2010 saw its share of disasters and fighting. In Haiti a 7.0 earthquake killed 230,000, left 300,000 injured, and a million more homeless. In Afghanistan, America continued to fight for stability and in doing so, saw its highest casualty numbers of the war.
2010 also saw its share of corruption and scandal. Charlie Rangel was censured for his abuses, General Stanley McChrystal was relieved of duty after strongly criticizing Administration policies and officials in a Rolling Stones profile and former Senator and Democrat vice presidential candidate, John Edwards, finally admitted to being the father of an illegitimate child and by year‘s end would see the loyal wife he cheated on, die of cancer.
In politics, 2010 was certainly a year that produced plenty of suspense and surprise. It was a year that saw political power shift, military might flexed, history made, and environmental havoc wreaked. It was a year that challenged the popularity and abilities of President Obama, challenged the American people with economic austerity and the world with nuclear threat. The following 10 events are indicative of just how much so. They are happenings that have either been initiated by politics or had a profound effect on the politics that shaped, or will shape our world.
The order in which they are presented is based upon a combination of media attention, dramatic change, and a mix of both short and long term effects on our nation and the world. Two political eves which were runner ups to the list included Wikileaks and passage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange proved that one man and a keyboard could make dozens of many powerful world leaders cringe all at once? And in doing so he has created some serious freedom of speech and information issues. As for DADT, it was one of the most dramatic military policy changes in decades and whether you believe it to be a civil rights issues or a military decision, it was profound .
Two other political issues which fell short of the top 10 list included the nonevents which were the continued lack of a decision by the Obama Administration regarding how to try enemy combatants and if, how and when to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay.On these two issues, President Obama has proven to speak before he thought and in trying to placate his disenchanted liberal base, has not found a suitable way for reversing his original positions, positions which the truth of reality have forced the President to stall admitting that he was wrong to initially want.
But as for those events which involved the situations handled and decisions made or carried out by political figures, legislative bodies or voters, here are the top 10.
10. – End To Combat Mission In Iraq
On August 31st , the long war in Iraq was “officially’ declared over. In getting to this point, President Obama continued the Bush policy and timeline which brought us to that point. To his credit, President Obama did invoke the name of former President George W. Bush and offered him praise by stating that no one could doubt his predecessors “support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” In a prime time address to the nation, President Obama declared that “Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.” But to say the least, the page remains dog-eared, as approximately 50,000 troops are left in Iraq for the foreseeable future to advise and assist Iraqi security forces.
9. – Shelling of South Korea
On November 23rd, North Korea fired a barrage of artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians and leaving dozens of families homeless. The unprovoked attack prompted South Korea to scramble F-16 fighter jets and return fire. It also forced Seoul to place its military on its highest non-wartime alert level. The attacks also proved, once again, how absolutely erratic and dangerous the North Korean regime is. In March, again unprovoked, North Korea fired on and sunk a South Korean ship. That event killed 46 sailors . It is said that the secretive and reclusive North Korean regime performs stunts like this and makes threats of even bolder military action, all in the name of posturing for negotiations. But at some point in time, violence can not be accepted in negotiations and if North Korea keeps pushing in this fashion, it will eventually force others to push back. Between these two incidents, its nuclear ambitions and its long range missile capabilities, Pyongyang proves to be a disturbing threat to peace and stability in the increasingly important region of Asia. With its burgeoning economies, the world can little afford war on the Korean peninsula. Nor could we afford the risk of drawing China and our Japanese ally into a war. If 2011 sees North Korea acting the same as it did in 2010, expect the current focus on the Middle East to shift further East.
8. –Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions
In 2010 it became more apparent than ever that Iran was close to becoming a nuclear power, a fact that could change the Middle East and life as we know it. It became quite clear that Iran had the ability to enrich uranium and experts now believe that it could produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a bomb anywhere from within a few months to two years. As usual, talk seems to do little to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capabilities and after 18 years of hiding their nuclear enrichment program, UN Security Council resolutions ordering Iran to suspend development have failed to stop Iran from moving ahead. If some kind of arrangement is not soon made to keep Iran from gaining the ability to develop nuclear weapons, the situation could fall upon Israel, the small nation which Iran’s President has promised to push off the face of the earth. But if Israel were to act, how would the surrounding nations of Islam deal with its aftermath?
7. – The Ground Zero Mosque
Whether or not anyone has the right to build a mosque in the immediate area surrounding ground zero of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was never the question. But whether or not it is appropriate, is the question. Should a religious house of worship for Islam, rise from the rubble of the attacks that extremists waged in the name of Islam? For the left,….. the politically correct, sensitive left, it should be easy to understand that the answer is “no“. However, regardless of political correctness it is true that our Constitution permits freedom of religion and there exists no legal right to prohibit the building of a Mosque in an area that is zoned for such construction. This situation dominated the news and politics for months as it consumed headlines and our attention. And till this day, many are still trying to find a compromise that would allow for the construction of this mosque, but in a location other than ground zero.
6. – Unemployment
In November it rose and as it went up, the hopes of our sluggish economy picking up steam anytime soon went down. Despite promises by President Obama that his stimulus package would soon get unemployment down to a still too high 8.00%, it is rising and worst of all, it comes during the holiday season, when employment usually ticks up, and unemployment ticks down. But although November was particularly bad, unemployment ruled the headlines and the economy throughout the year and has placed millions into dire straits and highlights deeper troubles within the economy. Through it all the political Party in power not only failed to effectively combat unemployment, they at times seemed to go out of their way to convince the American people that they aren’t even capable of doing anything about it. Nancy Pelosi called government spending a jobs bill and Harry Reid once even said that it was a great day in America because only 160,000 Americans lost their jobs during a particular month. The long standing high unemployment rate will keep on weighing down President Obama and until he understands how to allow free enterprise to create jobs and what the real economic engine of America is, he will continue to simply tinker with the numbers and miss his target of his still too high 8% unemployment rate . Although, when compared to 10%, it would be an improvement.
5. – The Arizona Immigration Law
The bill simply enofrced fedral laws at the state level, yet the Obama Administration and liberal illegal immgration advocates lost control and flipped out. They called it unconstitutional and subsequently took Arizona to court over itsx new law. For months this story fueled itself with large protetsts by by pro-illegal immigration groups and SEIU union members, and counter protests that energized an already energetic TEA Party movement.
4. – Gulf Oil Disaster
It was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and it was the first real crisis of the Obama Administration. How did they handle it? Miserably. The first reaction to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico was slow and initially directed toward blaming it on George Bush. But as time went on, and it was shown that haphazard application of regulations assisted the disaster, it was also discovered that BP, the owners of the facility gave President Obama a million dollars in campaign donations and shortly before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, receive a safety award by the Obama Administration. But the more egg that was on the President’s face, the more oil lapped onto the Gulf shore states, particularly Louisiana, a state that is in many ways still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. For months the oil gushed from the under see pipes that once flowed to the top of the Deepwater Horizon. In all, between April 20th when the rig exploded and July 15th when the gusher was finally plugged, a continuous flow of a total of 4,300,000 barrels of oil was said to have poured into the Gulf. The episode had a profound effect on the economies of the Gulf states, closed down the fishing and shrimping industries and left Americans lacking the confidence in President Obama’s ability to effectively handle crisis.
3. – 2010 Midterm Elections
Two years ago, left wing commenators and pundits claimed the G.O.P was dead and going the way of the Whigs. But in what proved to be a tidal wave election of historic proportions, Republicans won a remarkable 691 state legislative seats, shattering the old record which was held by Democrats in the post Watergate election of 1974, when they picked up 629 seats. Along the way, those numbers allowed the G.O.P. to increase thier stregnth by winning control of 18 various state legislative chambers and control of both state legislative chambers in 26 states. In addition to that, Republicans elected 7 new Governors bringing the total up to 29 G.O.P. Governors and allowing for complete control of state government with majorities in the the statehouses and the upper and lower houses of as many as 21 states, a sign that does not bode well for Democrats in the upcoming redistricting process. In all, Republicans now have the largest majority for the Party since 1928. Beyond state government, Republicans picked up a total of 63 House seats and 6 U.S. Senate seats. The historic number of House pickups was one of the largest number of seats gained in an election in over a generation and give the G.O.P. one of it largest majority margins ever. The 2010 election produced a truly profound political change. It not only gave Republicans control of the House and many statehouses and legislatures, it also gave them the ability to determine the political landscape for the next ten years as they take a very large upper hand in redistricting. In the years to come, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama will surely learn to regret having misread the American people quite as much as they did during 2010.
2. – Election of Scott Brown
This event seems to have faded away in the hearts and minds of most but truth be told, the election of Republican Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy as one of Massachusetts two U.S. Senators, was quite profound and a sign of just how dissatisfied with the direction of the nation, voters had become. In fact it was the beginning of the 2010 midterm elections and a sign of what was to come . After channeling voter anger and capitalizing on disenchantment with the President’s agenda, underdog Scott Brown made Massachusetts political history after by pulling off an upset victory and becoming the first Republican elected to the senate from Massachusetts since Edward Brooks was first elected to the position in 1966. But more than that was the legacy of Ted Kennedy which Brown had to in many ways, run against. Ted Kennedy was the third longest U.S. Senator in history. He held the seat for more than 5 decades and during that time became known as the Liberal Lion. But in the wake of the anti-liberal sentiments sweeping the nation, even Ted Kennedy’s legacy could not help Scott Brown’s liberal Democrat opponent, State Attorney General Martha Coakley, to pull this election out. The selection of Scott Brown was a true sign of things to come and proof that the national political map was going to turn not Republican red or Democrat blue, but TEA Party ‘Brown”. Eight months later it did.
1. – Passage of Obamacare
The passage of health reform probably had more impact on politics than it did on healthcare. At least once it’s repealed in whole or found unconstitutional by the courts. It certainly had a profound effect on the balance of power in America. After more than a year of closed door, partisan negotiations, the health reform bill was passed in the face of unprecedented political opposition to it which increased every day that the debate continued. It was finally approved after unprecedented amounts of kickbacks and political payoffs were offered to legislators in exchange for their vote for the unpopular bill and even though liberals did not feel it went far enough, and that moderates and conservatives believed it went too far. Yet on Sunday, March 21st, Obamacare passed despite the fact that it actually raised healthcare premiums and after the House even considered passing it without voting on the measure, and instead, just deeming it passed. The entire process regarding the healthcare bill, from its debate to its actual vote, demonstrated all the worst of a legislative process which Democrats were abusing. It demonstrated how unwilling Democrats were to listen to the people and most of all, it showed just how antithetical to the Constitution and the American free enterprise system that the federal government has become. So much so that their attempt to take control of 1/6 of the American economy fueled the birth of a Taxed Enough Already movement that would be the downfall of Democrats and a wake up call for Republicans. The unsavory passage of Obamacare was an example of left wing liberalism being so extreme that it forced many Americans to see that government was less divided by left and right than it was between right and wrong. The result was an electorate that forced Republicans and Democrats to look at the Constitution of the United States and refer to it before they passed laws that went beyond the rightful power of the federal government. And on November 2rd, the result was a resounding rejection of Obamacare, Democrats and the Obama agenda. All in all, passage of the healthcare reform bill was in many ways historic. It was one of the most significant and sweeping social programs since LBJ and even FDR. It was also one of the most incoherent, convoluted, unenforceable and unconstitutional pieces of legislation ever to be made into law, and it prompted a most historic transfers of power in the House of Representatives.
With all that, 2010 ends on the same note that it began. It ends with us having hope, hope that our political leaders will act responsibly. Hope that our economy will improve and that rogue nations and regimes will see the light. As 2010 ends, we hope that 2011 will be a year where the lessons of years past are remembered and that we as a people, move in the right direction rather than the wrong one.