Saturday, December 31, 2011

Joke of the week

Probably anyone reading this has as much Newt-fatigue as I do.

The obvious question then is: why don't I just stop writing about him? I don't really know. Maybe it's the same as Howard Fineman wrote yesterday: ". . . it is not enough for Gingrich to lose next Tuesday; they want to bury him and spread salt on his grave."

I admit to a bit of gloating at Newt's downfall, the glee of seeing a bully get his come-uppance. Of course, Newt being Newt, it's never his fault. His explanation to a group of Rotary Club members: "I can't do modern politics." Meaning that he can't bring himself to do the hardball, dirt-slinging attacks the others are doing; he's just too nice a guy who only likes to talk policy.

After I finished rolling on the floor with laughter, I read the rest of what Fineman wrote about that self-serving talk. Newt was contrasting the 2012 campaign with what he described as the "positive" [sic] campaign he waged with his "Contract with America" take-over of the House in 1994.
A generation ago, Gingrich was the master of media-based warfare. This year he was tossed about by the game: rocketed to the top and back to earth in one month. At the Rotary Club, he waxed nostalgic about the old days, recalling -- in a sanitized way -- how he had run a "positive" campaign to take over the House based on his "Contract with America."

"It was a positive, issue-oriented campaign that fall," he told the Rotarians. He said he had wanted to do the same in the presidential campaign but had been blindsided by how nasty and "cynical" the contest was. "We got off to a bad start," he said. "I can't do modern politics." A tired Gingrich suddenly looked the part of the college professor he once was.

The story line was self-serving, of course -- Gingrich is one of the nastiest politicians to ever approach a microphone -- but he did not figure out how to do on a mass scale in a presidential campaign what he had done as a congressional warrior 17 years ago. He could not industrialize himself.


Fineman speaketh the truth. Not only did Newt perfect the black art of "modern politics" (meaning the negative, tear-down-your-opponent kind), he put out lists of negative words for all his GOP colleagues to use, instructing them how to practice the black art of negativity against the Democrats. Some have said that Newt is "the father of divisiveness" in Washington.

So, he may have failed in the 2012 version -- but actually what has defeated Newt is, as we all predicted, Newt himself. His "cosmic ego" and his lack of organization. The more people know about him the less they like him, AND he has no organization to do the necessary planning and tasks of "modern politics" -- because his staff all quit back in the summer.

Believe me, Newt's posturing as a positive campaigner was just that: posturing for political purposes. He knew he didn't have the money or the organization to win the other way. So he tried to turn that into an asset. He thought he could give the appearance of being above it all and get points that way. The trouble is: he isn't above it all. He's actually at the very bottom of it; he taught the others how to play dirty. And now they're turning it on him.

The truth is, they don't have to play dirty with Newt. Just remind voters of what there is to dislike about him by simply telling the truth. No distortions or exaggerations or lies. The truth about Newt is devastating enough.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Volatile Iowa

Three more days -- and we're acting as though it is really important. Well, it is . . . in that so much political momentum rides on expectations met, unmet, or exceeded in Iowa. In the long run though, as electoral votes, it's minor

But it's the only game in town right now (for those of us who don't watch football). So here goes with Nate Silver's projections as of today's latest polls (evaluated, adjusted, rated):

Romney 63%, Paul 20%, Santorum 11%, Gingrich 4%, Perry 2%, Bachmann 1%.

Compare with Dec. 18th: Paul 52%, Romney 28%, Gingrich 8%. So Paul's boomlet has had day. Now Satorum's having a slight surge, but Romney's surge is the big story.

That's how quickly these things can change in this early stage with so many candidates.

Oh, by the way, I didn't even know the Democrats were holding caucuses. But they are. And the Obama people have swooped into Iowa, hoping to ramp up their turnout -- hoping to surpass the Republican front-runner. That would be quite a feat of get-out-the-vote, given there is no competition and it's cold up there on a wintry night.


And then there was Perry . . .

I leave it to Texans themselves to write Rick Perry's political obit.

Here, from an article in the Texas Tribune:
It’s been a long 12 months for Rick Perry. The Texas governor started 2011 in triumph, at the peak of his political power, with a high gloss on his boots and a national audience of conservatives eager for just the tale he was telling.

He ends the year treading water. His boots — [which he named] “Freedom” and “Liberty” — might as well be named “Oops” and “Dang.” Even if he pulls out of this, it’s been embarrassing for him and for his home state.

He took the family name out into the world and made a hash of it. Texas was still recovering, in some quarters, from George W. Bush's presidency . . .

Perry made a spectacle of himself in the debates, is spending millions in an effort to stay out of last place in Iowa and apparently wasn’t organized enough to get on the ballot in Virginia. . . .

Texas likes to think of itself as a pretty tough proving ground for politicians . . .

Maybe we’ve been fooling ourselves. Maybe our preference in politicians is a regional taste that doesn’t translate to Iowa, or New Hampshire or, most importantly, to live television.

If only my favorite Texan, the indominable Molly Ivins, were still here to verbally slay him as she did her former high school classmate, Dubya. I heard her give the keynote speech for the annual ACLU dinner soon after he was (s)elected by the Supreme Court. She took the podium, surveyed the audience with mock seriousness, then reared back and declared: "My fellow Americans. We are in deep shit." And that was just the beginning.

Sadly, she died from breast cancer, so we'll have to make do with one of her choice observations from a couple of years into the Bush reign.

"People, when I tell you that someone from Texas shouldn't be president of the United States, please pay attention."

Maybe this time, we are listening, Molly. Only . . . I'm afraid you'd have to be near stone deaf not to pay attention to the utter disaster Rick Perry is on the national stage, let alone giving him the power of the Oval Office.


In his now familiar gaffe-prone mode, he's done it again: When asked about the landmark Lawrence vs Texas decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, he seemed not to know what that was. He had no idea what the case was about and wound up talking about his opposition to big government spending. In fact, it was the case that made all state sodomy laws invalid. It was a suit against a law of the State of Texas, and it was struck down by SCOTUS while Perry was governor.

PS: Perry gets extra demerit points for his "Love the sinner, hate the sin" comment about gays. Can't people get it? It does not feel like compassion and love when you tell us our love is a sin. OK, so your holy book tells you that it is a sin. It also condones slavery and forbids you to eat shellfish. Do you follow those "words from God?" Spare us your "Christian love," please. No, we don't expect to lie about what you believe; we'll settle for you just shutting up about it.


2012 VP

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Labor, predicts on Huffington Post that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will swap places in 2012 for an Obama-Clinton ticket, with Biden moving over to Secretary of State.

He claims no inside knowledge, but here's Reich's reasoning:

1. Biden has always wanted to be Secretary of State.

2. A still struggling economy will be a negative factor, and an Obama-Clinton ticket would deflect attention from the economy and emphasize the foreign policy successes they have accomplished together.

3. Also, Hillary on the ticket would add some excitement and would shore up the progressive wing -- hopefully reuniting the fracture between Obama and Clinton supporters in 2008.

4. In would make Hillary the obvious candidate for 2016 and would give the Democrats the best chance to hold the White House for 16 years.

5. A recent Gallop Poll has Obama as the "most admired man" and Clinton as the "most admired woman." Hillary has topped the list 16 times since 1993, exceeding even Eleanor Roosevelt's 13 times.

Hillary has, I thought, been pretty convincing that she doesn't want any further political office; and I believed her. But this might just be an offer she couldn't refuse.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bachmann campaign implodes

Michele Bachmann, the wonder woman -- "I am a tax attorney, and I understand how to fix the economy" -- can't seem to keep her own campaign staff.

She won the Iowa GOP straw poll last summer. But things went downhill from there, and she's now running last in her birth-state, except for Jon Huntsman who is not competing in Iowa.

Remember that Bachmann's chief campaign manager, Ed Rollins, quit her and went on to disparage her to the media. Then in October her New Hampshire staff resigned en masse. I understand she has had a near record number of turn-overs in her congressional staff. Is she a mean boss or do people on The Hill just not want to work for someone who embarrasses them?

A pro-Bachmann Super-PAC switched its allegiance the other day to Mitt Romney, which reminds me that a couple of weeks ago Bob Vander Plaats, head of one of the leading evangelical groups in Iowa, reportedly asked her to step aside. He then endorsed Rick Santorum.

And now her Iowa campaign chairman, state senator Kent Sorenson, has not only abruptly quit just days before the caucuses, but has very publicly gone to work for Ron Paul saying that Bachmann has no chance of winning Iowa.

If she doesn't bow out of the race following all this, then perhaps someone should contact hubby Marcus and help him arrange an intervention.

Meanwhile, Newt is trying to lower expectations (given that even Rick Santorum is polling ahead of him in Iowa) by saying his campaign can survive a 5th place finish. Since he has virtually no organization to get out the vote, he will probably be edged out by Perry for 4th place, with Michele bringing up 6th and non-competing Hunstman in 7th.

Romney is now in the lead, followed by Paul and Santorum, who is finally having his mini-surge. But the real last minute surge is none other than: Romney !!! Imagine that.


Summing it up

Here's the thing. If the anti-Romney forces could unite under one strong candidate, they would beat Romney, not only in Iowa but probably for the nomination. Romney has never polled anywhere near 50% of the Republicans and, with the exception of Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, there isn't much difference among the others in terms of policies and positions.

The problem is that the non-Romney crowd does not have a viable candidate who can win. They either prove to be not presidential material (Palin, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, Trump, Paul) or they have too much baggage (Gingrich) or they just don't catch fire with the voters (Huntsman, Romer, Johnson). Those who could have been The One (Daniels, Jeb Bush, Christie) decided not to run.

My conclusion here just prior to the start of voting is that it's Romney's to lose. Paul is leading in the Iowa polls and may win the caucuses. His base is loyal but too narrow to expand into winning numbers; and, if people start looking at his looney positions, his boomlet in Iowa will go the way of all others. Huntsman could possibly emerge as the reasonable, last man standing -- but only if Romney crashes, and that seems increasingly unlikely.

So, even though it has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, repeated four times, it's pretty simple in the end.

And that is a statement that begs to come back to haunt me. Please, just don't let it be Newt. Although Obama could easily beat him, I couldn't stand listening to his bloviating cosmic ego for another 10 months.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just curious . . .

I just read a blurb that made me curious. And, no, this is not about the GOP presidential candidates -- but it also applies to them.

I really do wonder: What does it feel like to live in a fact-free world? A world where you can just make stuff up and never give a thought to whether it's true or not? Maybe it's a little like really immersing yourself in reading Alice in Wonderland.

There was a blurb about Donald Trump sending out the following Tweet: "What a convenient mistake: @BarackObama issued a statement for Kwanza but failed to issue one for Christmas."

I suppose this will be entered in the right-wing court of public misinformation as evidence of Obama's "War on Christmas." Listen for it tonight on FoxNews.

The pesky facts: In his weekly radio address to the nation, Obama and Michele wished everyone a Merry Christmas. And they attended church in Hawaii on Christmas Day. And that's not all. On display in the White House is the traditional, elaborately carved nativity scene. The Kwanza mention was a statement just like that issued by George W. Bush every year he was president.

So, The Donald, does it feel good to just say all that stuff? To know that you're feeding the paranoia of those who see Obama as the Devil? Do you really believe your blather about his birth certificate? Are there any limits to what you'll do to get attention?

Doesn't your hair get you enough attention? By the way -- has anyone ever told you that people are laughing at, not admiring, your god-awful "do?" Maybe if you got a haircut, that would get you a few more minutes of fame.


Newt lies about first divorce

Newt has been saying that it was his first wife, not he, who wanted the divorce in 1980.

Now a copy of the court file has been obtained by CNN, and it reveals that Newt is the one who filed for divorce and that his wife responded by asking the judge to reject his filing. In 1985 she told the Washington Post, "He can say that we had been talking about it for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise."

Further, Jackie had to petition the court to get him to pay temporary support for her and their two children, which he was refusing to do voluntarily. Her church held a food drive to provide food for them, and friends contributed to a fund to pay their utilities, according to Leonard Carter, a fellow history professor and treasurer of Newt's first political campaign.

Carter recently told CNN that he broke off his friendship with Newt because of the way he treated his wife in the divorce. And he quoted Newt as having said, when first telling him that he was divorcing Jackie: "You know and I know that she's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president."

This is CNN reporting this, not the tabloids. I believe it. In fact, I see no reason to doubt it, because it is so in character with the Newt we've watched all these years.

So here's my question to the family values Christians who support Newt: do you really believe this leopard has changed his spots? Or is he just clever enough to play the "redeemed sinner" card to gain your sympathy?

Here's another question: Does a truly reformed sinner, who is now a devout Catholic, spend millions at Tiffany's and give only paltry amounts to needy people? Newt talks a lot about his charities, but these are non-profit foundations that mainly promote Newt and his ideas; and serious allegations have been made about improper mixing of non-profit funds and political purposes. That's not charity in the Biblical sense, Newt.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) to retire

Nebraska's lone Democratic Congressman, Senator Ben Nelson, has announced that he will retire rather than seek re-election in 2012. I have mixed feelings about this.

He has been a thorn in the side of progressive legislation and has, in fact, sided with Republicans on many votes on bills having to do with stimulus spending, deficit recution, unemployment benefits, jobs creation, and regulation of power plant emissions. He voted against the final health care reform bill and against confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. His voting record is more conservative than that of several Republican senators.

Nevertheless, every Senate seat held by a Democrat is important to retain -- and there is no obvious Democrat in Nebraska who is likely to win in such a conservative state, unless former Senator Bob Keery would agree to make a come-back.

In a way, I say "good riddance" to a stubborn old man who thwarted many important votes. But I'd still rather have him keep the seat than let it go to a Republican.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bogus "war on Christmas"

This doesn't rate as "something big breaking," but it's about Christmas; so I'm going to post it anyway.

Republican presidential candidates and right wing preachers and pundits have been ranting about Obama's "war on Christmas."

Thanks to an article on "Daily Kos" blog, here's a little perspective on that from a Public Policy Poll:

Question asked: "Do you believe that there's a war on Christmas?"
Answers broken down to identification as:

Liberal . . . . . . . . 21% yes, 68% no
Moderate . . . . . . 29% yes, 52% no
Conservative . . . . 61% yes, 21% no
Tea Party. . . . . . . 71% yes, 18% no

Nothing surprising here. What makes this article worth noting is the blogger's speculation that: It would be informative and probably hilarious to get a break-down, not according to ideology, but to FoxNews watchers vs the rest.

Remember the recent poll that showed FoxNews watchers actually were less well informed than even those who watch no news at all. Meaning that FoxNews watchers are blatantly misinformed by their news source. Meaning FoxNews lies.

And guess where you're most likely to hear about "Obama's war on Christmas!!" Right.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Winding up the week . . .

It's Friday afternoon. The House GOP leaders read the political tea leaves (or maybe it's more accurate to say they had the tea leaves flung in their faces) and engineered a vote to pass the 2 month extension of the tax cuts, postponing the real fight over how to fund a longer range extension. Obama has already signed it into law. Everybody is getting out of town for the holidays.

True to his odious form, Newt has criticized the bill that 2 days ago he said the House should pass. Meanwhile, his campaign coyly promises that they are just waiting "to unleash" Callista as a campaigner. I'm not sure that's such a good idea -- for Newt, that is. It will just remind everyone she was his mistress for years while he was still married to #2.

Romney has refused to release his income tax returns but has promised all college students that, if he is president, they will have a job when they graduate. With his wealth, he could afford to create the jobs, personally; but, in fact, he made his name in business by closing failing companies and eliminating jobs. And both his GOP opponents and the Obama campaign are going after him.

Ron Paul is in trouble for some newsletters that went out in his name in 1987 that have racist and anti-gay language. He has denied he wrote them or even read them, but evidence is coming out that he commented favorablty on the newsletter back then.

Rick Santorum received the endorsement from Bob Vander Plaats, the head of a prominent evangelical group in Iowa. Now there are allegations that Vander Plaats was shopping around the endorsement, supposedly asking for money to pay for publicizing the endorsement, if he gave it. The truth is probably somewhere between practical talk of how to publicize the endorsement and outright buying the endorsement. The facts are murky at this point; but it's said that he talked with more than one campaign about money, and one source's mention of $1 million as the asking price does seem excessive for stamps and tv spots in Iowa. And talking to several different ones about money before you announce your endorsement sounds suspicious.

[Added later: In all fairness, both Santorum and Vander Plaats say that there was no request for money. S. says VP did talk about needing money to publicize his endorsement, but there was no request for S. to raise the money. And there is also no clear evidence that any other campaigns were approached. So take the above with a few grains of NaCl.]

And Perry and Bachmann? They're soldiering on, with no prospects of winning. But Iowa is going to be between Romney and Paul, with Gingrich holding on in third.

Nate Silver's latest predictions of who will win Iowa: Paul 40% (down from 52% two days ago), Romney 38% (up from 28%), Gingrich 13% (same). So it's still volatile between Romney and Paul.

And that's the week that was. Unless something big breaks, I'll take a break for the Christmas weekend. Have a happy . . .


Thursday, December 22, 2011

House GOP really blew it

Look what their own fellow conservatives are saying about the shameful political game the House GOP is playing with working class payroll tax cuts and with unemployment:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "The Democrats are winning the debate. . . . It is harming the Republican party. . . . The payroll tax cut must remain in effect."

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA): called it "irresponsible and wrong."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): "Republicans are getting killed in the public opinion battle."

Karl Rove: "The Republican leadership lost the political battle."

Even Newt Gingrich called on them to go ahead and pass the 2 month extension. "Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages . . . What Republicans ought to do is what's right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily."

The Wall Street Journal had a scathing editorial, "The GOP's Payroll Tax Fiasco."
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he's spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

And that is only the beginning of the opinion from this notoriously conservative editorial board. Further along, they refer to "the circular firing squad" and even warned against the possibility of "the return of all-Democratic rule."

Just a few weeks ago, they were still crowing about taking control of the Senate as well as increasing their margin in the House. That seems unlikely now. And voters can thank the Tea Party zealots in the House for that.

Both sides agree that the extension will get passed. For once, Obama and the Democrats stood firm. So this GOP power play -- for pure political points -- has already backfired and hurt the Republicans. Let's hope it hurts them very badly at the polls in November.

And let's hope the Democrats learn something from it.

It is possible to beat the Republicans.
Listen to the people, and we will win.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nate Silver's predictions for Iowa

Remember Nate Silver's 538 blog during the 2008 campaign? He's the one who does amazing things with statistics, using poll averages weighted by various factors, to come up with predictions. He zoomed to the top of everyone's list of smart people in the numbers-crunching game.

He's now doing it for the New York Times, and his predictions about the Iowa caucuses are out. He not only gives standings but calculates the statistical chances of each person winning, using some kind of alchemy based on averages, trends, demographics, etc. For example, he gives Ron Paul a 25.7% share of the vote but a 52% chance of winning the caucuses.

That's right.
Nate Silver is predicting, based on current data, that Ron Paul has a 52% chance of winning the Iowa caucuses.
And who comes in next? Romney has a 21.3% vote and a 28% chance of winning, followed by Newt with 13.9% vote and 8% chance of winning, nip and tuck with Rick Perry at 14% of the vote and 7% chance of winning. Bachmann and Santorum trail at 2% chance of winning each.

Does it mean anything? Iowa is still particularly volatile -- but it's getting pretty close and this seems right with the trends.

New Hampshire: Romney has 75% chance of winning, with Paul at 12% and Gingrich at 10%.

For what it's worth -- at least it's fun for me; good soap opera.


Meanwhile . . . .

Just to keep things clipping along in the crazy world of the GOP primary:

1. Rick Santorum says, "I have no problem with income inequality." He says people who work hard and have good ideas and take risks should make more money.

2. Michele Bachmann, "I am not a politician. I am a real person. I don't even know how to be a politician." Uh huh. She's currently polling at 4% in Iowa, her "breakthrough" state. She likes to claim she's a real person. "I am 55 years old, and for 50 years I have been a real person." Wonder what she was the other 5?

3. Rick Perry is even dumber than I thought. In the last debate, he just tried to be cute, because he doesn't know enough to debate with the big boys, even these idiots. Yesterday, campaigning in Iowa, he said that his flat tax plan will eliminate standard deductions. Gov. Bobby Jindal, standing with him, stepped up to correct him, reminding him that his tax plan does indeed retain the standard deductions. Mind you, this is Perry's own plan, and he doesn't even know such basic facts. Remind me why former Rhodes Scholar Jindal is campaigning for him? Courting a VP nomination, perhaps? Sorry, Bobby, I don't think that opportunity is going to come along.

4. "Romney Contradicts Himself." That's the headline of a blurb on Huffington Post: Duh !! That's news?

5. Newt Gingrich accused Romney of being "purely dishonest." As opposed to being impurely dishonest . . . like you, Newt?

6. Sarah Palin stirred the pot, lest the faithful get complacent. "It's not too late for folks to jump in," she said. "Who knows what will happen in the future?" (wink, wink).

Just another exciting day in the race to the bottom.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just keep it up, GOP, and you're going to end up like Newt

Newt went a step too far -- and caused such alarm in all the thinking people in the GOP (about 1%) that fellow Republicans are pouring money into negative TV ads against Newt. I think it was Newt's threatening to send the police to arrest judges that finally did him in. Yeah, the negative TV ads hurt -- but look at the stuff they throw at Obama, and he doesn't tank in the polls. With Newt, it's all true. You don't have to distort stuff. Just tell the truth about him.

Now the House Tea-Party besotted Republicans have (I hope) taken their own step too far in torpedoing the payroll tax cut extension bill.

Here is Republican Senator Scott Brown: "It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions. Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy. We are Americans first; now is not the time for drawing lines in the sand."

President Obama used his strongest language yet in denouncing their failure to pass the bill: "I'm calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote. This is not poker, this is not a game. We have more important things to worry about than saving face, or figuring out internal caucus politics."

I must admit that my feelings are split on this. The payroll tax extension is badly needed. And I can't think of anything that will hurt the chances of those House Republicans for being re-elected as much as this.


Monday, December 19, 2011

That didn't take long.

Public Policy Polling reports: "Newt Gingrich's campaign is rapidly imploding and Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row."

The Dec. 16-18 poll of likely Iowa caucus goers shows that Newt has now slipped back into 3rd place in Iowa at 14%, behind Paul at 23% and Romney at 20%.

Just two weeks ago, Newt was at 27%, then 22% last week, and now 14% this week. There's a margin of error of +/- 4% -- but we're looking at a trend in the same poll, so the error is less significant.

This plunge (it's more than a slide) is confirmed by an even more devastating plunge in his personal favorability rating. This is measured by the difference between those who have a positive view and those who have a negative view of the candidate.

Newt's Iowa favorability rating has slipped from +31% to +12% last week, and now to -1% this week. Yes, that's minus one.

So it looks like Newt's ride is following the same pathway as Bachmann, Perry, and Cain. The explanation seems be:

Going up:
Newt's impressive performances in the last two debates, plus the voters' quest for anybody-but-Romney.

Going down:
Focused scrutiny on his ugly past and his unsuitable character, plus the negative ads flooding Iowa, plus his lucrative lobbying for Freddie Mac, plus his own over-reaching -- especially his outrageous threats to take control of the judiciary.

A 32 point fall in favorability in just 2 weeks. He's dropping like a rock. Wow.

Exactly what he deserves.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

This may be it . . . Newt's over-reach and downfall

On Face the Nation this morning, Newt doubled-down on his assault on judges who displease him with their decisions, those he has called "anti-American."

He's now saying he would be willing to arrest them "if they are out of line" and it becomes necessary, although he would prefer the impeachment process.

There is no question about it now:
What Newt is advocating is a violation of the Constitution and an affront to the separation of powers, a foundational tenet of our democracy.
In order to protect "an independent judiciary," federal judges are given life-time appointments and can be removed from office only by impeachment. They can of course be charged with crimes, as can any citizen.
Making decisions that displease a president is not a crime.

Seizing power over the judiciary is what fascistic dictators do. Even the power of impeachment is given to the congress, not the president.
An impeachment has traditionally been reserved, not for politically unpopular decisions, but for inappropriate behavior or malfeasance.

I've been waiting for Newt's megalomania to break out of his temporary self-restraint and bring him down. Of course, this may only increase his poll numbers among the ultra-conservative, Tea Party crowd. And he could wind up with the nomination, but this will kill his chances for being elected president.

If it doesn't, then our nation is in a more dire constitutional crisis than I realized.


Can you stand one more about Newt?

According to an article on Huffington Post based in part on an AP source, Newt was a popular young assistant professor at West Georgia College in Carrollton, GA before he ran for Congress.

But, much as he now touts himself as a history professor, it seems academia was not Newt's goal. Instead of climbing the academic ladder to achieve tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, he ran for Congress. Once he left for Congress in 1979, he never returned to an academic career. He had bigger and more lucrative things on his mind. Changing the world and becoming a historical personage needs a bigger stage than the West Georgia classrooms.

In fact, this article implies that he chose West Georgia College in part for the demographic makeup of Carrollton and its area, which he thought would be a good spot to try to end the Democrats' "century-long stranglehold on the 6th Congressional district.

This may or may not be true, but it fits with the patten we see over and over again with Newt. It's all about Newt's ambitions and grandizement, about his messiantic vision of himself as a transformative, historical figure.

A healthy amount of self-confidence and determined purpose is necessary to be a strong leader, but too much and you begin to see the kind of cosmic narcissism that reveals itself from time to time in Newt's character.

Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), a colleague in the House, says of him: "I found him to be somebody who was primarily interested in his own advancement. ... Newt has had one primary interest for his entire public life, and that's Newt."

But it's really his tactics that are so odious. In a speech to college Republicans in 1978, when he was running for Congress for the third time and finally won, he said:
"One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire, but are lousy in politics."
He's infamous as Speaker for circulating a list of nasty words for his colleagues to use in their speeches and campaign rhetoric against the Democrats. Then he decided to get rid of then House Speaker, Democrat Jim Wright. He carefully plotted and for two years relentlessly pursued ethics charges against Wright until he finally got something to stick, and Wright was forced to resign for violating the rules about gifts and outside income (something to do with a book deal, if I remember right). In retrospect, the case against Wright pales in comparison with the ethcis case against Newt himself that finally brought him down and led to his resignation from Congress. And then there's his pursuit of impeachment of Clinton at the same time he was having his own affair with Callista -- whom he now wants us to accept as the First Lady of the Land.

Of course, we should keep in mind -- as Newt reminds us -- that he is a different person now that he has found true love and religion and has confessed and been forgiven for his past indiscretions. As he said in an AP interview this year: "I believe that I am a much more disciplined, much more mature person than I was 12 years ago."

Yes, but here's the rub. In 1985, he said much the same thing: "That was the old me – abrasive and confrontational. You'll see a change now."

Bah, humbug.

Don't trust someone who has to keep telling you
how much he has changed.


A poll we can believe

Here's one that is easy to accept:

A USA Today/Gallup poll taken last week asked: "Thinking about the 2012, which best describes you?"

Can't wait for it to begin . . . . 26%
Cant' wait for it to be over . . 70%
Me too.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dems Declare Victory on the Spending Bill

The Senate vote of 67 to 32 passed the government spending bill, and the Democrats are calling it a victory. It seems that, at least on this one, they stood firm against most of the poison amendments the Republicans tried to attach.

According to Huffington Post's Michael McAuliff, here are some things about the final bill that got rid of things the Republicans tried to put in:
  • Prevents policy riders that would have restricted funding for Planned Parenthood and eliminated funding for Title X family planning programs, severely limiting women’s access to health care.
  • Prevents restrictions that would have reversed President Obama’s policy allowing family travel and money remittances to Cuba.
  • Saves 60,000 New Head Start slots created by the stimulus act and spends more than $550 million for the Race to the Top program.
  • Boosts the Student Aid Administration with nearly $50 million in new funding for loan servicing and collections.
  • Preserves the AmeriCorps program by stopping a GOP provision that would have cut the program.

Republicans are pointing to some things they got: delaying the phase-out of 100 watt incandescent light bulbs, putting some restrictions on funding for Obama's "czars," cutting the budget overall, and putting some restrictions on funding for the U.N.

These are not insignificant, but all considered it seems like a win for the Democrats.

On the other hand, concerning the separate bill on the payroll tax cut extension, the Republicans can claim a win in Obama's backing off his threat to veto the payroll tax cut extension if the Repubs insisted on forcing a decision on the XL Keystone pipeline approval. The final Senate bill on that extends the tax cut for 2 months and also forces a decision on the pipeline within 2 months. So it will all come back again in February.

The White House is spinning this as not a cave-in at all. It doesn't require the president to do anything that was not already planned -- it just shortens the time for the environmental review process. Of course, the unspoken thing is that the delay (in addition to their being a real concern about the environmental impact) would have taken it out of the presidential political process. Now it forces a decision during the campaign.

All in all, not as bad as I feared though.


Newt's dangerous radicalism

In Thursday night's debate, Newt Gingrich again brought up his plan to assault the courts that he deems "anti-American." He would subpoena and impeach judges and abolish courts for controversial decisions that he doesn't like. He received vigorous applause from the audience when he denounced the judiciary as "grotesquely dictatorial."

Only Ron Paul took issue with that, calling it "an affront to the separation of powers" and warning against letting the judicial system become a political football for partisan elected officials.

So is this just more of Newt's bombastic ideas? Not at all. We now learn that last year, through one of his non-profit foundations, Newt contributed $300,000 as start-up money to help build the movement that eventually resulted in recall of three of the judges in Iowa who voted to legalize gay marriage. It not only punished judges for a sound legal decision, but it politicized a judicial appointment system that was designed specifically to be based on merit and not politics.

Iowa has an admirable system: an independent panel selects potential judges based on merit, from which the governor makes his appointments. Then after a new judge has been in office for a specified period of time, there is a "retention vote" whereby a judge can be removed from office. It is intended to be used and, until this time, has been used, only to remove judges for corruption or malfeasance.

But in 2010, an organized effort by right-wing organizations -- sparked by Newt's help and including the hateful NOM --was successful in removing three courageous judges for a single decision that was unpopular enough with a conservative voting public. And they have vowed to get rid of the fourth judge next year when his retention vote comes up.

This is a serious erosion of our democratic government. Newt is a dangerous, totally unprincipled man. Don't let his facade of intelligence and plethora of knowledge fool you. The man is dangerous because he sounds so informed and so convincing.

Today over lunch a friend quoted what has got to be the most on-target description of Newt.
He's like a blender with the top off.
I think that needs qualifying though. It would not be just a mess of a fruit smoothy to be cleaned up. It's more like the blender is spewing forth toxic and corrosive chemicals that would cause great harm.


Friday, December 16, 2011

"Newt Goes Off the Deep End"

Huffington Post's headline about last nights' GOP debate: "Newt Goes Off the Deep End."

Yes, indeed, he did; but the crowd liked it, and nobody seemed outraged or challenged him. In full high dudgeon, Newt declared he would "get rid of the liberal, anti-American courts" (big applause). He claims that the Constitution's balance of powers does not, in fact, make the courts the arbiter of laws, so the Congress and the Executive must "take back the power" from the "anti-American courts." Specifically, he pledged to abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, to ignore some Supreme Court decisions, and to subpoena judges to come before Congress and explain their decisions when they displease him.

Since when does the president have the power to just abolish the court system because he doesn't like their decisions? Or to intimidate judges by grilling them in public hearings? This is the same Newt that a while back was likening Obama to a fascist. So now he wants to be a dictator himself?

Bachman countered Newt's saying she got her facts wrong (about his work for FreddieMac) by declaring that PolitiFact had said everything she said in the last debate was true (see Comment #1). Only problem: PolitiFact immediately sent out a tweet, saying it had said no such thing -- making her appear to be lying about not lying.

Huntsman said something refreshingly new: Illegal immigration is not the problem. In fact, the number of illegal immigrants is way down, which he says, is a sign of our terrible economy and Obama's fault. "There's nothing for them to come here for."

Romney attacked Obama for a weak foreign policy stance on Iran:
"A foreign policy based on 'pretty please'? You've got to be kidding."

It was quite a night.

Santorum wants to bomb Iran. Ron Paul: "We don't
need another war."

Perry (trying to be cute since he can't be astute): "I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses."

Bachmann: "I'm 55 years old, and I spent 50 years as a real person."

Gingrich: "I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany."
(This was actually a dig at Romney, who had called him zany.)

The only sane person on stage was Jon Huntsman: "I'm not going to sign those silly pledges. And you know what? I'm not going to show up at a Donald Trump debate."

Whew. At least Iowa will be over in 3 weeks.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Newt's fall begins

I agree with what you're thinking. I'm sick of hearing about Newt too. But for right now, I'm not able to suppress the necessity to blog about him. Especially when the news is good.

Two new polls out today, taken this week, show him falling from the lead in Iowa. In a Rasmussen poll taken on 12/13, he is in second place behind Romney (23% and 20%) -- which is quite a reversal from the same poll a month earlier, when Newt led Mitt by 32% to 19%.

That a pretty quick drop of 12% points -- sound familiar?

Significantly, his loss didn't help Romney. Paul got the most (up 8% to a solid third place at 18%). Bachmann and Perry also picked up some of the loss.

The Public Policy poll of Dec 11-13 has Newt neck and neck with Paul at 22% and 21% with Romney trailing at 16%. This also shows that Newt had dropped five point (27% to 22%) just in the past 10 days.

So it's still volatile. Which makes tonight's Fox News debate interesting (for those of us who like political drama, even when we don't like the candidates). It's the last one before the Iowa vote on Jan 3rd.


Congress' bad polls results

With approval ratings this fall ranging from 9% to 15% -- the lowest ever -- Congress members should be worried about re-election. Now comes more specific polling from the Pew Research Center.

"Do you want to see most members reelected?": Yes 20%, No 67%.
"Do you want to see your member reelected?": Yes 50%, No 33%.

"Which party:
. . . . is more extreme in its positions?": Rep 53%, Dem 33%.
. . . . is more willing to work with other side?": Rep 25%, Dem 51%.
. . . . can better manage gov't?": Rep 35%, Dem 41%
. . . . is more honest and ethical?": Rep 28%, Dem 45%

As a subgroup, Independents are even more dissatisfied: Only 15% want most reelected, while 73% say no; and regarding their own representative's reelection, only 37% say yes and 43% say no. That could be decisive in close races.

All incumbents should worry. Republicans should worry much more.


Newt's "oops" moment

Well, apparently it's not just big-mouth Newt himself that sometimes says outrageous things. His campaign staff has just made a big oops.

It seems that the Gingrich campaign web site posted an article from the Christian Broadcast Network News -- a puff piece about the wives of three candidates, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich.

The only trouble was the headline: "A Tale of Three Wives."

On the Gingrich web site?

Oops !!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WHY ? ? ?

Once again, double headlines about Dems "caving" on one more issue -- and then another.

President Obama caved in and abandoned his threat to veto the Defense Appropriations bill because it contained language that would permanently enshrine the president's right to order indefinite retention of American citizens suspected of terrorism.

That's right: American citizens, arrested in the United States -- not in a war zone -- and held without trial . . forever, if the president so chooses. Since he threatened to veto it, Obama is not likely to use it, but what if Newt is elected president -- or any other one of the Republicans?

Our basic human rights (habeas corpus) should not be vulnerable to an unscrupulous, or panicked, human being, even if he was elected president. Look at the prospects the GOP is putting up right now !!!

And then, right on the heels of that cave-in came the announcement that the Senate Dems had caved in on the surtax on millionaires that was to balance the extension of the payroll tax extension.


Because the Republicans did what they always do -- they just say no, and no again, and they just keep saying NO -- knowing the Dems will cave. It's blackmail, pure and simple.

In the case of the indefinite retention: no appropriations bill by Friday, and the government shuts down. Leave in the millionaires tax, that bill doesn't pass, and payroll taxes go up on working class people by $1000 next year.

But caving only increases the strength of the blackmailers the next time. I say: bite the bullet. Let the Republicans pay next November.


Good news poll #2

Add to the poll results I posted Monday, showing Obama leading both Romney and Gingrich in South Carolina and Florida, the following:

A Public Policy Poll in Virginia now shows Obama leading Romney 48% to 42% and ahead of Gingrich by 50% to 43%. Virginia went for Obama by 6% in 2008 but then elected a Republican governor in 2009.

It's too early for these to have a lot of reliability, but -- for what it's worth, things seem to be swinging in Obama's favor.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hate group member (naively) sports "Glee" t-shirt

The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church seems to have little other purpose than trying to convince America that God is punishing us for accepting gay people.

They do this mainly by publicity stunts, like picketing funerals, holding signs: "God Hates Fags," "American is Doomed," and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Funerals they have picketed include those of: Matthew Sheppard, Elizabeth Edwards, Michael Jackson, those killed in the Tucson shooting, and several soldiers killed in Iraq. Any place they think will have photographers and TV cameras present.

This morning, one young woman showed up with her picket signs wearing a tee shirt from the hit show "Glee," arguably the most gay-friendly show on TV right now. HA !!

When asked by the photographer, she said she didn't know anything about "Glee," that it was just a tee shirt her sister had given her to wear this morning.

Not that it will change these people's mis-directed hatred, but it was a momentary lighter moment in one of the most tiresome bits of Americana. I have friends who live in Topeka, where the church is located and where -- for years -- they have had to endure their loud preaching and protesting from a down-town street corner on a daily basis.

Nor are they to be lightly dismissed. Last year they won their case at the U. S. Supreme Court, where they had been sued by the father of a fallen soldier whose funeral they had picketed. As most constitutional scholars agree, such protest is protected by the Right to Freedom of Speech.

It may be a right, but it ain't right. Isn't there also a right to privacy?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Good news poll

NBC-Marist polls, taken in South Carolina and Florida last week, have some good news for Obama. But, first, the Gingrich tide continues to roll three weeks before Iowa.

In South Carolina primary: Gingrich 42% - Romney 23%.
In Florida primary: Gingrich 44% - Romney 29%.

But here's the good news concerning the general election poll, pairing Obama one-to-one with each of them:

In South Carolina -- one of the most reliable Republican states:
. . . Obama 45%, Romney 42%
. . . Obama 46%, Gingrich 42%

In Florida -- a key battleground state:
. . . Obama 48%, Romney 41%
. . . Obama 51%, Gingrich 39%

Damn, that feels good.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

GOP nomination is now Newt's to lose

I have some pride in my ability to read the political tea leaves. But I have to admit that I've been very wrong about Newt's chances of winning the nomination. I don't think I'm wrong about Newt and his character, his impulsivity, his narcissism and grandiosity, his divisiveness, and his often crazy ideas. But I have been wrong about his political and debating skills and specifically wrong about his ability to overcome all his baggage of affairs, divorces, and changing positions.

Last night, he more than held his own in the ABC debate in Iowa. Going in with all the guns aimed at him, he wound up scoring points rather than playing defense. He scored points by not dodging a single controversy he has created but by answering forthrightly, succinctly, and always staying on point. When others recited their talking points, Newt was like a laser, going directly to the core of each issue. I have to admit, he was impressive.

Conservatives who are looking for someone who knows how Washington works, who can stand up to the challenges, yet who speaks their language of ultra conservative views of government and can fire up the base -- this may be their man. At least for the time being.

In what should have been the most difficult moment for Newt, he triumphed. The question was posed to all the candidates: Should voters consider marital fidelity in making their choice for president? Each one was asked to respond in turn -- with Newt being the last called upon. The others all were somewhat cautious, answering along a spectrum some version of "yes, but it shouldn't be the only thing." Perry was at one end ("If you cheat on your spouse, you'll cheat on your business partner"); perhaps Mitt at the other end, simply talking about the importance of trust. Finally, Diane Sawyer turned to Gingrich and asked him to "close this out for us."

Gingrich's answer could not have been better (given the spot he was in). He first acknowledged that it is a real issue, that people have to feel this is someone they can trust, and that they have every right to ask questions about it and should. Then he acknowledged that he has made some mistakes in his life but said he is also now a 68 year old grandfather, and that he hoped people would look at who he is now and that he has been delighted at the way people are doing that.

I still detest the man but couldn't help admiring his skillful answers and his standing up with some grace under fire. That in itself gained him points.

Newt did nothing tonight to diminish his standing as leading by big margins in Iowa (and S.C. and Florida). He is not going to lose this nomination in the debates. With all his baggage, he still can give the impression of being the smartest and most mature one on stage. He has a talent for the zinger, delivered with the air of cool rationality. And he defends (with concise reasons) even the outrageous statements he has made -- e.g., his latest, saying Palestinians are "an invented people."

Probably the two most remembered lines of the debate will both be ones that hurt Romney. (1) In response to Mitt's painting Newt as a Washington insider, Newt waited his turn -- then calmly but with rapier-like thrust, simply turned to Mitt and said: "Let's be candid. The only reason you didn't become a career politician is because you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994."

(2) Then, responding to Perry's misquoting from Mitt's book about health care mandates, Mitt said he was wrong and offered a $10,000 bet to settle it.

Which, of course, reinforces the image of Romney as part of the 1% and out of touch with most Americans. News commentators were quick to point out that $10,000 is 3 months income for the average Iowan.

Newt had a good night. I repeat: he will not lose the nomination in the debates. Will the establishment Republicans be able to stop him? Will his discipline and self-control be able to stay the course?

That remains to be seen. "President" Gingrich is terrifying. "GOP nominee" Gingrich should be a gift to the Democrats. I'm not so sure of that. He is a formidable opponent. And, further, the scary thing is that I'm not so sure we can still rely on him to self-destruct. He was certainly in masterful control of himself last night.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

David Brooks on Gingrich

David Brooks is the moderately conservative pundit whom most liberals consider a reasonable man. He just happens to have a more conservative view of government than they do. So I was interested in his 12-09-11 column, "The Gingrich Tragedy," which he begins by saying that Gingrich comes closest to Brooks' own core political worldview of "using government in energetic but limited ways to increase growth, dynamism, and social mobility" as opposed to a conservative laissez-faire view that government should just get out of the way of private enterprise. This means that he would approve limited stimulus investments, some regulations, some government social services -- just not too much and preferably without setting up a bureaucracy.

He quotes some of Gingrich's past approvals and historical explanations: the Homestead Act that gave away land to people who would live on it and develop it; the railroad land grants that made possible the expansion of the U. S. railroad system; the public-private partnership that brought telephone service to rural areas.

Brooks further shows how, through the years, this enduring political philosophy has led Gingrich to support cap-and-trade energy legislation, universal health care coverage, efforts to combat poverty, and humane immigration reform. He is currently opposed to most of those, of course.

However, Brooks also recognizes Gingrich's faults as disqualifying. It's not so much his "shifting views and odd phrases" as it is his temperament and character.

From Gingrich's bombastic, rhetorical style to his temperament and character, Brooks faults him in comparison with Romney. Both are policy wonks and both have moved to the right as the party has moved to the right; but according to Brooks: Romney "seems to have walked straight out of the 1950s," while Gingrich "seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s."
"He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with '60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form. As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican party if nominated. . . . It's really too bad. We could have had a great debate about the progressive-conservative tradition. . . .

"But how you believe something is as important as what you believe. It doesn't matter if a person shares your overall philosophy. If that person doesn't have the right temperament and character, stay away."
That is a sober assessment from a careful thinker who would have liked to be able to support Gingrich -- but he can't. Just re-read Brooks' last paragraph. It says it all.


Friday, December 9, 2011

The Silly Season continues

More silliness and stupidity from the pack of clowns who would be president.

1. Rick Santorum, who famously insists that religion has a place in politics and in government, has now told the Des Moines Register that "science should get out of politics." Which prompted one blogger to recall the line from The Simpsons' School Superintendant Chalmers: "God has no place within these walls, just as facts don’t have a place within organized religion!” But do the American people really want a theocracy?

2. Newt Gingrich, who by his own admission makes millions of dollars giving advice "as a historian," has now mangled history by saying that the Palestinians are "an invented people" who have no right to have a state created for them. They are Arabs and could have gone many other places back when the State of Israel was created for the Jews who deserved the place, Gingrich said. And then he piled on, saying that President Obama's effort to treat the Palestinians the same as the Israelis is actually favoring the terrorists. Whew !! When Newt panders, he really does it big time. He was speaking on the Jewish TV Chanel.

Historian Gingrich needs to brush up on his history. Suffice it to say that the 1947 U. N. Resolution 147 did in fact recognize the Palestinians as a people and called for two independent states, one for Israel and one for the Palestinians.

3. Donald Trump is perplexed that 5 of the 7 GOP candidates turned down his invitation to a debate moderated by Himself -- despite his plan to endorse one of them following the debate and despite his claim that he may run against them as an Independent if the "right one" is not chosen by the voters. If there's someone with a more inflated cosmic ego than Gingrich, it is The Donald's. He seems to think of the debate as another episode of his TV show where he can "fire" contestants and choose the one he would hire.

4. Rick Perry's TV ad, in which he is dressed up like a wealthy rancher guy, in order to spew his anti-gay diatribe, has sort of backfired on him. First, it revealed the now much-publicized discord in his campaign staff, some of whom vehemently objected to the anti-gay text. But then it was shown that the jacket Perry wears in the ad looks almost identical to the jacket worn by Heath Ledger as one of the gay cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain." Nice touch (heh heh).

Perry gets a two-fer mention this week. He made another "oops !" In trying to explain his claim in this same ad that Obama is waging a "war on religion," he referred to the eight "unelected and unaccountable" Supreme Court Justices; and then he couldn't remember Justice Sotomayor's name.

5. Herman Cain -- can we still count him in our silly season? -- says he's considering suing those women who accused him. Careful, Herman. Let's hope you're just bluffing. You're not likely to win, and we might just hear more about your dallying.

6. Michele Bachmann? Is she still around? I'm sure she said some silly things this week. Frankly, I hardly even register her anymore. So I forgot what she said. I'm sure she'll provide me another chance next week.


Income disparity

We've heard the dry statistics about income of CEO's compared to their workers, about the growing gap between the 1% and the 99%, so much that it's all beginning to lose it's emotional punch. Yeah, yeah, what's new? It would be bad if we lose this opportunity to really do something about it.

So this blurb out today makes it a bit more personal.

The six heirs of the Walmart founders together have a net worth that is the same as the entire bottom 30% of Americans.

Yes, that is the way of capitalism. The wealthy benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor. But is that what we want for out country? Is it even fair?

I'm with Elizabeth Warren:
"Nobody got rich in this country on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads that the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factories because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. . . .

Now look. You build a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is: you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along."
They call her a socialist. First, that is not socialism. That is building a healthy nation. But what if it is socialism? It couldn't be worse than what we have now.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Newt's Cynicism and Lies

Pay attention, voters !!! Evidence is fast piling up of Newt's cynical lying and/or his cluelessness. I personally think it's a unique combination of the two: Sometimes Newt is just outright making up stuff and saying what he knows will excite his gullible crowd. At other times, he really doesn't know but has convinced himself at the moment that he does know and he does believe what he's saying.

A couple of examples:

1. The AJC's fact-check column gave him a "pants on fire" false rating for his claim about the food stamps program. He's right that more people are on the program than ever (isn't that what happens when people lose their jobs and their homes and have no money?). But he is dead wrong, and he's got to be cynically lying, when he says that people are given credit cards instead of stamps now and that some people redeem them for cash and take trips to Hawaii.

The truth is that instead of stamps or coupons, the program now issues a special debit card that can only be used for very specific food items, can't be used in restaurants, can't be used to buy alcohol, or even certain luxury foods. And no way can they get cash or go to Hawaii. That's just plain a lie. And Gingrich either knows it -- or he is just cynically repeating some outrageous claim from somebody's wild imagination.

2. Rachel Maddow skewered him for his retort to Nancy Pelosi in which he claimed that the sanctioning of him by the Ethics Committee back in 1995 was politically motivated. Just look at the House vote count that sanctioned him with a $300,000 fine: 395 to 28.

To be perfectly clear: 196 House Republicans voted to sanction Newt.

And this week conservative Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said that Gingrich is too erratic, too self-centered, and that he "does not have the discipline, does not have the capacity to control himself. . . . [If he is elected] the country and Congress would be going through one crisis after another."

This is a member of his own party who served under him when he was Speaker of the House. From the other side, Paul Begala wrote in Newsweek: "When I look at the economy, I think Obama can't win. When I look at the Republican field, I think Obama can't lose."

Newt is betting that the anti-Washington base he is pandering to won't be listening to either of these Washington insiders, however.

Just for safe measure, Newt made headlines of his own that swamped any such criticism by telling the Republican Jewish Coalition that he would appoint John Bolton as his Secretary of State. Now that is a headline grabber. And it did.


PS: Liberal blogger Jason Linkins has perhaps the best, succinct words to describe Newt: "gaseous, grandiose, and divisive."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Etched in memory 70 years later

Certain moments in history are so laden with emotional impact that not only the event itself, but also my circumstances and my exact location, remain etched in memory like an ancient insect preserved in amber. In retrospect, these all have to do with loss and fear.

September, 11, 2001. The twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed by terrorists flying airplanes into them. I was in my office waiting to see my first patient of the day, when I received an urgent and terrified call from home, telling me what was happening. It became imperative to get home and gather my family together for protection against the unknown enemy.

January 28, 1986. The Challenger Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, killing the entire crew. I was standing on the 17th floor of my office building at Colony Square waiting for the elevator to go down to lunch when someone told me about it. Our mighty space program had flaws -- and suddenly we knew just how fragile human life is.

November 23, 1963. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was a second year psychiatry resident at Emory, sitting in a conference room in class with other residents, when the secretary interrupted to tell us that the president had been shot. A dream was shattered.

April 12, 1945. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died from a brain hemorrhage. A large pecan tree had fallen in our backyard and was yet to be removed. It's wonderful leafy canopy, now horizontal, made the perfect "jungle" for the imaginative play of a 12 year old boy. I was there in my private jungle when I heard the news. In the South, FDR was credited not only with getting us out of the Depression but with almost god-like leadership through the fears and anguish of World War II. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And now had had brought us within sight of victory, it seemed. His death revived all the fear we had experienced in those preceding years of war and worry, of loss and shared sacrifice on the part of everyone. Could we still win? Would we still be safe, without him? Was Truman up to the job?

December 7, 1941. A week before my 9th birthday. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was visiting my cousins who lived out in the country eight miles from town. We were walking back toward their house along a sandy road, barefoot. That seems improbable in December, but I distinctly remember squishing my toes in the soft, warm sand. Or maybe I'm conflating a memory of another time, in summer. But we were definitely on that road when someone came running from the house, shouting what they had just heard on the radio: "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor." What that meant wasn't immediately clear to a young boy -- but the urgent terror in that voice was etched in my memory and has lasted for 70 years . . . and counting.


Krugman explains the GOP primary circus

Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times on Monday, stepped back from the details of the GOP primary circus to offer an explanation of what it's all about and why "Herman Cain was not an accident."

What he means by that quip is that Republicans have an almost impossible dilemma in choosing a presidential nominee. Despite the easy win that such tough economic times might ordinarily give the opposition party, they can't really seize the opportunity because their ideology demands exactly the wrong solutions for our time.

So, Krugman says, there are only two kinds of politicians who could make the cut in this situation: those who are totally cynical and those who are totally clueless.

Romney falls in the cynical category. He knows very well what needs to be done, but he knows that he cannot win the nomination if he takes that position.
"Mr. Romney's strategy, in short, is to pretend that he shares the ignorance and misconceptions of the Republican base. He isn't a stupid man -- but he seems to play one on TV.

"Unfortunately . . . his insincerity shines through. So the base still hungers for someone who really, truly believes what every candidate for the party's nomination must pretend to believe. Yet . . . the only way to actually believe the modern GOP catechism is to be completely clueless."
Krugman goes on:
"And that's why the Republican primary has taken the form it has, in which a candidate nobody likes and nobody trusts has faced a series of clueless challengers, each of whom has briefly soared before imploding under the pressure of his or her own cluelessness."
How to explain Newt Gingrich and his sudden surge? He actually is a hybrid of the cynical and the clueless. According to Krugman:
"He is by no means the deep thinker he imagines himself to be, but he's a glib speaker, even when he has no idea what he's talking about. And my sense is that he's very good at doublethink -- that even when he knows what he's saying isn't true, he manages to believe it while he's saying it. So he may not implode like his predecessors."
Krugman is recognizing what I've been saying about Newt. He has no core belief, no integrity. He's is a chameleon and totally unprincipled. AND he has the capacity to sound like he knows what he's talking about, even when he is just making it up. The difference is that he is able to convince naive listeners because he convinces himself, at that moment, that he believes what he's saying. This is what makes him dangerous, in my opinion. It is one of the hallmark traits of the sociopath.

Krugman wants to emphasize his larger point, however, which is that whoever gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate -- and could only be a deeply flawed candidate because:
". . . the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process."
And here's the really scary parting thought from Krugman:
"Of course, given the terrible economic picture and the tendency of voters to blame whoever holds the White House for bad times, even a deeply flawed GOP nominee might very well win the presidency. But then what?"
Well, my answer is: we have to make sure we don't find out "then what," and we can do that best by re-electing Obama.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An easy solution

A group of economists at the University of Massachusetts has reported that Corporate America is hoarding $3.6 trillion (yes trillion) in cash reserves. Since they are able to borrow the money from the Federal Reserve almost free, why not?

Of course, it's only prudent to keep a healthy level of cash reserves as a safety cushion. One of the problems in 2007 was that the reserves were only about $20 billion. These economists conclude that, even allowing for a massive safety cushion, at least $1.4 trillion could be quickly invested in loans that would stimulate jobs.

Here's their bottom line prediction:
By moving this excess into productive investments, 19 million jobs would be created over the next 3 years, bringing the unemployment down to 5%.
They say that getting the banks to do this would take both carrots and sticks from the government: a new round of government stimulus spending and a tax on the banks' excessive reserves. Neither is going to happen with the current stalemate in Congress.

To see such an obvious and easy solution at hand, and know that our dysfunctional political system precludes our doing it -- is very discouraging.


The only poll that matters right now

We're awash in early, probably meaningless, polls that change drastically week by week.

Here's the one that does have significance, here just 4 weeks from the Iowa caucuses (from TPM):
The latest poll of Iowa voters from the Des Moines Register shows that “More than 70 percent of likely caucusgoers are still up for grabs.” That means that despite Newt Gingrich’s lead, voters haven’t settled on a final candidate and the landscape could shift before the January 3 caucuses.
If 70% of those likely to go out on a cold January night in Iowa are still not decided, even despite their whirlwind romance with Newt, then anything could happen.

And, as we know from the past, more than in any other early voting contest, the organizational ground game -- who actually gets their supports to go out to the caucuses -- is what counts most in Iowa.

Callista might ought to hold off a while before she starts measuring for drapes in the White House.


Monday, December 5, 2011

"Be careful, Nancy"

Nancy Pelosi seems to be treading pretty close to an ethical boundary herself, in threatening to disclose confidential information from the House Ethics Committee. I want to caution her to be careful. At the same time, I'm eager to hear what she has to say, even if she shouldn't reveal it.

Here's what she has said thus far about Newt:
"One of these days we'll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich. . . . I know a lot about him. I served on the [Ethics] investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff."
But isn't an ethics committee investigation supposed to be private? If she can really talk about it, or if it is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, why don't we already have it?

Pelosi further stated that, at one point in the investigation, it was so sensitive that she asked her husband to leave the bedroom at 3:00 am so she could talk privately on the telephone about it. She did tell the San Francisco Chronicle in 1997 that "he is such a hypocrit."

Gingrich was sanctioned by the House with a $300,000 fine for using tax-exempt money for political purposes; but Pelosi said she had wanted them to censure him.

Meanwhile, enjoy Barney Frank's comment:
"I did not think I had lived a good enough life to be rewarded by Newt Gingrich being the Republican nominee."
Let us hope that sentiment is not misguided. I don't even trust Newt to remain Newt and behave the way we have come to expect him to.


Don't write Hunstman off yet

Newt surges, Mitt's inevitability suffers -- and there are knives being sharpened to take Newt down. And, for those dissatisfied and still looking, there sits Jon Huntsman.

Despite his dismal poll standing (2%), there's other data. The website InTrade, where people actually "bet," not on who they like but on who they think will win. Huntsman is in third place at 6.2% -- a distant third, to be sure, behind Romney at 45,3% and Gingrich at 32.2%.

The far right think he's too liberal. He should be the moderate's second, if not first choice. But all Republicans want most of all to win. Huntsman should be that man. On paper, he would win hands down as best qualified, without Mitt's woodenness and objectionable flip-flops and without Newt's baggage and objectionable flip-flops.

But folks just don't warm up to Huntsman. He doesn't exude charisma or project the image of a bold leader, despite his success as a governor and as ambassador to China. Nor does he seem like a tough fighter capable of slaying dragons.

Maybe he knows it and is ramping up his feisty side.

Having made it known that he would not be participating in the debate run by The Donald, he added this line when questioned about it:
"I'm not going to kiss his ring . . . nor any other part of his anatomy."
Now that might get some attention from the crowd that loves a fight: David sling-shotting Goliath. And, for those still shopping, Huntman could be the man. And maybe the toughest opponent for Obama to beat.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Least imaginative headline of the week

The Huffington Post's headline writer seems to be suffering from Bachmann-fatigue and an exhaustion of creative ideas to catch our attention. Here's all he came up with today:
"Michele Bachmann Makes a Controversial Statement."
Perhaps we're to read that, not as vapid, but as ironic. Meaning something like: it would be news if any statement she made were not controversial.


Newt surges in Iowa

Newt Gingrich has surged ahead in the latest Iowa poll, which was conducted between November 27-30 -- after Herman Cain's drop in polls but before he announced he was suspending his campaign.

The results: Gingrich 25%, Paul 18%, Romney 16%, Bachmann and Cain tied at 8%, and Perry and Santorum tied at 6%.

Wise observers say it's still volatile, that the majority of voters are not that committed -- and we may see further changes. But frankly, I can easily see Gingrich winning the nomination now -- and I admit that I counted him out way too soon.

If he takes Iowa, especially if Paul knocks Romney into third place; and if he comes in a respectable second to Romney in New Hampshire; if he then wins South Carolina, as now seems likely; and add to that his strong lead in Florida at this point -- then the only way Newt fails to get the nomination is if Newt defeats Newt.

Maureen Dowd had this to say about him in today's New York Times:
"Newt Gingrich's mind is in love with itself. This is not a serious mind. Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker. His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. . . . Newt swims easily in a sea of duality and byzantine ideas that don't add up."
This was discussed on Christine Amanpour's "This Week" this morning. One of the panelists said that the problem with expecting Newt to defeat himself is that "he only has to be disciplined for about 8 weeks" to win the nomination. And Newt can probably do that. The implication being that his self-destruction would occur after he has sewed up the nomination.

Meanwhile, we'll have the appalling reality show of one flip-flopper trying to outdo the other flip-flopper.

But the most appalling thing of all is the prospect of yet another debate, this one to be moderated by none other than Donald Trump.

Jon Huntsman has declined to participate -- which gains him points in my book.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Alternate Joke of the Week

Herman Cain characterized the accusations of sexual harassment by three women, as well as a 13 year affair by another woman, as “a direct character assassination, pure and simple.”

Asked by the Fox News interviewer who he thought was behind this "character assassination," he replied that it must be the Democrats.
“I can only conjecture that maybe I'm the democrats worst nightmare.”
News flash to Mr. Cain: Get real, man. It's a toss-up whether you or Michele Bachmann would be the easiest opponent to guarantee the Democrats a landslide victory.


Joke of the week

Michele Bachmann:
"I'm happy to say I don't think that I've said anything inaccurate in any of the debates. . . . It's a high-profile stage and so I'm grateful that I don't think I've made a blunder."
When you stop laughing, consider this for Joke of the Year: Michele Bachmann ever being taken seriously as a presidential candidate.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Newt: candor or calculation?

I never trust anything that comes out of Newt's mouth.

However, he said something yesterday in South Carolina that made me wonder: are we seeing a new candor emerging, or is this just another phase of calculating what will impress voters?

I can see the wheels in that over-sized head turning: what people liked in Herman Cain was his seeming honesty and candor.

So now Newt will be honest and candid.

Here's what I'm referring to: He was asked to comment on some complex aspect of Obama's AIDS policy. Newt said that this was new to him and he didn't have enough information to answer her question.
"One of the real changes that comes when you start running for President -- as opposed to being an analyst on Fox -- is I have to actually know what I'm talking about."
People laughed, and he then added: "It's a severe limitation."

Woah, here, now. People speak truth in unguarded moments, especially to get a laugh. This may be one of those moments. That's a damning indictment not only of Fox but of his own role as a political talking head.

He's confessing to just making stuff up? -- as I have been saying for some time. It adds credence to the recent poll that showed people who watch Fox News are less well informed than those who don't watch any news at all.

But, you see, the thing about Newt is this: He wants you to accept him as he presents himself today, here and now, and to ignore what he may have been or said in the past. Forget his philandering and his divorces; he has confessed and received forgiveness from God. Who are we to judge? Past support for health care mandates? For bombing Libya? For a zillion other things that he now has a different take on?

Don't be petty. Accept the Newt in front of you now. That brilliant mind is way too busy to keep track of what he said in the past. He didn't really believe it then, so why should he remember it? And now? We're to believe him now -- just because it is now?

What a strange unhistorical position for a professional historian to take.

But it makes a sort of pathological sense when you realize that consistency and continuity require a cohesive self and some integrity. Newt has none.

As George Will would say: "Well, now . . . "


The roller-coaster ride ain't over yet

Consider this scenario over the next few months:

1. The cumulative weight of accusations by women proves too much for Cain's supporters, and they desert him. He drops out of the race, ostensibly to protect his family from further distress from all the publicity, which or course has no basis in fact, he says. Translated: his wife says "no way, you philandering SOB."

2. A majority of Cain's supporters go over to Gingrich, who is already leading by a big margin in Iowa in the latest poll. He swamps Romney, who comes in third behind Gingrich and Paul. Perry, Bachmann and Santorum come in at #4, 5, and 6. Bachmann and Santorum drop out. Perry has the money to continue, but everyone knows eventually his support will go to Gingrich too.

3. Romney and Gingrich duke it out in New Hampshire, with Romney winning by a slight edge, much less than he should have, so it's a defeat on expectations.

4. Gingrich beats Romney in South Carolina.

5. If Gingrich can survive the renewed scrutiny of his past, then he's on track for the nomination. There is growing reason to think he can survive it. Evangelicals like a bad boy who has repented and found religion. Confession and forgiveness -- as opposed to Cain's stout denials. They also give him a pass on the hypocrisy of impeaching Clinton -- because Clinton lied. But Gingrich confessed (years later, to be sure).

4. The anti-Romney crowd is desperate. The brainey Gingrich has captured the populist vote, but the insiders don't trust him and don't like him. They persuade Sarah Palin to jump in and try to capture the crown from Gingrich and defeat Romney.

What then? It could happen.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart had a good line, referring to the increasing use of pepper spray on crowds -- not only the police against the Occupy protesters but now California and North Carolina shoppers using it against fellow shoppers on Black Friday. Stewart's quip:

“We’ve suddenly become a people who use pepper spray to alleviate minor inconveniences.
"Pepper spray has become America’s new car horn.”
Clever. Says a lot with a few words.


It's going to be a very rough campaign

Here we are, still 11 months from Election 2012, and already the Republicans have sunk pretty low in their TV ads.

Mitt Romney's first tv ad in New Hampshire has a video clip of Obama saying: "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."

The whole context of the ad is blaming Obama for the bad economy and for trying to avoid discussing it or fixing it. Now, we all know and have come to accept that it's going to be rough. I wouldn't be surprised if this had come from Bachmann or Perry. But Romney -- just out and out falsifying a direct quote? Where is his Morman morality?

Here's the full quotation from the 2008 campaign that they edited to reverse the meaning. Obama is quoting an aide to his opponent John McCain, and here's what he actually said:

"Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, 'if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.'"

The ad attributes the statement to Obama -- and he is actually saying it -- but he is quoting his opponent's campaign in order to denounce it. With these same tactics and some diligent searching and splicing, you could probably create a clip of Obama saying: "Hitler is my hero."

The liberal media are exposing this -- but even the conservatives ought to be denouncing this kind of tactic. Distortions, hyperbole, ridicule -- of course. But intentional falsification? That is beneath contempt.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Hampshire primary

It's been practically a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney will win the New Hampshire Republican primary on January 10th. Second only to the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, N.H.'s "first primary" state is always closely watched.

With Romney having been governor of next door Massachusetts, his presence is long-standing; and he is leading in polls 42% to 15% for Gingrich.

Nevertheless, today the Union Leader, N.H.'s leading newspaper, which always plays a big role in politics, has announced its endorsement of Newt Gingrich.
"We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing. . . . We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job. . .

"We don't have to agree with them on every issue. We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."
But don't they know that Newt is just as big a pandering flip-flopper as Mitt? That everything Newt does is calculated? It's just that he's a lot smarter and his pandering often more subtle and couched in what sounds like superior knowledge. He's even clever enough to know, when he does flip on an issue, that it's better to just say "I was wrong, and here's why I changed," than to concoct bogus, obfuscating rationalizations for the old position and pretending that you haven't really changed your position.

He does know federal policy better than any of the other GOP hopefuls, and his mind is more clever and inventive. But he is often making stuff up or just outright lying. Doesn't the newspaper editorial board know that?

For example: today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which fact-checks politicians' statements, says that Newt's claim about the Dodd-Frank legislation was completely false.
Newt said that "Community banks are 12 percent of the banks right now and 40 percent of the loans to small businesses. And they are being destroyed by Dodd-Frank."

The AJC gives stats that show exactly the opposite. "Federal data show profitability has increased for community banks in the past 12 months. Community banks also have benefited from a reduction in fees paid to the FDIC as a result of Dodd-Frank."
That's the problem with Gingrich: he is so cock-sure and people think he knows what he's talking about. Throwing in those stats makes it sound authentic. But Newt has to know that he's lying.

If I were not a psychiatrist and therefore ethically bound to refrain from putting diagnostic labels on public figures I have not personally interviewed, I would say that he is a sociopath -- a very intelligent one, but a sociopath nonetheless. But I'm not supposed to say that, so I won't.