Campaign Without End

The process to elect a nominee and President in the United States is ridiculous, expensive, ineffective, and flawed. Because the process now takes well over a year, the cost to run such a race is astronomically wasteful, and thanks to a lowest-common denominator mass media in America, it comes down to a horserace and Honey Boo-Boo politicking. 

Our neighbors in Canada follow the British parliamentary model. In federal elections, they vote for a member of parliament – the parties release their platforms through slick manifestos, and you elect people based on the policies they promote more than the personalities. The party that wins the most seats gets to name the Prime Minister, or head of government (the Queen, through her Governor-General, remains the head of state).  In the US, the head of state and of government are unified. 

Canada recently made a change whereby a particular government must submit to an election at least every four years (it used to be a maximum of five). PMs may ask the Governor-General to call a new federal election on demand. MPs may call for a no-confidence motion, and if successful, a new election is called. 

The minimum time for a federal election is 36 days. The longest one ever conducted was less than 80 days long. Spending on elections is strictly regulated by statute. 

As you watch the tightly scripted, wildly predictable debate tonight between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, think about how there just might be a better way to go about this. 

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

I’m sort of sick of talking about Mitt Romney because, you know, Buffalo. But the Presidential campaign has become that car wreck you rubberneck on the 33. The three swing states Mitt has to win to have a chance of winning this thing are Ohio, Virginia and Florida, right? Well, a WaPo poll has Mitt trailing Obama -8 in Virginia.  Not only that, but Mitt’s entire campaign has boiled down to – hey, disillusioned Obama ’08 voters, not so excited anymore? Vote for Mitt!  That WaPo poll in Virginia reveals that 61% of likely Obama voters are “very enthusiastic” about the incumbent; only 45% of Romney voters are “very enthusiastic” .  It gets better, because the conservative commentariat’s hand-wringing has become so vigorous and anxious that they are warning that Romney isn’t just losing  a sure thing, but he’s taking the entire conservative movement down with him.  And his campaign is currently $11 million in debt

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court remanded a case involving that state’s proposed voter ID/disenfranchisement law. A lower court had upheld the statute, but the state’s highest court demanded that the lower court 

… block the law unless Pennsylvania can prove it is currently providing “liberal access” to photo identification cards and that there “will be no voter disenfranchisement” on Election Day. The two dissenters opposed the voter ID law and wanted the Supreme Court to issue an injunction itself.

The ruling said there was a “disconnect” between what the law prescribes and how it was actually being implemented. It said an “ambitious effort” to implement identification procedures in a short timeframe “has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch.”

Voter ID is an answer to a question no one asked – actual cases of voter fraud are almost non-existent, and the actual effect of these statutes is to disenfranchise the poor and elderly – the 47% about whom Mr. Romney so famously spoke at a $50,000/plate fundraiser in Boca Raton in May. 

Incidentally, click here (part 1) and here (part 2) if you’d like to see the complete, uncensored Romney remarks – where he promises to take advantage of things like the storming of the Benghazi consulate, and that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is so intractable that, why bother? Just kick the can down the road. (That’s “leadership”, folks.) 

Romney went on Fox News yesterday and accused Obama of having a hidden video problem, trotting out a video of then-State Senator Obama in 1998 explaining that he likes the fact that America’s taxation policies are redistributive. McCain did it in 2008, and it went nowhere. Taxes are by their very nature redistributive – they take money through taxes to pay for other things, sometimes social welfare safety net programs. Society has deemed it more desirable to, e.g., provide food stamps rather than revert to a Dickensian nightmare of poor kids stealing pocketwatches for Mr. Fagin. 

No one knows why Romney wants to run against 1998 Obama instead of 2012 Obama, except that it allows him to paint Obama as a socialist. Because even though Obama’s policies are fundamentally centrist and comport with mainstream Democratic policy, because of his name and race, it’s quite easy to paint him as a foreign “other”. Honestly? It’s racist, and we shouldn’t pussyfoot around that fact. 

But if Mitt Romney really wants to compare and contrast videos 1990s videos with Barack Obama, then that’d be fun

Finally, part of the problem in the 27th Congressional District race is that Chris Collins is trying to hop on the Romney bandwagon, unaware of just how much he resembles the out-of-touch, unlikeable Presidential candidate. He has repeatedly stated that he supported the Ryan budget that would have turned Medicare into a complicated voucher program, costing seniors more, and that the Ryan budget in fact, “didn’t go far enough”. So, it must come as a worry to seniors because Collins says his first order of business would be to repeal Obamacare. But Obamacare is in the process of eliminating the Medicare “donut hole”. which saddles many seniors with huge bills for medication

Seniors whose annual drug costs surpassed $2,830 found themselves paying the rest of their bills in total until they hit an out-of-pocket limit of $4,550. At that point “catastrophic coverage” kicks in, and the government pays 95 percent of the costs.

Someday, we’ll reset the public debate over health insurance and come to the realization that expansion of Medicare to all Americans, with an efficient single-payer program so that people don’t ever see a bill for anything ever, so that their Medicare is paid for through payroll taxes (and is therefore not something for nothing),  and that the very rich retain their opportunity to seek cancer treatments in Switzerland (a country with a universal insurance mandate) complete with LearJet transportation. Someday we’ll reset the debate to question why we agonize over coverage gaps, why our employers spend so much money and effort choosing between crappy insurance plans that cost a fortune. Someday we’ll reset the debate to compare the actual cost of what we pay for costly, inefficient, bureaucrat-heavy private insurance versus the actual cost of what we’d all pay to expand Medicare to everybody. 
You know, the debate we’ve been having essentially since the end of World War II, and which every other industrialized, free market capitalist, pluralist nation-state has figured out generations ago. 


Romney vs. the 47%

1. David Frum is the Tweeter to watch this campaign season. 

2. Mitt Romney began running against the press last week; he’s running against half of America today.

It was supposed to be a campaign reboot. But instead, Mitt Romney had a bad day. What a day Mitt had. Sad. Mitt. Bad. Had. 

The day started with a Politico article detailing what can best – and most charitably – be described as complete and utter disarray within his campaign apparatus.

For a guy running on his management bona fides, he’s running the worst national campaign I can remember. Heavy on ideology – light on details, the Romney campaign is now suffering through the type of postmortem interviews that usually happen after they lose on election day. (It was then that all the stories about just how awful Sarah Palin was came out).  David Frum Tweeted: 

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It got worse. 

Late yesterday, former Bush aide and current sane conservative David Frum Tweeted that, “If you’re not running for president of all the country, you won’t be elected president of any of it.”

He was writing in response to a blockbuster series of videos that were clandestinely recorded during a big-money fundraiser that was held in Boca Raton on May 17th, where Romney spoke. What it revealed was the real Mitt Romney – the guy who is in his element and doesn’t feel constrained by politeness, inclusiveness, or basic political correctness – some pretty key qualities needed in a viable candidate in a general election for President of the United States. 

In a surprising nod to the theories of horrible person Ayn Rand, Romney broke down the American electorate into producers and moochers;  that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, don’t work, take no personal responsibility and enjoy being dependent on government for all needs. Why, they even feel entitled to receive health care! Can you believe it?! Romney concluded that he was never going to convince these people to vote for him, so he wasn’t running to convince them. He even added – astoundingly – that they pay no income tax and had no sense of personal responsibility. Instead, he explained, he was running for the 5 – 10% of the electorate that are “thoughtful” “independents” who voted for Obama but are disappointed in him – pretty much the theme of Romney’s convention speech. 

Romney painted himself into a corner by affixing a percentage to that number. He has no wiggle room – he can’t say, “oh, I was talking about a small population that just lives off of public assistance” – he indicted almost fully half of the American population for being do-nothing takers and moochers. That’s astonishing

On the first anniversary of the Occupy movement, you’re not just the 99%, you may also be the 47%. 

Coincidentally, 47% is how many people in Michigan plan on voting for Obama versus 37% for “native son” Romney. 

The Atlantic broke down and identified the 47%:

In 2011, 47% of Americans paid no federal income taxes. Within that group, two-thirds still pay payroll taxes. The rest are almost all either (a) old and retired folks collecting Social Security or (b) households earning less than $20,000. Overall, four out of five households not owing federal income tax earn less than $30,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Here’s another, slightly wonkier, way to think about the 47%. Divide the group into two halves. The first half is made tax-free by credits and exemptions, the vast majority of which go to senior citizens and children of the working poor. The half that you’re left with is so poor, they wouldn’t owe federal income taxes even if there were zero tax expenditures.

There are some not-so-poor outliers, like the 7,000 millionaires who paid no federal income taxes in 2011. But for the most part, when you hear “The 47%” you should think “old retired folks and poor working families.” …

…Mitt Romney’s off-the-record comments were inelegant. But they were also part of a long trend of Republicans attacking the 47% as lazy, or playing by a different set of rules, or not fully contributing to the country. Michele Bachmann went after the non-payers. So did Rick Santorum. And Sen. John Cornyn.

The 47% aren’t lucky ducks cheating the system. They’re mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they’re following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. “Non-payers” have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.

It would be one thing to ask poor working families to pay higher taxes if Republicans were trying to raise money to improve government services. Quite the opposite, Romney’s tax plan would, if passed, either reduce revenue or come out neutral by raising taxes on upper-middle class families. Meanwhile, his budget would gruesomely gut Medicaid and income-support programs below their projected 2020 levels.

The working poor families and elderly people who make up the 47% also tend to live in the deep South, in predominately red states: 

But now, remember that Mr. Romney has repeatedly refused to release more than (a) a partial, incomplete 2010 income tax return; and (b) an estimate for 2011 income taxes. He will not release any more taxes.  Here’s a guy who wanted pretty desperately to change the subject on his own taxes – and thanks to a press that’s sensitive about being called “liberal”, he was largely successful. Yet here he opened the door for everyone to re-examine his own tax situation.

When you factor in the payroll taxes that the working poor automatically pay every pay period, the actual figure for Americans who pay “no income tax” is reduced to about 18%

…according to the Tax Policy Center, more than 60% of those non-income tax paying households did pay federal payroll taxes—meaning Social Security and Medicare taxes.  (Considering all Americans households, including those that owed income tax, 62% paid more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.)

What of the 18.1% of U.S. households that paid neither income nor payroll taxes?  More than half of them were headed by a senior–in other words, by someone who paid payroll taxes and likely some income taxes too, in the past.  (No, the amount the elderly have paid in does not cover the cost of the Medicare  benefits they are now getting. And that is true despite the fact that in a Romney TV adattacking Obamacare’s cuts to the growth in Medicare spending, an announcer seems to suggest otherwise, intoning:  “You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck…. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed healthcare Is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”)

Of course, it goes without saying, that those  folks who aren’t paying federal taxes are almost all paying state and local taxes—state sales taxes, real estate taxes (either on their homes or built into their rents) and possibly state income taxes too, since those taxes tend to exempt fewer poor families than does the federal income tax.  If they buy gasoline, liquor or tobacco, or have telephones, they’re also feeding the federal purse.

The tax deadbeat thinks half of Americans are tax deadbeats who aren’t worth fighting for. We’ve become a country where the millionaires and billionaires express envy for the extremely poor. This is evidence of madness. 

Here are the videos. 

In What Respect, Charlie?

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s devastating failure to act remotely presidential in response to some international incidents, his campaign (and some in the right-wing reactionary commentariat) has shifted into “blame the media” mode, and is running now against, e.g., the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post.

This is a traditional Republican meme as reliable as Reagan hagiography, deficit spending, and tax cuts. 

I wondered this week whether the McCain/Palin team had begun running against the media as early as September 12, 2008. Luckily, GLOW-area Democratic activist Adama Brown was quick with some answers: 


Because the Republican mindset nowadays is such that any challenge – any attempt to check facts – any pointed, relevant question of anything at all is an “attack” and proof of some left-wing media cabal set on hurting Republicans and helping Democrats. 

This only works if you consider, “do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?” to be a slanted leftist Marxist attack.  This only works if you consider, “what insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state [of Alaska] give you?” to be a hack job set up to embarrass McCain.  

These aired on September 11, 2008. At the time, Obama was down by a few points. The conventions had just ended, and this was Sarah Palin’s first major interview. She did not acquit herself well here, there, or anywhere. 

Romney's First Foreign Policy Test: Fail.

The last 48 hours have displayed the best and worst in American handling of urgent foreign crises. 

Secretary Clinton and President Obama are deftly handling a crisis caused by idiots. Romney and certain Republicans – but not all (to their credit) have chosen politics over patriotism.

An absolutely horribly produced movie was posted to YouTube in July by a convicted fraud in California. We know how movies like Passion of the Christ insulted Jews, and we know how Life of Brian and Last Temptation of Christ insulted Christians – although I’m not aware of these movies inciting riots, murder, and international crises. But then neither of those movies clumsily accused their central deity figures of being murderous pedophiles. The movie itself was shot on a budget reaching into the dozens of dollars, and the actors were completely duped – none of them had any clue they were filming a movie defaming a major religion’s prophet.  They’re understandably horrified that the movie resulted in riots that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Libya. 

And about those riots in Egypt and the murders in Libya – they are inexcusable and unacceptable. Secretary of State Clinton said all the right things and hit the right tone: 

We must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scared by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Some Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety. Last night when I spoke with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.

The friendship between our countries borne out of shared struggle will not be another casualty of this attack. A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security. And we will not turn our back on that.

President Obama had this to say: 

There was controversy, however, thanks to the shoot-first-aim-later reactionaries in the GOP. Chief among them, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who broke a 9/11 campaign truce to release a hit piece on Obama after 10pm that day. 

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

At precisely midnight 9/12, RNC Chair Reince Preibus Tweeted, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

But the statement of “sympathy” that Preibus and Romney are criticizing didn’t come from Obama. It came from the diplomatic staff in the American Embassy in Cairo well before the actual rioting began as an effort to prevent it. They were trying to calm a bad situation, unfortunately it didn’t work. But Obama didn’t write it, nor did he condone it

There should be “civilized demonstrations of the Egyptian people’s displeasure with this film,” the Brotherhood spokesman said, according to the newspaper Web site. “Any nonpeaceful activity will be exploited by those who hate Islam to defame the image of Egypt and Muslims.”

Bracing for trouble before the start of the protests here and in Libya, the American Embassy released a statement shortly after noon that appeared to refer to Mr. Jones: “The United States Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” It later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”

Apparently unaware of the timing of the first embassy statement, the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, put out a statement just before midnight Tuesday saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Mr. Romney also said he was “outraged” at the attacks on the embassy and consulate.

As Andrew Sullivan points out, the Romney camp’s vicious criticism of Obama while an international crisis was still going on wasn’t just based on a lie and tone-deaf in every way, but it’s indicative of the fact that Romney is simply unfit to govern. Romney’s 3am call resulted in shooting from the hip without having even a small amount of the facts. 

Predictably, the conservative reactionary commentariat is outraged, likening Obama to Carter (?!) and heaping scorn and derision on the entire Muslim world as being a bunch of clumsy medieval murderous barbarians. 

Because, evidently, that’s how you handle international incidents – you dehumanize the enemy, turn them into something unfit for life. Even though some semi-intelligent cretins yelled “fire” in the most crowded theater in the world. 

TPM has a comprehensive timeline of the events

  • 7:35 p.m. ET: Reuters confirms that an American consulate staffer has been killed in Benghazi. This staffer is later identified as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith.
  • 10:09 p.m. ET: The Romney campaign issue a statement from Mitt Romney himself condemning the Obama administration for the Cairo embassy’s repudiation of religiously insensitive speech. It falsely suggests that the Cairo embassy’s condemnation came in response to the attacks in both Egypt and Lybia. 

    I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

    The statement is embargoed — meaning the press cannot report on it — until midnight, Sept. 12 — the moment the Obama and Romney campaigns’ Sept. 11 truce is scheduled to end

  • 10:10 p.m. ET: An Obama administration source disavows the U.S. embassy in Cairo’s statement of condemnation to Politico.
  • 10:25 p.m. ET: Without explanation, the Romney campaign lifts its embargo on Romney’s statement and it becomes public.
  • 10:44 p.m. ET: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the attack in Benghazi. 

    I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

    This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

    Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

    In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

  • Just before midnight ET, the U.S. embassy in Cairo removes some its tweets, from both before and during the protests, condemning religiously offensive speech. It does not remove one posted at 4:29 p.m. ET: “3) Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.”

Sept. 12

  • 12:01 a.m. ET: Just as the campaigns’ Sept. 11 detente ends, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tweets, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Unlike Romney’s statement, Priebus’ tweet is silent on Libya.
  • 12:09 a.m. ET: The Obama campaign fires back. “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said, in an emailed statement.

It’s absolutely unbelievable. Romney has found almost no support whatsoever among elected Republicans, most of whom condemned the attacks without throwing political bombs. In fact, they went on the record criticizing the President for attacks that were still taking place at the time. in response to Romney’s disgusting criticism, President Obama said

There’s a broader lesson to be learned here: Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later and as president one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. It’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make them.

Weird, because the Romney campaign issued a bunch of talking points to surrogates that included

Questions & Answers:

Don’t you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?

– Governor Romney rejects the reported message of the movie. There is no room for religious hatred or intolerance.

That’s sort of exactly what the Cairo embassy wrote before the rioting began. Isn’t that what Romney was criticizing them and Obama for? In any event, Romney seems quite pleased with himself

To Republicans who are trying out the meme that attacks on American diplomatic missions are reflective of a perceived weakness

June 14, 2002, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide bomber kills 12 and injures 51.

February 20, 2003, international diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Truck bomb kills 17.

February 28, 2003, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Gunmen on motorcycles killed two consulate guards.

July 30, 2004, U.S. embassy in Taskkent, Uzbekistan
Suicide bomber kills two.

December 6, 2004, U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Militants stormed and occupied perimeter wall. Five killed, 10 wounded.

March 2, 2006, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
Suicide car bomber killed four, including a U.S. diplomate directly targeted by the assailants.

September 12, 2006, U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria
Gunmen attacked embassy with grenades, automatic weapons, and a car bomb (though second truck bomb failed to detonate). One killed and 13 wounded.

January 12, 2007, U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece
A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the embassy building. No one was injured.

July 9, 2008, U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
Armed men attacked consulate with pistols and shotguns. Three policemen killed.

March 18, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Mortar attack misses embassy, hits nearby girls’ school instead.

September 17, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
Militants dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles, grenades and car bombs. Six Yemeni soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Sixteen more were injured.

Possibly this explains what’s going on in the brazen, party-first, country-last GOP: 

Hope and Change 2.0

Last night’s speech by President Obama was not among those seminal, high-minded speeches that he’s known for. The oratory wasn’t soaring, and the themes were considerably more grounded. But two things stuck out for me: 

1. Citizenship is more than just self-interest. With rights come responsibilities, which we must share to make a better America and to build the foundation for a better future; and 

2. Don’t mock hope.

The Democratic convention was everything the Republicans’ wasn’t. It was well-organized, it saw no sectarian drama, and it was enthusiastic. The Democrats triumphantly trotted out their most recent ex-occupant of the White House; the Republicans didn’t dare. (Indeed, Bill Clinton said more nice things about George W. Bush than any RNC speaker).  The only part of the Republican Party that has any enthusiasm is the tea party, and its enthusiasm is inherently negative. Negative in the sense that its entire ethos, such as it is, has to do with reversing the last 100 years’ worth of consumer protections, social safety net, and the other building blocks that make up a first world industrialized nation. 

Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:

‘‘Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.’’

‘‘Deficit too high? Try another.’’

‘‘Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!’’

Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it— middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.

You don’t get to be part of the first world if you don’t feed the hungry, treat the sick, and help the needy. He brought our social contract as Americans back into play – a direct assault on the Randian “every man for himself” mindset that the right has begun to espouse. 

The DNC brought about a triad of speeches building up to last night. Michelle Obama’s speech contrasted her family’s story with that of Mitt Romney. Bill Clinton’s speech was an incredible upload of Democratic arguments. 

– Bill Clinton explained that, since 1961, Democrats are twice as good at creating jobs than Republicans. True.

– Clinton argued that Romney’s plan to cut taxes on the richest Americans would increase the deficit and obliterate the budgets for national parks, clean air, clean water, and education. True.

– Clinton said that the Republicans quadrupled the national debt under Reagan and Bush Sr., and doubled it again under W. Bush. True.

– Clinton asserted that the Obama economy has created 4.5 million private-sector jobs in the last 29 months. True.  

The takeaway from President Obama’s speech was shared responsibility, shared sacrifice, citizenship. Hope. Future. Forward. He has a duty to explain why everything hasn’t already turned around from the 2008 free-fall. I think he did that, with President Clinton’s help. He looked forward – restoring domestic manufacturing, reworking how we produce and consume energy to be less dependent on foreign oil, improving education, “nation-building” here at home, he called it. 

If we can spend a trillion dollars to build Iraq, we can do at least that here. 

The RNC spent a few days mocking hope and change – making fun of the President for not “delivering”, (whatever that means), and all but mocking people who believed in it in the first place. The RNC ignored the fact that the mess we’re still not completely out of, is one which they brought about through their failed policies. 

But even if you’re a Republican and disagree with Obama – is it really smart to denigrate the notion of “hope”? The RNC kept saying America was in decline – an assertion that any self-respecting national politician would never make. Well, if we’re in “decline”, wouldn’t change be a good thing? Their whole argument is flimsy nonsense. 

One of the big themes in this election is going to be Republicans reassuring businesses that “you built that”. To counter that, Obama last night struck a theme of you (collectively, America) did this. You don’t bring about change by giving up. 

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.

So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens— you were the change.

You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that.

You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.

You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: ‘‘Welcome home.’’

If you turn away now— if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible. well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.

Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.

Government and policies are what you make of them, as citizens. The choice has become quite stark, as the corporatist reactionist policies of the opposition becomes more and more expressly hostile to the interests of average Americans. 

It was a subdued speech that finished strong, and if the theme of citizenship wasn’t getting through to you, the closing song was Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own”. 

The reasons why I support this President are myriad – I support expanding and improving education so that we can compete with Europe and China.  I support reducing our dependence not only on foreign oil, but also expanding our use of alternative energy so that we lay the foundation for future sustainability of our energy needs. I support a foreign policy that is less bellicose and more rational. I support expanding medical insurance to all Americans. I support equal rights for LGBT Americans, and marriage equality. I support re-working our immigration laws so that law-abiding undocumented workers have a path to citizenship, so that we have a proper guest worker program for certain industries, and so that we get better at attracting and keeping skilled, educated immigrants we’ve always welcomed. I support clean water, clean air, and not befouling our environment. I reject the idea that people who choose not to “believe” in objective scientific fact can somehow dictate what the rest of us do, believe, or teach our kids. 

But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges.

I’m hopeful because of you.

The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter— she gives me hope.

The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife— he gives me hope.

The family business in Warroad, Minn., that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay— because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business— they give me hope.

And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and 20 pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled.

He gives me hope.

I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of scripture, that ours is a ‘‘future filled with hope.’’

And if you share that faith with me— if you share that hope with me— I ask you tonight for your vote.

If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.

If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder— but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer— but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

The choice this year is even clearer than it was in 2004 or 2008. In retrospect, the 2000 election was the most important in recent memory. Now that the wars it brought about are winding down, the 2012 election sets the stage for a crucial debate about the direction of our economy, our government – our very civilization. We don’t fix what’s broken, educate kids, clean up the environment, move forward with energy, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and lift citizens up by drowning the federal government in the bathtub

I didn’t need Obama’s DNC acceptance speech to help make up my mind to vote for him, but it was good to be reminded of the reasons why. 

Kennedy vs. Romney

Edward Kennedy (D.MA) at the National Institutes of Health

courtesy Flickr user NIHLibrary

The 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts between Mitt Romney and Teddy Kennedy was utterly amazing to watch first-hand. For all his flaws, Senator Kennedy was a brilliant politician who was able to connect with voters in an awe-inspiring way. I remember watching every minute of this debate, and passed by the Faneuil Hall venue a few hours or so before to see a sea of people with Kennedy signs and a smaller lake of people with Romney signs taunting each other back and forth. Romney gave Kennedy his first real re-election scare that year, and the Senator re-recruited a lot of the people who helped get him there in the first place – and keep him there after the death of Mary Jo Kopechne on the bridge to Chappaquiddick.  

The Senator turned his campaign around during this debate, which showed that he was still the feisty lion of the Senate, and that he shared Massachusetts’ voters’ values. A little less than a decade later, Romney returned from Utah to become governor after some lackluster performances from Governors Cellucci and Swift. 

In 1994, I got to see Senator Kennedy speak to a packed, enthusiastic audience at an IBEW hall in Waltham, MA. He was bounding with energy, and the crowd loved every minute of it. It’s not too often that hard-working, blue-collar workers are given honor and respect anymore in contemporary America. Kennedy gave them that, and he fought his entire career to ensure that America’s workers had the health care, social security, and freedom from want that we all deserve as citizens of a first-world nation that doesn’t always act like it. 

At the DNC last night, a video tribute to the late Senator was shown, and this clip was a big hit: 

Romney Promises New Covers for TPS Reports

The Republican nominee for President, W. Mitt Romney, gave his acceptance speech last night. Here it is:

These speeches are seldom negative – they’re usually positive and forward-thinking; they’re inspirational and hopeful. Romney’s was starkly negative, criticizing Obama/Biden 2008 for having been inspirational and failing. 37 minutes’ worth of blaming the President for a crisis that he didn’t cause, and that he can’t solve in a vacuum. The Euro crisis affects us. The absurd cost of energy affects us. The worldwide financial meltdown affects us. 

Romney says he wishes Obama had succeeded, because he wants “America to succeed”. He then blames Obama for the division that came about after he took office. In Romneyland, the Republicans share no blame. 

Romney is blaming Obama for the Republicans’ stated platform of obstructing and thwarting every single policy, law, and nominee that Obama ever proposed. Governor Romney, if Obama has failed, that failure is the exact result sought by the political party you addressed last night. 

The first portion of the speech was a disjointed series of blame Obama, American exceptionalism, and jingoism. 

Romney omitted a lot of stuff from his speech. You’d never know, for instance, that he spent time as Governor of Massachusetts, except for a fleeting throwaway line about how he hired some women while in that position.  Medicare, Social Security, the ongoing wars – all absent. His 12 million jobs are what’s targeted to happen regardless of who becomes President, regardless of what policies they implement. 

Romney noted that Americans are less hopeful, less optimistic now. Well, a largely jobless recovery will do that. But instead of reinvigorating that hope and optimism, Romney simply said that we should have it, and that we should stop thinking about big ideas, and just stick to small basics. He’s running to be not President, but Manager. I’m shocked that there was no mention of Lean Six Sigma. 

Oh, and he got in some digs against Obama for supposedly “apologizing for success”, betraying Israel, and not standing up to Putin. The first never happened, the second never happened, and the third isn’t true. There was never an Obama “apology tour”. The rich? They got richer. Americans are largely pleased with the way in which Obama has handled foreign policy – incredibly, in just 30 years, the Republican Party has completely conceded the issue to the Democrats. 

Are you better off than you were four years ago? Maybe not you, specifically, but the country? Absolutely. Four years ago: 

The Dow closed at just above 13,000 yesterday.

Bank bailouts, lost jobs, decreased trade, auto bailouts, the bursting of the housing bubble, the European sovereign debt crisis – the recession began in December 2007 under Obama’s predecessor, became a terror in late 2008, and ended in mid-2009. Obama dragged us out of recession. You are objectively better off in August 2012 than you were in August 2008

I wasn’t going to vote for this guy,  but I watched his speech. It ended stronger than it began, but he didn’t say a thing to persuade me to change my mind. How about you? 


Hollywood Actors Should Stay Out of Politics

Confused man addresses inanimate object

Paul Ryan and the Obama-Hating Drum Circle in Tampa

This RNC is difficult enough for me to tolerate as it is, but last night Mitt Romney’s mini-me, Paul Ryan, (R-WI) gave a speech that was a reasonably dull pack of lies. When your campaign strategy is about deliberate, brazen lying on the one hand, and whining about the press calling you out on it, on the other hand, you’ve got a huge problem. 

The lying part – sure, it happens in most campaigns everywhere. Oftentimes, it’s not outright lying but mere puffery or exaggeration. But Romney and Ryan – they simply lie. They lie about stuff – important stuff – directly in your face. They do it without a hint of embarrassment, scruples, or irony. They will quite literally say one thing to one audience one day, and another thing the next. When even your official party organ – the Republican Komosomolskaya PravdaFox News calls you out on lying, you’re going to have a credibility problem as the campaign-without-end drags on

  • Ryan said that Obama promised “in 2008” that the stimulus would save a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, but “that plant didn’t last another year.” In reality, Obama made those remarks in February 2008 while running for president, the plant’s closing was announced in October 2008, and it closed in December 2008 — before Obama even took office, and months before the stimulus went into effect.
  • Ryan thundered that Obama “created a bipartisan debt commission” which “came back with an urgent report,” but Obama simply “thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” Ryan did not mention that he was on the debt commission, also known as Simpson-Bowles, and he voted against the plan it came up with.
  • Ryan accused President Obama of plundering hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare. The only part of Obamacare that Ryan kept in his budget plan? Those Medicare cuts.

Take, for instance, Paul Ryan’s speech to the assembled faithful last night. It contained a lot of red meat for the party that has become nothing more than an Obama-hatred drum circle.  The lies as Fox News sees them

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn’t what the president said. Period. 

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.

The right wing will whine about “Obamanomics”, which they thwarted or watered down at every opportunity, thus crippling its impact. But as Paul Ryan blames Obama for something that he didn’t do, recall that if the auto bailout hadn’t happened, there wouldn’t just be no SUV plant in Janesville, WI – there wouldn’t be a GM, or a GM plant, anywhere, doing anything. And all the ancillary suppliers and vendors would be out of work, too. Without the stimulus – watered down as it was – and without the auto bailout, the great recession of 2008 would have been a second depression. And it would have been thus because our country and its leaders over the last 20 – 30 years practically made it a policy to forget all the lessons learned during the Great Depression of the 20s and 30s.

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This Romney campaign, however, has already declared that it will not be reality-based, or factually accurate. This is why they still have surrogates like Donald Trump going around calling Obama a Kenyan Muslim. 

When are we, as Americans, going to demand truth from our candidates? Why do we tolerate 24 month-long campaigns that boil down to crazy talk, who can raise the most money, and superficial horserace nonsense? 

This campaign has become the worst season of Big Brother, ever. 


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