Investment Management, is pioneering an interesting approach to private sector investment management. Specifically, he is trying to demonstrate that companies that are more progressive environmentally and socially are superior long-term investment options. It is not clear how this endeavor will perform, but I admire his intent and the creativity of his approach. Only a person with his influence could launch something this innovative and risky. He could be making a lot more money doing something more traditional in the private sector, but here he is, driving towards a change he thinks is valuable to the nation.

Because of this, I believe that he has the potential to live a life that will qualify him as a "great" human being. To achieve this status though, probably means giving up that title in the history books. He must not run for President again.

I consider a person "great" if they temper their own ambition or self-interest when realizing that doing so will allow them to make a bigger impact for more people. It is certainly not the only definition of greatness, but I think it is one that we can all achieve. Al Gore has a chance to fit that definition.

It is entirely understandable that Gore would want to run again. But I think he has the potential to do more good for the world if he leaves politics in the past. If he returns as a candidate, every issue he has championed and every enterprise he has supported over the last 6 years will suddenly be viewed with renewed suspicion by a large share of people.

When I talk about his environmental work to others, I often get this response (and not just from self described conservatives): "he's running for President again, huh?". Not engagement on the issue, not even disagreement on the facts, just an assumption that he is motivated not by the urgency or potential impact of the issue, but by getting attention. Many people will no doubt always hold this view, but renouncing two successive presidential campaigns is bound to gain him credibility with political moderates and independents. And this credibility will only increase over the next couple decades of his productive professional life.

Furthermore, I actually think his potential to make a real difference is lessened in the Oval Office. A President has many constituencies to serve, a political party to lead, poll numbers to monitor, and countless issues to divide his or her time. A President must carefully watch what he says and who he says it to - even when he knows he is speaking the truth. For an issue like global warming, a quiet and gradual but very real crisis, this approach is unacceptable.

Consider the lack of progress Clinton and Gore were able to make on this issue during the 90's. They did not even try to pass Kyoto through the Senate (it was an obvious non-starter), nor did they enact or even push a significant alternative. However Gore, as a private but highly influential citizen, has managed to get the issue on the high priority list of tens of millions of people - the necessary first step for any tough but necessary public policy endeavor.

So, Al, you can keep trying to save the world, or you can run for President. Ironically, you may forfeit a prominent place in the history books if you pursue the former...but it is what a truly "great" human being would do.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Substance, Not Hype

It is about time someone in the media said this...

David Broder recently wrote an op-ed criticizing the media's approach to covering potential presidential candidates and he made some comments that I felt were worth posting here.

Instead of prematurely anointing front-runners, we might better serve the public
by examining the full range of the presidential field.

He goes on to call for "some serious, solid reporting, instead of star-gazing." He was referring to the media's recent obsession with Barack Obama.

This made me reflect on the matter and it got me to wondering why everyone is so excited about this man. Actually, it got me to wondering if the excitement is justified. I know why everyone is excited about him - I am too, for the same reasons.

He has extraordinary and undeniable charisma. He is exceptionally articulate and appears to be a rare voice of both passionate conviction and reasonable moderation.

He may be the real thing, and I hope that he is. I truly want to see at least one great president in my lifetime. But I don't know Obama, and I'm not sure anybody else does either.

Does anyone out there know what the man stands for? What he stands against? He's been in the Senate for barely two years. Before that, he was a state senator in Illinois and a civil rights attorney. He has no significant executive experience, and a limited legislative record.

Some say that this is not a sufficient background to assume the Presidency of the United States. I am not sure I agree with that. I do not think any job fully prepares you to be the President. Being governor of a large state gives you domestic political and leadership experience, but little in the way of foreign policy. Serving in the Senate may give you familiarity with major domestic policy issues and potentially some foreign policy exposure, but it does not prepare you to lead.

This is not a problem though.

Presidents have access to the finest minds in the world. What they must have is a strong, decisive and curious intellect, the ability to inspire and persuade, and the character to put the nation's interests above their own party, poll numbers and reelection prospects. At least, this is what one must have to do the job well. Brilliance and specific leadership experiences are desirable, but not necessary.

Which of these does Barack possess? And what about the other candidates? If the media doesn't provide us with the answers, we will have to find another way to find out. As the campaigns progress, I'll be posting info to this site that I think is relevant to answering this question. Please post comments if you have any helpful links or thoughts, now or over the course of the coming campaigns.

FYI - I took Broder's comments from this op-ed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cheney's Judgment on Rumsfeld

Tim Russert mentioned this on Meet the Press this morning, and I could not resist posting it.

Apparently, at Donald Rumsfeld's recent resignation send-off, Vice President Cheney deemed the outgoing secretary "the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had".

Russert then asked an outstanding question - if Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense in the history of the United States, why did President Bush ask for his resignation in the middle of a war?

I normally like to have a little more substance to my posts, but I do not think this requires any further comment. Additionally, though it admittedly might make me feel good to rant about the decisions Rumsfeld has made that have harmed this nation, it would be of little value to do so.

He is gone. History will render its judgment. Our time is best used looking after today and tomorrow.

Rambling on the Role of Culture in the Development of Democracy

Americans have a tendency to think that freedom and democracy are universally good and desirable - above almost all other things, in fact. "Live free or die" is not just he state motto of New Hampshire, it is a slogan that many of us probably agree with - even if we think it sounds a little over-dramatic in this day and age.

We also tend to see capitalism as the obviously superior economic system. Given the unique experience of our nation and the core values shared by most citizens throughout our history, these assumptions about the superiority of liberty and capitalism seem quite valid in theory and practice. And within the borders of the United States and many other countries, I would say they have largely been proven valid (though the extremely poor would probably have something to say about the superiority of unchained capitalism).

But do the rules change when you leave the borders of this country? Of Western Europe? Japan? Recent world events tend to suggest that they often do, though it seems impossibly complex to diagnose how or why this is the case. (Reading Tom Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem is a great place to start, by the way).

Many, including George W. Bush, have stated that it is condescending to suggest that democracy is not suited to people of certain cultures. And I agree that to make that blanket assumption about certain groups of people, is somewhat condescending without asking simultaneously asking why it is the case. Surely it is neither moral, nor intellectually respectable to say that some people are intrinsically and permanently incapable of thriving in a democratic political context.

In any case, as the world continues to shrink, we must start trying to answer this question. It seems clear that, all other things being equal, a democratic society is the best model for individuals to reach their full potential. Furthermore, I think most would agree that the entire human race would be more secure and prosperous in a world full of democratic nations. It is a goal worth pursuing, to be sure. But, as we have recently and violently been reminded, it cannot happen overnight.

One need not have observed Iraq over the last three years to learn that lesson. In the United States the full democratic franchise was not fully expanded to all citizens until the 20th century when women were given the right to vote and the Civil Rights Act passed. Many persuasively argue that there is still more work to be done on this front. It has been a tough and painfully slow transition in most countries.

This leads me to ask: 1. what about our own culture made this transition slow, and 2. what ultimately made it possible? I do not know the answers of course. But, if we could figure this out, it would certainly yield some useful - and indeed, life saving - insights on the rate of progress we are seeing in other parts of the world and more importantly, how to speed it.

In any event, our leaders, in government and the academy, need to be asking more fundamental questions about what cultural values are conducive to building and sustaining free and stable political systems. Only then can we plan effective strategies to encourage their growth. Foriegn policy, economic development and global security will all be enhanced with each lesson we learn.

A Washington Post article sparked my thoughts on this issue. If you like, you can read it here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on Leaving Iraq

From time to time, in discussions on Iraq, I hear worries of it sparking a "broader regional conflict".

I must admit, it has never been clear to me how that would actually happen in practice. How would two or three groups fighting within the borders of Iraq lead to violence in, say, Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia?

This article on helped me to understand these fears and I now view it as a very real concern. To quickly summarize, CNN claims that Vice President Cheney was recently told by Saudi King Abdullah that his country would be compelled to "aggressively" support "like-minded Sunni Arabs" if the United States leaves Iraq before stability is achieved.

In Iraq, Sunnis are outnumbered by Shias approximately 3 to 1.

It is not hard to see how the Iranian regime, a Shia theocracy, could invoke a similar policy in favor of Iraqi's they see as "like-minded". You can see where this could lead.

It looks as though the political tides will carry American troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later. Although it is not impossible, there is no reason to believe that the violence in Iraq today will subside before American troops are gone and 3 years of trying to develop a meaningful Iraqi security force to build order has produced no meaningful result.

The fact that a regional conflict could be sparked by an American withdrawal should be weighed heavily by all those advocating it. A failed (or temporarily violent) Iraq would be bad. But hostility between the people of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq - and potentially Jordan and Syria - would be unacceptable. The arguments saying that Americans should not be in the middle of an Iraqi civil war seem to make sense on the surface. But when looking at the bigger regional picture, I do not think it is that simple.

I do not know enough about all these forces to make my own recommendation as to what we should do. But I wrote this because increasingly, all I hear on most TV news networks is an increasingly loud call to leave a "civil war". - Get out and let the Iraqi's sort it out. All this reminds me of something Albert Einstein once said: "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler".

I fear that the debate is becoming too simple, and more of our leaders need to be saying so.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Paulson's View on China's Energy Policy

I think Henry Paulson, the current Treasury Secretary, was a strong addition to George W. Bush's cabinet. I wish he had come along sooner.

He authored this op-ed and it is a good (but boring) summary of the economic priorities the U.S. needs to consider as it works with China in the coming years. Still, it's dry reading and therefore, I'm writing more about the tone of the article than the content.

The Bush Administration has a tendency to talk to other soveriegn nations in a condescending manner (e.g. "Old Europe"). This is clearly counterproductive. There is also some clear hypocrisy in some of Paulson's comments on China's energy policies that I found troubling - not only because hypocrisy is intrinsically bad, but also (and more importantly) because it has clear negative consequences on our ability to pursue our own interests.

Particularly troubling:

"...much of [the energy China produces is] from sources that generate high levels of
pollution. This harms the air and water we all share, and creates health problems for Chinese citizens.

Through the Strategic Economic Dialogue, we can work with China's leaders to help it achieve more environmentally and economically sound growth and constructive engagement with the global energy market."

I think his comments are true and the SED is a desirable initiative. Furthermore, it is obvious that engaging China to develop an environmentally sustainable energy policy is a tremendously important issue for the U.S. and the world.

I am an advocate of tact, not silence.

But I wonder how effective we can be towards this end when our own committment to responsible energy policy is questionable (at best). In particular, our recent unwillingness to engage in international actions on energy consumption could make influencing China in the future more difficult. As the years pass and China reaches economic parity with the United States, strong international institutions will be essential to influence their economic activities with respect to the environment (and potentially human rights as well). Anyone who doubts this assertion should consider how much trouble we are having managing this today, at a time when we have substantially superior economic and political strength. Although it is arguable that international institutions may not be sufficient to address issues such as this, it is hard to see how they harm the cause.

In any case, given that we are currently responsible for approximately 24% of global carbon emission compared to China's 13%, it makes sense to start at home if we are serious about the global impact of inefficient and/or excessive energy consumption.

Incidentally, this is not a rant intended to hint at reconsidering the Kyoto treaty. I am not certain if that is the best course of action for the U.S. or the world. However, I do feel strongly that disengaging from Kyoto without a meaningful alternative is unacceptable. (I'm confident this will change with the next Administration though - regardless of who leads it).

I just hope that in private Paulson is willing and able to say to President Bush what he cannot, for undertandable reasons, say in public. Specifically, that a sustainable global energy strategy has to at least have the participation, if not the full leadership, of the United States.

A New Challenge to the 2nd Amendment

Yet another article from the Post that caught my eye. The first sentence of the article is all you need to read:

"In a case that could shape firearms laws nationwide, attorneys for the District of Columbia argued Thursday that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applies only to militias, not individuals."

This is an interesting assertion that seemed absolutely ridiculous to me until I read the 2nd Amendment for myself (it's actually only a single sentence). I definitely don't agree that law abiding citizens should be prohibited from owning firearms (though certain types I could argue should be categorically banned) but if I were a lawyer, I might be able to argue that that is just what the amendment says.

In any case, if you consider the broader context the Founding Fathers were living in, I think it is impossible to argue that they did not think private citizens should be allowed to own guns.

Still, I wrote this post because it highlights the need for individual citizens to have a basic familiarity with the foundation that our rights are based on - in this case, the Bill of Rights itself.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

After Iraq...

Another thought provoking op-ed in the Washington Post. I don't agree with some of what the author says, but his brief history of U.S. involvement in the region is worth reading, and the rest is good material for debate.

This article reinforces my belief that we must take radical steps to disentangle our economy from oil. My previous post on W's missed chance at greatness might have been a way to make substantial progress towards that goal, but the political window to do it is gone for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A Poltical Strategy for Social Security

In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus articulated a strong political strategy for addressing Social Security reform. It's worth checking out if you are interested in the issue and the politics that have prevented the government from addressing its impending financial problems.

For those of you unfamiliar with the issue, it's a very solvable problem in that there are clear levers to pull (e.g. higher taxes, reduced future benefits, creative investment options, etc). The reason action has not been taken is almost entirely political (unlike policy options for sustaining Medicare and Medicaid which are actually intellectually tough to develop).

Read it here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

W Could Have Been One of the Greats

This will probably be the longest thing I will ever post. It's an essay I wrote this summer on an alternate course of action President Bush could have taken in response to 9/11. It's a radical course of action and I have gotten mixed reactions to it. Almost everyone I have let read it thinks it would have been a good thing for the country 15 years after enactment, but some strongly question the feasibility of the plan - even at the time I was recommending it. Others have raised concerns about its negative impact on the short and medium term economic outlook and the stock market.... all very interesting questions. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you manage to make it to the end!

Here goes....

American history does not provide many examples of dramatic effective leadership by our elected officials. Power is so decentralized in the American government that bold, transformative leadership is rarely possible. However, in times of crisis, power becomes more concentrated in the presidency and windows for true leadership emerge. Examples of this include the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, the creation of Social Security in the Great Depression, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act during the televised explosion of racial tensions in the 1960’s.

As we all know, fate chose the Bush Administration to lead us through one of the greatest crises in our history. September 11, 2001 united this country in a way that few thought possible. President Bush had approval ratings above 90% and almost all Americans looked to him constantly in the days and weeks following the attacks for leadership. Perhaps just as importantly, we looked to him for guidance as to what we could do as individual citizens to help secure our country.

George W. Bush deserves a great deal of credit for his leadership in the months that followed the attacks on New York and Washington. His poise gave us all comfort. His calm and measured approach to the removal of the Taliban and the pursuance of al Qaeda won him the respect of the international community and struck a dramatic blow to the effectiveness of the terrorist network. His commitment to remain in Afghanistan in the years that followed to bring peace and democratic freedom to a war-weary Afghan population made us proud to be Americans.

But it is my belief that true wisdom eluded him in those precious months that followed September 11th. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can say that I was prepared to do almost anything that was asked of me for my country after we were attacked. I considered joining the military. I donated money and blood to the Red Cross. And, as President Bush asked, I continued through my fear to be an active consumer in the American economy. For example, I was terrified when I accepted a job as a management consultant because it meant routine air travel, but I got on a plane twice a week anyway. I’ve been nervous riding the subways in Boston, New York and D.C. since 2001, but I still do so whenever I feel like going somewhere to spend money because, as the President rightly stated, altering our lifestyle because of fear would be a victory for our enemies. As I said, I cannot speak for everyone, but every single person I know has conducted themselves in the same manner. We all wanted to fight back.

But should we have been asked to do more? What more could the President have asked of corporations and individuals to enhance our security – not just in the war against al Qaeda, but to strengthen our overarching long term interests as a nation?

I have a proposal that I don’t think requires the benefit of hindsight:

In the days after 9/11, George W. Bush should have met with the CEOs of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler to ask for a dramatic shift in their corporate strategies. If necessary, he should have demanded it on behalf of the American people. Although the Administration would have collaborated with the firms to develop the specifics, their new strategy would have been something similar to the following: in 5 years, 20% of their domestic production would be hybrid (or equally fuel efficient) vehicles. In 10 years (benefiting from scale), 100% would be hybrids. In 15 years, the Big Three would no longer produce gasoline consuming engines for the American public. For the first time, we could have had a real plan (not an empty “strategy”) to achieve independence from foreign oil. Bush should have worked with Congress to ensure that the Big Three and American oil companies received all the financial assistance they needed to make this possible with minimal pain and job loss – R&D subsidies, increased tax incentives for consumers, etc.

In the initial years of this endeavor, as we weaned ourselves off of oil, Bush should have asked each American for a personal sacrifice. Lower highway speed limits to increase fuel efficiency, and greater use of carpooling and public transportation to lower absolute fuel usage would have been a good start. In addition, the President could have asked each citizen to start a personal voluntary savings account to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle (one of the new hybrids) in the next ten years. Tax incentives could also have been provided to buy stock in the Big Three and American oil companies to help them weather the economic storm and the help them fund their new priorities of investment in new engines and alternative forms of energy.

It is my belief that this plan would not only have benefited our national security, but would have eventually led to a revolution in international affairs pertaining to the Middle East. As we enacted this plan, America’s interest in the region would not diminish completely. Our allies in Europe and Asia, unless they followed our lead with their own national programs, would still need substantial amounts of oil and the global nature of the economy would have made their economic problems our own. Therefore, our leadership in the region would still be needed – particularly in times of great instability or war. One could argue that our leverage would be reduced given our lack of purchasing power – but I believe that this leverage would be replaced be the increased pro-activeness of our allies. Today, Europe, Russia and Asia can take a more relaxed and non-confrontational role in the Middle East. They can do this because they know that American power and the gluttony of American oil consumption will compel us to take the difficult steps that leadership requires when action becomes absolutely necessary. They can feign deference to Middle Eastern public and/or government opinion, safe in the knowledge that when difficult and unpopular action is required, America will do what must be done. They can have their cake and eat it too.

However, if America no longer directly needed oil from the Middle East, these countries would be compelled to take a more active and assertive role in solving problems in the region. The economic pain they would feel from inaction would be more severe and occur sooner than our own. They would be compelled to constructively contribute to solving problems in the region. Imagine the difference in the actions of the international community towards Iraq if they suddenly needed its oil significantly more than we did.

In addition, America would be able, for the first time in over 50 years, to act in a manner more consistent with our principles. We could be a more aggressive advocate for true democracy and human rights. The need to sacrifice our principles for stability – as we did in Iran in the 70’s, Iraq in the 80’s and do in Saudi Arabia today – would be substantially reduced (though admittedly not totally eliminated).

But is this plan feasible? More specifically, would American willpower have been sufficient to alter our lifestyle to one of less consumption? Was our economic strength sufficient to carry this out? Would Congress have approved the necessary funding and the uncertain political implications of this proposal?

Personally, I don’t doubt Americans’ willpower to do these things given the proper leadership– and not just in the short term. I think a national counter, similar to the one that records our perpetually increasing debt, should have been established and shown every time the new color-coded terror warning was shown on TV. It would have logged the billions of dollars that we have diverted from foriegn oil thereby giving Americans a daily reminder of the impact they are having towards the long-term economic and physical security of the nation. In the days and months after we were attacked, this is what we were all looking for – a way to fight back.

Could the economy have afforded all of these subsidies, tax incentives and the short term decrease in economic activity as Americans shifted their lifestyles to one of more savings and less consumption? I do not claim to have numbers that would allow me to definitively answer yes. Would the plan have resulted in substantial short term turbulence in the stock market? Almost certainly. Would it have resulted in job loss in certain sectors such as automobiles and oil companies? Possibly, but this could be minimized with feasible government assistance. But in the longer term, it could very well increase employment in these sectors – particularly in automobiles as more Americans would have an incentive to buy from the Big Three. Would the proposal also have allowed the United States to develop a substantial technological lead in alternative energy? I believe it would. We could build an edge in an industry that is certain (sooner or later) to be one of the most important in the world. So, with respect to economics, we would be making a very calculated investment and incurring temporary pain for a large future benefits.

But did the U.S. government have sufficient financial resources to enact this proposal? The actions of Congress in the years that followed suggest that our legislators did have sufficient confidence in the economy to pursue such a plan. After all, the Administration and Congress did determine that we could afford a trillion dollar tax cut, a $400+ billion dollar Iraq war and a $600 billion prescription drug plan. Furthermore, President Bush advocated spending an additional $2 trillion to privatize Social Security. I cite these expenditures not to provoke a debate on the value of these policies – only to show the vast financial resources that the country can bring to bear on endeavors Congress deems a high priority. The money was there.

Finally, money aside, would Congress have been willing to follow the President’s lead and approve this radical strategy given its uncertain political implications? I argue that they would. In 2001 and 2002, Congress authorized two wars and the passage of the Patriot Act. The President’s leadership was virtually unchallenged for the first time since December 1941. Although certain special interests would undoubtedly have protested the proposal due to the short term financial pain and market uncertainties it would have caused, their arguments would have had to present an effective response to the assertion that this proposal would be of tremendous long-term benefit to the strength of the nation. For decades, a top United States priority has been independence from foreign oil. This policy would be a tremendous step towards that goal. Therefore, with the public focused on the national good and attuned to presidential leadership in a manner not seen since World War II, I do not believe that any special interest group could have made it in Congress’s political interest to resist the proposal.

Had President Bush embraced this policy, I argue that history – and perhaps even his contemporaries – would have recognized it as one of the greatest and most meaningful examples of American leadership since our founding. Bush would have put us on track to achieve the energy independence that our government has been paying lip-service to – and made no progress towards – for decades. He would have radically and positively changed the balance of power and interests in the ongoing debate and conflict in the Middle East by compelling the other powers in the world to truly engage in solving the region’s problems. (Incidentally, he would have struck the most meaningful and dramatic blow to global warming any of us can realistically imagine). Our long term physical and economic security would have been dramatically enhanced and our image in the world would be strengthened as we regained our ability to act more in accordance with our fundamental principles. These principles of liberty, justice and equality of opportunity – the ones articulated at our nation’s birth by Jefferson, Adams and Madison – are the reason America was once loved by the rest of the world…and in a world where ideas are more important in the long term than guns and bombs, this would perhaps be the most profound blow of all to those that mean us harm.

Where It All Started...

The ancestor of every action is a thought - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've thought about doing this for a long time - or at least something like it. I've kept a written journal for over ten years, but it's mostly deep questions about life, philosophy and faith.

This one is just going to be my thoughts on topics I find interesting. I imagine most postings will be about politics or public policy, but I'm sure other topics will pop up from time to time. Most of the entries will probably be remarks on daily events, but occasionally I will post essays that I write. I'll also respond to interesting questions posted on the site.

I've been fortunate to work, study and make friends with some of the smartest people in the world over the last few years. They have taught me a great deal - not the least of which is humility. I'm not writing with the intent of advocating specific positions or thoughts - though I will give my opinion. These posts are primarily meant to force me to record my thoughts so that I can reflect on them later and push my thinking. If I am really lucky, I'll get a few folks to respond to them from time to time to point out things I miss or get wrong.

If I ever have any readers - I welcome your comments - especially if you disagree with anything you read!