John Culleton: Some look forward, others backward

The ancient Romans had a deity named Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings and endings. One face looked forward and the other faced back in time.

In today's politics we can in general assign the forward-looking face to the Democrats and the backward-looking face to the Republicans.

What are the Republican issues for the 2014 and 2016 elections? In first position is the messed up implementation of Obamacare, both nationally and in Maryland. Both problems are well on the way to being rectified, with the national exchange and most state exchanges cleaning up their acts. Maryland is unfortunately one of the laggards, but at least the current strategy of partnering with a successful state like Kentucky or Connecticut shows a path forward.

Still, looking backward, the failure of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in his assigned task is a black mark on his record and should be considered in the primaries. But Obamacare will only get better, and already millions are benefiting from its existence. Recently the costs of both health care and health insurance are trending downward.

Next, the Republican elephant is trumpeting Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Thus far, despite endless hearings, they have not been able to uncover any misfeasance or malfeasance on the part of any American official in the death of four Americans in a CIA base masquerading as a consulate in the war-torn country of Libya. But the question of scale needs to be applied here.

Looking backward, the George W. Bush administration led us into the Iraq war in which 4,000 Americans died, tens of thousands of Iraqis died and an important counterbalance to Iran was effectively neutralized in that area. The official excuse for the war was the (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction, and the real reason was the desire of Haliburton and others to take over the oil supplies of that country.

Earlier, that same administration failed to react to warning signs that might have forestalled the 9/11 attack, with a death toll of more than 3,000 people in the four attacks on that day.

In an earlier time in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Ronald Reagan administration, terrorist truck bombs killed 241 American servicemen in the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II. There was plenty of culpability then. The troops were deployed with no specific mission and with a totally inadequate defensive perimeter. The motive for the attack was revenge for indiscriminate shelling of Lebanese villages by American ships.

Finally, the effort by IRS employees to enforce the law and the regulations concerning tax exemption of certain political groups, both Republican and Democratic, has been twisted into a scandal by Republicans. The law is clear.

Tax exemptions are to be granted under those sections of the tax code only to organizations that work exclusively for social welfare. The applications for tax-exempt status by both Democratic and Republican political bodies were fraudulent. That was the real scandal, and not the efforts of IRS officials to enforce the law. There were more Republican offenders than Democratic. But all deserved to be stripped of their tax exempt status.

Looking forward, the Democrats favor public works to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. They favor restoration of unemployment benefits to the millions whose benefits have run out. They favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. All of these programs will improve the economy and ultimately reduce the deficit. They favor restoration of veterans benefits recently cut. Democrats favor immigration reform.

On the negative side, the Obama administration favors yet another job-killing trade deal along the lines of NAFTA and its siblings. They should listen to their base on this.

The only consistent Republican plans for the future are the destruction of Obamacare and the privatization of Social Security. These two wholly destructive objectives leave me scratching my head.