I’ve been critical of the President’s leadership in the past, and wrote this about a previous State of the Union address. But I’m rooting for him to be at his rhetorical and persuasive best tonight, not so much for his re- election prospects as for the good of the country.

Candidate Obama had a large vision during his campaign and it called us to our higher selves. In part his decisive 2008 victory was due to America’s exhaustion with George W. Bush. But a big factor was Obama’s vision and his promises to lead a progressive agenda once elected.

Instead, once elected, he focused on small vision projects and on doing deals rather than articulating the ideals that had propelled him into office. Tonight’s speech gives him a new opportunity– the last such chance he’ll have during this term–to give people that bigger vision and not just to say things that are safe. To come out swinging at the Republicans

Read More

I believe in making common cause with people of all persuasions, but here’s what I learned about the quest for common ground on issues where people have diametrically opposing worldviews. Originally published at On The Issues Magazine.

©Elaine Soto

©Elaine SotoThe day before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to rule, rumors circulated that the agency would approve Plan B One Step emergency contraception as a non-prescription item and allow it to be sold without age restrictions. Freelance writer Robin Marty predicted via e-mail, “Conservative reaction will be a total shitstorm.”

Read More

Arena asked “Should Miss. ‘personhood’ proposal pass?” The answer is NO. And further….please read on to see what else I think about what the proposal means, and what should be done about it.

NO 26The Arena Asks: An initiative in Mississippi Tuesday would impose the country’s tightest regulations on abortion and birth control. Initiative 26 would change the definition of a person to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Should the ‘personhood’ proposal pass?

My Answer: Everyone who is or has a mother, sister, woman friend, or daughter should vote against any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who fails to support a woman’s fundamental human right to make her own childbearing decisions–including whether to have a child or not. Period.

Read More

Really I’m not single-minded.

I watched every minute of President Obama’s 100 Days Press Conference (transcript here). I was enchanted by the reporter who asked Obama what had “enchanted, troubled, surprised, and humbled” him since taking office. Even though a quick wit said that sounded like a Facebook quiz, I thought it livened up the other, more predictable questions.

The answer I liked best was what surprised him, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

“I am surprised, compared to where I started, by the number of critical issues coming to a head all at the same time.” When he first starting running for office, Iraq was dominant. The economy was an issue. “Obviously I did not anticipate the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” So unlike new administrations that deal with three big issues, he says, his has about eight to address.

It was delivered with a sense of humor, making light of the many problems on his plate and eliciting gentle laughter. The laughter at these events always sounds gentle. No big guffaws. More of a gentlepersonly acknowledgment that something humorous has been said that makes the president more human.

Obama observed that every generation faces challenges and we will meet ours. This reminded me of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s observation that every generation finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values. That thought was still in my mind when Obama was asked the inevitable torture question and he invoked Winston Churchill’s objections to using torture because it wasn’t in keeping with Britain’s values. Waterboarding is torture, he said, and he acknowledged that the U.S. had waterboarded. This is huge. No compromise there.

I was about to turn into a little puddle of warm butter over this amazing man–his intellect, grasp of the issues, candor, sense of ethics.

But then came this exchange with Ed Henry, and I snapped out of it. Really, I’m not single-minded but old habits die hard, and I couldn’t help but pay special attention:

Read More

In the first post on “Message to Obama: Change Your View to Obama for Women“, I made clear that I’ll vote for Obama, but the fervor with which I and many other women work for his election will be determined by his actions going forward. As one former Clinton activist said, “women aren’t marginal; we’re the key”. John Kerry took women’s votes for granted, and won only 51% of women’s votes in 2004. That’s several points too low to create a gender gap capable of propelling any Democratic presidential candidate to victory.

Since I wrote that post, Obama’s tidy double digit lead over John McCain evaporated to a measly 3%, a statistical dead heat. This shift was brought about in no small part by Obama’s clumsy attempts to tack to the presumed center on core issues like wiretapping and abortion ostensibly to broaden his base, but instead turning off the passionately progressive grassroots groundswell that brought him to where he is. And remember–Republicans vote for their candidate come hell or high water while Democrats argue the issues, and that’s how we all too often lose elections.

Read More

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe by Waldo Fielding M.D., in today’s New York Times is a must read and must share. Fielding is 80; his generation of doctors knows the real stories about the injustices of illegal abortion. An excerpt:

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside. When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals. There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion…

Now it’s up to the generation now present to make the coat hanger (photos of which accompnied the article) a symbol of women’s empowerment rather than victimization.

Read More