Leslie Schaff CNN April 23 2009
President Frank Dialogue: The First 100 Days
Perhaps one of the most controversial events of President Dialogue's first 100 days in office started unfolding on February 1 2009. As he had announced on Innauguration Day, the President shut down all road traffic between Mexico and the United States for a period of a week. The result was chaotic at first, but within a day or two, citizens on both sides of the border accepted the fact that there would be a 'transit vacation' as the President called it for a week. Exceptions were made for citizens in cities like San Ysidro CA or Tijuana MX who had legitimate small or medium businesses on the other side of the border. Exceptions for medical emergencies were also made. A small amount of traffic was allowed for shipments of perishable goods, primarily foodstuffs, that had been ordered beforehand, and were due for delivery. The first two days were indeed hectic for US Border and Customs Agents stationed at the more heavily trafficked border checkpoints. Tempers flared as many travellers, who had 2 weeks notice of the transit halt, still attempted to cross. US Border Agents were in any case backed up by small, but 'equipped' units of State National Guards from California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
There were no major flareups of violence at any of the major 'gateways' such as El Paso or Laredo TX or the Tijuana/California crossing. California Governor Schwartzenneger at first called the president's plan 'insanity' and 'a recipe for disaster', but agreed to cooperate after a personal phone call from the President. Their were strenous objections and outcries from companies like Wal-Mart, and other chains which depend on a supply of imported goods that come through Mexican ports and trucking. But the President brushed these aside with the comment 'The world doesn't start or end with Wal-Mart, or K-Mart or any kind of mart'. The White House also gave the order for the 'removal' of any illegals attempting to come into the United States through 'backdoor overland routes'. US Border Guards reported the arrest and removal of nearly 5000
Mexicans attempting to enter the US during this two week period. Assisted by National Guard units, illegals were escorted back to the major entrance points and sent back with warnings not to return. President Dialogue spoke to Mexican president Felipe Calderon and emphasized the 'seriousness' of the problem and his intentions to enforce immigration policy as strictly as possible. The Mexican president criticized President Dialogue's tactics as 'heavy handed' and 'counter-productive to 'good Mexican-American relations'. President Dialogue stated bluntly that he was aware of the seriousness of the issue, but chided Calderon saying that 'America will not become a dumping ground for Mexican problems' and that Mexico must 'seriously address it's own issues of corruption, povert and discrimination if this problem is to be resolved'. He also stated that National Guard units were available to help contain narcotics trafficking if the 'Mexicans had problems dealing with this issue themselves'. During this period there was an intense outcry from such Latino groups as 'La Raza' and others, but much popular sentiment backing a President taking concrete steps to halt the flow of illegal traffic, both in humans and material.
Perhaps more startling was the President's announcement that starting June 1, there would b a 'freeze' on all new immigration applications for a period of 18 months. Pesident Dialogue stated that 'Immigration is a major problem because the American economy is broken right now, and we must turn our attentions to the employment of Americans, along with the rebuilding of the American economy. We do not need foreign workers, we need jobs for American workers'. The White House also announced a halt to the policy of granting visas, such as the H-!B, to foreign immigrants for a period of 18 months. He announced that he would be scheduling a 'summit' od corporate leaders in the summer to address this issue, and to get 'their input and, hopefully, co-operation on the matter of putting Americans back to work'. President Dialogue announced that immigration applications 'already in the pipeline' would be processed, and that their would be 'very limited emergency exceptions made' on new immigration. 'The Department of Immigration has too much work on it's hands already, and I feel that a freeze on new apps will make it a bit easier for them to sort out what we have already. Immigration is a good source of new blood and energy, in the right proportion, but our current immigration situation is quite out of balance'.
President Dialogue announced in February that he 'would not be doing any globe trotting' in the near future, but invited the leaders of the European nations to Washington DC, where he would meet with them or their representatives. 'I intent for our State Department to be quite active during my administration, and I hope that our foreign partners would stay in contact with our representatives there, as any kind of big summits are out of the question for me right now'. New Secretary of State Yousef Halawi, a little known Arab-American working in the Stae Department, said that 'US diplomats would be working overtime to deal with the many crises and trouble spots in the world in a reasoned and thoughtful manner, and we hope to gain renewed trust and confidence from those who have become alienated because of US policies under previous administrations, and to gain an understanding from our traditional allies concrning new directions we are about to journey in.' The White House announced that President Dialogue had placed personal phone calls to all Heads of State of the EU, and asked for their 'help and co-operation' in the maintenance of cordial relations and the 'solving of problems'. President Dialogue has reportedly spoken on a number of occasions with Russian President and PM Medvedev and Putin, and the announcements was made by both sides that 'a new era of relations' was in the making for the US and Russia. President Dialogue renounced what he called 'interference in the traditional Russian sphere of influence' and said that he would personally oppose any NATO expansion into areas of the Caucasus or the Ukraine.
He also announced 'an unconditional cancellation of planned US 'missile shields' in Poland and Czechoslovakia. President Dialogue has also spoken with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and asked for China's help in 'resolving all problems of substance concerning American and China, whether financial or political'' and 'promoting a strong and fruitful relationship in the cultural sphere'.
Iraq, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan
President Dialogue plans for an 'expeditious' withdrawl from Iraq on Innauguration Day. Some troops have already come back, and his new Commander there, General Walter Egam has been givn the charge to 'get our men and women out of har,'s way as quickly as possible' Of the estimated 130000 troops in Iraq curently, the White House announced that a minimum of 100000 would be withdrawn by January 2010. 'What we do not want to see is a 'balkanization' of the Iraqi state', the President stated. 'However, due to misguided policies, we ourselves have given momentum to such a thing. We are hoping that the Iraqi Government, along with all religious and ethnic groups, such as the Kurds, Arabs, Turkomens, the Sunnis and the Shi'a, will work toward a normaliztion of the Iraqi society. We will aid them in any way possible, hopefully peacefully. But, we do not intend to keep any kind of permanent troop presence in Iraq, and our priority is withdrawl'.
On Iran, President Dialogue has stated categorically that'There will be no American military action in Iran. This is a great and ancient civilization, and the US is interested in seeing it make progress, not in attacking it'. He also affirmed Iran's right to persue the peaceful use of nuclear power. 'The US has had a troubled relationship with Iran, but we hope to make progress toward a reestablishment of diplomatic relations. Iran plays a very important stabilizing role in the region, and it must be respected for this'.
Israel is a whole other can of worms. Back in September, then Congressman Dialogue addressed a meeting of AIPAC in Washington DC and shocked the organization with his bluntness: 'The US supported the creation of the State of Israel, and has given it enormous aid, both financial and military over the past 50 some years. However, many Americans, and I, myself, feel that the current relationsip between America and Israel is dangerously out of balance. One of the reasons for the disatrous US involvement in Iraq was because of our support of Israeli goals and strategies. The result has been a fiasco for America, both politically and financially. This must and will change. If Israel, because of it's policies, remains a consistent flash point for war in the Middle East, the world will never have any stability. So I say to Israel, 'It is time you make serious peace with your neighbors. And the time is now, not some 5 or 10 years down the road, as this will be too late. It is time for Israel to allow the Palestinians to live as decent human beings, and to earn a living. This is the first step. Without this, there is only darkness ahead.' The outcry was very fierce from the Jewish leadership both in the US and in Israel. Particularly the press. The Jerusalem Post featured numerous op-ed pieces calling President Dialogue's views as 'the beginning of the end for the Jewish State' and some even called him a 'new Saddam Hussein'. Congressman Dialogue was restrained in his response, calling such statements 'counter-productive' and 'out of tune with the changing times'. But, his 'America First' theme did touch a chord with some Jewish voters, and he managed to receive about 15% of the Jewish vote. The first 'Israeli crisis' of his Presidency occured after the Israeli action in Gaza during January. President Dialogue called the Israeli military action 'completely un-called for and brutal'. He then announced a suspension of military aid to Israel until the Israelis were willing to make what he called 'real attempts at peace, and not attempts at ethnic cleansing'. There were reports that the President put US militray forces in the Middle East on high alert during this period, specifically focusing on any Israeli military action outside of Israel's borders. The current situation remains in a kind of limbo, awaiting the results of Israli elections this spring. But it is clear that the new president has jettisoned any 'neo-con' policies concerning activity in the area.
To be continued...
Leslie Schaff CNN April 23 2009