Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thoughts on Lavista Hills



Skepticism

I am generally skeptical of cityhood movements.   They seem to have been more motivated by ensuring white dollars don't end up benefiting black citizens in other parts of a county.  A secondary goal is to provide greater opportunities for a Republican "farm team" of local elected officials.  In a county such as DeKalb, this is especially important.  There is only one commission district where a Republican can get elected.  County-wide offices, forget it.  There are only a few state house and senate districts that will elect Republicans too, so if you live in a DeKalb as a Republican, you are largely out of luck if you have dreams of electoral office.


Concerns

I have several concerns about the formation of Lavista Hills which must be balanced with benefits before deciding whether to vote Yes or No on the referendum.

Hidden Motivations

This is purely a partisan, political concern.  Most people won't care, but I do, and so do many of my friends.  As I mentioned earlier, one of the goals of these new cities we have seen in Fulton and DeKalb is to provide a farm team with electoral experience for Republicans in heavily Democratic counties.  Lavista Hills is no different, although the voting data indicates that Lavista Hills will be a swing city.  It will be difficult for crazy people in either party to be elected to the city council or as mayor.  There is a slight built in GOP advantage in the districts, but it appears to me that the boundaries of city council districts are designed to create a 3-3 split to be broken by the mayor, who is largely expected to be former Rep. Kevin Levitas, who was a Democrat in the state legislature but who had the most conservative voting record of anyone in the Democratic caucus, including rural members!  Some might say he was a DINO, so that makes me wearily suspicious.


A lot of what seems to be driving the cityhood movements in DeKalb are the endless scandals involving county government and school board.  Having the last superintendent sent to prison for violating RICO statutes, along with the open graft by school board members since removed or kicked out of office, is enough to make any DeKalb taxpayer, let alone parents, pull their hair out.  So I get it, and I will support anything that brings order to our schools and restores the quality that DeKalb used to produce. 


That does not mean I don't see an endgame involving the schools in DeKalb.  Namely, I believe the end goal is to break up DeKalb County schools and use a coalition of cities to create new, wealthier, and majority white school districts.  Yes, that would require amending the Georgia constitution to lift the cap on the number of school districts or to allow localities to band together to form new districts.  Such a bill (HR 4) is already in the legislative hopper.   Republicans have 119 members in the state house, 1 short of the number needed to amend the state constitution.  In the state senate, the GOP has 38 members,  which is a constitutional majority.  Only if Democrats hold together can this amendment be stopped, but it's unclear to me if Rep. Taylor Bennett will be able to vote No if his constituents in Brookhaven really want him to vote Yes.  We shall see what happens.


I believe the goal is to have Brookhaven, Lavista Hills, and maybe Tucker...with Chamblee and Doraville thrown in for good measure so that the district isn't TOO white... to join together to form a new school district and seceding from DeKalb County schools after the state constitution is amended.  I'm not sure such an outcome would withstand judicial scrutiny, but I do believe it is one of the prime hidden motivations for cityhood.


Viability

The prime question for me is whether Lavista Hills is even viable financially given the paucity of commercial real estate within the city boundaries.  Brookhaven poached Executive Park, and yes, that was because Children's Hospital of Atlanta wanted to go with an existing city rather than wait and see what happened with Lavista Hills.  Still, that was a huge blow to potential revenue for a new city.  And the unfortunate splitting of Northlake along Lavista Road also is a blow to revenue for the city.  Yes, it was necessary because no one could agree on the boundary that would let both Tucker and Lavista Hills to be viable.  Personally, I think 285 should have been the boundary between Tucker and Lavista Hills.  It made sense geographically, but local politics around the schools again played a big role. 


Lavista Hills will be a huge city of about 67,000 people and mostly residential.  Can Toco Hills, small strip malls, and half of a decaying Northlake really support cityhood without a massive tax increase?   There are lots of opinions out there, and I found the Carl Vinson Institute Study and this editorial most helpful in forming my thoughts.


Costs will rise, but not where you think 

Cities have the ability to levy franchise fees, which will simply be passed on to homeowners on their bills.  This means cable, telephone, etc. will have fees passed on to residents to pay for whatever franchise fees the city imposes.  It probably won't be much, but it is an increase.


Goodbye HOST credit

Cities largely lose HOST credits compared to unincorporated counties.  There's also the issue of different exemptions available in cities versus counties.  This is why tax rates (called "millage") between city and county are not directly comparable .  Cities generally have lower millage rates but that's because you lose the HOST credit, so a lower millage can raise the same amount of money.  This is why the property tax bills will probably be a wash when you look at the bottom line for homeowners.


Surplus may not exist

The Carl Vinson Institute study used DeKalb’s millage rate of 7.64 to analyze the viability of LaVista Hills, and determined that Lavista Hills would likely run a surplus of about $1.7 million at the end of the day.  Sounds good, right?  Well, the legislation establishing Lavista Hills caps the millage rate at 5.  The study did not use that millage rate for its calculations.   Here's where the drama begins.  The anti-cityhood folks (DeKalb Strong) ran the numbers themselves using the 5 millage rate, and determined that Lavista Hills would run about $114k deficit


So who do we believe?  The Carl Vinson Institute is well qualified to do viability studies, and they have largely been correct about cities that have been formed in the last decade.  While I wish they had conducted their analysis using the 5 millage limit, the Institute was crystal clear in emphasizing that their report is an educated guess about the potential income of the city. It is not the same thing as a budget passed by an elected body and managed by professionals.  A projected deficit of $114k in a projected budget of $34.5M (0.3%) is almost a rounding error in the world government budgets.  I know that's not popular to say, but my experience working with the federal government has proven it to be true.  It should be very easy to overcome such a deficit if Lavista Hills has a competent city manager - without impacting taxes or services.


There is no guarantee here, but isn't that self-government is about?  Isn't that why we should theoretically want to incorporate, so that we can make these decisions ourselves rather than relying on the corrupt county government?


 Corruption

DeKalb County might as well be a board member of Lavista Hills YES! with the ongoing corruption with our last elected CEO going to prison for running a pay-for-play scheme, the disastrous water main leak that left most of what would consist of Lavista Hills without water for days in the middle of July, to the explosive "report" by Mike Bowers.   Bowers charges to the county run up in a partial investigation do appear to be outrageously high, but there should have been a proper contract by Acting CEO Lee May to define the scope and the agree on the cost.  That said, the allegations in the report are damning, especially how Bowers was blocked in seeking information.  The data dump on questionable charges was a tad unfair because Bowers had not allowed commissioners and others in question to defend those charges.  Still, the impression those charges, valid or not, gave was bad. 


Let's be clear:  DeKalb County has always had a fair amount of corruption and pay to play.  I do not know if earlier administrations, especially in the "golden age" of Manual Maloof, were just more discreet or how they kept the county running well while also "taking care" of friends and allies without the stench of corruption and incompetence that permeates DeKalb today.  I think that the larger white economic and political power structure has less tolerance for black officials doing the same thing that white officials do when it comes to corruption.   When a change from white rule to black rule happens, the network that will tolerate a certain amount of graft and corruption from white officials is usually less tolerant of black officials doing the same things.


I do not condone corruption, black or white.  People who hold offices of public trust should hold those duties sacred.  Yes, being an elected official doesn't come with great pay, and it requires a LOT of personal time.  Not to mention dealing with citizen activists and general gadflies who seem to only know how to complain about anything and everything.  Yet, that's the deal you accept when you run for public office.  The power you hold as an elected official must be compensation enough for all the problems and issues and loss of personal time that service entails.  But I don't think I'm too far off in my observations in this area.


Looking at the history of cityhood movements in the last 10 years, other than Sandy Springs, it's interesting that once it was clear that Republicans probably wouldn't win the Fulton County Commission chairmanship in normal circumstances that suddenly ALL of North Fulton wanted to incorporate and incorporate now.   It's also interesting that only after it was clear that county-wide offices could win election without EVER campaigning north of I-20 (which is the rough boundary between overwhelmingly African American south DeKalb, and the increasingly white north DeKalb) that Dunwoody and Brookhaven broke away.   Yes, I'm looking at you, Vernon Jones and Cynthia McKinney. 


  Services

Lavista Hills proposes to provide police, parks, roads, and zoning.  If I am missing anything, my apologies. 


DeKalb has a pretty decent police capacity, but my recent experience trying to report the theft and use of my debit card has me thinking a smaller city department could do better.   I'm not sure how, but somehow my debit card was stolen, and transactions were made.  I didn't notice the first one, but I did the second, and when I called the company to report fraud, I got a whole lot of information about who stole my card, addresses, emails, phone numbers.  I tried to go in person to report it to the police, and my precinct is co-located with the DeKalb Police HQ in Northlake.  The first I tried to report, it was a Saturday morning and while the building was open, literally no one was around.  The building was deserted.  A few days later, I tried to go immediately after work, only to find out that they wouldn't take any reports outside the hours of 10-4 or something equally impossible for someone WITH A FULL TIME JOB.  I mailed my statement and the evidence I collected to the precinct captain listed on DeKalb's police website, and I did get a call and email from a detective a week or so later.  The fact I had to go those links to just report a crime, and turn over evidence, is ridiculous. I couldn't help but think this wouldn't happen if I were in Brookhaven or Dunwoody.


Infrastructure is aging pretty rapidly in the area that could become Lavista Hills.  I've had multiple tires taken out by pot holes, and it seems cities have better luck with infrastructure improvements if what I see when I drive around Dunwoody and Brookhaven is indicative.  I understand that south DeKalb suffered years of neglect, so the last 15 years or so have required massive investment in south DeKalb.  I support that, but you also have to ensure that the infrastructure in north DeKalb is maintained.  One thing I liked about Burrell Ellis was that he emphasized projects all over the county.  Buford Highway, Oak Grove, and other intersections have all received desperately needed makeovers.  It never needed to be one part of the county wins and the other loses.  Maintaining the infrastructure we have, as well as getting sidewalks, would be a very good thing. 


A city will mean an extra layer of government, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing.  DeKalb has about 700,000 citizens.  Our commission districts are HUGE.  There's no good way to ensure that the everyday issues of local governance are heard, unless the problem rises to such a level that it garners wide attention.   Depending on who would get elected to the city government, we could end up with a vastly more responsive government that won't let major roads crumble or who can harangue the DeKalb trash pickup when they just don't come, even after reducing service to once a week. 


Is it worth it?

This is the ultimate question.  It does appear that Lavista Hills would be basically viable, although the paucity of commercial property is concern.  I have largely ignored the nasty back-and-forth we have seen online and in joint meetings.  DeKalb's politics have never been for the faint of heart.  And DeKalb has a long, somewhat proud history of very active citizen gadflies who appoint themselves as Guardians of the People's Money.  Some of these folks see a dark conspiracy around every corner, and others are just prickly.  Their hearts are largely in the right place, though.  They want to see their version of good government come to fruition, and they are willing to harangue officials until they get it.   


The DeKalb Strong folks have many stories of dark intentions by the Lavista Hills YES! folks.  I have discussed what I believe are the underlying motivations for forming the city in its current form at this time.  I don't think it's quite as sinister as some people believe, but transparency and facing counter-arguments head on rather than relying solely on personal attacks would serve both sides well. 


DeKalb's government is in the process of reform.  I don't think we will elect another CEO after the upcoming General Assembly.  We will likely move to a county commission with professional county manager system.  I don't think that will answer the corruption problem, and I'm not sure what will.  The culture in DeKalb among some elected officials seems to be "I put all this time and energy into this office for very little pay...I'm owed some goodies".  It's up to us as citizens to use our votes to say "This behavior is NOT acceptable."   


The General Assembly passed three bills to help start reforming DeKalb.  It's unfortunately that Acting CEO Lee May hasn't promulgated the regulations for purchasing that he was supposed to do in July.  At the same time we are voting on Lavista Hills, we vote to establish the DeKalb Ethics Board.  Much has been made of the fact that Lavista Hills officials will not have the same ethics standards that this new county board does.  I would hope that the city council would vote to either vote to subject themselves to the independent DeKalb Ethics board or establish its equivalent for the city.  We should demand they do.


The expected benefits of a government closer to the people doesn't always work...look at Brookhaven.  The impression I have of the elected officials in Brookhaven is that they are shady as hell.  All that stuff which came out against J. Max Davis Jr in his run for the state house is as bad as what's coming out of DeKalb County in my opinion.   Whether Lavista Hills will be a good thing or a bad thing will heavily depend on who we elect to city council and as mayor.  Complacency will only get us more of the same that we are seeing in DeKalb. 


My Vote

I have been inclined to not support cityhood for political reasons and because I think I'll end up paying more money for the same level of service.  When the decision to divide Northlake along Lavista Rd between Tucker and Lavista Hills was made, combined with the seizure of Executive Park by Brookhaven, I was very worried the city couldn't be viable without Decatur-level taxes.  The Carl Vinson Institute study allayed my fears, but I still worry that the commercial property in the city won't be sufficient. 


Everything I have heard from friends in other DeKalb cities about a smaller police force is that the service is much better.   Whether Dunwoody Police is overwhelmed and understaffed, I do not know.  However, the impression of my friends who live there is positive.  After my experience with DeKalb Police, I'm ready to give Lavista Hills Police a shot.


When I consider everything I've written in this blog, my conclusion is that the odds are that Lavista Hills will be more likely than not a good thing.  I'm not whole heartedly pro-city, and I still have concerns, but they are not enough for me to vote No.   On November 3, I intend to vote YES on Lavista Hills.



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rebuking My Georgia Senators

It should surprise no one that my U.S. Senators, both Republicans, signed that atrocious letter to the leaders of Iran.  I was infuriated at the unmitigated gal of this action of 47 Republican senators to undermine the President during intense negotiations surrounding Iran's nuclear capabilities.  I had to take a few days  to think about what I'd say, but I could not allow this to go unremarked.

The following are letters I have sent to Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.   The substance is largely the same, but there are some differences.

Dear Senator Isakson,

Today, I write you to express my displeasure at your recent participation in the open letter to the leaders of Iran written by Senator Cotton.  Frankly, I expected you to behave more in line with Senators Corker and Alexander than signing on to a letter that borders on treasonous behavior for a sitting United States Senator.  You have embarrassed yourself, your constituents, and this country.  I don’t often agree with you on matters of policy, but I always respected you as a statesman who wanted to get things done for this country where possible.   You have now broken that basic trust.

You and your fellow Senators have deserved the backlash in the press you have received over this letter.   Imagine your reaction if Senate Democrats had written a letter to Saddam Hussein or Kim Jung Il following President Bush’s “axis of evil” State of the Union telling them to not pay any attention to the president since his successor would just undo whatever he did.   I can only imagine the cries of treason, arrest, and prison that would have arisen from the Republicans.  The substance of your concerns about the outlines of a deal with Iran that have leaked are not at issue, despite your protestations to the contrary.  What is at issue is the manner in which you have chosen to address those concerns.

You could have written President Obama a public letter expressing your concerns and indicating steps the Senate is willing to take should he not submit any agreement for approval.  You could have done the same thing in one of the nation’s major newspapers.  I daresay the Washington Post or New York Times would have gladly published such an editorial.   Yet, you chose to directly interfere with delicate negotiations in an effort to see them fail even though failure will only push us harder toward war.  If your aim, and the aim of your fellow signatories, is war with Iran to affect regime change, then you should state that goal openly.  

The Constitution only provides for the Senate to ratify treaties, along with providing advice and consent for the appointment of all major executives in the State Department and every ambassadorship.   Common executive agreements are not subject to ratification under the Constitution.   You know perfectly well that this would be a multinational agreement involving Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, as well as the United States and Iran.  It is not, and will not be, a formal treaty requiring ratification by the Senate.  I will not argue that it would be a good idea for President Obama to agree to a deal with Iran that the Senate despises, but it IS within his power.  Congress simply has no business conducting foreign policy with a foreign government, especially an enemy like Iran.  It is not your job to act as an independent diplomatic force while discrediting the men and women who work hard to try to make peace and support the United States’ leadership across the world.

It might be beneficial to read United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936).  In that case, the Supreme Court agreed, by a vote of 7-1, with John Marshall’s statement in the House of Representatives on March 7, 1800 that "the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation.”  (p. 299 U.S. 219).  Even the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations reported to the Senate in February 1816 that:

"The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations, and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct, he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee considers this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch."
U.S. Senate, Reports, Committee on Foreign Relations, vol. 8, p 24.
As a man who claims to uphold the values of the Founders, your actions have violated the very explicit understanding of the President’s constitutional role in foreign policy, especially around negotiation.  What makes it worse is that you likely knew what you were doing went against our established constitutional norms, and you did it anyway.

You are not only attempting to undermine  President Obama personally, but you are also telling the governments of Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia that the United States is not a partner with whom business can be conducted.    Do you hate the President so much that you would risk the reputation and prestige of the United States in order to attempt to score some political points?  You have other ways to express your outrage at the President that are more worthy of the high office you hold and the dignity of the people you represent.   What is confounding and unnerves me is that you would try to embarrass our president in the face of a mutual enemy — and put our national security at risk by making it more likely that we will be drawn into yet another war in the Middle East.   The other countries involved in the Iran talks can only be appalled at seeing our secretary of state and president, who are charged with making the nation’s foreign policy, hit from behind by one house of the federal legislature.   You have imprudently and shamefully put politics above our national interest, damaging our standing in the world.   Whether you believe that those negotiations will succeed or fail is beside the point.  On such matters, and at such moments as these, our nation must be seen as speaking with one voice.

A truly functioning family does not air its dirty laundry in such a manner.  This letter has provided aide and comfort to the most conservative elements of Iran, who, like you, hope these negotiations fail.   You have provided the Ayatollah Khamenei with a public relations win, and he is now quoted as saying this letter is evidence of  "the collapse of political ethics and the U.S. system's internal disintegration."   Your actions have made the United States look weak, all out of political spite.

Shame on you, Senator!   You have shamed the office you hold, and the great state of Georgia by your actions.  We deserve better than that from you, and I hope we get it in the future.

Sincerely,

And now, Senator Perdue's letter:

 Dear Senator Perdue,

Today, I write you to express my displeasure at your recent participation in the open letter to the leaders of Iran written by Senator Cotton.  Unfortunately, given your campaign promises last year to basically oppose anything and everything President Obama tries to do in his last two years in office, I am not surprised that you have chosen to make common cause with people like Senator Cruz rather than the more mature Senators Corker and Alexander by signing on to a letter that borders on treasonous behavior for a sitting United States Senator.  You have embarrassed yourself, your constituents, and this country.  

You and your fellow Senators have deserved the backlash in the press you have received over this letter.   Imagine your reaction if Senate Democrats had written a letter to Saddam Hussein or Kim Jung Il following President Bush’s “axis of evil” State of the Union telling them to not pay any attention to the president since his successor would just undo whatever he did.   I can only imagine the cries of treason, arrest, and prison that would have arisen from the Republicans.  The substance of your concerns about the outlines of a deal with Iran that have leaked are not at issue, despite your protestations to the contrary.  What is at issue is the manner in which you have chosen to address those concerns.

You could have written President Obama a public letter expressing your concerns and indicating steps the Senate is willing to take should he not submit any agreement for approval.  You could have done the same thing in one of the nation’s major newspapers.  I daresay the Washington Post or New York Times would have gladly published such an editorial.   Yet, you chose to directly interfere with delicate negotiations in an effort to see them fail even though failure will only push us harder toward war.  If your aim, and the aim of your fellow signatories, is war with Iran to affect regime change, then you should state that goal openly.  

The Constitution only provides for the Senate to ratify treaties, along with providing advice and consent for the appointment of all major executives in the State Department and every ambassadorship.   Common executive agreements are not subject to ratification under the Constitution.   As a new Senator, you may not be aware that this would be a multinational agreement involving Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, as well as the United States and Iran.  It is not and will not be a formal treaty.   I will not argue that it would be a good idea for President Obama to agree to a deal with Iran that the Senate despises, but it IS within his power.  Congress simply has no business conducting foreign policy with a foreign government, especially an enemy like Iran.  It is not your job to act as an independent diplomatic force while discrediting the men and women who work hard to try to make peace and support the United States’ leadership across the world.

It might be beneficial to read United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936).  In that case, the Supreme Court agreed, by a vote of 7-1, with John Marshall’s statement in the House of Representatives on March 7, 1800 that "the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation.”  (p. 299 U.S. 219).  Even the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations reported to the Senate in February 1816 that:

"The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations, and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct, he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee considers this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility, and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch."
U.S. Senate, Reports, Committee on Foreign Relations, vol. 8, p 24.
As a man who claims to uphold the values of the Founders, your actions have violated the very explicit understanding of the President’s constitutional role in foreign policy, especially around negotiation.  

You are not only attempting to undermine  President Obama personally, but you are also telling the governments of Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia that the United States is not a partner with whom business can be conducted.    Do you hate the President so much that you would risk the reputation and prestige of the United States in order to attempt to score some political points?  You have other ways to express your outrage at the President that are more worthy of the high office you hold and the dignity of the people you represent.   What is confounding to me is that you would try to embarrass our president in the face of a mutual enemy — and put our national security at risk by making it more likely that we will be drawn into yet another war in the Middle East.   The other countries involved in the Iran talks can only be appalled at seeing our secretary of state and president, who are charged with making the nation’s foreign policy, hit from behind by one house of the federal legislature.   You have imprudently and shamefully put politics above our national interest, damaging our standing in the world.   Whether you believe that those negotiations will succeed or fail is beside the point.  On such matters, and at such moments as these, our nation must be seen as speaking with one voice.

A truly functioning family does not air its dirty laundry in such a manner.  This letter has provided aide and comfort to the most conservative elements of Iran, who, like you, hope these negotiations fail.   You have provided the Ayatollah Khamenei with a public relations win, and he is now quoted as saying this letter is evidence of  "the collapse of political ethics and the U.S. system's internal disintegration."   Your actions have made the United States look weak, all out of political spite.   

Shame on you, Senator!   You have shamed the office you hold, and the great state of Georgia by your actions.  We deserve better than that from you, and I hope we get it in the future.  Also, the state of your Senate website is disgraceful.  It makes you look amateurish, which admittedly is in line with you signing this letter to Iran.  I know there is plenty of conservative talent in web design that could help you, and if you need ideas, I suggest you check out Senator Isakson’s page.  

Sincerely,

The only comfort I have in this whole mess is that people across the country have condemned the childish and dangerous stunt by these Senators. There's still some hope for unity around SOME things.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Peek into the Republican View of How to Properly Love America

I have finished reading a fascinating, yet disturbing, article that gives frank insight into the Republican worldview and how to properly express love for America and proper patriotism, especially if you are President of the United States.  It's worth a read, but I feel it's necessary to almost interact directly with the essay to respond to it adequately.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/02/23/the-insiders-why-would-anyone-think-obama-doesnt-love-america-plenty-of-reasons/

The author, who chairs a lobbying and communications firm cofounded by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi in 1991, starts by somewhat defending Rudy Giuliani's recent statement that President Obama doesn't love this country without exactly co-signing his remarks.  Then he starts trying to explain the Republican viewpoint:

The fact is that a lot of Republicans do believe that Obama doesn’t clearly and consistently demonstrate his love for America in a way that they can always relate to. 
The first sentence is helpful, and peaks my curiosity.  I relate to a statement that somehow Obama doesn't display his love of country in a way that Republicans recognize or relate to.  Tell me more! 

The media are in full-throttle attack mode against anyone who gives pause to Giuliani’s statements. Their blaring “how dare you” harangue reveals their defensiveness.
Here we go, the required attack on "the media", which does NOT include right wing radio or Fox News.  Any criticism of Republicans is part of an established conspiracy that just PROVES conservatives are right about everything!  *sarcasm*

 “Love” is a subjective term, and humankind has grappled with exactly what love is since the beginning of time. So who is to say who loves whom and who loves what?
Precisely the point!  That's the whole point of the "how dare you!" harangue mentioned earlier.  This is the President of the United States you are accusing of hating the very country he leads, all because he doesn't express his love of country the way you want him to.
Well, first of all, in politics, image matters.
Indeed, it does.  Too often, image is ALL that matters.
It’s easy to imagine Bill Clinton and either President Bush getting teary-eyed at the proverbial Fourth of July parade, as the veterans wave and flatbeds filled with 4-H kids roll by. It’s hard to imagine Obama in a similar situation. He has a cerebral, cool and aloof style that keeps him a little distant.
I seem to remember mockery of Bill Clinton for his "I feel your pain" personality and his ability to get choked up quite often.  It didn't become "OK" until Dubya started doing it.  Anyway, one of the reasons the country elected Obama was his detached sense of calm no matter the situation.  In case you forgot, the country was in full meltdown in the fall of 2008, and we needed someone calm who could get in there and FIX IT because the rest of us were just scared of what was going to happen next.  So Obama doesn't cry  in public when puppies, veterans, or children appear.  So what?  Grow the hell up. 

From the beginning, this president’s misguided approach to foreign policy has suggested something about what he sees as America’s place in the world. It goes all the way back to the 2008 campaign, when then-Sen. Obama said he would agree to meet unconditionally with America’s enemies, including the leaders of Venezuela, Iran and North Korea.
Once again, this statement about the 2008 campaign lacks any understanding of what was going on at the time.  We'd had eight years of "pre-emptive war" doctrine and F*ck-You, You-are-either-with-us-or-against-us diplomacy that had alienated just about everyone, especially our traditional allies.  Bush wouldn't even SPEAK to anyone who dared disagree to his face.  This kind of foreign policy had not served us well, and Obama understood that.  His willingness to simply listen, even to our enemies was a breathe of fresh air.  It seemed more reasonable than what we had been doing.   No where did Obama promise to concede anything to America's enemies... he simply expressed a willingness to not act like a big bully.  It's a shame conservatives think that is proof of hating America.
This willingness to accommodate America’s traditional enemies and at times, disregard old friends, has been a nagging and persistent pattern in the administration from when he was first elected to the present day.
Well, that's a loaded statement.  So talking to enemies is "accommodating" them.  I suppose it's better to just bomb them into submission rather than try to have a dialogue, right?  As to disregarding old friends... other than Israel (which is way more complicated than simply charging that Obama is dismissing that country), who else has Obama "disregarded" and how?

 Most recently, the president’s gift of recognition to our traditional enemy Cuba — while getting nothing in return — and his inaction as another traditional enemy, Russia, makes a mockery of peace talks and interferes in a country that wants the United States to come to its aid just add to the idea that Obama is quick to let America’s enemies have their way.
Here we have some specifics!  We have been aware since at least the 1990s that the whole Cuba embargo was an abject failure.  It did not bring Castro to his knees or end communism on the island.  Here again, we have Obama willing to own up to a policy that HAS NOT WORKED and say let's try something different and see what happens.  I'm not sure what Obama would demand "in return" for abandoning a policy that hasn't served our national interests.  Opening Cuba up to more interaction with Americans will change the island for the better.   We don't let a communist regime stop us from interacting with China, do we?  Why not see if we can't practice some cultural imperialism to open up Cuba?  

On Russia, I'd love to know what the Republicans would prefer Obama does.  Our traditional friends do not want a war exploding in Ukraine between Russia and the Allies.  There's way too many nuclear weapons involved, and Putin is just crazy enough to think about using them if he's pushed too hard.   Obama's philosophy appears to be to let diplomacy exhaust itself before using military force.  Yes, he can sometimes wait too long (see Syria) but again, we are coming from an era with Bush that was "shoot first, maybe talk later...but only if you agree with me".  Our allies are more likely to support Ukraine if all avenues short of war have been exhausted.   As with most messes in Europe, this Ukraine situation could get out of hand very quickly.   It's clear to me that Obama is doing all he can to keep that from happening. 

 And then there is the disastrous, continuing effort to avoid offending Islamic terrorists.... Yet the president won’t even put the words “Islamic” and “terrorist” together. Somehow the president manages to leave the impression that he doesn’t want to offend those who would like nothing better than to kill us. His refusal to call them out fits with the notion that he might not see the danger or apply all necessary means to fight these terrorist groups.
SERIOUSLY?!?  Sweet baby Jesus, save us!  He doesn't go on and on about "Islamic terrorists" because he's not trying to fan the flames of religious hatred or prejudice.   We have Muslims living in this country who are fellow American citizens.  Why should Obama qualify the terrorist groups as Islamic when we don't do the same for groups who happen to be Christian or some other faith?  Timothy McVey was a terrorist, not a "Christian terrorist".  Even President Bush was careful to stress that our gripes were not against Islam itself, but against terrorists who abuse and distort the religion.  Take your xenophobia somewhere else, conservatives. 
Many were left flat-footed and with jaws dropped after the president’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he let the Islamic terrorists know that he is keeping their actions in context. Obama felt compelled to equate today’s Islamic terrorist butchers to the Christian Crusaders of 900 years ago. It was just another example of how the president appears willing to try to understand — if not justify — the actions of those who hate America.
Now he's just making me tired.  So by Obama reminding folks who seem to think that Christianity is above reproach that we too have a checkered history that doesn't accurately reflect our faith, he's giving the terrorists a verbal bear hug with a hand job?!?!?  REALLY?!?   It may be beyond the pale for conservatives to have a little reasoned perspective on emotional matters, but in the rest of the world, this is generally considered to be a good thing.   If we do not understand the history of these conflicts and grievances, they cannot be beaten.  Just because you acknowledge some really awful things Christians did in the name of the faith 900 years ago does not excuse what terrorists are doing in the name of their faith now, no matter how much Republicans say it is so.  Trying to understand what drives the hatred of these radical, unhinged terrorists is not to apologize for them...it is looking for insights to undermine, beat, and destroy them.   Obama gets this.  Heck, I get it.  Why can't conservatives?  Why is this concept so difficult?

In the meantime, the president is ignoring our loyal ally, the prime minister of Israel, and plenty of America’s most experienced foreign policy leaders in dealing with Iran — a country that has said it wants to acquire nuclear weapons to use against Israel and the United States. Obama’s evolving position on how much of a weapons infrastructure he will allow Iran to keep is frightening to anyone who fears for Israel, the United States and our other allies. It makes one wonder about the president’s commitment to ensuring that Iran does not ever have nuclear weapons.

Notice how the author shifts the focus from "disregarding old friends" (i.e. Israel) to "ignoring" Benjamin Netanyahu who is the current PM of Israel.  I don't know enough about the negotiations to have an opinion on what Obama is or is not willing to do to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.  I will cast a weary eye on whatever the deal is simply because I don't think Iran can be trusted.  It's leaders want a nuke in order to dominate the middle east.  The notion that Iran could fire a nuclear missile at the USA and get away with it, is ridiculous.  The ayatollah may have wet dreams about turning Washington DC in to a nuclear wasteland, but it is not going to happen.  Israel is in far greater danger, which makes the political games Netanyahu is playing even more dangerous.  He all but actively campaigned against Obama in 2012, which is not only a breach of protocol but a very dangerous game to play in a divided America. 

I will concede no ground to anyone in my support of Israel's right to exist.  Israel is not perfect, but the existence of this Jewish democracy needs to be protected.   I understand that average Palestinians have been brutally punished in an effort to defeat their leaders, and Israel has gone too far quite a few times.  But like America, Israel is not perfect.  Admitting this does not diminish support for Israel overall or its existence.  It is infantile to suggest otherwise.  The choices are not "Whatever Israel Wants is Awesome" or "We hate Israel and hope the Jews are Pushed into the Sea".    Again, other than direct war on Iran, what would conservatives do?

Obama also has a famously strained relationship with the military. His own former defense secretary, Robert Gates, was particularly pointed in his revelation that he didn’t think the president liked being around members of the military. And of course, for many Republicans, the U.S. military is the most revered of all government institutions. Lack of support for the military can be viewed not only as an indication of a lack of traditional patriotism but also as a lack of commitment to America’s strength.
Here's a theory:  Conservatives will always believe that anyone who is NOT a Republican in the White House is illegitimate.  Bill Clinton was considered illegitimate by the right since he never got 50% of the overall vote despite his overwhelming electoral college victories.  The right cried foul when many of us considered Bush illegitimate after the 2000 election since he got a half million FEWER votes than Gore and only won with a handy assist from 5 Republican members of the Supreme Court.  Of course, once 9/11 happened, we put those concerns aside and supported Bush's actions (remember his 90% approval?) until he pushed fake evidence to get us into a war in Iraq that was really about avenging his daddy.  Clinton was hit with the "disrespect" charge for his less than crisp salute.  Technically, the President of the United States is not to return a salute since he is commander-in-chief.   It was Reagan who started this practice, and it was incorrect then and is incorrect now.  But since His Holiness, Ronald Wilson Reagan, did it, every president since has done it (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/opinion/01winfrey.html)   It doesn't mean Obama hates the military, and just because Sec. Gates thinks Obama didn't like to be around military members does not make it so. 

The real issue is here is the unquestioning reverence that the GOP has for the military that the author admits to.  When it comes to things like healthcare, social security or any domestic spending, conservatives love to claim "fiscal discipline" but if the military wants it, we should give it unquestioningly.  America's military should always be strong, but it also needs to be smart to avoid the pitfalls that history shows happens to great militaries who are unquestioned by the people.  To me, Obama shows proper dedication to the military and its mission.  The charge that he doesn't like military people or the military in general has not basis in fact.

The author wraps up his explanation of the Republican worldview complaining about a hurried salute holding a coffee, the fact that Al Sharpton is welcome in the White House (the horror!  He might as well have Bin Laden over for tea...except Obama is the one who killed Bin Laden) and that a civil rights lawyer was appointed Secretary of Labor instead of some Chamber of Commerce type who sees the worker as a tool rather than a human being.

All this combines to give people plausible reasons to think that Obama doesn’t exactly see America as the light in the darkness or as the world’s best hope, and he even had to be shamed into acknowledging American exceptionalism. So is it reasonable to wonder whether his heart is really in it? Is it ridiculous to think this president is biased toward seeing America’s flaws and imperfections first and that he doesn’t see America as the worthy leader of the world?
Allow me to answer your questions, Mr. Rogers (yes, that's his name). NO, it is not reasonable to wonder whether his heart is really in defending and protecting this country based on what you've written.  YES, it is ridiculous to think that President Obama is biased toward America's flaws and imperfections and would rather that America not be a leading nation.  Obama recognizes that the world, and the United States place in it, is a complicated and nuanced picture.  It does not mean we aren't a great nation, because we are.  It doesn't mean we are perfect either, because we aren't.  We should constantly challenge ourselves to be better.  Obama understands that, why can't you?