President Obama appears to be moving aggressively to make needed changes that were blocked or ignored by the Bush administration. More power to him, as they say.
Yet, I find it inexplicable that, while seeming to move in new directions in foreign policy and in energy, education and health, he has so far failed to change two major misjudgments of the Bush administration which would save billions and would be near universally applauded.
One is to remove all impediments to purchasing prescription drugs manufactured by U.S. companies and shipped directly to Canada where they are sold from 40 percent up to 70 percent below the prices charged for the same drug in the U.S. The same or perhaps steeper discounts are available on Canadian manufactured drugs that are subject to Canadian government price controls. Why the delay?
Similarly, why has the Obama administration delayed allowing Medicare to use its purchasing power to obtain volume discounts for drugs, now barred by the legislation covering prescription drug availability created by President Bush and the Congress?
Why aren’t Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid making this a legislative priority?
Are the drug companies still in command because of their campaign contributions to Democratic and Republican legislators?
It’s Just a Handshake
The picture of a smiling President Obama shaking hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not offend me, nor should it offend anyone, no matter how incensed one may feel towards Chavez because of his authoritarian tactics and his unconcealed enmity to the U.S.
From what I saw on television, Chavez walked over to President Obama, extended his hand and offered the president a book. It would have been the height of unacceptable rudeness to refuse to shake hands at the time.
Shaking hands is a social grace and not a imprimatur of social acceptance. What is important is what the president does in formulating and executing foreign policy.
Cuba Poses Possibilities
President Obama has moved to some extent on Cuba, but not enough. President John F. Kennedy brilliantly handled the nuclear missile threat, which arose when Soviet missiles were placed in Cuba. The answer was obvious and JFK embraced it, stating, “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
At the same time, he conveyed to the Soviet Union that we were prepared to remove our nuclear missiles from Turkey noting that the USSR borders Turkey. We subsequently removed our missiles from Turkey after the Soviet Union removed its missiles from Cuba.
I believe our nation would overwhelmingly support President Obama if he lifted the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Fidel Castro and successor, brother Raul, are now toothless tigers, militarily speaking. But Cubans are extraordinary people who make substantial contributions in various fields, such as providing high quality medical care in Cuba and as volunteers around the developing world.
The entire membership of the Organization of American States (OAS) wants Cuba back as a full member now.
Why not do that without requiring any preconditions?
Yes, they are a communist state. So is China, which is now our largest trading partner, and appears to be our largest creditor as well, lending its money to pay our bills. And let’s not forget our growing relationship with Vietnam, another communist state. Treat Cuba as we now treat Vietnam.
Also, we know Cuba has kept General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford cars running for 50 years. Let’s find out how they do that and maybe have some of those Cuban auto mechanics on special visas to visit the U.S. to show those companies things they should know about their own cars. What do we have to lose?
What Use Torture?
I believe President Obama’s making public the memos on what actions could be taken against terror detainees to elicit information was a good thing. His critics’ argument that it gives terrorists helpful information that will allow them to prepare for torture and confinement techniques are ridiculous.
Surely all of these methods are known to them. I suspect they employ worse. But they weren’t all known to the American public and most important, the American public wasn’t aware of who authorized their use in the name of the American people.
It is shocking to learn that waterboarding was used 266 times against two terrorists and apparently produced no additional information. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said she asked the CIA to tell her what invaluable information was elicited from terrorists as a result of torture, and that they provided no cases where such information was produced. Shouldn’t we know, under oath, if torture ever produced key information?
I still believe that torture is permissible in the case of the ticking bomb. I also believe that it should never be authorized by law and that we have to depend on whoever is in charge to step forward and authorize its use, knowing he or she could ultimately be held responsible for abuses and depend on the good judgment of the government or a jury of their peers.
I also believe that the proposal of Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to hold hearings in the style of the Truth Commission of South Africa presided over by Bishop Tutu makes sense and should be authorized.
Those testifying under oath telling the absolute truth would be given immunity after testifying. Those declining to testify or lying would be criminally prosecuted. The old maxim “the truth shall make you free” is even more relevant today.
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