US Opinion and Commentary

“VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussion and opinion on these policies.” — VOA Charter

Showing Archived Posts

Finally, Voters Speak

Posted February 1st, 2016 at 3:18 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

We’ve heard the speeches, watched the debates, read the polls. Today, the Iowa caucuses take place and the first votes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election are finally cast. Tonight’s exercise in democracy is not tidy, requiring detailed explanation for even the savviest political junkie. But it is the start of a process to determine who will represent the Democrats and Republicans in the race to be President of the United States. The polls show the race in Iowa tightening. But it’s not just about who finishes first. Exceeding expectations can be just as important, creating momentum for next week’s primary contest in New Hampshire.

Next Stop: Iowa

Posted January 29th, 2016 at 2:32 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

A year ago, the 2016 presidential race was a bit of a yawn. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was the presumptive Republican nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was headed for a landslide on the Democratic side. A lot can change in a year’s time. Clinton is locked in a tight race with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump’s wildly unconventional campaign has sucked up all the air in the Republican Party. On Monday, the Iowa caucus will turn polling data into actual votes. Historically, an Iowa win has not guaranteed a White House win. But as everyone agrees, this is no ordinary American election season. And with so many other local factors – a majority white population, rural, active evangelicals, the cold weather – predicting the outcome is especially difficult.

The Challenger Disaster: Lessons Learned

Posted January 28th, 2016 at 11:51 am (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

30 years ago today, NASA was forever changed. The U.S. space agency’s space shuttle Challenger launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Shortly after liftoff, with live cameras rolling, the shuttle broke apart and dropped Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven crew members. It was the celebrated U.S. space agency’s first inflight tragedy. And like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or 9/11, Americans remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when it unfolded. The tragedy was probed, but in 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart while re-entering the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members on board. Despite the grave losses, NASA pulled itself out its institutional trauma and looked again to the future. Despite the grave losses, NASA pulled itself out its institutional trauma and looked again to the future. In the three decades since those disasters, the agency has put multiple rovers on Mars and completed the International Space Station – just two examples of triumph over tragedy.

Remembering the Holocaust

Posted January 27th, 2016 at 1:38 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Six million Jews. That staggering estimate of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust, known as the Shoah in Hebrew, still boggles the human mind. And yet we know it happened during World War II, during the rise and rule of fascist German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. We have the photos. We have survivors’ stories. We have Hitler’s written words. We have toured the death camps in Europe. 71 years ago today, those imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi camp in southern Poland, were liberated by Soviet Troops. In case we ever forget the potential of humans to commit such a genocide – it has happened since in Rwanda and Cambodia and some say, right now in Syria – we remember the victims of the Holocaust on January 27th.

Democratic Party Drama

Posted January 22nd, 2016 at 3:10 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Benghazi. A private email server. Whitewater. All scandals with the name Clinton attached. Ever since the Clinton’s came to Washington more than 20 years ago, controversy has plagued the power couple, who have built a very loyal following right along side a long list of enemies. Now as the former First Lady, senator from New York, and former Secretary of State makes her case to be President of the United States, she faces an unexpectedly tough battle from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has attracted support from Americans who are tired of business as usual in Washington. It has widely been assumed that the Democratic Party nomination was Hillary’s to lose. But with polls showing more and more voters supporting non-mainstream candidates like Sanders (and billionaire Donald Trump on the Republican side), there are concerns that, despite her gravitas, Hillary’s credibility gap has weakened her hold on Democrats.

Confronting ISIS After Obama

Posted January 21st, 2016 at 3:58 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

The idea of sending a large American military force to push Islamic State (ISIS) militants out of its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria and parts of Iraq has been firmly rejected President Barack Obama, whose ISIS strategy was dissected immediately after the mass shooting by ISIS sympathizers in San Bernardino, California.

But it’s a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, with prescriptions like Texas Senator and Republican hopeful Ted Cruz’s idea of “carpet bombing” the group in both countries. Critics, among them former Secretary of State Robert Gates, have publicly shunned such policy statements as simplistic and even irresponsible. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has said he “would bomb the hell out of those oil fields,” referring to ISIS controlled parts of Iraq.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded more hawkish than Obama, her former boss. Her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has been dismissed as thin on foreign policy for saying Muslim nations in the region must do the dirty work.

Experts widely agree that whomever wins the White House in November will not be able to avoid the ISIS problem. Right now, there is no way to accurately predict who that person will be. What we do know is that selling an answer to ISIS while campaigning and actually having to act on it as Commander in Chief are two very different things.

366 Days Away

Posted January 20th, 2016 at 3:54 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

366 days from today — one calendar leap year — someone new will be reciting the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States. And so far, the 2016 presidential campaign has been defined by the term anti-establishment. Bernie Sanders — a self-described socialist and independent — is making a strong run at the Democrats’ establishment candidate, former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Among Republicans, the anti-establishment candidate is the front-runner. Donald Trump jumped into the lead in the polls and has yet to be toppled. While Democrats are not questioning Sanders’ party credentials, the same cannot be said for Trump and the Republicans, to the point where some icons of the conservative movement say they can envision a third party conservative candidate if Trump is the Republican standard bearer.

Shifting Alliances

Posted January 19th, 2016 at 4:04 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

One of the many ripple effects of the U.S.-Iran prisoner swap and Tehran’s verified compliance with the historic nuclear accord is a new world order in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia – a long-time rival of Tehan – is nervous and talking tough, as the lifting of costly Western sanctions is set to propel Iran’s economic might. Not long before the latest developments, Saudi Arabia had already stoked tensions by beheading the prominent Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. That provoked a violent attack on the Saudi mission in Iran, which in turn, gave the House of Saud a reason to sever diplomatic ties. Meanwhile, both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the use of diplomacy to win the release of five Americans in a prisoner swap with Iran, simultaneously praising Tehtan for pausing its nuclear program. Where does all this leave the traditional, and sometimes co-dependent, U.S.-Saudi relationship? Making friends with Iran was a big gamble. It appears the Obama administration believes the benefits outweigh the costs.

Still Reaching for MLK Jr.’s Dream

Posted January 18th, 2016 at 1:41 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Despite electing a black president – Barack Obama – not only once, but twice, racism in America persists. With a slew of smartphone videos showing policemen reaching for their guns during confrontations with African-Americans, who end up dead, it is undeniable that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of equality remains unrealized. Has there been progress? Yes. There’s an African-American man in the Oval Office. There are laws in place. There is Jay Z, Cornel West, Toni Morrison and Oprah, just a few of countless prominent and celebrated black Americans who are thriving economically, who are influential and adored. There is also Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland. There is the chilling Dash-Cam video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a Chicago cop, a video that was only released by authorities long after the event. In response, the “Black Lives Matter” movement sprung to life, controversial and criticized just as Dr. King was so many years ago.

Obama: ‘Strong American Diplomacy’ Pays Off

Posted January 17th, 2016 at 2:58 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

“This is a good day.” So began President Barack Obama’s televised statement on the release of Americans held in Iran following delicate negotiations between the United States and Iran on a prisoner swap apparently tied indirectly to last year’s historic nuclear pact to scale back Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Five Americans, including a Washington Post reporter, were freed in exchange for seven Iranians. The prisoner trade was swiftly condemned by Republican presidential hopefuls and some pundits. The stunning developments included sanction relief for Iran, and the release of roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had dismantled large portions of its nuclear program. Despite the developments – who can argue against the happiness that comes with release of Americans citizens and their families? – Iran remains on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. And that means the road ahead will be long and bumpy.

Debate About the Debate

Posted January 15th, 2016 at 4:14 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Smackdown. Fight Club. Nasty. Ugly. Surreal.

The stinging words used by pundits to describe for Thursday’s Republican presidential debate hat most observers say shrunk the 11-person field to a likely two-man race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.Cruz seemed to effectively shut down Trump’s attempt to cast doubt that he is constitutionally qualified to serve as president, because Cruz was born in Canada to American citizens. And by dramatically recounting his 9/11 experience, Trump countered the “New York values” tarring Cruz used to question Trumps conservative credentials. The other four candidates on stage were left to try to claw their way into the fray, cast aside as the two frontrunners slugged it out.

Now, many political observers predict a two or three man race for the Republican nomination.And despite an air of resigned acceptance that Donald Trump may indeed become Republican nominee, it is important to remember this: not a single vote has been cast in the race for the White House.

Cruz Vs. Trump: It’s On

Posted January 14th, 2016 at 3:18 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

“Hold your friends close and your enemies closer.” That adage is playing out on the Republican side of the presidential race. For months, Ted Cruz has been loathe to criticize front-runner Donald Trump, unlike the rest of the GOP candidates. Trump accepted Cruz’s invitation to join him in a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in August. They shared a laugh during the last debate when Cruz suggested he’d build a wall on the Mexico border “and have Donald Trump pay for it.”

Now, the bloom is off the rose. Trump is now questioning whether Cruz constitutionally qualifies for president since he was born in Canada, albeit to American parents. Cruz shot back, saying Trump has “New York values” in the hopes that plays well with audiences in mostly rural Iowa, where the first votes of the campaign will be cast February 1. What may not play well in Iowa is a New York Times report that Cruz failed to report a large loan from New York-based bank Goldman Sachs, where his wife works. The loan appears to belie the narrative Cruz has woven that he and his wife liquidated their entire personal net worth to finance his campaign for Senate in 2012. Although Cruz has won enough support in Iowa to close in on Trump, he’s made many political enemies along the way. This act of political theater will be playing out tonight as the Republicans take the stage for yet another debate.

Barack, Hillary and Bernie

Posted January 13th, 2016 at 2:24 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Keeping with tradition, President Obama is traveling to the American heartland to sell his State of the Union message. That message — the country is in better shape than the presidential campaign rhetoric makes it out to be — seems to be aimed helping his party continue to occupy the White House and burnish his legacy. As most of the media attention is focused on the fractious campaign among Republicans, the race between democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is getting closer and more contentious. How unscathed either can emerge will go a long way to determine how shiny the Obama legacy will look.

Obama’s Final Pitch

Posted January 11th, 2016 at 2:24 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

The White House has already hinted at the tone and focus of President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address. Positive. Forward looking. And, most of all, the president is expected to counter Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s decidedly negative, and often time offensive, narrative of the country. While these annual speeches often come off as ceremonial and full of unfulfilled promises, this one — Obama’s eighth — is a marker. After he utters his final words “…and God bless America,” the race to replace him will have officially begun.

Presidential Tears, Executive Actions and a Townhall

Posted January 8th, 2016 at 4:02 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

President Obama’s mission to address gun violence in America began on Friday, December 31st, New Year’s Eve. Obama released his regular recorded Saturday address earlier than usual. In it was a clear message that he would forge ahead and do something – anything – to make it harder for potential killers to buy firearms. He had tried – and failed – to tighten gun laws after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.This week, frustrated by inaction and just a few weeks after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Obama made his move. He invoked executive power, bypassing Congress, to address loopholes in background checks for gun sales. That was followed by a press conference to officially unveil his executive actions in which the president, uncharacteristically emotional, shed tears. Two days later, he was live on television at a town hall on gun control hosted by CNN. He capped the week by writing an opinion column, “Barack Obama: Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility,” published in the New York Times.