Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We Pick Rick

All eyes will be on Michigan today where Mitt Romney tries to wrest his home state from challenger Rick Santorum.  The most recent polls have the two candidates in a virtual dead heat.
Romney needs this win more than Santorum.  A loss in his home state will seriously damage his campaign and give Santorum huge momentum going into next week’s Super Tuesday contests.
For all intents and purposes Santorum has already won.  With Michigan being a proportional delegate state; Santorum’s poll numbers indicate he will be awarded a large percentage of the delegates.  Taking Romney to a statistical tie in Romney’s home state is a win for Santorum in and of itself.  But an outright win in Michigan would be huge for PR purposes.
We are rooting for Rick Santorum.  Aside from the fact that we always root for the underdog when we don’t have a dog in the fight; we have sound reasoning for throwing our support to Santorum.
Rick Santorum, more so than Mitt Romney, represents the core beliefs of the Republican Party.  His strong views on gay marriage, abortion, contraception, religion, small government, defense, education, taxes, entitlements, immigration and collective bargaining are in lockstep with the most conservative elements of his party; and offer a clear contrast with those of President Obama.
You may have noticed that we listed the social issues first.  That is because social issues play a very important part in the Republican Party play book.  There is a reason why the first bill proffered by the newly elected Republican House was an anti-abortion bill.  There is a reason why there have been more anti-abortion bills proffered in this congress than any other congress in history.  There is a reason why we are debating the use of contraceptives.  There is a reason why Republican state governments all across this country are passing laws that infringe on a woman’s right to choose.  It is because theology plays a very important role in Republican politics.  The only Republican candidate willing to defend those beliefs is Rick Santorum.
Once you get past Santorum’s views on  social issues you find a candidate who wants to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, forcibly remove the Assad regime in Syria, eliminate the department of education, reduce taxes for the top 1% earners and corporations and eliminate entitlement programs or turn them over to the states.  And for all his blue collar rhetoric; have you ever heard Santorum support the unions or collective bargaining rights?  The answer is, no.
By today's Republican standards, Rick Santorum is a true conservative.  He alone accurately embodies the true tenants of today's Republican Party.  And unlike Mitt Romney, Santorum is not afraid to express and defend his beliefs.
So lets put those beliefs to the test.  Once and for all we would like to see a "true" conservative defend his beliefs on the national stage.  We would like to see a TRUE conservative stand toe to toe with this President and defend his world view.  Let's have that debate, and then let the voters decide which ideology they prefer.   
That is why we are rooting for Rick Santorum to win Michigan and eventually become the Republican nominee.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Politics Threatens National Security

The violence in Afghanistan continues to rage out of control as protestors react to the inadvertent burning of the Quran at an American airfield.  Two more American soldiers were killed in the rioting.  The US, NATO, Britain and France have recalled their advisors from all of the Afghan ministries in Kabul.  These advisors are essential in preparing the Afghan government and its security forces to take on more responsibility in running the country.  Without their involvement the President’s withdrawal strategy faces some serious challenges.
 President Obama, the US military Commander in Afghanistan and a number of the President’s surrogates have apologized for the accidental burning of the Muslim holy books.  These apologies have been met with a barrage of criticism from the Republican leadership and the Republican candidates.  They portray the President as weak and lacking the steel necessary to protect American from its enemies.
What we are witnessing in Afghanistan, and for that matter in Iraq, is a resurgence of America’s enemies as a result of the President’s decision to drawn down our troops and cease military operations.  It is a scene that would play out in much the same manner if we left now or five or ten years from now.  The only way to stop this resurgence from happening is to occupy the country…forever.  And that is exactly what Republicans want.
If you listen to the Republican rhetoric about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran or Syria it sounds very much like the same things they were saying after 911.  In fact the proponents of taking military action against Iran are making the exact same case that they made about invading Iraq.  MSNBC played 2002 clips of Cheney, McCain and Graham making their case for invading Iraq and followed them with 2012 clips of this same trinity making their case for war against Iran.  With Iraq it was weapons of mass destruction.  With Iran it is nuclear capability.  The similarities in the rhetoric and the reasoning are striking…and chilling.  Apparently these war hawks have not learned that when you invade a country in the Middle East you had best be willing to occupy the country permanently.  Leaving behind a secure, democratic government that looks favorably on US interests is not an option.  In fact the situation will be far worse than when you first set foot on their soil.  These people don’t want us in their country.  They don’t want our democracy, our values or our way of life.  And they have proven for centuries that they will outlast any foreign power that believes otherwise.     
What America needs is a complete overhaul of its foreign policy.  We no longer have the money nor the will to be the world’s policeman.  It’s time for the rest of the world to handle their own affairs and for us to take care of the deterioration that is going on here in the states.  The sooner we come to that consensus that better off we will be.
Meanwhile, the degradation of our President for political purposes is nauseating and speaks to an inherent flaw in our civil discourse.  But then certain members of Congress have shown that they will go to any means to bring down this President; even if it emboldens our enemies, threatens our national security or puts our troops in harm’s way. 
Calling this President un-patriotic is unpatriotic in and of itself.       

"What A Snob!"

It is a widely held belief that a person campaigns for a political office because he or she wants to win.
After following this weekend's e exploits of the Romney and Santorum campaigns, we have to wonder…
Mitt Romney continued his efforts to connect with everyday Americans.  The weekend started off well enough with Romney scheduled to deliver a major economic address in blue collar Detroit.  The campaign promised that this important speech would lay out the specifics of governor’s economic plan and would draw a marked distinction between the former governor’s policies and those of the President.  The governor addressed a crowd of 1,200 supporters…in cavernous Ford Field…surrounded by 65,000 empty seats.  The optics were so bad that the governor’s remarks were lost in the silence.  Campaign rule No.1…never hold an event in a room you can’t fill.
Not one to be deterred, Romney tried his hand at connecting with the American auto industry…the same industry he said should have been allowed to go out of business rather than be saved by a government bailout.  Romney said he liked cars, particularly American cars.  He said he drove a Ford Mustang and a Chevy PU (Good)…and that his wife, Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs (Bad).”  
Undaunted, the governor continued in his quest to bond with Joe Sixpack.  He appeared at the Daytona 500; the World Series of NASCAR racing and home to hundreds of thousands of blue collar Americans.  He signed autographs and had his photo taken…in front of a race car sponsored by rival, Rick Santorum.  He said that he didn’t follow NASCAR as closely as some but noted that he “had a lot of friends who were NASCAR (multi-millionaire) team owners”.
If Romney’s weekend was bad…Santorum's was a trainwreck.
Once again the former senator went off the rails on social issues.  He was asked to comment on an old film clip where JFK, who like Santorum was Catholic, said that his presidency would follow the Constitution and not be swayed by the Vatican or his own personal religious beliefs.  Santorum said the clip “made me want to throw up.”  He then went on to question the division between church and state.
Later, he volunteered his opinion on President Obama’s desire to have every child get a college education.  “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college.  What a snob!  There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”
One thing is certain; Romney and Santorum’s image have been taking a beating.  And this weekend's performance didn’t help.
Everyone agrees that the national election will be decided by the “Independent” voters.  A Public Policy Poll of “Independent “ voters taken on the heels of this past weekend's follies shows Obama leading both Romney and Santorum by a 20 percentage points.  Not good!
There is an old saying in politics that during a presidential campaign the people get to know you, and by the end they know who you are.  Maybe that’s why the Republicans have cancelled all future debates.  We already know too much.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Debate Over Social Issues Is A Distraction

The unemployment rate in this country stands at 8.5%.
When you count those working less than they would like and those who have given up the search; the real unemployment rate is 16%.
The economy is fragile; growing at a snails’ pace.  Europe could drag us into a depression.
Gasoline prices are rising; approaching $6/gallon in some areas.  We have no alternative solution.
46 million Americans live in poverty.  (The definition of poverty is $22,314 for a family of four.  Half of the families in this country earn less than $47,000/yr.)
45 million Americans live without access to affordable health care.
Our schools are outdated and in need of repair.  Our education system is failing our children; leaving them to lag further behind other industrialized countries.
Our infrastructure is crumbling.
Our financial outlook is grim.  The debt, which stood at $5 trillion in 2000, now sits at $16 trillion.  It will soar to over $25 trillion within the next decade.  And that does not include the $50 trillion in unfunded obligations for Medicare and Social Security.  Somebody has to pay that bill. 
Two more American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.  The ten year unfunded war still rages; fueled only by the political cowardice to bring about its end.
Iran may or may not be building a bomb.  Israel threatens to drag us into yet another war.
The Syrians are slaughtering their own citizens while rest of the world stands idly by.
And yet, with all the problems we face, we find the candidates for the most powerful position in the world fighting over contraception, trans-vaginal probes and gay marriage.  We are subjected to wild histrionics about faith and personal beliefs that have no bearing on one’s ability to lead our country through these difficult times.
Personally we could not care less if our President is a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or an atheist.  We don’t give a damn if he or she is gay, uses contraceptives or has mastered the rhythm method.  What we care about is that our President has an understanding of the problems that we face and a vision on how to navigate us through them.
This food fight over social issues is nothing more than a distraction.  It is brought about by a partisanship between our two political parties that is so divisive that it is easier for them to make political points by foolishly debating contraception than it is to actually get anything done for the country.
If this is how our current political systems is going to deal with the gravity of the points enumerated above; then count us among those longing for a viable third party candidate. 
That day is coming…if the establishment doesn’t destroy the country first.       

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Virginia Governor Caves On Mandatory Ultrasound

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has backed away from supporting a state bill which would mandate that women submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound prior to receiving abortion services.  The governor had previously said that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
The bill has been the subject of national outrage with many women’s organizations including NOW threatening to pursue the matter in court if passed.
In explaining his change of heart the governor said: “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state.  No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a pre-condition to another medical procedure.”
It should be noted that Governor McDonnell has high political aspirations and is on the short list for the VP slot on the Republican ticket.  So his change of heart stems not from an acknowledgment of women’s rights but from pressure from the Republican hierarchy who don’t want pissed off women going to the polls in November.
Republican Governor Bob McDonnell…a true profile in courage.

Santorum Misses Golden Opportunity

The Republican Party staged its 20th debate last night and Rick Santorum needed to do three things to cement his frontrunner status and deal a severe blow to the Romney campaign: 1.) look Presidential, 2.) continue to attack Romney on his flip flopping record and 3.) try not to look like an angry, judgmental crazy person when discussing social issues.
Instead he found himself back on his heels defending his voting record during his time in Congress.  Time and time again both Romney and Ron Paul sited specific examples where Santorum went against true conservative principles in order to get along.  The best Santorum could do to was a weak “politics is a team sport, folks” when challenged on his “Yes” vote on No child Left Behind. 
Santorum’s one shining moment was responding to Romney’s boast that while Governor of Massachusetts he balanced the budget all for years.  Santorum said: “As governor you were required to balance the budget.  So stop taking credit for doing something that you were required to do.  Your predecessor, Michael Dukakis balanced the budget all ten years that he was governor.  Do you think that qualified him to be President?  I don’t think do.”
The general consensus is that if Santorum wins Romney’s home state of Michigan he will cripple Romney’s campaign and clear a path for his own nomination.  Given that exit polls in the previous primaries and caucuses showed that “debate performance” is a key factor in how the voters cast their ballots; Wednesday’s debate provided a huge opportunity for Santorum to clear that path.
He failed.         

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Republicans Insert Vaginal Probes Into Politics

Virginia is about to become the eighth state to mandate that a woman submit to an ultrasound as a prerequisite for getting an abortion.  The bill has made its way through the Republican controlled Virginia legislature and is expected to reach the governor’s desk next week.  Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has said that he supports the bill and will sign it.
But this bill is a little different than the laws enacted in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.  The Virginia law specifies that a woman submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound; a procedure in which a probe is inserted into the vagina and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced.  The argument is that while the trans-vaginal ultrasound is invasive, uncomfortable and often painful it produces an image that cannot be produced by an external ultrasound during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy…the period when most abortions occur.
Opponents of the bill are outraged.  They argue that mandating a woman undergo this invasive and medically unnecessary procedure is tantamount to rape.  The National Organization for Women has stated flatly that they will fight the law in court on that very basis.
Proponents of the bill are equally passionate in arguing their position.  One legislator could not understand the controversy saying that woman seeking abortion already underwent a trans-vaginal procedure in order to get pregnant.  Another spokesperson, this one from the Tea Party, said that once a woman lost her virginity she gave up the right to decide what was inserted in her vagina for the rest of her life.
Seriously!  You cannot make this stuff up.
Setting aside all the inflammatory language there are two major points that need to be addressed.
The first is that the Virginia bill is just another in a series of attempts by the Republican Party to legislate women’s reproductive rights.  The Republicans have been trying to overturn a woman’s legal right to choose since they took over control of the House in 2010.  The first House Bill, HR-1, was an anti-abortion bill and Republicans have proposed a steady stream of similar bills over the past two years.   There are currently 27 anti-abortion bills pending in Congress today.
The Republicans have taken their anti-abortion crusade to the state level as well.  39 anti-abortion bills passed various state legislatures in 2010 alone.  Pennsylvania is a good example. The Pennsylvania Republican legislature is preparing its version of the Virginia bill using much the same language.  In the ten years prior to the Republicans gaining control of the Pennsylvania government their legislators proffered 19 anti-abortion bills.  After gaining control in 2010 Pennsylvania legislators proffered 34 such bills in 2010 alone.
The second aspect is that all of these Republican attempts to legislate women’s reproductive rights are in direct contrast to their small government ideology.  We hear Republicans constantly complain about the President’s Affordable Care Act and its mandate that all citizens carry health insurance.  Republicans see this mandate as an unconstitutional intrusion on our liberties…just another example of big government interfering in our lives.  Every Republican presidential candidate has vowed to repeal “Obamacare” if elected.  But yet they turn right around and pass legislation on the state level that mandates that a woman submit to an unnecessary medical procedure before receiving a legal medical procedure.  Can there be anything more intrusive than the government’s mandating a woman undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound?
This Republican obsession with social issues has been ongoing since they took control of the House in 2010.  It has become an integral part of our daily dialogue with the advent of the election season.  The Republican focus on abortion has now expanded into debates over contraception, freedom of religion,  a woman’s place in the home and in the workplace.  It has allowed someone like Rick Santorum, whose entire career has been focused on anti-gay, anti-abortion social issues to become a credible candidate in the eyes of the conservative movement.
From our prospective we believe that this focus on social issues is merely a distraction.  Republicans have no substantive answer on how to fix the economy or how to grow jobs…unless you consider eliminating protective regulations, reducing taxes for the rich and getting the hell out of the way a “plan.”  And so they gin up the base by focusing on social issues that were decided decades ago.
Republicans are fond of saying that they want to reduce government to a size small enough to drown it in a bathtub.  Mandating the use of vaginal probes doesn’t seem to fall within that definition.                    

Monday, February 20, 2012

Santorum Leads With Heart Not Head

Rick Santorum had a bad weekend.  The former Senator and current candidate for the Republican nomination cannot help himself when it comes to speaking out on social issues.
On Saturday he seemed to question the President’s faith saying that Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.”  On Sunday he tried to walk that back telling “Face the Nation”: “I don’t question the President’s faith.  I’ve repeatedly said that I believe the President is a Christian.  I’m talking about his world view, and the way he approaches problems in this country, I think they are different than most people do in America.”  He then went on to explain that he was talking about the President’s environmental policies which he believes promote the ideas of “radical environmentalists who oppose greater use of the country’s natural resources because they believe “man is here to serve the Earth.” He followed that up with a restatement of his position on contraception (he’s against it) and pre-natal testing; which he believes encourages prospective mothers to abort babies with developmental issues.
Let us be clear.  Rick Santorum has every right to express his beliefs.  And you can count us among those who believe that his is NOT a “phony ideology.”  By all accounts Santorum conducts his private life by the very principles that he defends in public.  But when he speaks out on social issues he gets so jazzed up he tends to run off the rails; his comment about the President’s “phony ideology” a case in point.  At a time when the economy and jobs are the number one issue on people’s minds Rick Santorum has focused the debate on social issues that we thought were resolved decades ago.  And, at least for the time being it seems to be working.
All the latest polls have Santorum leading Romney in Romney’s home state of Michigan.  If Santorum is able to defeat Romney in Michigan, or even come within the margin of error, he will have dealt Romney a severe blow.  The Republican Party establishment will start calling for another candidate to enter the race.  The Republican base will begin pouring money into Santorum’s coffers believing that they have finally found their long awaited standard bearer of conservative values.  Neither scenario bodes well for Romney.
If we were Santorum’s campaign manager we would advise him to answer every question, no matter the subject, with:  “My grandfather was a coal miner in western Pennsylvania.” When Santorum speaks about the economy and blue collar America…he is golden.  He connects with people in a genuine way that Romney can only dream about.  But when he speaks out on social issues he tends to lead with his heart and not his head. 
That honesty is an admirable quality in a candidate.  But it probably won’t win him the nomination.     

Friday, February 17, 2012

Don't Get Sucked Into War With Iran

The drumbeat for initiating a military campaign against Iran is growing ever louder.  As the Iranians play cat and mouse with the UN, war hawks like Santorum, McCain and McCain’s mini-me Lindsay Graham, argue that a nuclear armed Iran is a serious threat to American security.  They argue that any nuclear device manufactured in Iran will ultimately find its way to our shores; delivered by an Al Qaeda operative hell bent on doing us harm.
They are probably right.  A nuclear armed Iran would pose a serious threat to our national security.  But we are not alone in this regard.  Israel, Europe and a number of Iran’s Middle Eastern neighbors would all find themselves in the Iranian crosshairs.  A nuclear armed Iran poses a security problem to the world community; not just the good old US of A.
And that’s where Santorum and his “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” cronies go off the rails.  Whenever there is a perceived problem in the world these guys want us to go in guns blazing.  They seem to forget that we did that in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan with less than stellar results.  In fact, last time we looked, we were still bogged down in a costly war in Afghanistan.
We are not in the position to engage in another protracted military campaign in the Middle East.  Our military is stretched to its limits and our economy is teetering on the brink.  Not to mention a lack of will on the part of the American people to fire on another country that has not fired on us.
Let’s say we assume the responsibility of removing the current Iranian regime…then what?  Do we prop up another corrupt democratically elected government?  And how long do we stay there to for “security purposes?”  Is there an exit strategy?
No one wants Iran to have access to a nuclear weapon.  Israel doesn’t want it.  Europe doesn’t want it.  Iran’s Middle Eastern neighbors don’t want it.  Even Russia and China would feel threatened by a nuclear armed Iran.  But they are all more than happy to sit back and allow the US to clean up the mess.
Israel has threatened to take military action.  They say that the window of opportunity to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is closing fast.  If Israel wants to be the tip of the spear; more power to them.  But we should not allow ourselves to be drawn into a military conflict just because they have an itchy trigger finger. 
The economic sanctions against Iran are working.  The Iranian people are suffering for lack of services and they are turning their anger against the regime.  We should keep up the pressure and not be swayed by the war mongering of a few hot heads.  If it becomes apparent that military action is necessary, then we should partner with our allies in an organized world response.
The US has spent the past 50 years serving as the world’s policeman.  While we spend our blood and treasure extinguishing the world’s fires the rest of the world spends its resources on infrastructure education and research.
The Iranian situation is not OUR problem.  It is a world problem.  And it is time for us to demand that the rest of the world to pull its weight.           

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Santorum Latest Republican Hypocrit

Unemployment is at 8.5%.  If you factor in those who are working fewer hours than they would like, plus people who have given up searching for a job, the rate rockets to 16%.  Add in the slow recovery and massive cuts to local government services and you would expect Republicans to be salivating over their prospects of winning the White House.  Instead they keep shooting themselves in the foot.
Rick Santorum is the latest Republican candidate to take aim at his own appendage.  Santorum is the current flavor of the month for the Republican nomination.  He leads Romney in most national polls.  Naturally the Romney campaign responded to the Santorum surge in the only way they know how; by unleashing a barrage of attack ads designed to make Santorum look like a religious zealot.
Romney’s gnomes dug up some footage from 2006 where Santorum states that although he believes contraception is wrong he would set his personal beliefs aside when governing.  Five years later he tore down that distinction.  Romney’s people found a clip from October 2011 in which Santorum states flatly that contraception is wrong; calling it a license for illicit behavior.  He plainly states that he believes sex should occur only after marriage for sole the purpose of procreation.
Rick Santorum is certainly entitled to his beliefs and we respect him for apparently practicing what he preaches.  And, as a devout Catholic, his views mirror the teachings of the Catholic Church.    However the Senator is not running for President of the Catholic Church.  And even if he were he would be out of step with 99% of Catholics on the subject of contraception.
The Senator also believes that marriage should be strictly between a man and a woman; he wants to exclude gays from serving in the military and is a pro-life advocate.
This is the same Rick Santorum that takes to the stump on a daily basis with his anti-big government rhetoric.  He wants less regulation, lower taxes on corporations and millionaires and a radical downsizing of all things Washington.  He says over and over again that he wants government to stop interfering in our lives…
…except on social issues. 
Rick Santorum is just the latest hypocritical Republican to rail against big government intrusion while at the same time promoting government oversight on the most personal of issues.  In Rick’s world government has no place in the boardroom; but it has reserved front row seat in the bedroom.
In these difficult economic times the American people are concerned with supporting their families, securing their retirement and making a better life for their children.  Denigrating gays and outlawing contraception may play well with the conservative base.  But it won’t win you the White House.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mitt Romney Has A Really Bad Day

Rick Santorum went three for three yesterday; winning caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota as well as a non-binding primary in Missouri.  His sweep is certain to re-energize the conservative base and demonstrates once again their rejection of Mitt Romney.
Even more stunning than Santorum’s win is the way that Romney underperformed in these contests.  Romney not only lost three states that he won in 2008; he received on average less than half of the votes that he received in 2008. 
Yesterday was not so much a vote for Rick Santorum as a referendum against Mitt Romney.  When conservatives look at Mitt Romney they see a very successful businessman.  But when the size him up against all of the other issues that people care about they have trouble understanding what he really believes.  Romney has been campaigning for President for the past six years and has yet to find his footing within the Republican Party.
No question, Rick Santorum deserves another look.  He can now say that he has won more states than any other candidate.  He is the one Republican candidate that has been consistent with his message throughout the campaign.  And that message resonates with conservatives; something Romney has been unable to do.
Mitt Romney has let Rick Santorum and even Newt Gingrich back in the game.  After his big win in Florida he was cruising going into the bottom of the ninth.  But he blew the save and now the game continues.
Rick Santorum posted a big win last night.  But the bigger story is just how badly Romney performed.     

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Obama Needs To Weigh In

The groundswell of criticism to the administration’s new health care regulation has grown into an avalanche of opposition.
The Obama administration, through its Department of Health and Human Services, has implemented a regulation requiring that all employers, even Catholic hospitals, institutions and universities, provide their employees with health care coverage that includes coverage for contraceptives, abortions and sterilizations.  
The Catholic Church has responded vehemently against the law calling it a violation of religious freedom.  Small government conservatives have joined in calling the ruling more evidence of big government intrusion into people’s lives.  The predominantly Catholic Hispanic community has joined in the chorus of opposition.  What was once a regulation intended to provide affordable health care to all women has grown into a moral issue that poses a real problem to the President’s re-election campaign.
The White House responded by saying that 28 states currently impose the same rules and that there is a one year grace period for Catholic institutions to figure out how to comply with the ruling.
Catholic institutions provide health care for one in six Americans.  They are a very powerful institution in our political process and more importantly a huge component of how health care is administered in this country.  While the administration’s ruling does not require employees of those institutions to take contraceptives or submit to abortions or sterilization; it does require them to purchase coverage providing these procedures; in clear violation of their moral and religious beliefs.
All women should have access to these legal health care services.  But those who object to them on religious grounds should not be forced to participate in that process.  And telling them to get another job is not the answer.
Presidential advisor, David Axelrod, speaking on Morning Joe, said that the administration is open to finding a compromise on the issue.  We hope so.  But surrogate  attempts to smooth over the issue are not what people want to hear.  And offering a one year compliance grace period to figure out how to set aside 2000 years of religious beliefs is not going to cut it. We believe that the administration was caught completely off guard by the firestorm generated by this ruling.  They need to fix it. 
When you put out a policy like this; that is complicated both politically and morally, you cannot leave it to surrogates to carry the message.  The President has created a vacuum here and he needs to step in and fill it.  There ARE compromise solutions to this issue.  The President needs to figure them out and communicate them to the American people.  For if he continues to allow this vacuum to exist, he will  hand his detractors a key component toward making him a one term President.         

Monday, February 6, 2012

Government + Religion = Political Suicide

There is a controversial debate going on right now that may influence the November Presidential election.
The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new regulation that has unleashed a firestorm of criticism from the Catholic Church.
The proposed regulation, which is part of the implementation of the President’s Affordable Health Care Act,  would require all private health plans in the US to cover sterilizations and all FDA approved contraceptives; including those that cause abortions.  The purpose of the regulation is to implement a provision in the AHCA that requires all health care plans to cover “preventative services”.  When combined with the AHCA’s mandate that all individuals must by health insurance, this “preventative services” regulation would require all Catholics to buy health care plans that include coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortions; all of which violate Catholic moral believes.  Furthermore, it would require all Catholic hospitals, Catholic charitable organizations and Catholic universities to choose between dropping coverage for their employees or violating the moral teachings of their church.
As one might expect; the response to the HHS announcement broke along ideological lines.   
Yesterday, priests and bishops across the country took to their pulpits to denounce the regulation.  Conservatives offered their support; condemning the administration for violating the division between church and state.
Progressives countered that if an organization is willing to accept federal funding then it is reasonable to expect those government funds to go to providing all services that are legal. If an organization is willing to accept Medicaid for services rendered then why should a hospital decide what legal services they will provide.  They argue that the law has exceptions for actual churches and their employees.  But if a church chooses to get into the business of administering health care and accepts government funding along the way; then they are subject to the same rules as any non-denominational health care provider.    
Let’s set ideology aside and examine the facts.
Today, 28 states already have similar laws in place; including the state of Massachusetts under its much publicized “Romneycare” plan.  The “religious exemptions” in those states are just as “narrow” as the exemptions listed in the HHS regulation.  The “morning after pill” is exempted under the HHS plan as it is in the individual state plans.    
It should also be noted that 98% of those who identify themselves as “Catholic” admit to using birth control; a clear violation of their church’s teachings.  Furthermore, many Catholics believe in a woman’s right to choose; in spite of the church’s moral belief that abortion is murder.  That said, most Catholics do not want the government interfering with their religious practices; no matter how convoluted they may be.  That is why they call it “faith.”
From our perspective, while we support health care for everyone, this is one of the weak points of the President’s health care law.  Imposing government policies that violate an individual's or an institution's religious beliefs will not fly.  Period!  The President is on a slippery slope with this one; and the Catholic Church is not going to lend a helping hand.
The President knows that come November roughly 47% of Americans will vote for him no matter what.  There is another 47% that are going to vote for whomever the Republicans nominate because they want the President out of office.  This campaign is all about winning the hearts and minds of 6% of the electorate; most of whom are independents and many of whom are Catholics. 
Our guess is that the President and his Department of Health and Human Services will tweak this regulation before the election.  Because allowing Republicans to paint him as a President who allows the government to subjugate religion is political suicide.            

Just Plain Lyin'

The American people got some good news this weekend.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics announced that the economy produced 243,000 new jobs in January; 93,000 more than expected.  The Bureau also announced that it had revised its December jobs number upward to 202,000.  Included in the 243,000 new jobs were 50,000 new manufacturing jobs; the largest increase in that sector since 2005. 
January marks the 23rd straight month of job growth in the country.  3,750,000 new jobs have been created since President Obama took office.  On the day he was inaugurated the economy was losing jobs at a rate of 750,000 per month.
The DOW responded positively to the January jobs report jumping 156.82 points to close at 12,862.83; the highest close since May of 2008.
So this is good news for the country!  Right?  Go USA! 
Not if you’re a Republican.
Unable to allow even a glimmer of hope to shine through the partisan wall they have constructed; the Republican leadership trotted out their talking points to throw cold water on the jobs report.  Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and Henslering all took their shots at disparaging any thought that the President’s policies might be working.
“We can do better.”  Where are the jobs?”  “The President’s policies are killing the economy.”
It is fair for Republicans to believe that they could do better.  It’s fair to for them to state that their policies would have produced a bigger and faster turnaround.  That’s their right.
But when Republicans say the President’s policies are not working…that’s just plain lyin’.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Tone Deaf

Mitt Romney is tone deaf.  And his campaign staff is unfit to run a White Castle much less the White House.
Now that we have your attention…allow us to explain.
At the beginning of the week Mitt Romney was coming off a huge victory in Florida.  He had successfully defeated his opponents in the debates and used his vast money making machine to obliterate them in the media.  He had bounced back from his South Carolina beating and demonstrated to the country that he could go toe-to-toe with whoever stood in his way.  A huge turnaround!  He should have been basking in the afterglow; riding a wave of momentum into the next contest.
But then he said he is not concerned about the very poor. 
We’ve all seen it.  Ok, he miss spoke.  We get it.  We’ve all done it.  We all knew what he was trying to say. 
That is until he tried to walk the statement back the next day…when he did it again…repeating that he was focused on the middle class because poor people have the social safety net to take care of their needs.
And as if that is not enough damage for one week; his staff  then schedules him to fly to the capital of excess,  Las Vegas, where he accepts the endorsement of the self proclaimed King of the Rich; Mr. Donald Trump.
This tone deaf response is emblematic of a serious flaw in both the candidate and his campaign; a genuine lack of empathy with the plight of the American people.   
Throughout this campaign Mitt Romney and his staff have made a series of decisions and statements that tell us a great deal about the candidate and his organization.  Romney has made numerous “gaffs” about his wealth and his views of the poor and the middle class.  But when he makes these statements over and over again they are not gaffs. They are a reflection of who he really is and what he really believes.
The same is true of the staff.  If you have been managing an extraordinarily wealthy candidate’s campaign for six years, you know that at some point the press is going to want to examine the details of his wealth.  They are going to request his tax returns.  To be so unprepared for that question and to fumble the answer on no less than four subsequent occasions is inexcusable.  And what organization in their right mind shuttles their candidate off to Vegas of all places; to accept the endorsement of multi-millionaire Donald Trump; while being scorched in the media for lacking empathy towards the poor? 
The decision to accept Trumps’ endorsement at this particular moment was so extraordinarily out of touch with reality that the President himself sent a link to the event over his personal Twitter account with the comment:  “In case you missed it”.    
Mitt Romney is by all accounts a good family man and an incredibly successful businessman.  His campaign organization is a vast, well funded monolith staffed by energetic and committed individuals who have demonstrated and extraordinary ability to raise vast sums of money.  These are all admirable qualities and serve as a glowing testament to capitalism, free enterprise and our electoral system.
But if you want to be President you have to be more than a successful capitalist who is only comfortable among the rich.  You have to be a person who genuinely empathizes with the poor and the dwindling middle class as well.  And you have to run a campaign organization that embodies those qualities.
Mitt Romney and his campaign organization exhibit many fine qualities.  But the basic qualities necessary to hold the White House are not among them.     

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Playing Politics With Breast Cancer

Over the past several months we have discussed numerous instances where ideology has negatively impacted our society.  None have been more disturbing than the recent events surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood.
Last December the Komen foundation announced that it would stop funding Planned Parenthood under the newly adopted policy to block grants to organizations under investigation by any local, state of federal authority. 
The investigation in question is being conducted by Representative Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  The purpose of the investigation, which was initiated in September of 2011, is to determine whether public money had been spent on abortion services over the past decade. Representative Stearns’s motivation for this investigation has been widely questioned and there is more than speculation that his actions stem a desire to appease his ideologically conservative constituency.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Representative Stearns’s investigation comes on the heels of the hiring Karen Handel as Komen’s senior vice president for policy.  Ms. Handel, a conservative, ran a strong pro-life campaign for governor of Georgia in 2010.  She lost in spite of an endorsement from Sarah Palin.  Ms. Handel has been vocal in her opposition to the mission of Planned Parenthood; and, according to sources, has even promised to “eliminate funding for breast and cervical screenings provided by Planned Parenthood”
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States. It is reviled in conservative circles for providing sex education, abortion services and contraceptives to the needy.  These services represent roughly one-third of the organizations body of work.  The majority of their resources go to screening for breast, cervical and testicular cancers and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. 
It is important to note; both sides agree that the $650,000 received from the Komen foundation goes to 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 85 affiliates; and is used strictly for breast screening and other breast health services.
Planned Parenthood plays a vital role in the distribution of health care services; particularly among the poor.  Without their important work the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in this country would skyrocket.
Last year the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation invested $93 million dollars toward education, public health outreach and service to women in need.  Komen funded 700,000 breast screenings last year alone and provided financial and social support to another 100,000 women.
It is a travesty that wrongheaded ideology is allowed to interfere with the vital work of these two organizations.    

Let Romney Be Romney

There has been a lot written about Mitt Romney’s recent gaff about the poor.
During a CNN interview Romney said:  “I’m not concerned about the very poor.  There is a safety net there.  If it needs repair; I’ll fix it.”
As expected, Democrats and anti- Romney Republicans piled on; criticizing Romney for being out of touch with the electorate.
Here’s the thing.  Romney is not your run of the mill typical American.  He is uber-wealthy.  He comes from privilege.  But for some reason he keeps trying to make us believe that he is one of us.  His recent brain cramp comes on the heels of several other telling miss-statements that provide insight into who he really is. 
“I enjoy firing people who provide me services.”  “I’m currently unemployed.”  “I can remember worrying about getting a pink slip.” “I get income from making speeches from time to time; but not very much ($360,000).” These are all statements made by a very wealthy guy who has no concept of what life is like for most Americans.  This is what happens when Romney gets off his leash.  We get a glimpse behind the “Romneybot” into the true essence of the man. 
So here are some words of advice to the candidate if he really wants to win the election and be a successful President.
Stop trying to be something you’re not. 
You are a wildly successful businessman who has a vision for the country.  Embrace your success; and tell us how you will use your life experience to bring that success to the American people.  FDR and JFK never had a paper route.  They seemed ok with it. 
Oh, and one more thing!
Never, ever utter the words…I’m-not-concerned-about-the-very-poor…in the same sentence.       

"Buffet Rule"...Just More Partisan Politics

Senate Democrats have taken the first legislative steps to implement the “Buffet Rule” into law.  The “Buffet Rule” would amend the tax code to require anyone making over $1 million dollars pay a minimum federal tax of 30%. 
Democrats are selling this legislative endeavor as a response to the issue of “fairness” and the ever growing disparity in income inequality in the country.  Republicans have denounced the proposal as a “job killer” and more evidence of “class warfare.”  
From our perspective this legislation is just a cheap political trick to force Republicans to go on record as supporting millionaires and billionaires over the struggling middle class and working poor. 
The tax code is unfair.  The tax code needs to be reformed so that ALL taxpayers pay a fair share of their income.  Arbitrarily raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans is just as discriminatory as allowing them tax breaks and subsidies not available to the rest of the population.
If Democrats want to make the case that there is inequality in our society and injustice in our tax code; then they should offer real substantive solutions.
The “Buffet Rule” is just more partisan politics.        

McCain Gets It Right

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States Military will end its combat role in Afghanistan in 2013 and continue an advisory and training role with Afghan forces through 2014.
This strategy coincides with the way the Obama administration handled the end of the war in Iraq.  The President declared the end of combat operations in Iraq in August of 2010 but kept thousands of troops in Iraq in a training and advisory role through the end of 2011.  Politically this announcement enables the President to campaign on his record of ending the war in Iraq and having put in place a plan to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
As expected, Senator John McCain weighed in with his disapproval.  The Senator from Arizona, who has never met a war he didn’t like, said the President was implementing military policy based on political conditions here at home rather than conditions on the ground in Afghanistan.
Senator McCain is absolutely correct.
The American people are tired of this decade long war.  They see no definable measure of victory.  They see the US pouring billions of borrowed dollars into a country that shuns our presence while one half of US citizens live in poverty.  They see the death and destruction; the countless lives lost and they want it to end.  And by overwhelming numbers they have made their voices heard. 
So yes, Senator McCain, the President is listening to the people here at home.  He is listening to the taxpayers who elected you to office and pay your salary.  He is listening to the people who put their lives on the line to fight the endless wars you support; and pay for the military at whose alter you worship.
  Yes, Senator McCain, this President IS implementing military policy based on political conditions HERE AT HOME.  You might want to try it sometime.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romney Buys Florida Primary!

Mitt Romney collected on his investment Tuesday night and trounced Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary.  Romney, who knows a little about investing; plunked down $16 million in Super Pac money to buy 12,700 negative attack ads against Gingrich.  He speculated that by drowning his opponent in negative accusations he would win Florida and return his candidacy to its rightful place as the Republican frontrunner.  His investment panned out.  But just like many of Romney’s other successful business ventures, this one resulted in carnage that will have long lasting effects down the road.
Florida is a huge multi-cultural state.  Running a campaign in Florida is like running a countrywide general election.   Romney won Florida by 14 points.  He bludgeoned Gingrich in the debates proving that he had the spine to go toe to toe with an aggressive opponent.  His monolithic campaign machine; a testament to his organizational skills; was relentless in its attacks against Gingrich; overwhelming him with 12,700 ads to Newt’s 200, and outspending Gingrich 4-1.  Romney did what he had to do to win a major victory.  The question is …at what cost.
In the immediate aftermath of Romney’s Florida victory many news organizations were quick to proclaim the campaign all but over.  Pundits proselytized that Romney would do well in the upcoming contests in Maine, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona and Michigan; thereby extinguishing any glimmer of hope in the Gingrich campaign and sealing the deal for Romney.
But as a sage old football coach once said: “not so fast my friend.”
Romney won Florida with 46% of the vote.  52% of the voters cast ballots for someone else.  The conservative base hates him and Romney’s attack ads only fueled their mission to bring him down.  38% of those polled are still dissatisfied with the Republican slate and hopeful that a more acceptable candidate will emerge from the sidelines.  Will that 52% coalesce behind Romney; or will they band together behind Gingrich or Santorum or some other “Not Romney” candidate?  Newt believes that ultimately they will line up behind him; and he has vowed to go to take the fight all the way to the convention if necessary.
Romney’s carpet bombing of Gingrich was obviously effective.  But the negativity and harshness of the attacks has turned voters against Romney.  Romney’s approval ratings have plummeted into the negative numbers; second only to the most disliked politician of all time; Newt Gingrich.  Yet Gingrich leads Romney in most national polls. 
There is an old saying in Florida:  “the further north you go, the further south you get.”  Romney won Florida on the strength of his performance in the central and southern parts of the state.  Gingrich won the north and northwest; the “Redneck Riviera” and the “traditional south” part of Florida. Gingrich does very well in the heart of the Republican Party; the “traditional south”.  His win in South Carolina proves the point.  On March 6-17, the campaign moves into a host of southern states.  Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi all hold primaries or caucuses.  If Newt can hold on until those first two weeks in March he can wreak a lot of havoc on the Romney campaign.
Finally, while it may seem like this campaign has been going on forever; it is just barely getting started.  There are 2,174 delegates for the taking.  A candidate needs 1,144 to win the nomination.  After Florida’s primary only 5% (112) of the available delegates have been awarded: Romney 71; Gingrich 23; Santorum 13; Paul 3; and Huntsman 2.  This race is a long, long way from being over.
Mitt Romney bought the Florida primary.  It cost him $16 million dollars for 50 delegates.  Can he buy his way to the nomination?  It’s way too early to make that call.