It’s a bit ironic that a month dominated by fire and water astrological signs would be when Japan would be struck by one of the worst natural disaster the world has ever seen. First, there was an earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale. Then there was the tsunami it triggered that swept parts of the densely packed nation the way a child’s hand sweeps sand on the beach. As we watched the devastation and worried over vulnerable nuclear reactors, all we could do was pray for Japan.
Meanwhile, March was like sophomore year in college. Lots of things happened that set the stage for the future. We just don’t realize it until much later.
The rebellion in Libya
Moammar Gaddafi ruled the oil-rich North African nation for more than 40 years. The beginning of the end for him began with popular uprisings in the waning days of February. But unlike with the protests in Egypt, the world would get directly involved in March to stop the tyrannical leader from following through on a threat against the people of Benghazi. A no-fly zone was authorized by the United Nations. There would be confusion about the limited role of the United States and serious questions for President Obama, particularly by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Obama would address the nation about Libya and what the United States would and would not do. Nevertheless, concern about the seemingly amorphous mission and goals remained.
The debt ceiling
Twice the government came close to shutting down because of disagreements between congressional Democrats and Republicans and the White House on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The battles over this raised red flags for me. If Congress couldn’t get its act together to pass a budget, let alone a continuing resolution, how on earth was it going to come to an agreement on raising the legal limit on government borrowing to cover expenses already authorized and incurred by Congress?
After hearing dire warnings about the failure to raise the debt ceiling, I started digging to find out the real-world implications. And they weren’t pretty. “There’s no alternative” to raising the debt ceiling said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Still, the question remained: Then what?
The red-ink-stained trajectory of the federal budget is unsustainable. But playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States to achieve bigger policy goals or prove a political point is not the way to go about it. To make matters worse, there was increasing doubt that Boehner had enough control of his Tea Party-dominated caucus to secure the votes needed to prevent economic catastrophe. By summer, things would get much worse.
New York real-estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump gave an interview to ABC News to not only announce his intention of running for president but to wade in the birther pool of paranoia about the president’s citizenship. “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy,” he told Ashleigh Banfield. “I was a really good student at the best school in the country. The reason I have a little doubt — just a little — is because he grew up, and nobody knew him.” Later in the month, on “The View, ” Trump would say, “If you’re going to be president of the United States, it says very profoundly you have to be born in this country.” Trump would ride the birther wave to the top of the polls.
And the noteworthy
The dulling of Sarah Palin’s political luster became more evident. Polls of Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire released in February showed slipping support for the former half-term Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee. A Post-ABC News poll released in the middle of March would show that Palin’s waning influence had spread across the country. And after Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appeared on “Meet the Press,” she would bump Palin as the reigning Tea Party queen.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) held provocative hearings on radicalization in the Muslim community, which earned a powerful, emotional response from the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).
National Public Radio became the latest target of another questionable on-camera sting by conservative James O’Keefe.
And Maryland Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) — who raised a ton of cash from the gay community and progressives based on his stance on marriage equality and who was a co-sponsor of a same-sex marriage bill in the judiciary committee — wavered in his support. His attempt to have it both ways would ultimately help hasten the legislation’s demise. Politicians break promises all the time. But Arora and his actions were disgraceful.