Archive for the ‘Presidential Election’ Category
Here is what I would like to see. The universe needs to move along two different timelines after election day 2012. In one universe Romney wins; in another Obama. Those who voted for Romney must live in the timeline in which he won. Likewise for the Obama supporters. Let’s also assume that after four years each universe has a window into the other.
Here is my bet. Those in the Romney universe who are not wealthy, who are middle class, women, minorities, students, working people, etc., will curse the day that they voted for Mitt. They will discover that he deceived them. That his five point plan went nowhere. That it wasn’t really a plan. The government will be locked in battles as Romney tries to placate his extreme right-wing. Insurance companies will not have to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Students will have less options to pay for college. The wealthy will be doing better than ever and middle class folks will be stuck just where they are (or worse). The next generation will not be able to count on Medicare and Medicaid as they do today.
How can this be? Mitt’s a businessman, a financier. He will know how to fix the economy. Get things moving again. But there is no evidence that business skills translate into being a good president, especially in terms of the economy. Knowing how to make money in the private sector is simply not the same thing as governing. For what it’s worth, let’s look at the record here. We have had three presidents who were businessmen in the last 60 years: Jimmy Carter, George Bush I, and George Bush II. Carter was a peanut farmer. Bush I was in oil, and he also served in the government. Bush II was a businessman with the same degree from the same school as Romney. Each of these presidents had significant problems with the economy, and Bush II was a dramatic failure. (As a matter of fact, try to name one truly successful president who was a businessman. Perhaps Truman. But I don’t know if running a haberdashery for a short time counts. And farmers and landowners in the 19th century are just not what we think of today as businessmen.)
And what did Mitt’s business experience do for the people of Massachusetts? Oh, he would have you believe he helped create a marvelous economy in the state. But here is actually what happened.
“Unlike Obama, Romney took office during an economic uptick. Massachusetts had a net job growth of 1.4 percent under Romney. However, that was far slower growth than the national average of 5.3%. As Romney’s opponents have frequently, and correctly, noted, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth over the entirety of Romney’s term. The only states that did worse: Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.” [Fact Check, USA Today, 1/5/12]
And what will the Obama universe look like? In the Obama timeline Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans will all be protected. Insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions and thirty million more Americans will have coverage. Baring a world financial meltdown, the economy will continue to improve and the wealthy will pay a fairer share of the nation’s taxes. The debt will gradually decrease as a proportion of GNP as the economy turns around and reasonable cost cutting measures are put in place. We have seen this universe. It’s the one we are beginning to live in.
What Mitt is really good at doing is selling himself, and he certainly will change his positions in order to do so. But before you vote for this man for any season, try playing the parallel universe game.
[Thanks to a commentator on a newspaper article who suggested that country should split based on which states went which way in the election, that is, people should be forced to live under the president their state voted for. Not exactly my idea here, but close. Sorry that I don't recall where I saw the comment. I read a lot of them.]
There is little question that during Wednesday’s debate Romney lied and changed his positions. (See, for example, “At Last Night’s Debate Romney told 27 Myths in 38 minutes.”) But the biggest lie of the debate didn’t occur on Wednesday evening. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on September 14, 2012, less than three weeks ago, Romney said that he expected the president to lie during the debate:
But I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true. And in attacking his opponents. I’ve looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it’s difficult to say, “Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren’t quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?”
Psychologists talk about the phenomenon of projection in which a person claims that someone else is doing what he or she is doing. However, Romney wasn’t only projecting his own expectation of lying during the debate onto Obama. Romney and his strategists knew that he would need his Etch-a-Sketch moment, the one in which he portrays himself as a moderate after tacking far right for months. It couldn’t happen at the convention because of how far right the delegates leaned. So they saved it for the first debate. But there was a small problem. If Romney just shifted his positions, he would appear to be flip flop Romney, once again. Solution: devise a narrative in which Obama is made to appear as if he is lying when he challenges Romney.
Romney started setting the stage for this narrative weeks ago and carried it into the debate. From the transcript of the debate:
21:16:44: ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.
Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans. (Emphasis added.)
At the moment when Romney is making extremely misleading statements about his tax plan, a crucial issue for him, he pivots and says, “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true.” So, Obama, if you challenge me, you are a liar. This wasn’t a spontaneous remark. It was at the heart of Romney’s strategy for the debate. Leaving aside the question of the status of truth in the Romney household, this was certainly a prepared response, perhaps one of the “zingers” that Romney’s team promised.
And let’s not forget another memorable Romney zinger, “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.”
The bottom line here is that Romney didn’t just lie during the debate; he had a strategy to cover his lies by claiming that his opponent is a liar. An old rhetorical gambit. Well played. But it only makes Romney even more of a liar and less trustworthy. If this man is elected president, we will never know if he is telling us the truth.
Ok, I am now going to say what I believe at least 85% of American Jews believe deep down, and I say this as a Jewish American. “Jewish Republican” is an oxymoron. Yes, there are those who claim to be Jewish Republicans but either 1) they aren’t really Republicans or 2) they aren’t really Jewish. How can I make a statement of this sort with the likes of Sheldon Adelson and Eric Cantor running around, and with all of those Jewish neo-cons who gave such poor advice to W about Iraq? I simply dismiss them. They are lost souls. Their souls have been stolen from them. No one whose ancestors escaped the pharaoh can actually be a Republican.
But I have a more compelling argument. Sheldon Adelson and something called the Jewish Republican Coalition are placing these billboards along highways in Florida.
Now here is a simple thought experiment that will reveal just how out of touch these people are. Imagine Mitt Romney, the candidate these folks are supporting, uttering the words, “Obama…Oy Vey!” Any real Jewish American would be on their sides in stitches at the thought. Laughter that would wake the dead. And how could one not imagine Mitt trying to say Oy Vey after seeing these billboards along major highways?
So here is my proof that at least these Jewish Republicans can’t actually be Jewish. They have a lousy sense of humor. They think this billboard is cute. But it actually manages to be tacky, tasteless, crude, and funny (in spite of what they intended). Oy Vey.
[I am not alone. See, Yiddish Curses for GOP Jews.]
Ah, Romney and his taxes are back, after his campaign’s Friday release of his 2011 taxes. Not only did they dump the stuff on Friday hoping that less attention would be paid to them, but they would only take questions about them by email. (I know, it sounds like a skit from Comedy Central.) There are hundreds of pages in the filing but one important fact surfaced immediately. Romney had said that his effective tax rate was never below 13% in the last decade. And in 2011 this appears to be true. He paid 14.1% . But this was only after he didn’t use allowable deductions on contributions. Had he used the deductions his rate would have been closer to 10%.
So what’s the issue here? Romney (the hard-nosed businessman) made a rather self-righteous proclamation last summer: if he paid more taxes than he owed, he wouldn’t be qualified to be president. Here is how this was reported in today’s New York Times, “Romney Reveals He Paid 14% Rate in 2011 Tax Return.”
Mr. Romney’s tax return for last year showed just how sensitive a political matter his wealth and tax rate has become. In a bit of reverse financial engineering, he and his wife, Ann, gave up $1.75 million worth of charitable deductions, raising his tax payments significantly.
Had he claimed all the deductions to which he was entitled in 2011, his effective rate could have dipped to near 10 percent, contradicting his past assurances that he had never paid below 13 percent.
But forgoing the full deductions available to him put him at odds with his own past assertions that he had never paid more taxes than he owed and his statement that if he had done so, “I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president,” as he put it to ABC News in July.
We here at UP@NIGHT suspect that Mitt has changed his mind about his qualifications. Not a problem for him. It’s clear that he took Obama’s campaign message in 2008 about change rather personally. (Oh, and one more telling point. It seems that Romney can submit a revised return later this year, which will allow him to take the deductions. Another change.)
After weeks of withering criticism from Fox News regarding Mitt Romney’s governorship of the liberal state of Massachusetts, the Romney camp finally addressed the issue in a statement.
Mitt Romney is not now and has never has been the Governor of Massachusetts. His twin sister, Mitsy Romney, well known for her moderate and even liberal positions on health care and women’s rights, was actually the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. Mitsy touted her moderate and progressive views, not Mitt.
When the campaign was immediately challenged by reporters and fact-checkers, who claimed that Mitt Romney had indeed been governor and presented himself as having moderate and progressive views, it responded with a statement from its lead pollster, Neil Newhouse.
The campaign also told reporters that if they questioned Mitsy’s term as governor, they could check out her Facebook Page (here). They are expecting many folks to comment on her Facebook Page and become friends with Mitsy in the days ahead.
The campaign also said that Mitsy would be reaching out to women voters in the weeks ahead.
In the aftermath of Obama’s victory it’s schadenfreude city to return to a Fox News blast from the past on the topic of why Obama is not going to be elected. Here is Hannity and crew in one of their finer moments (Bob Beckel, the Democratic strategist, is all over Hannity here):
UPDATE August 26, 2009
I just learned that Fox pulled this clip from YouTube. It’s really too bad. What I don’t get is why they seem concerned with a clip that showed their pundits making fools of themselves. I thought that this is what they thrived on.
A window in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, November 4th, 2008, near where my wife and I had the privilege to vote:
Speaking of hope and America, in words not pictures, from the other side of the Gulf Stream, sentiments shared by many around the world:
They did it. They really did it. So often crudely caricatured by others, the American people yesterday stood in the eye of history and made an emphatic choice for change for themselves and the world….Mr Obama will take office in January amid massive unrealisable expectations and facing a daunting list of problems….These, though, are issues for another day. Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too. The Guradian, November 5th, 2008. President Obama, guardian.co.uk
We remember Paul Newman today as a distinguished actor, philanthropist, committed progressive, and a truly decent soul. And on this day of his passing, his unique career does us an additional service. It helps us to understand why Obama won the debate and why he is going to win the election. As everyone knows, Paul Newman had a one in million smile, and he would certainly be flashing one now if he knew that he had made this contribution.
All we need is one film to make the case. While Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid may not be a great movie, it is a very good one, and perhaps more importantly, it was a timely one. It was a zeitgeist film. It connected with an audience that understood that time was out of joint in America, that we were adrift, that we were losing our collective soul, and that we needed to set things right. When the “bad guys” become the good guys, and “the law” is viewed as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you know that the world has been turned topsy-turvy. And when an audience feels so undermined that it can immediately connect with the line, “Who are those guys?” that is, those guys who can’t be stopped from chasing us (think here of the Vietnam War and a nation in turmoil back in 1969), you know that things have run amok.
Paul Newman’s films were often successful not only because of their success as works of art, but because they understood the importance of speaking to an audience, something which many of our pundits and commentators still do not seem to appreciate. How so? Last night I spent hours, UP@NIGHT, in true political junkie fashion, listening to commentators on the first debate between Obama and McCain. I would listen to the first round of comments, and then since I couldn’t be in two virtual places at once, turn to reruns of earlier broadcasts. I have also looked at many of the editorials in print today.
Time and time again, commentators insisted on using sports metaphors to describe the debate, primarily from boxing (points, knockouts) and baseball (home runs, strikes). There were exceptions, but just turn to the print media today. What’s the big headline? “No Knockout.” We hear about jabs that were thrown, and counter punches, etc. We hear criticisms that Obama didn’t throw enough punches, and that he could have brought McCain down by going more on the offense I am sure that you have heard this stuff. I won’t belabor the point.
But Obama understands, like Newman did, that acting is about audience. And presidential debates have more in common with acting than they do with sports contests. Or let me put this another way. Presidential debates are like auditions, and if you are going to be successful in an audition, you’ve got to be able to have a sense of what the director is looking for and the possibilities of a role. In this case, the director is the American people and the role is president. And the goal of the debater is not merely to score points, but to give a performance that resonates with the desires and hopes of the people. The debate is not an end. It is a means, and it is not a means to merely “winning” the debate in terms of points, but of winning the election.
I am not surprised that polls and focus groups show that more people thought Obama won. (Two examples, a USA Today/Gallop Poll, a CBS poll.) Nor am I surprised by the internal numbers in the polls showing that Obama went a long way toward crossing the biggest hurdle that he needed to cross, making voters feel comfortable with whether he is ready to be president. If you think about the debate in terms of an audition, then Obama was wildly successful. Obama appears to have convinced a significant number of people that he is ready to lead, cool under fire, knowledgeable, not easily flustered (by a cranky old guy telling you that “you don’t understand”), and energetic. Further, he reinforced his message that he understands “people like you and me,” which was already one of his strong suits. It was actually a beautifully orchestrated event, right down to the ads Obama has started to run.
Obama won this debate in the only terms that he needed to win it. He connected with a larger number of people in the audience than did McCain, and made them feel comfortable with his “playing the role” of president, while discussing a topic that was supposed to be McCain’s strong suit. Obama is going to win the election. And unlike Butch and Sundance, this story is going to have a happy ending.
Okay, here is my take about what has been going on in terms of Palin and McCain. The writers for the Daily Show are actually trained undercover agents. They have infiltrated the McCain/Palin campaign and have been writing speeches, talking points, and press releases. How else can one account for Palin’s statements? Seeing Russia from Alaska counts as evidence of foreign policy expertise. Who can deny that this is a beautiful piece of writing? And now there are the cows.
From The NY Times:
WASILLA, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.
So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.
Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages. The New York Times, Sunday, August 13th. Link
Does it get better than this? VP candidate appoints classmate, real estate agent and cow fancier, Franci Havemeister (is this a real name?), as head of State Division of Agriculture. (Did I miss something here? Agriculture=Cows.) I mean, let’s suppose this was President Palin: For Secretary of Defense: Bobby Have A’meister, friend, used car salesman, lover of Colt 45′s, and Moose hunter. Why not?
Palin and her good friend Bobby Have A’meister:
Well, there is the, “but seriously folks,” to all of this. The problem with Palin is not just that she places friendship over expertise, but that she also appears to be Nixon-like (remember his Enemies List) and Bush-like in the way in which she goes after perceived enemies. The Times article goes on to make the following point, which we have seen made in other venues.
But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.
Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.
Wow….Opponents are haters! Unfortunately this is not a corny reference to a group of aliens in a bad sci fi flick. It is Palin unfiltered. They are Haters because they are perceived to be her enemies.
What we have here is one of the oldest ethical failings in the book, and conservatives, as well as moderates and liberals, should be very concerned. In the first book of Plato’s Republic various definitions of justice are offered. All prove inadequate. One of the earliest ones to be shot down is the following:
Justice is helping friends and injuring enemies.
While this definition is pretty common in gangster-land, it reflects a poor and limited understanding of justice. Here are a few of the issues: 1) our friends may prove to be bad people; 2) there may be good individuals amongst our enemies; 3) we need intelligence and knowledge to determine who are our real friends and who our real enemies; and 4) we can injure (or do an injustice to) our friends if we don’t understand what we are doing (for example, the incompetent physician who gives his friend the wrong medicine).
It’s simpleminded in the extreme to think that we can be just by merely helping those we take to be our friends and injuring our enemies. Those who call themselves our friends may not worthy of our support. Or to take this closer to home: they may not be competent to hold the positions to which we appoint them. (From Real Estate to Agriculture Honcho via a love of cows….a friend is a friend is a friend.) It appears that Palin never considered that it might be unjust (as well as unwise) to appoint friends instead of those who have genuine expertise. After all she was climbing a ladder to break her own personal glass ceiling. She is much like Bush. And this is indeed no laughing matter. So maybe the Daily Show people are not actually behind her words.
(Yes, there are times when we may have to hurt good people, for example, when we are in a war. But we must not slip into the mentality that we are always at war or at war against our fellow Americans because they disagree with us or don’t share our values.)
One last point, the sort of mentality that I have been describing–let’s call it: loyalty fanaticism–is not confined to the head honcho. It pervades the culture of the administrations of such people. I leave you with one small example from Palin’s current administration in Alaska, which should make bloggers of all political stripes take to the barricades. (It’s from the NY Times article quoted above.)
And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.
“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”