Saturday, May 12, 2012

Really remarkable Republican advice

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Daily Beast, posts a memo from respected Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen (he polled for George W. Bush in 2004) to Republican insiders on rapidly changing polling data on gay rights.

He warns that Republicans should evolve on gay marriage or else risk becoming irrelevant.  He cites the rapidly changing polling data:  up until 2009, approval of gay marriage increased at about 1% per year.  Starting in 2010, it accelerated to about 5% a year.   Recent polls show that supporters outnumber opponents 49% to 40%.

Support is stronger among Democrats and Independents, but among Republicans it is also growing.  The majority of them now support legal protections of civil rights.

Van Lohuizen then recommends that Republican candidates take a more moderate position, and he has model talking positions for them to use.  The most remarkable being how to address the objection of conservatives:
“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government."
Andrew Sullivan reacted to this as follows:

The last paragraph is, to my mind, the most remarkable. It's advising Republican candidates to emphasize the conservative nature of gay marriage, to say how it encourages personal responsibility, commitment, stability and family values. It uses Dick Cheney's formula (which was for a couple of years, the motto of this blog) that "freedom means freedom for everyone." And it uses David Cameron's argument that you can be for gay marriage because you are a conservative. . . .
And the walls came tumbling down.
 Nobody, including David Brooks himself, seems to want to revisit a column he wrote for the New York Times on November 22, 2003, in which he said the same thing.   But I saved it because it was so remarkable.   Brooks must have gotten a lot of negative feedback from his fellow conservatives at the time, because to my knowledge he has not written about it since.   But here is what Brooks wrote in 2003, which is available in his archive on the internet.
"The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.
When liberals argue for gay marriage, they make it sound like a really good employee benefits plan. Or they frame it as a civil rights issue, like extending the right to vote. Marriage is not voting. It's going to be up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage. Not making it means drifting further into the culture of contingency, which, when it comes to intimate and sacred relations, is an abomination."
I agree with Andrew Sullivan.    The walls [are about to] come tumbling down.

It's been happening at an increasing pace.   Obama just moved the stone that was holding back the avalanche.   Let's hope it moves so fast that, when the Prop 8 case reaches the U. S. Supreme Court (maybe next year) it will seem that overturning Prop 8 is merely bringing the court in tune with the country, rather than leading it on a social issue, which some justices would be loathe to do, even if they personally think it should be overturned.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Questions about Romney's character

Mitt Romney says he doesn't remember the much discussed incident when as a prep-schooler he is said to have led a pack of boys in bullying a non-conforming classmate, including throwing him down and cutting his long hair.

Mitt may not remember it, but several other classmates who participated with him in the incident remember and say they have been haunted by what they did ever since.   So, either Mitt is lying about not remembering -- or it maybe says something even worse:  that he is so insensitive to what he did to violate and humiliate another human being that he doesn't even remember it.

Time Magazine's Joe Klein goes after this as a question of Romney's character.
It’s not the incident itself that troubles me–-though it was, obviously, outrageous and disgraceful–-so much as his current response: He doesn’t remember it. This is patent nonsense. How could he not remember it? Obviously, he remembers it or he wouldn’t have been so quick to issue his blanket apology yesterday for any and all hurt he may have caused at Cranbrook.  And this transparent fudge once again raises questions about his character.

It comes during the same week that he claims credit for saving the auto industry, even though he opposed the bailout that made possible the “structured bankruptcy” he favored. It comes the same week that he expresses his opposition to gay marriage, even though he promised to be a more aggressive proponent of gay rights than Ted Kennedy when he ran for the Senate in 1994–of course, it’s possible that Romney has “evolved” in the opposite direction from President Obama, and most Americans, on this issue, but I doubt it. It seems that a day can’t go by without some Romney embarrassment, or bald-faced reversal of a former position.

I’m still waiting for the moment when Romney actually tells the truth about something difficult.
Me too.   Just look at what he's said this week about his position on gay issues in response to Obama's historic support for gay marriage -- forget for the moment all the other contradictory things Romney has said in the past.   Just this week alone he said he is opposed to same-sex marriage and wants to protect the sanctity of marriage.  He would support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Yet he would allow states to make their own laws.  But the constitutional amendment would render any state gay rights laws invalid.   He supports certain civil rights for gays and even the right to adopt children ("I'm fine with that.")    Except that he opposes civil unions, and thinks that children deserve to have both a mother and a father.

Can you follow that?   No, of course not.   Don't try.  It's just the Romney merry-go-round.

Back to Klein on Romney about the bullying in prep school and the non-apology:

He could have said, “You know, I’ve been troubled by the Cranbrook episode for most of my life, and I feel relieved, in a way, that it’s come out now. I did a really stupid and terrible thing. . . .  What I most regret  is that I never apologized to John, and won’t be able to now that he’s gone, but let me apologize to his family and friends. Bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. . . .  If elected President, I will try to atone for my teenage behavior by campaigning against bullying all across this country. What I did back then should be an example of how not to behave. I hope we can all learn from this. I know that I have.”

Instead, Romney has a near-perfect record of cowardice, obfuscation and downright lies. It shows enormous disrespect for the intelligence of the public.
I just don't believe he has it in him to say something that honest and caring.   He says it never entered his mind to think that the boy was gay -- it was just that he wasn't dressing and wearing his hair the way boys at Cranbrook were supposed to look, and Mitt was trying to enforce conformity.

I don't believe for a minute that they didn't think the kid was gay;  others have said that they taunted the boy by calling him "girlie."   But, even on Romney's own terms, it shows a gross intolerance for non-conformity and a willingness to take matters in his own hands and lead a vigilante group to impose his will.   It was, quite simply, atrocious bullying.   It went far beyond Mitt's preferred "teenage hijinks and pranks."

I suggest that this teenage behavior is consistent with Romney's policy decisions about the role of government as it affects the lives of those who are different, less privileged, and need the safety net of the social contract.   Cranbrook was a formative world of privilege and conformity.   Romney learned those lessons well, and he wants to impose them on everyone else.  That may be the only consistent thing that influences his policy decisions.


"Memento" deja vu

Remember the movie "Memento" from a few years back about the man who completely lost his short term memory and could only keep track of what he had done an hour before by writing notes to himself?

Mitt Romney needs to start writing notes to himself.    He becomes ever more incoherent as he says things that just don't connect to any threads of what he has said before.   I think the Etch-a-Sketch metaphor may be even more apt than we realized.   It goes far deeper than just the recognition of the political reality that you try to appeal to the party base to win the primary and then move back toward the center for the general.

I think there's just no there, there.   No core, no real beliefs other than what he thinks he needs to say at the moment.  I don't mean that Romney has no religious or moral beliefs.   But there is nothing that seems to guide his political, operational beliefs other than expediency.   He certainly doesn't show any continuity of reasoning.   And that means you have to remember what you said -- or else you just don't try and take the wrap for incoherent flip-floping.

Take this:  On Fox News, commenting on Obama's announcing his support for gay marriage, Romney said:  “You don’t change your positions to try and win states or certain sub-groups of Americans.  You have the positions you have."

Anyone with his record of blatant flip-flops shouldn't say that.   It only reminds us of how untrue it is of him.

So what is his position on gay marriage?   Well, he's against it and he thinks it should be left up to the states to decide.  But he also favors a U. S. Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.    But it's ok for same-sex couples to have all the legal rights, including permission to adopt babies ("that's fine," he said);  just don't call it marriage.    But he also is opposed to civil union legislation.

Go figure.

It's going to be fun watching him and the GOP try to use Obama's support for gay marriage against him -- and tie themselves in knots of contradiction.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

More for defense, less for food aid

The House has just passed the Paul Ryan budget, which gives more money to the defense budget than even the Pentagon asked for.

And what got cut, so the Republicans could reward their defense contractor donors?   Funding for Medicaid programs were cut by $48 billion and food stamps by $35 billion.

Fine.  If that's the record they want to run this election on, I say "Bring it on !!"


They support gay marriage

Here is a list of some of the political figures who support gay marriage:

1.  President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama
2.  Vice President Joe Biden
3.  Former President Bill Clinton
4.  Former President Jimmy Carter
5.  Former Vice President Dick Cheney
6.  Former  First Lady Laura Bush
7.  Mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark
8.  Governors of New York, Washington State, Maryland
9.  Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont
9.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
        (personally opposes but supports state laws permitting)
10. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
11. Most of the Democratic Senators
12.  Four Republican State legislators in New York whose votes
        were crucial in passing the law in New York.

That's an impressive list of leading politicians, albeit mostly Democrats.

With that kind of support, and now with Obama on board,
        they should take the next step and include it in the
        Democratic platform for the convention.


Even now, I find this shocking !!!

Colin Powell has a new book of "leadership parables" from his experiences as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as George Bush's first Secretary of State.

In it, he says unequivocally that there was never a considered debate within the White House about whether going to war with Iraq was a good idea.   He says it was never discussed in the National Security Council.   At the time, Condi Rice was head of the NSC, which is supposed to be the leading advisory body to the president on national security and foreign policy.

Powell said that, when he made his infamous United Nation's speech, war was already inevitable, that Bush had already made up his mind.

CIA Director at the time, George Tenet, supports this.  In his 2007 memoir, Tenet says "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat . . . [nor] "was there ever a significant discussion" about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion."

This can only mean that it was a decision largely influenced by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their minions -- and for their own reasons, untouched by other points of view.

I don't know what to say.   It is almost beyond comprehension, in this day and time of no-secrets media scrutiny that so few people can make a decision for our entire country with such devastating and expensive consequences, both in human life and in treasure.

At the very least, these men and women (I include Condi) should be condemned by history;  and there misuse of power should be exposed.   Instead, we get George Bush building his presidential library and Dick Cheney grooming his daughter for high political office -- and all of them profiting handsomely from the books they've written about how safe they kept us from terrorism.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NEWS FLASH !!! Obama supports gay marriage

3:00 pm.  ABC News has just reported the following:

"President Obama Affirms His Support for Gay Marriage"

by Rick Klein

"President Obama today announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, reversing his longstanding "evolving" position, amid growing pressure from the Democratic base and even his own vice president and two cabinet members.

"In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, the president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this place, based on conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and conversations with his wife and own daughters.
 "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married". . .
"The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept."

Well, it's been a long-time "evolving," but it's good to hear it at last.   This is historic.   To have a president of the United States publicly endorse same-sex marriage in the midst of a re-election campaign is remarkable -- and indicative of how much times have changed.

It has seemed obvious for some time that he would support it, but that he was held back by political considerations.   But I believe -- and his campaign must now agree -- that people who are going to vote against him because of taking this position would be voting against him anyway.  And this will create a lot of good will and enthusiasm among the progressive and the gay voters.

Why didn't he do it before North Carolina voted yesterday on a constitutional amendment?   Probably they calculated it wouldn't make enough difference to change the vote -- and now it can help obliterate the bad news rather than having the impact of his endorsement overshadowed by the negative vote.

Whatever . . . .   It's good to have his support.


The clarity of truth -- from a Republican

Richard Mourdock, Indiana's State Treasurer and the Tea Party supported candidate for the Republican nomination for the U. S. Senate, has soundly defeated Senator Richard Lugar, who has served Indiana in the Senate for 42 years.  Lugar was one of the few remaining Republicans who sometimes worked in bipartisan cooperation to get good bills passed.

Mourdock has made it quite clear that he will not follow in Lugar's footsteps.  To him, "bipartisanship" means "having the Democrats come our way."

In other words, Mourdock would fit right in with the defeat-Obama-above-all-else crowd we have there now.

That should be good news for the Democrats.  It improves their prospects for picking up the Indiana seat, which was inconceivable with Lugar as the candidate.  Maybe enough moderate Republicans and Independents will swing the vote over.  

Obama did carry Indiana in 2008, albeit by less than 1% of the vote;  and he wasn't expected to carry it in 2012.  This might even help his chances, if enough people get energized about picking up the Senate seat and go to the polls.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Profile in Courage Awards to Iowa Justices

In April 2009, all nine Iowa Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same sex couples in the state of Iowa.

Opponents vowed retribution, and they got it.   In the November 2010 elections, three of those Justices, including the Chief Justice, were voted out of office.   Only those three were up for a retention vote, Iowa's method since 1962 of allowing the public to periodically vote to retain, or not, judges who are appointed rather than elected.  Other justices will face a retention vote at a later time, depending on their original appointment to the high court.

National anti-gay hate groups, including the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and the Family Research Council, spearheaded and funded the campaign to oust these judges.  As in the California Proposition 8 referendum, outside anti-gay forces and outside money flooded the state with false propaganda and lies about gay families and about the effects on children.    It is a truly despicable war being waged in the name of "preserving marriage."

In an interview with Frank Bruni of the  New York Times, former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus said:
If these organizations are really worried about marriage, rather than being motivated by bigotry and hatred, then they would be going after the divorce laws. But they’re not.” 
Ternus was not herself a passionate advocate for the cause of gay rights, not does she follow what's happening in other states closely.  When she first heard the term "gay marriage," she had to ask "What's that?"   And that was not too long ago.

She laughs about the opposition calling her and the other justices "an arrogant elite" with a "radical political agenda."  Ternus comes from four generations of farmers, the oldest of six children who grew up on a corn and soybean farm with a wood-buring stove in the kitchen.  She describes herself as "just a judge from Iowa" who "tried to be fair."

In the first few hours of the deliberations among the nine justices, it quickly became apparent that none of them could see a way to square the marriage ban with the equal protection provision in the constitution.   They came to the "jaw-dropping" realization that they had a unanimous decision.  And that it would be momentous.

Just how momentous, and how courageous, was highlighted at ceremonies today at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in  Boston, where Carolyn Kennedy presented the Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to the three justices who were voted out of office because of their courageous stand for human rights and fairness.

Ternus has thought a lot about what happened:  “The important thing . . . wasn’t us losing our jobs.  It’s what it represents about what people think of justice and the rule of law and constitutional rights.”  She is particularly concerned about the politicization of the judiciary.   “If people think that what happened here doesn’t influence other judges, they’re really na├»ve," she said.

I agree, although I'm less concerned in the long run about gay rights.    Acceptance is moving in the right direction, rather quickly as these things go.   But the corruption of money and outside hate groups influencing elections, elected officials, and now the judiciary in general is a serious problem in our society.