Friday, November 11, 2011

A rarety in the GOP world -- reasonableness

I don't know much about Ohio's governor, John Kasich, except that he is a Republican whose whole first year in office has been dominated by the controversy over the anti-union legislation that he vigorously promoted and then signed into law last March.

One result of the law was to awaken the labor movement, which sparked the repeal effort. Yesterday the people of Ohio spoke with their vote to overturn the measure. It is being regarded widely as a significant defeat for the governor and a good omen for Obama and Democrats in 2012.

There is now hopeful talk that a revived labor movement will unite with the Occupy movement as the progressive energy and driving force in the 2012 elections.

Based only on this one sample of the man reacting to defeat, I would say that John Kasich is rare among Republicans these days. Here's what he said following the defeat:
"When I say it is a time to pause, it is right now, on this issue. "The people have spoken clearly. You don't ignore the public. Look, I also have an obligation to lead. I've been leading since the day I took this office, and I'll continue to do that. But part of leading is listening and hearing what people have to say to you."
In my post last Friday, "Count the ways . . ." I listed five major issues on which the GOP presidential hopefuls are NOT listening to what the American people are saying. Polls show voters' support for: (1) withdrawing troops from Iraq, (2) raising taxes on the wealthy, (3) focusing on jobs rather than the deficit, (4) repeal of DADT, and (5) repealing DOMA.

All of these issues are opposed by most, if not all, the Republican presidential candidates.

So Kasich stands out among his GOP peers for his reasonableness -- a trait that is practically non-existent in the debates (occasionally a tad from Huntsman). Which is fine -- the more unreasonable they are, the better for Obama. And yesterday's votes in Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Arizona confirm that the people are waking up to this fact.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

My moratorium on scorn

For the past week, I have restrained my usual impulses to ridicule the individual GOP hopefuls for their looney toons, their ignorance, stupidity, pandering, and sometimes just plain weird statements (Michele Bachmann holds the life-time award for that).

Guess what? They have managed to continue the road to self-destruction all by themselves, without my piling on.

So -- I thought today I would just give an update on where I see things in this Parade of the Clowns.

Last night's CBS sponsored debate in Michigan, like others, placed the candidates on stage according to standing in the polls. So there were Romney and Cain in the center, with Perry on one side and Gingrich on the other; then Bachmann, Paul, Hunstman, and Santorum were out to the sides. So of the top four:

1. Perry had his now famous memory lapse about the third cabinet department he would abolish (Energy).

2. Cain is battling multiple accusations of sexual harassment from years ago.

3. Gingrich moves up a notch.

4. But Romeny wins the nomination.

It's instructive to see how each is handling his big hurdle.

#1. Perry immediately after the debate sought out the news media, self-deprecatingly talking about "stepping in it" and "man, how embarrassing it was." This morning he hit every news show, repeating that stance and reminding everyone that he may not be great at debates -- but we have the debate champion in the White House now and (echoes of Palin) "how's that working out?" His campaign has already gotten out a fund-raising letter, asking people to send in their choices for that third department to eliminate. Smart handling of the exposure of a dumb spot.

It may play well with his base, but it's not going to gain him any support with the more moderate Republicans and Independents -- without whose votes he can't beat Romney. Unfortunately for Rick Perry, his dumb spots will keep showing up and ultimately convincing the majority that he is unelectable.

#2. Meanwhile, Cain's accusers may or may not be telling the truth, but his handling of it has not done him any favors. First he denied even knowing about the claims and settlements; then he remembered there had been settlements but he had nothing to do with them; then he blamed the Perry campaign for the whole thing; then said it was a conspiracy by Democrats. Now the latest attack is to accuse the accusers and to expose their lives and foibles, as well as to make false charges against one based on misidentification. Now his campaign has made a threat, saying that any others who might be considering coming forward with an accusation ought to "think twice" about doing it.

That is not a good strategy. Unfortunately he's caught in a lose-lose spot. If the accusations are false, how can he possibly defend himself in a "he said-she said" plot? I don't know what the best course is, but bullying the attackers is not a good strategy. It tends to elicit sympathy for the women and further paints him as a dominating man who might have done it. Referring to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy" in last night' debate only added to that image of him as a domineering man who denigrates women.

#3. And then there's Newt. As others self-destruct, he has had a slight uptick in polls. That's understandable, and he may now have his "flavor of the week" moment. But it won't be enough. He's not been taken as a serious candidate up to now. Once that happens, then his past will come back to sink him: questions about his finances, his ethical censure when he was in the House, his lack of an organization, and above all his character flaws, including wife #2's interview in which she said he has no integrity, with examples to prove it.

So, let him have a week in the sun, and then it's over for him too. But that's fine too, because he will have gotten the attention he craves and enhanced his book/DVD/lecture sales.

#4. The bottom line: Romney wins the GOP nomination. He looks presidential, he has the money, the organization, and -- in this crowd -- by far the best debating skills. What he lacks is charisma and rabble-rousing appeal to the right wing. But when it comes down to it, they want to win above all else. I don't think they will let the party go down in flames with an unelectable zealot.

As political theater, it continues to be fun to watch. As a measure of our country, it is appalling the low level of people being seriously considered as our choice to be President of the United States in this difficult time.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another good thing

Local referendums on Sunday retail sales of alcohol were on the ballots in Georgia. Georgia law passed last year leaves it up to local municipalities, so each area was deciding its own policy.

With maybe one or two exceptions, voters by a margin of at least 2:1 approved Sunday alcohol sales. In my area, Sandy Springs, it was 85% to 15%. I had no personal investment in this. Rarely have I felt deprived because I couldn't buy a bottle of wine in the grocery store on Sunday.

But I object to the reasoning of those who support the blue laws: "It's the Lord's day." Or: "If you can't get by without drinking one day a week, you've got serious problems."

Here's what I say in response: "If you disapprove of selling alcohol on Sunday, then don't sell alcohol on Sunday; don't buy alcohol on Sunday."

Just as in the past I have taken the position: "If you 'don't believe in gay marriage,' then don't marry a gay person."

Nobody's forcing you to do either. Don't tell me I can't, though.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A turning point?

Several good signs today:

1. Voters decisively defeated Ohio's anti-union law at the polls today, delivering a major defeat to the Republican governor.

2. Voters by 55% defeated Mississippi's "personhood" amendment to the state constitution that would have defined a person to include "every human being from the moment of fertilization." It would have effectively outlawed any abortions for any reason, even to save the life of the mother, as well as possibly some forms of contraception.

3. The architect of Arizona draconian immigration law was defeated in a special recall election today.

4. Texas' redistricting plan was rejected by the courts because it would discriminate against minorities. The court will now draw up a temporary plan, which will be in effect for the 2012 election and will protect minority representation. That should be good for Democrats.

5. Kentucky's Democratic governor easily won re-election in a very red state.

6. A conservative-leaning panel of judges from the U. S. Appeals Court of D. C. upheld the constitutionality of the Obama health care reform.

7. I don't know if he meant this to sound as derisive of fellow Republican politicians as it sounds, but today Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said about his party's presidential candidates and their foreign policy positions (or lack thereof):
"I think we're not organized in our thoughts yet. I'm going to help. I'm writing an article about how to have an organized thought."
Uhh. Wow !! " . . . how to have an organized thought"???
Lindsey has noticed, huh? With friends like this . . .

8. An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier passed through the moon's orbital field at 6:28 pm but missed hitting the earth by 202,000 miles.

It was a very good day.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Founding Father speaks

One of the chief architects of our democracy, Thomas Jefferson, put it this way:
"A well informed populace is vital to the operation of a democracy."
No, he didn't say that you have to be educated in order to vote. There is no test on the issues to get a ballot. No one is disenfranchised because of stupidity or ignorance or even willful malfeasance, short of a felony conviction.**

What Jefferson said is that it is in the interests of the democratic process to have people well-informed. That means, first, that the government does not censor the press (or in our day, the media). Second, it means that, with very few exceptions, all government records and actions must be open to scrutiny by ordinary citizens (including the media).

It also means, I think, that we all collectively should insist on the truth being told and on both sides of controversial issues being presented in a fair and balanced way. It would be naive to say that politicians must be required to tell the truth. What are fast losing, however, is a tradition of journalists who are informed enough to challenge those who do not tell the truth.

Instead, we have media-stars, more interested in their popularity ratings than in getting at the truth; and we have the news industry being co-opted by special monetary interests who fund the productions. Thus big corporate sponsors put pressure on tv stations or newsrooms to slant the news.

So how have Republicans and their moneyed interests perverted Jefferson's famous statement? Here's how I would distill their operating assumption (never admitted as such, of course):
"A mis-informed populace is vital to the election of Republican candidates."
Another Republican distortion of one of our beloved adages:
"The truth shall set you free."
Has been been replaced by:
"The truth will cost us the election."
I would find it easier to tolerate if I thought they really believe what they say. But so much of the drivel coming out of the Republican camps is obviously cynical, calculated distortion with no purpose but to fool the people into voting against their own interests.


** No, but we do disenfranchise people by passing Republican laws requiring a government issued picture ID to guard against the non-existent, so-called 'voter fraud.' It's just coincidence, of course, that those people (elderly, poor, i.e. people without cars and drivers licenses who also have limited access to get to the place to obtain a special ID in order to vote) tend to vote Democratic by large majorities.