Friday, June 22, 2012

Republicans Can't Have It Both Ways

This is just too funny!
Multiple sources are reporting that the Romney Campaign has reached out to Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott and asked him to tone down his trumpeting of Florida’s improving economy and job growth...because it clashes with the gloom and doom sky is falling economic message that Romney is trying to sell.  Apparently Romney wants Scott to either shut up or lie about the fact that his state is doing well under Obama’s policies.
Scott is not alone.  Republican governors in key swing states: Ohio, Michigan and Virginia are rushing to the microphones to take credit for the improved economic conditions in their states.  Kasich in Ohio and Snyder in Michigan like to talk about their job growth and improving unemployment numbers.  Neither is willing to admit that most of that job growth came from manufacturing jobs created by Obama’s bailout of the auto industry.  Scott likes to tout Florida’s success but is loath to admit that the stimulus money and the steps Obama took to stop runaway foreclosures were instrumental in righting Florida’s ship.  Only Virginia Governor Bob McDonald has been willing to admit that the stimulus money played an important role in fueling Virginia’s recovery.
You can’t blame these governors for wanting to take credit for the growth and recovery that their constituents are experiencing.  After all they ARE politicians.  The problem they face is that as they blow their own horn they are directly contradicting Romney’s message that everyone is suffering and it’s all Obama’s fault.
Try as they might…Republicans can’t have it both ways.      

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Fast And Furious" Moves To A Whole New Level

The investigation into the botched “Fast and Furious” sting operation moved to a whole new level on Wednesday.  A committee vote along partisan lines to cite the Attorney General for contempt of Congress and the President invoking “executive privilege” to protect his cabinet officer raised the heat on an already smoldering situation.
The committee is investigating the details of a botched federal sting operation run by the ATF.  The plan was to set up the sale of some 2,000 weapons to known drug gang connections…follow the guns across the Mexican border…and arrest not only the gun purchaser but nab the ultimate buyer as well.  Somehow the ATF lost track of the guns and several of them were found at a crime scene where a border patrol agent was shot and killed.     
The Republican led Oversight and Government Reform Committee had advised Attorney General Eric Holder that his failure to provide certain subpoenaed documents by Wednesday would result in his being cited for contempt of Congress.  Holder said that he was legally prohibited from providing the specific documents that the committee had requested but was willing to find other means of getting the committee the information they were seeking.  That was not good enough for the committee.  The President suddenly weighed in saying  that the requested documents were privileged personal conversations within the executive branch and therefore off limits to congressional oversight.  The Presidents invoking executive privilege did not stop the committee from voting Holder in contempt of Congress.  The vote went straight down party lines: 23-17.
As we stated yesterday, this is not about a botched gun walking operation.  This is about committee chairman Darrel Issa and his Republican committee members attempting to embarrass the Attorney General personally and the Obama administration politically.
The Fast and Furious sting operation originated by the ATF under the Bush administration and continued by the ATF under the Obama Administration.  Yet the committee has not found it necessary to subpoena any members of the Bush administration to testify.  ATF officials testified they did not notify their superiors of the sting operation; and specifically that the Attorney General had no knowledge of the operation.  When the border agent was killed and details of Fast and Furious began to surface it was Holder who shut down the operation.  He has provided the committee with over 7,000 documents and appeared before them nine times to testify under oath.  As recently as yesterday he offered to provide unprecedented access to the information the committee is seeking without revealing any privileged, personal conversations of members of the executive branch.
Not good enough for Chairman Issa.
The Republicans have wanted to rid themselves of Holder for quite some time.  He has been a thorn in their on many issues.  He has blocked individual states from suppressing voter rights.  He has challenged states anti-immigration laws.  And he has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  As a result the attacks by Republicans have come from a wide range of sources.  Republican Senator John Cornyn slipped while calling for Holder’s resignation.  As he commented on the oversight committee’s investigation he curiously included Holder’s “blocking of state attempts to combat voter fraud…you leave me with no alternative but to join others who call upon you to resign from office.” The NRA issued a statement saying that they would be scoring the vote for Holder’s contempt citation; making it clear that they would hold any Republican voting against the citation accountable.  House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who originally told Issa to ease up on the contempt rhetoric, issued a joint statement in  support of the committee’s actions.
So what do voter fraud and the NRA have to do with an ATF sting operation?  The answer is nothing...nothing but politics.
Darrel Issa and the right wing of the party are forcing the committee to take this action.  Naturally the President entering the fray only serves to exacerbate the situation; raising questions about what he may be hiding.  Issa is already asking: “what did the President know and when did he know it.”
Lost in all the political noise is the fact that ATF agent Brian Terry is dead and his grieving family members want answers.
While this is just another sad example of how broken our government is, it is at the same time a good day for the President.  Because every day the press is talking about ATF sting operations and conspiracy theories… they are not talking about the economy. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This & That...

ABC News has reported that popular Republican Senator Marco Rubio is not being vetted by the Romney Campaign as a possible running mate.  Mitt Romney say’s that’s not true.  ABC is sticking by its story.  Given Romney’s less than stellar reputation for speaking the truth…we’ll go with the guys at ABC News. 
The Romney boys have totally blown this opportunity to woo the Hispanic/Latino community.  Rubio is a rising star in the party.  He obviously connects with Hispanics and Latinos.  Common sense dictates that you do your due diligence and you leak to the press that you are vetting him.  You watch him deliver his version of the Dream Act and you enthusiastically support it.  You do these things even if you have no intention of picking him for a running mate because it helps you with the Hispanic/Latino community.  The Romney campaign should have gotten out in front of the whole immigration issue.  But they were too busy pandering to the right.  Their harsh anti-immigrant record gave the President an opening and he took it.  The Romney Campaign blew it…and it will cost them dearly in November.

The House Oversight Committee is expected to vote today on whether to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.  This all stems from a food fight between Holder and Republican Committee Chairman, Darrell Issa over Holder’s unwillingness to provide subpoenaed documents regarding “Operation Fast and Furious.”  Operation Fast and Furious was a botched federal sting operation that allowed 1,000 weapons to fall into the hands of drug gangs in Mexico.  Some of the lost weapons were later found at violent crime scenes.  Holder argues that the Justice Department has provided the committee with unprecedented access to documents not even included in the subpoenas and that they are willing to comply if given assurances that this will be the end of the fishing expedition.  Issa has said that holder has failed to provide the required documents and wants him found in contempt.

This is nothing more than a political witch hunt for the express purpose of embarrassing a member of the President’s Cabinet and through him the President himself.  Issa simply wants to politicize this failed sting operation and is using the President’s personal friend, Holder, as a scapegoat.  All you have to do is refer back to Issa’s own statement when he assumed the Oversight Committee Chairmanship in 2010.  He made clear his intentions to use his power to examine every Democratic policy and turn over every Democratic rock when he said:  “I intend to hold seven hearings a week…for forty weeks.”  When asked under what jurisdiction he would hold these hearings he said “We own everything.”  Holder has given Issa everything Issa has demanded.  Yet that isn’t enough to stem the witch hunt.  This is vengeance politics at its worst.

The Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that their candidate, Mohamed Morsi has defeated former Hosni Mubarak ally, Ahmed Shafik, in a presidential runoff election.  The Muslim Brotherhood is known for their intense hatred of Israel and its anti west leanings.  It advocates imposing Islamic law into the government.  Nothing like the US advocating free democratic elections in the largest Muslim country in the Middle East only to have the guy who wins want nothing but US death and destruction.  So at least we’ll stop giving the billions in aid we’ve been handing Mubarak all these years…right.  Nope!  Apparently the US believes that it is still in our best interests to continue providing billionsin aid to the new government…even though six in ten Egyptians believe that it has a negative effect.
Just so we’re clear…we gave $1.5 billion/yr. to Mubarak because he helped to keep a lid on Middle Eastern hostilities and he was helpful in promoting the Israel/Palestinian peace process.  Mubarak is gone and the only thing the new government hates more than us is Israel. So we are going to continue to borrow money from China in order to give billions in aid to a new government that hates us and to a population that says they don’t the money.  Only in America! 

Jamie Dimon was hauled before the House Financial Reforms Committee yesterday.  The purpose was another public flogging of Dimon just so the House, like the Senate several days ago, could say the did.  The results were the same.  Dimon was far better prepared and far smarter than anyone sitting on the committee.  In the end this is all much ado about nothing.  It has been years since the collapse of the financial industry and we have yet to see Congress implement any substantive banking reforms.  Yesterday's kabuki theater brought us no closer to that end.                


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Immigration Order Key To Obama Victory

On Friday the President signed an executive clearing a path to citizenship for one million illegal immigrants.  He may have simultaneously cleared a path to his re-election.  Here’s why.
According to the latest NBC News Poll the President leads among Hispanic voters 61%-27%.  Gallup has the President leading 67%-26%.  According to every single pundit and political historian, Romney needs to get his support among Hispanics into the mid-high 30’s if he has any chance of winning the election.  The President’s announcement goes a long way to virtually guaranteeing that won’t happen.
Florida Senator and Republican favorite Marco Rubio planned to announce his version of the Dream Act later this week.  Rubio is well liked in the Hispanic community.  The Romney campaign had intended to support Rubio’s plan as a means of increasing Romney’s support among Hispanics.  Rubio announced yesterday that he will NOT be making any announcements thereby killing Romney’s plans to ride on Rubio’s coattails.  Clearly this knee jerk change in strategy is a direct result the President’s announcement.
The Romney Campaign planned on attacking the President from the left; pointing out that the Obama Administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any other administration in history.  “Obama is no friend to Hispanics” was the planned message.  The President’s executive order effectively mute’s that argument.
Romney’s immigration position during the Republican primaries was simple: “round them up and send them home.”  Now Romney is being asked if he supports the President’s position.  Anyone with any common sense would say:  “Yes, this is a good temporary solution.  But we need a long term immigration plan.”  But if Romney makes that statement he alienates his base.  If he criticizes the President he alienates Hispanics.  As we saw on Sunday’s Face the Nation, Romney has chosen to dodge the question.  The President has boxed him in a corner.
Republican’s have responded to the President’s decision by saying that he is usurping his powers and violating the Constitution.  This reaction opens the door for the Obama Campaign to point out the numerous times that previous Republican administrations exercised their executive powers and sidestepped Congress….the proverbial pot calling the kettle black strategy.
Voters are tired of the gridlock in Washington.  They are tired of being told that nothing is getting done on their behalf.  By taking this action the President shows that in spite of gridlock in Congress he is trying to move the country forward.  That’s leadership…and that’s what voters want to see. 
The President has several paths toward acquiring the 270 electoral votes he needs to win re-election.  One of those is the “Western Path” through Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona…a path populated with a large Hispanic community.  This executive order widens that path to victory. 
The press has spent the past five days focused on the President’s action and Romney’s response.  Any day that the press is NOT talking about the economy is a good day for the President.
Obama Campaign officials say they have a very specific strategy to defeat Mitt Romney.  They have cards they intend to play and know when they intend to play them.     
POLITCO reports: “President Obama’s Campaign wants to turn Mitt Romney into the candidate of old, straight white men.  The Obama Campaign spent weeks playing up the contraceptive fight and pushing legislation to guarantee women equal pay for equal work…Obama got pushed into backing gay marriage more quickly than he wanted; but once he did he milked it for days to make Romney look like a throw back. The drumbeat on more affordable student loans has been constant.  And now the President is trying to drive a wedge between Romney and Hispanic voters with a sustained push to soften US deportation policy…Obama for America has a sophisticated campaign-within-the campaign, Operation Vote, focusing on specific swing and Democratic base groups, including women, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, youth, seniors, gays and lesbians, along with veterans and military families.  There are separate structures for each of these groups in key states to amp up turnout and persuasion.”  Politico sites voter registration drives at pride festivals, Spanish ads in Colorado, Florida and Nevada and dorm captains focused on registering college students as examples.
The Obama Campaign is following a “micro-strategy’ designed to specifically target key groups.  The Romney Campaign is following a “macro-strategy” focused on one thing…the economy.  “The economy stinks…Obama’s plan didn’t work…vote for me.”
According to Obama Campaign officials, the President’s immigration announcement is just one piece of their planned strategy to defeat Mitt Romney.  We may look back in November and see that it was in fact the pivotal point in the campaign.
So for all the nay-sayers (like us) who feel like the Obama Campaign has lost its “mojo”…stay tuned. Apparently there is much more to come.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Obama Steps Up On Immigration

On Friday the President signed an executive order which will stop the deportation of young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria outlined in the failed “Dream Act.”  The action is intended to open a path to citizenship for those individuals who, as children were brought into this country illegally by their parents. 
Republicans criticized the President’s order as a political stunt designed to pander to the immigrant communities during an election year.  “He could have done this anytime during the past three and a half years.  Why now?  The answer seems pretty evident.”
Mitt Romney, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation, said the President was playing politics and questioned why the President was ordering this “temporary” action now instead of finding a permanent solution when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.  Romney was asked several times by host Bob Schieffer if he would repeal the President’s order if elected.  Romney refused to be pinned down.
Was the President playing politics in issuing this executive order?  Absolutely!  The White House saw an opportunity to cement their relationship with the immigrant communities and they took it.  It is also true that the President could have taken this action at any time during the past three and a half years.  However what is not true is the assertion that the President has not made any effort to find a permanent solution to the immigration problem.
The “Dream Act” was introduced by Democrats Dick Durbin and Orin Hatch on August 1, 2001.  Since that time it has been repeatedly re-introduced by Democrats only to see it blocked by Republicans.  As recently as December 8, 2010 the House of Representatives passed the Dream Act only to have Republicans block it in the Senate.
Romney’s slippery response to Schieffer’s questioning is typical Romney.  When Romney was trying to win the Republican nomination he had no trouble pandering to the far right.  His solution to the illegal immigration problem was simple:  round them up and send them home.  He coupled this simplistic approach with a call for stronger boarders and “self-deportation”?  But now that the nomination is secure he has tempered his rhetoric so as not to alienate immigrants.  Romney’s stance on immigration…like many other core issues…is hard to pin down.
The President boxed Romney into a corner on this one.  He used his executive power to overcome an obstructionist Congress and he made Romney look bad in the process.  Such are the ways of polictics.
In the end, one million young people who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own, now have an opportunity to become productive American citizens.  That’s a good thing. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Obama Needs To Change Course

President Obama and Mitt Romney will both be speaking in the key swing state of Ohio today.  Both candidates will address the country’s economic problems.  Neither candidate is expected to offer specifics as to how to fix those problems going forward.
That’s a mistake.
Recent polls show that the country does not believe that either candidate has presented a clearly defined path for the future.  They see both candidates parroting the same old bi-partisan rhetoric while shying away from the tough decisions that everyone knows have to be made.
The President believes that the way to win re-election is by attacking the Republican Party and criticizing Mitt Romney’s record.  He blames the Republicans for the problems he inherited and the intransigence he has faced in trying to get things done.  He likes to criticize Romney’s record as governor and question Romney’s business success as a qualifier for the presidency.  His overall message is that things are getting better and we cannot afford to return to the same Republican policies that got us in this mess in the first place.  Naturally, he steers clear of the fact that as the leader of the country he has been unable to find a way to lead us out of this morass.   
Mitt Romney’s approach is a little more subtle but just as negative.  The plan is to lie in the weeds, avoid mistakes and allow the failing economy to do most of his talking.  His public appearances have been scaled back.  But when he does take to the stump it is to emphasize the weak economy under Obama’s leadership.  He steers clear of offering any specifics as to how he would do things any better given the circumstances.  His only solution thus far is to get out of the way and let people do what they want.
The problem for both of these gentlemen is that neither one of them has offered an economic message that resonates with the voters.  Recent polls asked voters if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of the candidate’s economic message.  The result was a virtual tie with both candidates scoring a favorable rating in the mid-30s% and an unfavorable rating in the mid-50s%.  Not good.
The President’s problem is that voters don’t care about what happened three years ago or three decades ago.  They don’t believe that things are getting better because it doesn’t FEEL like things are getting better.  Most Americans are still struggling and they want to know specifically what the President, our leader,  is going to do about it.
As for Romney, voters don’t begrudge him his wealth but they wonder if his position allows him to understand their plight.  They know that Obama inherited a mess and they know it is easy to criticize the results of Obama’s efforts.  But they want to see Romney’s specific plan.  And they are not convinced that reducing taxes for the rich, repealing Obamacare and getting the hell out of the way will somehow make their lives any better.
Over the next five months Romney will probably follow the same course.  He’ll sit back and let the weak economy drown the President while his friends in congress block any possibility of giving the Obama a legislative win.  He'll stear clear of specifics and let sound bites and grainy photos of shuttered businesses carry his message.  
If the President continues to follow his current path he is destined to fail.  He needs to stop whining and find a higher plateau.  He needs to lead.  As we have said before; his path to victory lies in presenting a big, bold game changing plan to the American people.  A balanced approach that includes massive stimulus over the next 12-24 months along with a comprehensive long term deficit reduction plan that embraces entitlement reform.  Congress doesn’t need to pass it.  The President just needs to put it on the table and let the voters decide.
Mitt Romney may be able to stay the course and still win the election.  If the President continues along his negative path…he will lose.       

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wall Street Drinking The GOP Kool-Aid

We noted earlier how Wall Street has decided to shift its financial support from the President to Mitt Romney.  Based on the recently released Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances you have to wonder why.
According to this Federal Reserve Survey the bulk of the drop in household financial income occurred in 2008.  Household income has increased every year Obama has been in office.  Corporate profits are at record levels, higher than they were before the recession.  Mutual funds have increased 65% since Obama took office, reaching their highest levels on record.  Deposits are up 7%, and the DOW industrial Average is up 56% since January 20, 2009…the day Obama was inaugurated.  Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% to 8.2% and the country has seen 27 straight months of job growth.  While we still have a long way to go; the economy IS recovering albeit slowly.
Piqued by the President’s criticism of their exorbitant compensation packages and golden parachutes in the middle an economic meltdown they have turned away from the President and embraced a candidate that “understands how business works.”  From where we sit they have bought into a lie.  They act as if understanding business is somehow like brain surgery or landing a man on the moon.  In fact it is not all that complicated.   But we digress…
Bombarded by millions of dollars of ads spewing falsehoods about the country’s economic plight, Wall Street moguls have embraced a guy who thinks you run the White House like you run a corporate board room.  They believe that the country is in peril solely because the President is “not one of them” and “has no idea how business works.”  Anyone who looks at these numbers can see that this President does in fact have a grasp on the business end of the job and has implemented policies that are in point of fact, working.  When Republicans run their ads and talking points to the contrary; they are simply lying for political gain.
Wall Street has taken a big gulp of Republican $$$ Kool-Aid.  Through their profit induced haze they hear Romney speaking the same robotic profit first language they do.  They follow the same path as Romney; using other people’s money to make risky bets for leverage and profit.  Romney looks presidential.  Nice hair.  Good teeth.  Right pedigree…belongs to the right clubs…says all the right “corporate” things.
 They are smitten and so they have placed their bet on the Republican horse.  But they have misinterpreted the information on the racing form.  His record at Bain does not qualify him to run in this race.  His prelim in Massachusetts was in fact a failure.  Yet, so overcome are they by the prospects of this slick new thoroughbred that they have forgotten how well they have done riding their old favorite to the winners circle.
No problem.  It’s really only a game for them.  Wall Street is used to making risky bets.  They always come out a winner no matter who wins the race.        

This & That...

Wall Street has abandoned Obama.  Stung by the president’s criticism of the business community and the top 1% earners, Wall Street has responded by turning off the flow of money to the Obama Campaign in favor of Mitt Romney.  Thus far Wall Street has donated $40 million to the Romney Campaign while forking over only $5 million to Obama.  It’s still early but the trend is telling.
Independent and moderate voters have caught on to the Republican’s strategy of “obstructionism.”  A new Daily Kos/SEIU opinion poll shows that 51% of self described independents and 61% of moderates believe that Republicans are intentionally blocking efforts to jump start the economy to ensure that Obama is not re-elected.
Echoing the above poll results, former Republican Governor Florida Jeb Bush has weighed in on his party’s seeming unwillingness to compromise. He said both his father, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, believed in compromise and would have had a hard time fitting in with the current Republican Party.
Syria has turned into a civil war.  Sec. of State Clinton has publically called out Moscow for providing military helicopters which the Syrian government has used to target insurgents as well as innocent women and children.  The Soviets have denied the accusation.  China and Russia have both refused to authorize any UN intervention.  War hawks in congress are questioning the president’s reluctance to intervene unilaterally.  The American people have no stomach for another ground war and it is unlikely that we will see any US involvement in the middle of an election season.  Besides, there is no oil in Syria.  If there were we’d be looking at a whole lot more US involvement.
JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon will appear before congress today where he is expected to apologize for a $3 billion dollar trading loss.  The loss has been attributed to and investment (gambling) strategy that stretched the definition of “hedging” to its limits.  We don’t understand why Mr. Dimon needs to apologize for anything.  According to Republicans this is just another example of the free enterprise system at work…right?  Investments are made…risks are taken…some are winners…some are losers.  Republicans did everything in their power to quash efforts by the government to regulate banks in order to prevent “risky” investment strategies such as this from being implemented. So given their refusal to implement protections against this type of activity we don’t understand the entire hubbub.  “C’est la vie.”            

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Real Time Look At Romney's Economic Policy

“He (President Obama) wants another stimulus; he wants to hire more government workers.  He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.  Did he not get the message of Wisconsin?  The American people did.  It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.
                                                                                                              Mitt Romney 06/08/2102
 Mitt Romney likes to talk about how his experience in the business community gives him an understanding of how the economy works and how to create jobs. He believes that it is his business experience that qualifies him for the presidency.  This quotation gives us the first real time example of how he would apply that business experience to an actual presidential problem.
The comment came in response to the President’s calling on congress to pass his jobs bill; a bill which would provide state and local governments with funding to rehire the policemen, firemen, teachers and other public safety workers that they were forced to fire during the recession due to a lack of federal funds.  Here we see Romney using his Bain experience to advocate downsizing and the cutting of programs and expenses even if it means the firing of 700,000 government employees.  He even seems to dismiss the value of these employees as if they are somehow NOT American: “It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”  Are these fired public employees not “American people.” 
Naturally a number of Romney surrogates jumped in to support the Governor’s position.  Most notable was a comment from the national voice of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh.  “I have nothing against teachers, firefighters and policemen…but they are not part of the private sector.  They contribute nothing to the economy.  The idea police, teachers and firefighters contribute to economic growth is ignorance 101.”  Apparently, according to Limbaugh, these public employees do not purchase well,…anything.  Their food, clothing, electronics, automobiles, homes etc. all just magically appear in their households without their having to spend a dime.  How nice for them!
This is the problem with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s view of our economy.  It is the Bain Capital view that only the investors/job creators matter.  Everyone else can be cast aside in order to make a profit…or in this specific case a government surplus.
According to the Federal Reserve the median US family in 2010 had no more net worth than it did in the early 1990’s.  Median US families lost 39% of their net worth over the past decade.  We don’t understand how Romney’s plan to slash “big government programs” reverses that trend.  Because when you cut government programs you lay off the workers who administer those programs.  Those workers no longer have an income to buy goods and services.  Unemployment rises while demand for goods and services declines.  If there is no demand then there is no incentive for the “job creators” to invest and hire.   
How does any of that help the economy or the American people?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Bad Day At Black Rock"

The past few weeks have been anything but positive for the Obama Campaign.  Every news cycle brought something that put the campaign on the defensive: Biden outing the President on gay marriage, a rise in the unemployment numbers, weak job growth, national security leaks, massacres in Syria, the financial crisis in Europe, the beat down in Wisconsin, Bill Clinton’s ruminations and the President’s own “the private sector is doing fine” gaffe.  It seemed that anything that could go wrong did.    
As the polls reported an ever tightening race between the two candidates, pundits questioned the wisdom of the Obama Campaign’s strategy to go negative on Romney’s past as opposed to offering a positive plan for the future. When pressed, senior Obama aids made it clear that they would stay the course:  “We know what resonates with the American people better than you.” touted one aid.
Maybe they do. Or maybe it’s the arrogance of fools.  One thing is certain…right now it ain’t workin’.
This promises to be the most negative campaign in our history.  The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling assures that it will also be the most expensive.  $3.2 billion will be spent on campaign ads this year; most of them of the negative variety.  In 2008 there were 10,000+ campaign ads run in the presidential election; over 80% of them negative attack ads.  Already this year there have been over 120,000+ campaign ads run; over 88% of them negative attack ads. 
The funding of these ads and the grassroots ground game that backs them up will lean heavily toward the Republican side of the ledger.  For the first time in our history a sitting president will be outspent by his opponent.  The Romney Campaign raised $77 million in the month of May; compared to $60 million for Obama.  The Koch Brothers have said that they will spend $400 million to defeat Obama.  Put into perspective, the McCain Campaign spent a total of $300 million in 2008. The Obama Campaign knew that they would be outspent by the well healed conservative Super Pacs.  They just didn’t think the onslaught would come this quickly.  And it’s only May. 
There is no doubt that the President’s re-election prospects hinge on events over which he has little or no control.  There is very little that the President can do about the US economy and nothing he can do about economic conditions in Europe.  Add a terrorist attack on US soil to a weak economy and you have all the makings for a change in the White House.  He may not be able to single handedly fix the economy.  And even as the most powerful person in the world, he cannot bring about world peace with the snap of his fingers.  But there is one thing he can do…he can change the narrative.
The tsunami of negativity that is going to wash over the electorate in the next five months cannot be understated.  The only way that the President’s voice will be heard above the negative clamor will be if he embraces a positive message of hope delivered with a clear path for the future.  The only way to turn around the negativity of these past few weeks is to outline what his past decisions have produced for the country and to explain specifically how he has a plan to return the country to prosperity.
We’ve written about this before; and it deserves repeating.  Demonizing Romney won’t work.  That speech will just get lost in all the other negative white noise funded by the pro-Romney Super Pacs.  Positive and constructive is the way to go…
…and keep a tight rein on Biden and Clinton.


Friday, June 8, 2012

House Reps. Make Sure There Is Plenty Of Beer In The Fridge.

POLITICO reports that the GOP led House of Representatives, who have been trying to cut domestic spending and social programs for the poor and elderly, just voted to protect their own office expense accounts from budget cuts.  The $3.3 billion measure to fund congressional operations was passed by a bi-partisan vote of 307-102.
House members, having successfully passed the funding measure ensuring that they will not find themselves wanting, immediately left Washington for a weeklong vacation.
You can’t make this stuff up.   

Conservative Social Values Meet Immigration & Gitmo!

The GOP lead House passed a $46 billion Homeland Security spending bill that includes a provision prohibiting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from providing abortions to illegal immigration detainees except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the mother.
First of all why is the Department of Immigration and Customs providing abortions to illegal immigration detainees in the first place?  And, assuming they are; has there been such a rash of abortions provided to illegal immigrants that it requires intervention by the United States House of Representatives?  Or is this just another opportunity to insert social ideology and bigotry into governing?
Republicans are fond of calling themselves “small government conservatives.”  But when it comes to social issues they have no problem inserting government into the equation at every turn. 
While they are digging through the Homeland Security weeds conservatives  might want to check out Guantanamo Bay.  They might be doling out free abortions to illegal detainees there as well.  You never know!  And while they are at it, conservatives might explain why we are spending $800,000 a year to house EACH detainee in Guantanamo.  Or why we just spent $750,000 to build the Guantanamo detainees a new recreation/soccer field.  Or why Gitmo detainees get better health care services than most Americans.  Talk about social welfare! 
Since Republicans love to cut social programs maybe they could start here at Guantanamo.  After all it was the Republicans that raised holy hell when Obama wanted to close the place.  So maybe they can explain the rational for spending billions to house and entertain a bunch of folks who haven’t even been charged with a crime.  Perhaps Republicans could come up with a bill that reduces some of the waste and abuse they like to talk about…not that anyone begrudges enemies of the state a new recreation field. 
If nothing else it would give conservatives an opportunity to hang another anti-abortion amendment on piece of legislation.          

Smoking Out The "Weed" Demographic

We are all familiar with the phrase:  “Every vote counts.”  We hear it every election cycle.  This year is no different.  The November presidential election promises to be extremely close, with 2-3 percentage points separating the candidates.  Voter turnout is key.  Both parties will leave no stone unturned to get their message out to the voters…and the voters to the polls.  It is anticipated that a record $3.2 billion dollars will be spent on campaign ads and grassroots efforts to get people to the voting booths.  Everyone remembers the Bush v. Gore fiasco that played out in Florida…and no one wants a repeat.  So the push for voter turnout is expected to be unprecedented. 
Most of the campaign’s focus is on key swing states.  With every electoral vote treated like gold it is imperative that the campaigns win over voters in these tightly contested states.  And no state is more important or more tightly contested than Colorado.  A recent Rasmussen Poll has Obama and Romney tied at 45% of the vote.  With gridlock on the horizon Colorado Democrats may have stumbled on a unique way to swing the state into the President’s win column.
Joshua Green of "Bloomberg Businessweek" writes that when Colorado voters go to the polls in November they will be asked to vote on a ballot initiative that legalizes pot in the state.  Not just medical marijuana but good old every day, recreational, Doobie Bothers Mary Jane.  Pot smokers tend to be 18 to 35 years old, students and progressive thinking; the very demographic that came out in droves to sweep Obama into office four years ago. 
The President has been tough on pot smokers ordering his justice department to crack down on illegal drugs use.  But this initiative might turn tokers out in droves.  And it is unlikely that many of them are going to vote for Romney; the guy who ran off some kids smoking pot on his property and then “narced’ them out to the cops. 
Republicans are crying foul.  They see this ballot initiative as a brazen attempt to swing voters.  Perhaps they are right.  But given that pot smokers are not the most organized bunch it seems more likely that the timing is little more a convenient coincidence. J  The real question is whether or not they’ll get off the couch and actually show up.
If this “pot strategy” works on the state level then perhaps Congress would consider implementing it on the federal level as well.  It could prove to be an effective negotiating tool.  Perhaps Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the President could pass a joint around while negotiating the debt limit and tax reform.  A little mellowing out certainly couldn’t hurt.                 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"There Are No Facts, Only Interpretations."

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”  “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”
Most people have better things to do with their lives than fact check the daily spin that pours out of the mouths of politicians.  These “interpretations” when repeated often enough become part of our social commentary and form the basis from which people make decisions.
That said…we would like to comment on some of the more glaring “interpretations” being uttered by those who occupy the conservative side of the aisle.
Republicans are on a sugar high over Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin.  They see this vote as a referendum on their small government agenda and a national mandate to continue their attack on unions.  In fairness, Democrats billed this election as having significant national implications.  So it isn’t too big a stretch for Republicans to paint this win with the same broad brush. 
The facts are that we do not know what implications Wisconsin will have on a national level.  While the events in Wisconsin have framed the current debate; the outcome does not necessarily reverberate on a national scale.  Just last November voters in Ohio, a key swing state, rebuked their Republican governor’s efforts to curb the collective bargaining rights of government employees.  They repealed Ohio SD 5; dealing a severe blow to Governor Kasich’s small government agenda.  Perhaps more significantly the same voters who returned Scott Walker to the governor’s mansion were asked who they were voting for in the Presidential election.  51% said they were voting for President Obama; 44% said they were voting for Mitt Romney.
While non-union voters may not like the high salaries and hefty retirement plans that unionized employees enjoy, they understand that unions were largely responsible for the creation of the middle class in the 40’s and 50’s. Their negotiation of competitive wages and benefits during the manufacturing and construction boom in the years following World War II resulted in a class of people that could buy homes and send their kids to college.  As union wages increased so did the wages of non-union workers.  A rising tide lifts all boats. But  as globalization took jobs overseas the influence of labor unions declined and so did middle class.  From 1973 to 2007 union membership declined from 34% to 8%.  At the same time wage inequality increased by more than 40%.  The unions are dying…and so is the middle class.  So Republicans might want to curb their chest thumping over Walker’s victory.  While voters may not like unions they do like good wages and benefits.  Voters may “interpret” that win in Wisconsin differently; and it may have unintended consequences.
Bill Clinton has been in the news a lot lately.  As a former President and important and effective surrogate for Obama it is only natural for people parse and analyze his every word.  So it is with great fervor that Republicans take to the airwaves whenever they believe they have caught the former President uttering anything that seems contrary to President Obama’s message.  Such was the case the other day when Clinton, in a CNBC interview appeared to say that he was in favor of extending ALL of the Bush tax cuts.  President Obama has said repeatedly that he would not approve extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% wage earners.  Republicans, who want to see all of the tax cuts extended, jumped all over this apparent conflict.  Republican heavy weights Boehner, McConnell, Thune and Henslering all took to the microphones to weigh in.  “Even Bill Clinton agrees that this is not the time to raise taxes on the job creators.”  Casual listeners will believe this “interpretation” of Clinton’s remarks to be gospel.  However when examining the entirety of Clinton’s comments on the subject it is clear that he is in lockstep with Obama.  Never mind what the former President actually said. ‘Interpretation” and distortion can be effective when repeated often enough.
We believe that far more interesting than the selective editing of sound bites for political advantage is the difference in overall strategy of the two campaigns.  The Obama Campaign is eager to trot out former President Clinton as a key spokesperson.  They feel that Clinton’s experience and record are a benefit to their efforts.  So we wonder why the Romney Campaign hasn’t employed the talents of former President George W. Bush as a surrogate for their campaign.  After all the plans that Team Romney has for the country are mirror images of the policies George W. Bush employed while serving as our 43rd President…

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Big Money Wins In Wisconsin Recall

In a historic recall election that garnered national attention, embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett 53%-44%.  Walker’s lieutenant governor and three Republican state senators were also able to overcome recall challenges.
But this race was never really about Scott Walker versus Tom Barrett.  This race was about business/corporate funded Super PACS and outside interests versus unions and local grassroots operations.  This race was a test…a science project…a Petri dish experiment to see if big money/outside interests could influence a local election.  The answer is an emphatic, YES!  
In 2010, of the top ten outside organizations funding political campaigns, the top four and six of the top ten were corporate groups giving to the Republican side of the ledger.  Karl Rove’s Super PACS; “American Crossroads” and “Crossroads GPS,” are examples of these corporate groups; ranking #3 and #4 on the list of contributors.  These PACS poured millions of anonymous outside money into the coffers of Republican candidates.
Only three of the top ten outside organizations funding political campaigns supported Democratic candidates.  And these three organizations had one thing in common…they were all unions.  Unions were the only major funding organizations that could stand up to the Republican corporate Super PACS.  Republicans correctly understood that if they could kill off the unions they would eliminate a major source of the Democrats’ funding and grassroots organization.
Scott Walker’s union busting agenda quickly made him the poster boy for the Republican game plan.  Of the $68 million spent on the Wisconsin recall election, 70% came from sources outside of the state. Walker and his corporate contributors outspent Barrett and the Democrats 7.5 to 1.  In the end, outside big money trumped local grassroots efforts.
Republicans will no doubt be emboldened by this victory.  They have proven that even in a blue state like Wisconsin, the state where collective bargaining got its start, you can bust the unions and implement your austerity agenda if you pour in enough money.
Scott Walker is now a national hero within the Republican Party.  You can expect to see him prominently featured at the Republican convention; perhaps a speech given in prime time.  You can also expect to see this same Republican strategy played out in swing states all across the country as the election season heats up.  If you can’t beat them with ideas…then drown them in money.
This was a great day for big business and corporate America.  It was a bad day for unions and middle class wage earners.  The implications going forward are worrisome.
As we watched the election returns come in we could not help but hearken back to the President’s 2010 state of the union address.  The President criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on “Citizen United,” where the court in effect said that corporations and wealthy individuals could anonymously give unlimited funds to political campaigns.  The President said:  “Last week the Supreme Court reversed centuries of law to open the floodgates for special interests…including foreign corporations…to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think that American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign interests.”  In the classic camera shot, Justice Samuel Alito was caught shaking his head in response and mouthing the words: “that’s not true.”
The President’s words have proven to be prophetic. The old adage “one man…one vote” no longer applies.  Not when that one man is writing multi-million dollar checks.             

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pay Checks, Walker and Chicken Little

The Senate will vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act today; a bill intended to give woman more legal tools to press for equal pay for equal work.  The bill is expected to fail along party lines.  Women are currently paid on average 77 cents on the dollar compared to men performing the same job.  This seems like a no brainer for Republicans who need to find a way to attract women voters.  But Republicans find themselves torn between their desire to attract women voters and their aversion to giving Democrats a win this close to the election.  Republicans see the timing of this vote as little more than a ploy by Democrats to get a “No” vote on the record that Democrats can campaign on in the upcoming months.  Lost in the politics is the fact that women get paid less for doing the same job as a man.  That’s wrong and it needs to be fixed.  Just another example of why the approval rating for congress is below 10%.
All eyes are on Wisconsin today where embattled GOP Governor Scott Walker faces a historic recall vote.  Walker is only the third governor in US history to face a recall.  Walker gained national attention when shortly after his inauguration he succeeded in eliminating collective bargaining rights for government employees.  This set off a firestorm of opposition that set in motion a petition drive to call for Walker’s removal.  More than 900,000 signatures were gathered…360,000 more than needed to trigger a recall election.  The events in Wisconsin attracted national attention and outside money poured into the state.  The governor pulled in over $30 million; two thirds of which came from anonymous donors outside the state of Wisconsin.  Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett raised $4.2 million; most of which came from within Wisconsin’s boarders.  Polls show a very close race with Walker in the lead heading into today’s vote.  This race has national implications.  If a polarizing candidate like Walker can win re-election in a typically blue state it will be seen by many as an affirmation that you can govern conservatively in today’s economy and still win.  While traditionally blue Wisconsin will still in all probability go for Obama in November, a Walker win may force Team Obama to spend time and money in a state believed to be safely in their corner.  Obama did not campaign for Barrett choosing instead to send Bill Clinton to the stump.  We are troubled by the amount of outside money and outside influence pouring into this race; over $60 million when you include outside PACS and national organizations like the Republican Governors Association and the NRA.  Thanks to the Supreme Court and their dumbfounding decision on Citizens United, democracy is up for sale.  May the highest bidder prevail!
We have spent a lot of time recently criticizing the Obama Campaign’s re-election strategy. In particular we found their response to Friday’s weak job numbers and the DOW’s plummeting response to be a bit “tepid.”  In fairness it should be noted that many notable economists and pundits disagree with our assessment.  Their counter argument lies along two paths.  One group believes that even with three straight months of weak job numbers there is nothing for Obama to be concerned about.  They point to a booming auto industry which will produce 14 million cars this year…up from 11 million last year.  They point to a housing market that is growing and retail sales which are steadily increasing.  “It’s only a blip” they say.  "No, chicken little...the sky is not falling."  There is another group who believe that all of these economic indicators and the ongoing political infighting mean nothing.  They believe that the respective ideological bases have already made up their minds and will not be swayed; no matter how persuasive the argument against their position.  These folks make up 93-94% of the electorate.  The remaining 6-7% are the independent swing voters who will decide this very close election.  This group believes that these swing voters will base their decision on five separate events:  three debate performances plus two convention acceptance speeches.  That’s it.  All the rest of the stuff coming from the parties and through the media is just white noise.  Perhaps these folks are right.  Perhaps the recent economic indicators are just inconsequential “blips.”  Perhaps performance will play  a more important part than policy or substance.  We’ll see.                            

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste"

There is a saying in politics attributed to Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel that says: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  He explained that a crisis moment is also an opportunity to do something that you didn’t think that you could do.  Well if ever there were a crisis moment for the President’s re-election prospects it is occurring right now.
The recent economic reports coming out of Washington dealt a severe blow to the Obama Campaign.  The economy produced a miserable 69,000 net private sector jobs in May, the fewest in a year, and half what economist expected.  For the first time since last June the unemployment rate rose from 8.1% to 8.2%.  And the markets responded to the news with their worst day of the year.  The Dow dropped 275 points effectively wiping out all of the gains for 2012.  The only good news for Obama is that these results came out in May rather than in September or October.  If the economy continues to move in this negative direction…he’s toast.  
Naturally the Republicans responded with glee to the President’s misfortune.  House Whip Eric Cantor called the reports “pathetic.”  Mitt Romney declared that the country was “moving backward.”  He called the numbers “devastating news” and said that Obama’s policies and his handling of the economy had “been dealt a harsh indictment.”  “It is now clear to everyone,” Romney said, “that President Obama’s policies have failed to achieve their goals…”
The President responded to the news during a stump speech in Minnesota.  He called on congress to pass some of his job proposals.  And once again he tried to explain that our economy has been struggling “against a head wind brought on by the economic downturn in Europe.”
That response won’t cut it.  Nibbling around the edges of this problem won’t work.  The base may nod their heads in agreement like a bobble head on a dashboard.  But independent voters don’t want to hear excuses about the effects of the Eurozone or the economic bubble in China.  They want to know what their President is going to do to fix the problem.  And if all he seems to have are excuses instead of solutions…well maybe they’ll give the other guy a shot.
This is “crisis time” for Team Obama.  But as Rahm said, it is also an opportunity to do something they didn’t think you could do. He has an opportunity to right the ship.  We wrote yesterday about  strategy Obama should use to defend his record against criticism from the Romney Deathstar.  Here is the offensive strategy that the President should follow moving forward.
Obama needs to think big and bold.  He needs to think FDR/WPA big.  He needs to think Eisenhower/interstate highway system big.  He needs to think JFK/man on the moon big.  Obama needs to come out with a massive, comprehensive ten year jobs and infrastructure plan that includes repairing and modernizing roads, bridges, dams, light rail, airports, broad band and upgrading our electrical grid.  He needs to be specific about its components and in how we pay for it.  And he needs to be willing to compromise on heretofore liberal untouchables like reforming entitlements and tax cuts for the rich.  He needs to explain that this plan will not only put millions of Americans back to work, it will enable us to be more productive, more efficient and better able to compete in the global economy.  To the deficit hawks he needs to explain that according to the bi-partisan CBO, we can pay for it by borrowing $200 billion for the next ten years without driving ourselves into insolvency because this plan would immediately put 5 million people back to work with good paying jobs that will boost our economy.
He needs to DEMAND that congress pass this plan for the good of the country.
And to stress the importance of this proposal; he needs to deliver this message in a nationally televised address to the American people.
Will Congress agree to pass this proposal?  Perhaps not!  But their partisan stubbornness will not sit well with independent voters who will be impressed with his leadership and his willingness to compromise.
The Obama Campaign is facing a crisis...and so is the nation.  The President has an opportunity here to turn this crisis into something good for the country.  He can pass legislation that will reform our country and improve our lives immeasurably.
The President needs to lead...and he needs to think BIG.