Obama Shows Willingness To Take on Democratic Special Interests In Calling for Merit Pay for Teachers


One of the reasons I supported John Kerry in 2004 was that he was willing to break from traditional Democratic policies and oppose traditional Democratic special interests. He fought for a balanced budget before this became the established Democratic position. When proposing his health care policy, Kerry took on the trial lawyers and argued for malpractice reform. In contrast, the support for malpractice reform in the Kerry-Edwards platform is suddenly missing from John Edwards’ current proposals as trial lawyers are major contributors to his campaign. Barack Obama, while unfortunately lacking the experience which Kerry brought to the campaign in 2004, does at times remind me of Kerry as he has been willing to disagree with the positions of Democratic interest groups.

The latest example of this occurred when Obama was speaking to the National Education Association. Obama called for merit pay before this hostile audience, but did softened the blow by saying he would not use “arbitrary tests” to link pay to performance:

“I think there should be ways for us to work with the NEA, with teachers’ unions, to figure out a way to measure success,” Obama told a crowd of about 9,000 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “I want to work with teachers. I’m not going to do it too you, I’m going to do it with you.”

It was a measure of Democrat Obama’s rock-star appeal that he did not draw any hisses with the pronouncement, and even got scattered applause. Obama’s endorsement of merit pay for teachers was the first note deviating from the promise-anything tenor of visits by several presidential candidates to the union this week.

Obama said that improving public education was vital to the U.S. ability to compete in a global economy, pointing out that students here score well below their counterparts in other industrialized nations, particularly in science and mathematics.

“In the 21st century, countries that out-educate us now will out-compete us tomorrow,” Obama said. “The work you do and the difference you make has never been more important to the future of this country.”

He promised more pay “across the board” for teachers and extra incentives for those willing to work in lower-performing schools in urban and rural areas, though he noted that he would release the details of those goals and other education policies at a later date.

Obama was firm in his denunciation of the No Child Left Behind law, saying he would not support its reauthorization, an issue now pending before Congress, unless the reliance on standardized test scores was softened and more federal funding was poured into compliance.

“Don’t pass a law called No Child Left Behind and leave the money behind,” Obama said.

I’m sure that long time Democrats will see it differently, but for an independent such as myself, at present Barack Obama and Bill Richardson remain the only candidates for the Democratic nomination who appears to have the possibility of gaining my support. With the move by the Republicans to the extreme right, and their embracement of authoritarianism in opposition to the ideals upon which this nation was founded, all the Democratic candidates are preferable to the current Republican ones. Still, there’s a big difference between backing a candidate worthy of support and voting for the lesser of two evils.

Domenici Calls For Change in Strategy in Iraq

Last week Richard Lugar abandoned George Bush on the war. This week Senator Pete Domenici has broken ranks:

White House efforts to keep congressional Republicans united over the Iraq war suffered another major defection yesterday as Sen. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) broke with President Bush and called for an immediate change in U.S. strategy that could end combat operations by the spring.

The six-term lawmaker, party loyalist and former staunch war supporter represents one of the most significant GOP losses to date. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Albuquerque, Domenici said he began to question his stance on Iraq late last month, after several conversations with the family members of dead soldiers from his home state, and as it became clear that Iraqi leaders are making little progress toward national reconciliation.

“We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress,” Domenici said. “I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”

The White House had hoped that Republican lawmakers would stand back until a mid-September administration report on military and political progress in Iraq resulting from the president’s troop-increase plan, which has boosted U.S. forces by tens of thousands. But Domenici said the signal to Bush should be clear: GOP patience is running out much more quickly.

“What we’re doing here could overtake the way we’re handling things over there,” he said.

Yesterday, Domenici embraced a new legislative proposal to reshape U.S. policy around the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. In December, the bipartisan panel called for withdrawing most U.S. combat troops by March 31, 2008, although a limited number would remain in place for training and counterterrorism operations and other specific missions.

I expect this trend of Republicans abandoning  Bush on the war to continue considering speculation that Republican Senators would drop their support for White House policy by September.

Thompson Tried to Suppress Watergate Investigation Years Before He Assisted Bush Cover Up of Iraq War Lies

The Boston Globe shows how, during the Senate Watergate hearings, Fred Thompson (left in above picture) was a mole for the Nixon White House:

When Thompson learned of Butterfield’s admission, he leaked the revelation to Nixon’s counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt .

“Even though I had no authority to act for the committee, I decided to call Fred Buzhardt at home” to tell him that the committee had learned about the taping system, Thompson wrote. “I wanted to be sure that the White House was fully aware of what was to be disclosed so that it could take appropriate action.”

Armstrong said he and other Democratic staffers had long been convinced that Thompson was leaking information about the investigation to the White House. The committee, for example, had obtained a memo written by Buzhardt that Democratic staffers believed was based on information leaked by Thompson.

“Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was,” according to one investigator. Reading how Thompson tried to help Richard Nixon suppress the truth provides new perspective to Thompson’s support of Scooter Libby, which helps suppress the truth about the run up to the Iraq war.