The Post Gazette's forum section today contained (as it usually does) several interesting items. I thought it would be interesting to look at several of them, especially since a couple are related.
First, Jack Kelly took off on how many of the Republican candidates (or possible candidates) are superior to Obama. Actually, Kelly's favorite candidate turns out not to be an American at all: Benjamin Netanyahu. Kelly delights in pointing out how many standing ovations Netanyahu got when he spoke to Congress (hint: more than Obama in the State of the Union). Of course, that is all tied up in the brush up about Obama's remarks about how Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians need to *start* with looking at the pre-1967 borders. Now, the Palestinian/Israeli situation is really complicated, and of course passions run high, and tend to run across party lines. I will say Glenn Greenwald takes pains to point out that Republicans used the opportunity to overly applaud Netanyahu and in the process stick it to Obama.
Does Kelly have a point about the superiority of Republican candidates over Obama? Hell, even liberal pundits are speculating about possible similarities to 1992, when Clinton came from obscurity to whatever you want to call his status. On the other hand, Clinton was something of a populist with appeal for some wealthy donors (much like Obama). I think that come from nowhere sudden popular support usually needs a populist component, although a Presidential run requires that populism to be sustained for months. I know that on the surface, Republican ideas about small government and low (or no) taxes have some populist appeal (see The Tea Party). But if Herman Cain either mis-identifying quotes or making things up about the constitution is typical of Republican populism, then I am not too afraid of how far it will get. Besides I think that orthodox Republican talking points are not consistent with a populist stance (beyond the superficial). I think money (big single checks) and party leadership support would dry up pretty quick. Can you be the Republican candidate for President and put yourself at odds with the party (could you even get nominated?)?
Meanwhile, two other items on the Forum pages caught my attention. There was an essay on the successes of Principal Doris Brevard in the Hill district in reducing the racial achievement gap. In my opinion, the piece was short on detail, but it certainly indicated that some attention should be paid to her record and efforts. By contrast, there was also a piece on how Pennsylvania should implement school vouchers. Some of the detail was a bit confusing (a lottery for voucher applicants?), but parts seem pretty clear (the vouchers should pay for the private school, meaning they pay a lot, even though the essay's authors identified an eight grand state payment per student. Anyway, I felt the voucher essay was much closer to the opposite of a solution.
But at least the PG is trying somewhat. I think education is a very important topic for the long term health of the US. It is as important an investment in infrastructure as money for a bridge or a highway, maybe more. Yet I gather Republicans/conservatives will not be happy until all teachers either quit (and are replaced will low paid non-union) or are stripped of their retirements and have their wages slashed to half or less of what they make now. How dare teachers think they are as valuable as people who do real work, like make money out of nothing.