Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tired of bashing Romney

Frankly, I'm beginning to weary of my Johnny-One-Note approach to Romney bashing.   But, like the patient said to the psychologist who wondered why he saw something sexual in every Rorshach card: "You're the one showing me the dirty pictures, Doc."

Well, Romney just keeps on showing his ineptitude, and I can't help calling 'em like I see 'em.

It's got Republicans worried to the point of many pundits being openly critical.  And I love every minute of it, but it is getting to be a bit monotonous.   I wish we could at least just get on to the debates.

Here's what seems to be happening:   the primaries couldn't come up with one candidate that had broad appeal to the disparate Republicans, so they chose the one nobody much likes but who seemed most likely to beat Obama.

So Romney wants to present himself not as an ideologue but as a pragmatic manager who would run the presidency like a business.

The trouble is:   as the election nears, the voters want something other than "trust me, I have a plan;  but I'm not going to tell you what it is, because it might upset one or the other faction.   And besides, the Democrats will just pick it to pieces."

Then along comes trouble, in various guises that give Romney chances to prove himself as presidential material -- and he fails, again and again.   He goes to London and winds up insulting the Olympic hosts in order to prove his superiority as a manager.   Turns out the Brits did a terrific job, things came off brilliantly, and Romney looked like the self-righteous prig that he is.

Then Romney picked Paul Ryan, which gave people a thrill that the ticket might really stand for something bold.   That hope quickly faded when the campaign insisted that Ryan neuter himself and endorse . . . what, exactly?   It's not clear what, because Romney isn't saying what he would do.

Then the media began trying to get him to give some hints about his policies.   The answer always was either bungled or "those details will come later."   He doesn't even seem to know his own talking points.

Then the Republicans had a lack-luster convention, allowing Clint Eastwood to grab all the headlines.   Who even talked about Romney's speech?  It was all about Eastwood and the empty chair stunt.

Then the Democrats had a bang-up, impressive convention with superstars Michelle and Julian and Bill.   It didn't matter that Obama couldn't quite match his 2008 acceptance speech.  The convention was still on a high from what preceded.

Then the Middle East blew up into anti-American protests and violence, including the assassination of our ambassador in Libya.   And Romney bungled that one very badly, bringing down Republican disbelief that he could be so insensitive and thoughtless.  It wasn't just an off the cuff remark;  it was vetted by his foreign policy advisers -- so it bodes ill for the future if he wins.  And people worry about things like that.

So now the Romney campaign seems adrift, with an inept candidate hell-bent on proving his unsuitability as a diplomat and commander in chief who would revert to Bush-era cowboy posturing in the world.  And even before that, his economic numbers just don't add up to his claims, and nobody believes he can do what he promises.

The debates should ice this one away.  Could we just skip over until October 3rd, please, and get on with it?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Obama leading in FL, OH, and VA

Obama is leading in the three crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia -- by 5% in FL and VA and by 7% in OH.

I haven't been so optimistic in months about his re-election prospects.   And these polls don't even yet fully reflect Romney's disastrous politicizing the attacks in Libya and the Republicans' denunciation of his judgment.

Nate Silver's prediction has now edged up to an 80.8% probability that Obama will win.


Advice to Mitt: Stop digging

It's a very simple principle that all politicians should have engraved on their brains.

"When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

Romney fell in a hole of his own making when he criticized Obama for "apologizing" to the attackers in Libya who killed our ambassador.   But he kept playing the same card, even after he was told he had it all wrong.

And he kept it up, even after multiple Republican politicians and conservative pundits expressed strong criticism for his politicizing a national tragedy and for having no concept of what diplomacy is.   It has dominated the news cycle now for at least 48 hours, with no signs of stopping.

Now he's digging the hole even deeper by lamely claiming that he had it right and that the White House came around to saying the same thing he said.   Only those who still want to believe in him can see this as anything other than a political disaster -- a defining moment that proves he is not presidential material.  


Am I paranoid?

This may be way too big a stretch, but it is also a measure of how cynical and suspicious I have become about big money, politics, bigotry and Republican mendacity.

After the attacks on our embassies in Egypt and Libya -- and now this morning in Yemen -- I found myself spontaneously thinking:   did somebody with money put this mysterious, anonymous anti-Islam filmmaker up to making this film?   Or at least knew about it and slyly put out the sneak scenes that went viral on the internet?

And did it in order to stir up the Muslim world and create a situation for Obama to have to deal with in the middle of the campaign -- knowing that a terrorist attack in the fall would likely give the election to the Republicans?

Did the Romney team know it was going to happen and was ready with its critical response -- but got the timing off?

Probably not.   But that's the depth of mistrust and cynicism I have come to in this money-slimed bloodbath of politics.

Of course, it was also 9/11 and there may have been some planned, coordinated effort to make a show of anti-Americanism on their part without any help from us.

What we do know is that Romney and Ryan lost not a minute in trying to politicize the anit-American feeling and blame Obama, which we know is true and is pretty low-down politics.   It has long been a gentleman's agreement that politics stops at our borders;  we do not politicize events like this but present a united front to the world.

They have violated that -- and it may just backfire on them, because it has been an occasion for Romney/Ryan to display their inexperience and lack of wisdom in dealing with world events.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Romney blunder

On the wave of being scolded by Republicans criticizing his campaign as not fighting Obama hard enough, Romney overplayed his hand.  (Laura Ingraham:  "If you can't beat Obama with this record, then shut down the party.  Shut if down.  Start new, with new people.")

Our ambassador to Libya and three other embassy personnel were killed by an Islamist terrorist raid early Wednesday morning.   The attack seemed to have been set off by an anti-Islamic film made by a California man.  He calls Islam "a cancer" and depicts Muhammed as a fraud, a womanizer, and a madman in a ridiculing way.

The embassy in Cairo (not Libya) had issued a statement that "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

After the attack, Romney put out a statement, and then held a press conference in which he doubled down on his criticism of Obama:
"I think it's a -- a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked, and being breached, that the first response to the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. And apology for America's values is never the right course."
The problem is that the embassy statement was put out before the attack, in an effort to calm the increasing furor in the Islamic world over the film.  Even after this was pointed out to Romney, he kept up his criticism -- adding to it by accusing Obama for showing a "lack of clarity" in his foreign policy.

Lack of clarity?   From Romney?

A Republican foreign policy expert said Romney was ". . . trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up."  He called Romney's response an "utter disaster" and likened it to John McCain's rash resoponse to the 2008 financial crisis, in which he "failed to come across as a steady leader."

A former aide to John McCain's campaign called it a "disgrace" and said Romney's foreign policy team is "not ready for prime time." 

Steve Clemons, of the New America Foundation, said: 
"Romney blew it and revealed how seriously maladroit he is when it comes to foreign affairs and national security. . . . Romney talks of leadership but with his reckless commentary when events were fragile and still unfolding, he belly-flopped."
Obama, in his steady, calm leadership role,  held a press conference in the Rose Garden and said:
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. . . . We will not waiver in our commitment to see that justice is done for the terrible act;  and make no mistake,  justice will be done."
When even your own party attacks you in the middle of a heated campaign to take the White House, you've got big problems.   I just don't see this getting better for Romney -- and we haven't even had the debates yet, with all those golden opportunities to put his foot in his mouth and reveal his lack of readiness to be president.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Repeal of DADT, one year later

An academic study, whose authors include professors at the military academies, has concluded that, one year after repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, or morale.  The Huffington Post article reported:
The authors of the study, who included professors at U. S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Marine Corps War College, arrived at this conclusion after soliciting the views of 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, as well as conducting interview with expert opponents of DADT repeal, a number of watchdog organizations and more than 60 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch.
Aaron Belkin, founding director of the Palm Center and lead author of the report, said "the evidence is in, and the conclusion is clear:   repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' did not harm the military, and if anything made it easier for the Pentagon to pursue its mission."

One soldier told the interviewers that for a while he continued to hear some derogatory slurs, but when confronted about their behavior in terms of leadership and professionalism their conduct improved.  "They don't agree, but they are willing to be professional about it."  This soldier, who is gay himself, also said that frank discussion about the issue helped change stereotype images of gay people.  He said it helped to point out that they respected him before they knew he was gay, so why should that change?

Tammy Schultz, a professor of National Security at the Marine Academy, concluded that repeal had actually improved trust and cohesion among the troops.

I want to give a strong endorsement to President Obama, to Congress, and to the Pentagon for doing this exactly the right way.  Of course it was too long coming, and when Obama signed the repeal, we wanted it to happen immediately.  But now it's clear that taking time to plan and prepare the military for the transition made it smoother, and none of the dire predictions actually occurred.

OK, so where does this leave Mitt Romney and the GOP platform, both calling for reinstating DADT ?  I hope some journalist with backbone will ask him that at the debates.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Encouraging signs

During and since the beautifully executive, wonderfully inclusive Democratic convention and the numerous fantastic speeches, I began to get excited again about our prospects of winning this election.

In that aftermath, the news continues to be encouraging.   Here are some of the signs:

1.  Obama got a bigger convention bounce than Romney did.  A CNN/ORC poll just released this afternoon gives Obama a 6% lead over Romney.  The poll is of likely voters, 52% to 46%.   This is doubly significant because Republicans had been doing better on likely voters, meaning there was more enthusiasm among theirs.  That seems to have changed with the convention.

2.  Obama raised more money in August than Romney did.

3.  Romney continues to make gaffes or incoherent explanations for his continuing flip-flops on issues.   And the media is actually reporting them with some fact-checking.

4.  The fact that Romney's positions (when he actually has one) often contradict ways Ryan has voted in the past.   The media is noticing.

5.  The closer we get to the election, Romney is under more pressure to come forth with his plans in some detail -- his budget, his health care reform, how to increase jobs.   He can no longer get by on sound bites without any backing.

6.  In trying to explain his statements, Romney increasingly meets himself coming from the other direction.   Or even in the same paragraph, like the one today where he says that Obama deserves no credit for keeping the economy from getting worse.  It's just part of the natural cycle of recession and recoverery that happens due to market forces, so Obama can't take credit for what improvement there has been.  Then in the same paragraph, he tells how his policies would have been so much better to spark the recovery.   Which is it?  Either the president can influence the recovery and Obama deserves credit, or a president can't and that means that you can't either, Mittens.

6.  Even an unnamed member of Romney's political advisers has been quoted as saying, "We're losing."

7.  Nate Silver's prediction of Obama's chances of winning keeps going up:  as of 3:00 pm on September 10th it is 80.7%.


A divided America

Last night, I went for dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant in Sandy Springs.   Regretably, I live in the middle of Republican territory, so I should not be surprised.  But the conversation two booths away left me feeling that we are so hopelessly divided -- by different sensibilities, different ideas about what "America" means, and different sets of "facts" -- that I see no hope of reconciliation after this election is over.

Two nicely dressed older couples -- probably in their 70s and obviously comfortably situated but not wealthy -- were discussing politics.   One of the women chimed in, stating as fact that "they have made it their mission to overturn these voter ID laws so that just anybody can walk up and vote, no matter who they are or whether they have already voted three times."

She went on, shifting to "I mean, what this 'fair share' of taxes that they keep talking about?  Already 1% of the population pays 90% of the taxes.   So, when they talk about paying your fair share, what's fair?"  I wanted to go over and explain to her that, even if that statistic were true, those billionaires paying 90% of the taxes are still paying a smaller percentage of their incomes than their secretaries.  It's just that they have such huge incomes.  That's why they pay a lot of taxes.

On top of that, they mean federal income taxes.  Many lower income people who "pay no taxes" in their minds are still paying the withholding Social Security/Medicare tax, which can be a big chunk for these people.

Her husband tried to shift to a more general lament, asking the other man:  "Do you remember what America was like when you were young?   These people don't know that America.   They have no idea.  They just want to . . . "

At that point, I covered my ears.  I didn't want to hear.   But then my food arrived and I couldn't keep both hands over my ears and also eat.   So I was forced to listen as the same man said he thought "We ought to just draw a line across America -- let them have their country and we'll have ours."

I wanted to shout:  "Good riddance to you  !!!!   Just make sure we're in different halves."  Instead, I decided it would be better to get up and move to another spot on the other side of the restaurant, so I wouldn't be forced to listen to this crap.

But about then, they began getting up to leave.   As they were walking out, the other man said (perhaps with a note of impatience in his voice?), "Oh, come on.  You're preaching to the choir."

I bit my tongue to keep from calling out:  "No, not all of us are in the choir, Sir."

Once my rage cooled down a bit, I thought:    They probably believe that crap just as much as I believe my version of "America," and they'll be just as upset when Obama wins as I would be if Romney/Ryan should win.   They're probably not bad people -- just badly informed by the conservative media (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and worse.)

Is there any bridging of this divide?


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Incredible !! Romney changes his mind again !!!!

Earlier today, I outlined the four all-over-the-place positions Romney has taken on health care reform:

1.  He said the Massachussets plan, which he signed into law, could be a model for the nation.

2.  It's a good plan for MA, but it's not good for the nation.

3.  "I will repeal ObamaCare in its entirety."

4.  This morning on "Meet the Press," he said:   "Well, I'm not getting rid of all health care reform. . . . Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place.   One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage."

Now, a fifth position emerges, as his aides walked back what he said this morning, which was: 

 Insisting that Gov. Romney had not changed his position, the aide said that he "was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance companies to offer those particular features."   Rather, Gov. Romney believes that "In a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for."

So, answer me this one question, Governor.   Why has the market not already done thatIt's had plenty of time and plenty of people who lack insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

The answer is in the word "affordable."   Romney has not addressed that point.    Sure, if you pay enough, some insurance company will provide it.  That's the way the market works.

Did you notice, Governor, that the real name of ObamaCare if the Affordable Health Care Act?

And did you notice, Governor, that the only way to make it affordable is to broaden the base of those insured?   And you must admit that the insurance industry is not going to add the most costly patients to its rolls and still be competitive enough to want to do that, without some incentive or some government requirement -- like requiring healthy young people to carry insurance.   The market just does not work all by itself, when the "product" is costly but necessary as a human service.


Etch-a-Sketch or Weathervane?

Pick your metaphor:   Etch-a-Sketch or Weathervane.    Either does a pretty good job of describing Mitt Romney's attempts to erase what he said before or to turn with the (political) wind.

Will people vote for a spinning target -- or one written in sand?   At some point, you'd think they would want to know what it is they're voting for . . . other than "Not Obama."   Maybe not.  Maybe that's enough for those who drank the Kool-Aid of Obama-the-Demon-Socialist-Fascist-Kenyan-Muslim-Angry Liberation (Christian) Theologist.

Romney's health care plan (or lack thereof) is a case in point.

What he signed into law in Massachusetts was one thing.   At one time he touted it as a "model for the nation."   Then during the GOP primary, he ran away from it as fast as he could, when it was pointed out that it had, in fact, been the model for ObamaCare.  Then he came up with the explanation that it was right for Massachusetts but not right for the nation, but he didn't exactly say why.

Then he said he would repeal ObamaCare in its entirety.

But wait !!!    This morning on "Meet the Press," he said he actually likes parts of it and will not repeal it all.   He likes the "no pre-existing condition" part and allowing kids to stay on family policies until 26.   Do you suppose he made that switch because of the immense popularity of those two parts?   Duh !!

In fact, Romney now talks, not about "repealing," but about "replacing," ObamaCare with his own plan.   

And what, pray, is that plan?   Well, they actually don't have a plan.   Or at least they aren't gonna tell us what it is before the election.   It's a problem for them, you see.   Because you cannot get rid of "pre-existing condition" without vastly increasing the pool of insured, which the Obama plan does -- or did, until the Supreme Court intervened.   So there's no way you can make that one work without some incentive to insurance companies to do it.

It's the same thing with Romney's saying he's going to pay for all his tax cuts for the wealthy by "closing loopholes" -- but refuses to say what loopholes.

Gosh, the truth must really be awful.   I can't think of any other reason to keep the voters in the dark about what you'll do.   The Democrats have claimed that the only way Romney can make his budget work without increasing the deficit is to eliminate something really big like home mortgage interest.   That would be a killer, so -- no, don't expect them to tell us before the election.