October 31, 2012
Are only “archconservatives” with “no sense of humor” insulted by the new “Your First Time” video for President Obama — or ought every thinking woman (and man) be outraged to watch this young woman of privilege playing at politics?
Is this the legacy of the women who fought and suffered against such stereotypes to secure the right to vote? Is this poster child of the heiress of the generation of women who worked 18-hour days to prove ourselves in a man’s world — overachieving in the workplace to dispel, forever, the notion that women are truly created equal to men; then working hard into the night at home to raise children with an understanding that they could achieve anything they set themselves to?
With the Obama campaign paying for the video, an official “Obama for America” mass email touting the ad that piles on even more innuendo, and a link from the ad to the campaign website: “‘Your first time? Get started here,” it’s clearly a message the president is standing behind. Does he really want his wife and daughters seeing an ad likening voting for him to losing their virginity, or a young woman who has documented a proclivity for making poor choices to serve as the role model for Sasha, Malia, and the next generation of women?
And what of the assertions she makes in the ad?
Are our votes to be bought with free birth control? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s provision that insurance companies must provide contraceptive products at no cost to the insured is not a question as to “whether” you get birth control. It is a simple case of forcing employers or insurance companies to pay for “free” birth control for everyone, regardless of choice or need. The alternative is access to birth control covered under standard terms of insurance — including choice of coverage and cost.
As far as her assertion of support for a man who “brought the troops out of Iraq,” Ms. Dunham apparently has paid no attention to the post-third debate fact-checking that confirms that President Obama did, indeed, seek a Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq that would have left additional troops there for a period beyond the withdrawal timetable set by the Bush administration. Only when Baghdad would not agree was he forced to adhere to the Bush plan. Meanwhile, under President Obama’s “surge” policy, the civilian death rate in Afghanistan has tripled since 2008, while military deaths have doubled, accounting for two-thirds of all such deaths since the war’s beginning.
The Lilly Ledbetter Act’s chief result will be immortalizing the name of Ms. Ledbetter. Ms. Dunham and others seem to believe it was some kind of landmark legislation against unequal pay, which it wasn’t. The sole question in Ms. Ledbetter’s case was not whether she had been paid unequally, but that her waiting a full six years from the time she learned her salary differed from her male colleagues to bring suit pushed her beyond the statute of limitations for bringing such action. The Act bearing her name now loosens the obligation to make such claims in a timely manner. Thus, and as Joe Biden has admitted, the Act is “not a big deal in terms of equal pay.”
For seven years following 9/11, conservatives gave George W. Bush a pass on upholding the Constitution, as he expropriated extraordinary powers to the executive, including warrantless wiretapping; waged invasive wars grounded in convoluted arguments; sanctioned the pursuit of such unprecedented practices as indefinite detention, rendition, and “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a/k/a torture); and exploded the size, power, and cost of the federal government at a hitherto unprecedented pace.
Liberals over the past four years have similarly given President Obama a pass on fulfilling his promises to restore peace, prosperity, and liberty. He has instead expanded war, including the surge in Afghanistan noted above, increased the use of drones, including on civilian populations, and increased military spending. Rather than halving the deficit as promised, he has continued it apace, now claiming it doesn’t matter. Rather than closing Guantanamo, ending torture, and restoring civil liberties, Obama has instead continued — and indeed expanded — all of the Bush-era war and “anti-terror” policies. He extended the USA PATRIOT Act — twice — that he claimed to oppose, and enacted the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which provides for the indefinite detention of any American citizen without charge or trial. He argued successfully for the president to have the unilateral right to order the killing of a U.S. citizen.
What neither conservatives nor liberals seem yet to realize — as our forebears well knew and attempted to protect against in the Constitution — is that once liberties have been expropriated: They are gone. That the extraordinary powers granted to one president are then available to the next — and are invariably expanded upon.
Both ends of the political spectrum ought thus to pause and project the full impact of the precedents they are supporting: Should the specter of a President McCain or Romney endowed with the power over life and death have been sufficiently frightening to hold the line on providing such to Obama?
Imagine if instead of expending sickening amounts of money and effort commissioning titillating and distorted homages to politicians who betray their promises, we promoted a continual campaign of informed holding to account elected representatives to their sworn duty to uphold and protect our individual rights and liberties.
Do we want to be “cool,” or free?