2013: The year we looked into the abyss

2013 was the year we looked into the abyss and stepped back. This was the year President Barack Obama discovered a real viper in the garden — the emerging radical wing of the Republican Party.

It feels like the citizens of the republic are becoming a nation apart from Washington, D.C. where Congress appears to be living on another planet.

No better example of this bizarre dialectic occurred this year than the government shutdown, provoked by the Republicans. The shutdown was an act of pure irrationality from the Republicans' radical wing, which is becoming increasingly dominant.

Nutcase senator Ted Cruz, who led the tea party wing responsible for the shutdown, is leading polls among Americans who identify themselves as "very conservative." It must be in the genes since Cruz responded to a video released of his father, radical preacher Rafael Cruz, saying that Obama "should go back to Chicago; go back to Kenya."

The classic Wall Street Republicans are so desperate to distance themselves from this gang that even Mitt Romney excluded Cruz from his recent list of the 10 best options for a 2016 Republican candidate. However, a Pew Research poll found that 41 percent of Republicans like the radical aspirations of the tea party.

This points to a rift between those who want to keep things sane, albeit corrupt, but sane. Romney and fire-breathers like Cruz will happily cripple the country, as they almost did with the shutdown, as long as liberals get punched in the teeth.

How are the Republicans responding? They are passing a bill in the House of Representatives that cuts food stamp aid by an additional $4 billion. Already on Nov. 4, food stamp cuts kicked in. The Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program which administers food stamps was forced to slash benefits for American families of four by $36.

If the Republicans have their way, then the additional slashing will begin with the new year. This is madness in a time when we still have not fully recovered from the 2008 crash, and unemployment remains steady but higher than the norm.

One in seven Americans uses food stamps, and families needing nutrition resources and assistance will soon see their aid dwindle.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to foreign policy, the Republican right wing is flipping out because the White House has cut a deal with Iran over its nuclear development program.

On Nov. 24, the United States and five other world powers reached a deal in Geneva with Iran, under which Iran will stop enriching uranium at 20 percent in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

Most of the world welcomed the deal, which will not only help ease tensions between Washington and Tehran, but ultimately help open diplomatic roads for the Syrian civil war to end. (Syria is Iran's only Arab ally in the region.) But the Republican hawks and their allies in Israel's right-wing government hit the airwaves immediately denouncing the historic agreement. These forces have been pushing for a U.S. attack on Iran for years, since the Bush administration, and the deal now seems to have scuttled those hopes.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia immediately called for more sanctions following the deal's announcement, claiming, “Now is just not the time to ease sanctions when they’re working. We’ve got all the leverage in these negotiations, and we’ve let them out of the trap.”

Even a few Democrats who are liberals at home, but hawks abroad, like Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, are calling for more sanctions. This is another sign that, while Republicans are crazy, imperialism is bad for everybody.

In fact, it must be addressed that while the Republicans shut down the government and want to derail the Iran deal, Obama almost committed the biggest act of lunacy in September when it really did look like he wanted to start World War III.

The moment Obama proposed the bombing of Syria, it should have been a wake-up call to liberals that the emperor changes but the empire does not. Obama is Augustus to Bush's Nero. The only thing that stopped the catastrophe from happening was the fact that Obama thrives on polls.

The polls showed the American people were against the bombing by a good 54 percent, even reaching 60 percent in some polls. Let's also not forget that our key ally England jumped ship when the still sane British Parliament voted against bombing.

What kept Obama from ordering the jets and playing the fiddle while Damascus burned was the last-minute Russian deal to make Syria destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles under the United Nations' supervision. It was most likely this international outcry that also helped Obama get serious about diplomacy with Iran as opposed to war. Yet up until the last minute, Obama delivered an Orwellian speech, claiming he wanted to bomb Syrian children so his daughters and your kids "would be safe."

Madness, pure madness. As the year comes to an end, we should be aware as citizens that those manning the ship are growing stranger, and the year ahead will have more surprises in store. We did not go over the cliff, but there are some very dangerous land mines paving the road ahead.

On Dec. 1, the Times of Israel reported that, "In a direct effort to sabotage U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the heads of Israel’s intelligence community to look for proof that Iran has violated an interim deal signed with the international community last week over its nuclear program."

In 2013, Obama managed to avoid a real wreck. The first months of 2014 may be the ultimate test of whether he can keep the dogs of war at bay and the tea party confined to the asylums of their offices. Tighten your seat belts.

OpinionAlci RengifoComment