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.